Greyfriars Kirk, 1 Greyfriars, Edinburgh, EH1 2QQ
Greyfriars takes its name from the monestry that stood on the site in the 16th century. People called the monks Grey Friars because they wore grey robes. There now stands Greyfriars Kirk parish church and graveyard. Of course, now famous for its legendary canine resident Bobby from the 1800s.
The Story of Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby is Edinburgh’s most famous dog, now immortalised in statue. The story goes that the Skye Terrier belonged to John Gray, a night watchman in the police. When Gray died in 1858 he was buried at Greyfriars Kirk and faithful Bobby spent the rest of his life at his graveside. When Bobby died 14 years later he was also buried at Greyfriars, close to his master’s grave.
A year after Greyfriars Bobby’s death, the English philanthropist Lady Burdett-Coutts commissioned William Brodie to create a statue of the dog as a memorial. Ever since, it has sat on George IV Bridge, just outside the main entrance to the Kirk.
In recent years tourists have started touching the statue’s nose for good luck. However, this is not a historic tradition and it is gradually destroying the much-loved monument. So, when visiting Greyfriars Bobby, please do not touch the statue’s nose!
Greyfriars Kirk is a parish church dating from 1620. Today it is a place of worship, major arts venue and local attraction. The Kirk has played a prominent role in Edinburgh’s history and visitors can learn all about it in the small museum inside. There are many notable artefacts on display, such as an oil painting of Greyfriars Bobby by John MacLeod. And a rare original copy of the National Covenant, which Scottish noblemen signed in the Kirk in 1638. There is also a gift shop open to the public during the summer months, excluding Sundays.
The surrounding Kirkyard has been a burial ground since 1562. There are many architecturally interesting monuments, vaults and gravestones, plus a section of the ancient city wall, the Flodden Wall.
The Kirkyard has a dark history. King Charles II’s men imprisoned members of the Presbyterian Church in the graveyard in 1679 for their religious beliefs. They publicly executed some of them in the nearby Grassmarket and many died in prison. There is now a Martyrs Memorial in the Kirkyard, which commemorates those who died.
Many believe the graveyard is haunted by spirits including the notorious Mackenzie Poltergeist. Sir George Mackenzie or “Bluidy Mackenzie” was responsible for the persecution and death of an estimated 18,000 Covenenters. He died in 1691, and his body lies in the Black Mausoleum, a tomb in the Kirkyard. Ever since a tramp disturbed the mausoleum in 1998, there has been reported poltergeist activity at the site, including physical attacks on visitors.