Gravestone in Greyfriar's Kirk

Gravestone in Greyfriar’s Kirk

 

On the second day we seemed to spend a long time searching for the elusive Gallery of Modern Art, which is quite a walk away from Prince’s Street. My mum ended up asking two different people for directions while I squinted begrudgingly at my unhelpful map (I am really stubborn about asking for help and try to do everything myself, which is silly, I know). Eventually we got there and of course the first thing we did was have coffee and cheesy, herby scones with butter.

 

I was intent in visiting this gallery, and indeed it was the main reasoning behind my visit to Edinburgh, other than the fact that my novel is set in Scotland. The reason being because of the exhibition called Witches and Wicked Bodies (it ends November 1st though so anyone interested had better hurry). This was quite an extensive collection and showed many famous paintings that I had heard of before, such as John William Waterhouse’s exquisite The Magic Circle (indeed, one of my favourite painters; magic and myth were a constant subject of his paintings). The first few rooms showed mainly grotesque woodcuts of old naked crones with drooping breasts, wild hair and whiskered chins such as Albrecht Durer’s Die Hexe and they often lacked any feminine facial features at all, such as in Henry Fuseli’s Three Weird Sisters from Macbeth. This was the most common way in which the witches were portrayed and fuelled the belief that they were vile hags, sexual predators and that they cavorted with the devil. The only other representation of these women was the polar opposite; of radiant young beauties as depicted by Waterhouse and Frederick Sandys. My mum wondered aloud where all the paintings were of the classic witch with a pointed hat and green skin – but this was more of a twentieth century stereotype created by film studios and the commercialisation of Halloween. I suspect the movie version of The Wizard of Oz had something to do with it.

 

That evening, we had yummy fish and chips Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, named after William Brodie, one of  the inspirations behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Fantastic food served there and had the cranachan for pudding, another Scottish dish, which was delicious. Then we embarked on another underground adventure, this time visiting The Real Mary King’s Close. This was a close, like many of the others still seen today running down either side of the High Street but is now underground, along with what seemed like a labyrinthine array of rooms and corridors (the tour only took us around a small part of it, I believe, as we passed many closed-off areas). The close was covered up when the City Chambers were built over it, because when the city was walled, yet expanding, the only places they could build were up or down. We really enjoyed this tour, and although there were only a  few ghostly tales thrown in, it was interesting to hear how cramped and horrific the conditions were back then.

 

Greyfriar's Kirk

Greyfriar’s Kirk

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A Wee Bit of Live Music

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Edinburgh Cafe

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A Selection of Scottish Children’s Books

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Greyfriar’s Bobby

 

On our final day in Edinburgh, we visited Holyrood Palace (just from the outside), ate haggis yet again and had an amazing Eton mess cheesecake at the World’s End Pub, plus made our way around Greyfiar’s Kirk to see the grave and statue of little Greyfriar’s Bobby. Final stop was at the Writers’ Museum which is dedicated to the three great Scottish writers Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Much is made of the men’s lives and travels and there are portraits and personal objects belonging to the writers.
We had a wonderful time, and I got plenty of writing inspiration. I wish we had had time to see the Mary Queen of Scots exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, the Edinburgh Dungeons and much more, but I’m sure I’ll return to Auld Reekie soon enough.

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