Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland has many claims to fame, a fascinating history, connections with many notable events and people and is host to probably the biggest cultural festival in the world - the Edinburgh Festival and the Festival Fringe. Edinburgh is a big draw for tourists from across the world who come to enjoy Edinburgh's fabulous culture and long history. City living is something I gladly left behind many years ago but one city I do enjoy spending time in is Edinburgh. It's a city with a rich and interesting history - some of it glorious and some of it gruesome.
I lived in Edinburgh near to the Meadows area while I was a student and I only recently discovered that Charles Darwin was actually a student in Edinburgh for a time, between 1825 and 1827. He was a medical student there and lived at 11 Lothian street, Edinburgh. Darwin reportedly didn't have the stomach for what passed as medical practice in those days though and abandoned his medical studies after two years. Darwin was it seems there at the time that Sir Walter Scott publicly acknowledged that he was the author of the Waverly novels. (The novel Waverly is suggested as being the first work of historical fiction.)
Interestingly a notorious pair of Edinburgh residents, Burke and Hare, were plying a gruesome trade to the Edinburgh medical establishment sometime around the end of the period that Darwin was in Edinburgh. There were a number of schools of anatomy in Edinburgh at the time and Edinburgh itself was at the leading edge of medical education at that time. Providing bodies for the many medical students was no easy task for the Edinburgh medical schools.
The only legal supply of bodies for the schools were the bodies of condemned criminals but these were becoming increasingly in short supply as the execution rate fell. Into htis gap in the market stepped the body snatchers or resurrectionists. Families would find to their horror that the graves of their recently deceased loved ones had been dug up and the bodies stolen. These bodies were bought by the anatomists and used in the anatomy schools.
Burke and Hare became active in this murky world and soon realised that it was perhaps less trouble to arrange their own supply of fresh corpses rather than having the trouble of finding graves and digging bodies up. So began the murderous career of Burke and Hare as they began to sell their freshly killed victims to one particularly ambitious anatomist Dr Robert Knox. A total of 17 victims were sold to the anatomist before the pair were caught. Hare agreed to give evidence against his co-accused and Burke was hanged. There is still a notice of the execution of Burke in the Scotsman archive.
A current film about the pair called ( imaginatively ) Burke and Hare was directed by John Landis and stars Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. It is being billed as a "Black Comedy" but I am at a loss to understand what level of comedy they can have found in a story based on so many gruesome murders. Indeed it seems in poor taste to even think about making a "comedy" about such a subject no matter how long ago these murders occurred.
No doubt Darwin after he left Edinburgh would have heard of these events and he must have been confirmed in his view that he had made the right decision to leave his medical studies.
These days Edinburgh is more glorious than gruesome and it's a mecca for tourists from all over the world. Most come during the Edinburgh festival season when artists from around the world perform in the city and during that time it can become very difficult to find accommodation either in Hotels or in an Edinburgh Bed and Breakfast establishment unless you have booked well in advance. It's also busy at other times throughout the year, particularly for Hogmanay when many tourists come for a real Scottish New Year.
Hotels in Edinburgh range widely in both price and facilities. Personally I would always recommend Edinburgh Bed & Breakfast establishments for a visitor coming from outside Scotland. Although I use hotels myself mostly because I'm usually there on business, in an Edinburgh B&B you'll get a much more personal Scottish experience than you will in a hotel.
I rate Edinburgh as one of the top ten cities I have visited. I'm going to do some further posts about Edinburgh and look at some more of the interesting history of the place.