Scottish Tour Guide's Blog

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East end of Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This evening I am posting information on Greyfriars Kirk which is located on the southern edge of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Scotland.

Greyfriars is a Presbyterian church located close to the site of a former Roman Catholic, Franciscan convent from where the name ‘Grey Friars’ emanates.

Northern entrance to Greyfriars Kirk.

The origins of the church date to 1562 when Mary, Queen of Scots granted land for burials. Subsequent events summarised as follows:

  • Construction of the church had commenced by 1602 using stone recycled from the former convent nearby.
  • Church opened in 1620.
  • In 1638 Scotland’s National Covenant, a very important document, was presented and signed in front of the pulpit. This concerned the governance of the (national) Church in Scotland.
  • Used as a barracks by Cromwell’s forces during period 1650-1653.
  • Various structural changes and embellishments were effected.
  • The tower, used a gunpowder store, was accidentally blown up in 1718.
  • A new church was added on the building’s western side in the 18th century resulting in two discrete congregations.
  • The kirkyard was used to hold 1200 Covenanter prisoners in 1675 pending trail.
  • Extensive fire damage in 1845.
  • In the mid-19th century two radical innovations were introduced namely, musical accompaniment to singing and stained glass.
  • The ‘Greyfriars Bobby‘ story gained momentum after 1872.
  • In 1929 the hitherto separate congregations merged and dividing wall removed.
  • In 1979 the Greyfriars congregation merged with the nearby Highland Tolbooth St John’s subsequent to which services in Gaelic have been held on Sundays.

Southern aspect of Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh.

The Kirkyard holds the burial places of many famous Scotsmen, as shown in image below.

Listing of famous persons buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.

The Kirkyard is accessible throughout the year whilst the building interior is open between April and October.

Blackfriars Bobby, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This evening, I am posting information on Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who purportedly lived during the 19th century in Edinburgh, Scotland The romantic story of the animal may be apocryphal as it is impossible to validate.

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh.

In essence, the story is that Bobby belonged to a Edinburgh night-watchman named John Gray who died in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard whereafter Bobby spent the next 14 years sitting on his deceased master’s grave. Bobby is reported to have died on January 14th 1872.

The story gained momentum culminating in Lady Burdett-Coutts financing the erection of a fountain and statue of the dog at the southern end of George V Bridge, near the National Museum of Scotland, where it remains as a popular visitor attraction.

Close to the statue is a pub named after the dog. Greyfriars Kirk (Church) is a  short walk away.

Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This morning, I joined a small group led by a professional geologist which visited various geological sites in Edinburgh, Scotland which are associated with Sir James Hutton (1726-1797).

Hutton was a wealthy and multi-talented individual whose life coincided with the Scottish Enlightenment, a period of intense intellectual activity covering many disciplines.

One of Hutton’s key interests was earth processes. His work laid the foundations for the modern science of geology. Hutton departed from religious and other doctrines suggesting that the surface of the earth is constantly being eroded  with products deposited in the sea with resulting sediments being compressed, folded and uplifted as part of  a constant cycle of erosion, sometimes aided by volcanic activity.

Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags were one of the many areas in Scotland which Hutton used for research in supporting his theory.

The tour commenced outside the Commonwealth Pool (public swimming pool) where, in the pavement (sidewalk) outside, is embedded a fossil lung fish from the Devonian period. This dates back 380m years and was quarried in Caithness, 250 miles north of Edinburgh The fossil has nothing to do with Hutton.

Fossilised fish in pavement outside Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh.

We walked over to Holyrood Park where Arthur’s Seat came into view. This is the base (agglomorate) of an  ancient volcano dating back about 350m years.

Image below shows Arthur’s Seat. Relatively recent glaciation has carved out a cross-section which is of great help to scientists.

Arthur’s Seat Edinburgh.

Most of the time was spent at Salisbury Crags which stand out as a rough rock face on the Edinburgh skyline. The jagged surface is the result of 19th century quarrying. This is not a conventional volcano but the result of magma forcing its way through layers of strata resulting in a ‘sandwich’ effect which is often called a sill.

Specimen of plagioclase feldspar at Salisbury Crags.

Geological specimen, Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh

Image below illustrates a channel where slightly younger rock has forced its way into older rock.

Geological feature at Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh

Image below shows infusion of basalt/dolerite below layers of sedimentary rock at top.this is the ‘sandwich’ effect adverted to above.

Geological feature at Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh.

Image below shows layer of red sandstone (350m year old sedimentary rock) layered within basalt/dolerite rock.

Geological feature at Salisbury Crags

At this low-level rock ‘wall’ in centre of image James Hutton demonstrated that local rocks had been formed from hot, molten material.

Geological feature at Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh

Image below illustrates where (dark coloured) magma has forced its way into the underlying sedimentary strata (light colour).

Section of sedimentary rock surrounded by igneous rock at Holyrood Park.

Image of Salisbury Crags.

Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

View of Edinburgh from Holyrood Park.

View of Edinburgh, Scotland from Holyrood Park

Image below shows the James Hutton Memorial Garden which is on the site of Hutton’s Edinburgh home on St John’s Hill in the Pleasance above Holyrood Park. The second image shows granite veins penetrating the country rock.The third image shows a boulder which is full of fragments of pre-existing rocks from a previous cycle of erosion.

James Hutton Memorial Garden, St John’s Hill, Edinburgh

Vein of granite in metamorphic rock, Hutton Memorial Garden.

Conglomerate rock in Hutton Memorial Garden, Edinburgh

Overall, a very informative tour which was aided by unusually clement weather for time of year.