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Grassmarket

The Last Drop, Grassmarket, Edinburgh
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Last Drop, Grassmarket, Edinburgh

A small district of central Edinburgh, lying just to the south of Castle Rock, which has been an important focal point of the Old Town since at least the 15th Century. Buildings lie around a broad street, designed to accommodate the weekly market which was held here from 1477 until 1911. Livestock were brought in through the West Port, the gate in the Flodden Wall, which lay immediately to the west. The Grassmarket was also the site of regular public hangings, notably the Covenanters in the late 17th Century, who are commemorated by a monument (dating from 1937), many of whom are buried immediately to the south at Greyfriars. The notorious Maggie Dickson was unsuccessfully hanged here in 1728 and her name lives on in the name of a public house. Another public house - the Last Drop - also acts as a reminder of the gallows and other notable public houses are the early 18th Century White Hart Inn and the 19th Century Beehive Inn, together with the Fiddler's Arms, which is a 'local' with no concessions to tourists. Inns were always numerous in the Grassmarket, which was where the coaches stopped when they entered the city from the West. The numerous more modern drinking establishments include the Three Quarters Bar in the former Robertson Memorial Church (1884). A monument in the pavement outside the Whitehart Inn commemorates a bomb dropped from a German Zeppelin airship during the only air-raid on Edinburgh during the First World War.

Today the Grassmarket contains a mixture of buildings and styles dating from the 17th to 21st Century. What was the Mountbatten Building of Heriot-Watt University (1968), until that institution moved out of the city centre to Riccarton, has been converted to form the Apex International Hotel (1996). Interesting modern architecture comes in the form of Dance Base (2001), the Scottish National Centre for Dance, which runs back from a traditional frontage to a multi-level naturally-illuminated creation on the slopes of the Castle Rock.


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