The final stop on my Outlander trail (for now anyway!) was in Edinburgh this weekend where I was very excited to embark on a brand new Outlander walk by Mercat Tours. For those who haven’t read the books and are just watching the series there may be a few spoilers here as this tour is based on the book when Jamie and Clare are in Edinburgh, funnily enough. Lasting two hours and stretching from the magnificent Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the Queen’s Scottish Home, Holyrood Palace at the bottom this is the ideal way to experience this historic street and walk in some Jacobite’s footsteps as you, a bit like Clare, are transported back, in your mind at least, to the dangerous and poverty stricken 1740’s.
We met at Market Cross which, at the time, was the hub of the city, where groups met, merchants sold their wares and ladies shopped. If you remember the scenes in Cranesmuir, it used to be like a little village square, only now of course Edinburgh has built up around it and it’s now in the centre of the Royal Mile. The poor little boy who had his ear nailed really would have had, and he really would have had to pull it off himself, unless there was a kind guy in a kilt near by! Around the corner in Parliament Square we were told of the Stuart families’ shoddy bad luck which included a succession of beheadings, and eventually lead to the famous Jacobite Rebellion.
We heard about the horrific conditions in the Tolbooth Jail where Jamie’s men were taken, from where it used to sit on the Royal Mile. Reading excerpts from the books our fantastic guide Hannah showed how Diana Galbaldon had described it perfectly when she explained how horrific the living conditions were at the time. We visited a close where Clare would have lived while she was in Edinburgh and Hannah explained that the buildings used to 14 stories high! With no facilities to toilet or wash and the buckets being thrown out the windows, down into the cobbled narrow close beneath you can just imagine the horrible conditions these people were subjected to.
We then headed up to the Castle to the Witches Well, which was made to commemorate the death of over 300 witches, just like Geillis Duncan and (almost) Clare. The well known story goes that suspected witches were tied up and thrown in the Nor Loch, which is now Princes Street Gardens, and it’s said if they sunk it would prove they were innocent and if they floated they were confirmed as witches and burnt at the sunk. So either way…..
The tour made it’s way from the Castle down the full length of the Royal Mile, taking in ancient closes, courtyards and graveyards. We saw The World’s End pub where Jamie and Clare dashed in the pouring rain and visited Canongate Kirk where Colum saw Jamie and Clare for the last time. We even found what could easily have been Jamie’s burnt out Print shop! There were some fantastic photo opportunities along the route as well.