Edinburgh’s top urban myths - debunked

The Royal Mile.
The Royal Mile.
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With its rich history, the Capital is at the centre of scores of old wives’ tales and ripping yarns - but how many of them are actually true?

Here are three of the city’s best-known urban myths - debunked. Apologies for any crushing disappointment caused.

Francis M Chrystal's general view from Bruntsfield Links of Wright's Houses, including Barclay Church and Barclay Terrace. Picture: RCAHMS

Francis M Chrystal's general view from Bruntsfield Links of Wright's Houses, including Barclay Church and Barclay Terrace. Picture: RCAHMS

Myth: the Royal Mile is a mile long

Fact: Sometimes known as Edinburgh’s High Street, the Royal Mile is located in the heart of the Old Town and boasts many of the city’s most iconic landmarks and tourist sites. These include St Giles’ Cathedral and the High Court. It is approximately one Scots mile long from end to end. However, this is actually different from a modern day mile. For context, one mile today measures around 1.6 kilometres, while a Scots mile is about 1.8km.

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Myth: There are plague victims buried under Bruntsfield Links

Statue of Greyfriar's Bobby on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage

Statue of Greyfriar's Bobby on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage

Fact: This yarn has its origins in the period running from the 15th to the 17th centuries, when the plague hit Edinburgh hard. The old Burgh Muir forest – which then covered most of the city’s south side – was used to isolate victims in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease and end the epidemic.

Today, all that remains of the forest is Bruntsfield Links with its popular short-hole golf course. A rumour has spread - fuelled by ghost tour guides across the Capital - that the lumps and bumps on the Links are a direct result of the bodies buried underneath.

While one or two unfortunate plague victims may have passed away en route to Burgh Muir and been laid to rest along the way, records indicate that, rather than being abandoned or buried, the majority were disinfected and treated in makeshift hospitals. Leith Links, however, is a different story...

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Myth: It’s tradition to rub Bobby’s nose for luck

Fact: This is one myth that has sparked a number of rows among concerned city residents.

In recent years, visitors have taken to rubbing the nose on the statue of Greyfriars Bobby on George IV Bridge in the belief it will bring them luck.

According to reports, the myth has been encouraged and spread by a local tour company. But the tourists have unwittingly upset a number of locals by slowly wearing off the paint and turning the terrier’s once black nose a shiny gold colour.

As far as we know, there’s no truth in this Edinburgh “tradition” - and poor Bobby’s nose deserves a break from all the rubbing.