Grassmarket fest to mark Battle of Flodden

Jennie Stamp and Richard Shove wear medieval-style clothes to promote this weekend's festivities. Picture: Greg Macvean
Jennie Stamp and Richard Shove wear medieval-style clothes to promote this weekend's festivities. Picture: Greg Macvean
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GIDDY stag and hen parties have been known to have the odd running battle in the city’s busiest drinking den.

But a spectacle of a different kind is coming to the Grassmarket this weekend – as the famous thoroughfare is transported back in time. For one weekend only, ­soldiers will take to arms on the street for a series of ­showdowns.

It is all part of Doors Open Day, which will this year commemorates 500 years since Scotland’s disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden.

As well as re-enactment which will bring to life the bloodier aspects of the 16th century, the two-day event will also focus on all aspects of medieval life.

And in those days, the Grassmarket –much like today – was a bustling hub of trade and revelry.

David Hicks is a spokesman for the ­Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, which is supporting the event. “The Grassmarket has an incredible story to tell. Because of its position it was a very convenient location for fairs and it was the city’s service area.

“It was where the cattle would be brought in to the­ city as well as horses – anything that it would be necessary to trade for everyday life, and there were plenty of places to eat and drink.

“The Grassmarket would have been very noisy, full of ­bustle and full of life, pretty much like it is at times today.

“In some ways, it hasn’t changed that much at all.”

Visitors will be treated to medieval music and dancing, adding to the historic atmosphere, and many businesses are also working on specific themed offers – such as free sweet treats for costume workshop participants from Helios Fountain.

The famous Flodden Wall was built around the city in the 16th century in response to the threat of English invasion and remains in the Grassmarket this day.

Today, schoolchildren will carry a replica of the city’s historic ‘Blue Blanket’ fighting banner, which was brought back along with news of the “disastrous” defeat.

Georgia Artus is project manager of the Greater Grassmarket Business ­Improvement District (BID) project manager, which has ­organised the event.

She said: “The heritage of the Grassmarket has a very ­medieval edge to it – there are elements of its history that are still in very much in existence, such as the Flodden Wall.

“The event is about celebrating our history because an ­awful lot has happened here.

“We will be hosting demonstrations which will show what it would actually be like on the battlefield, the weapons which would have been used and the techniques.

But it’s not all about battles – we will also have workshops on the social aspects of medieval times, the food and drink and the role of women.”

Re-enactment group Medieval Realm will give visitors a taste of life in the Middle Ages showing what family life was like, talking about health and diseases as well as the politics of the day.

“It’s fantastic to be able to travel back to these times and get a feeling for what life would have been like.”

Visitors can even try their hand at a family-friendly version of the ancient art of longbow archery while stall holders from the weekly farmers market will be dressed up to take part in the fun theme and will be offering treats popular in the Middle Ages.

The celebrations kick off at 10am today and tomorrow.