Hundreds take part in Riding of the Marches in Edinburgh

Captain John Baxter and Lass Gemma Williamson lead the Ridng of the Marches up the High Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
Captain John Baxter and Lass Gemma Williamson lead the Ridng of the Marches up the High Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT’S an ancient tradition dating back more than 500 years to a time when men risked their lives to defend their towns from attackers.

Now, centuries later, hundreds of riders have saddled up their horses once more and galloped into Edinburgh to celebrate the annual Riding of the Marches - although this time, admittedly, there was a little bit less at stake.

Sunday’s spectacular event saw residents from across the city and beyond career into the Capital and up into the heart of the Old Town after a dramatic sweep through the suburbs.

The ride left from Todhills Business Park on Old Dalkeith Road at 9.30am, before galloping its way through Moredun, Gilmerton and Liberton, as well as Craigmillar, Duddingston and Holyrood Park, and finally culminating in a show-stopping cavalcade of over 250 horses making its way up the Royal Mile towards Mercat Cross.

Led by Lass Gemma Willamson and Captain John Baxter, the historic celebration saw tens of thousands of spectators throng the streets to cheer the procession on.

And this year was the first time the cavalcade was expanded to include Lord Provost Donald Wilson, members of the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh, High Constables and Edinburgh City Guard.

Mr Baxter insisted the crowds watching from the sides of the road had been bigger than ever before - with the Royal Mile “packed” with spectators.

He said: “It was a wonderful day. But most important was just to see the people of Edinburgh coming out to support it. The reason why we do it is for them and it’s their event - we do it on their behalf.

“It was quite a sight to behold. The city was really at its best - it looked tremendous. It’s days like that you’re really proud to be from the city of Edinburgh.”

The Riding of the Marches marks a tradition that saw able-bodied men ride the city boundaries on horseback, delivering news that Edinburgh’s common land was intact. The first record of a ride in Edinburgh was on Hallowe’en in 1579, but experts say the practice is likely to have been carried out for centuries before that.

The tradition was so important to the city and its people that anyone who used the common land or who owned a horse and did not take part would be fined.