Riding of Marches promises to be biggest yet as number of riders hits 280

Riders parade through Holyrood Park last year
Riders parade through Holyrood Park last year
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HUNDREDS of horses and riders are set to saddle up on the Capital’s most famed streets in what is expected to be the largest ever staging of the revived Riding of the Marches.

Over 20,000 people are expected to line the streets to watch more than 280 riders complete a seven-hour journey around the city tomorrow, ending in the Royal Mile.

The annual spectacle, first started in 1579, commemorates the age-old tradition of inspecting the city’s boundaries.

It is also interwoven with the Battle of Flodden, and the return to Edinburgh in 1513 of Captain of the City Band, Randolph Murray, carrying the Blue Blanket, with news of the defeat and death of King James IV.

This year’s ride falls on the precise date of the historic battle. Riders from as far afield as Shetland and Surrey are set to take part in the event, which was revived in 2009 after a 63-year break.

The cavalcade of riders from almost all of Scotland’s riding festivals, carrying their town’s banners, will leave the site of event sponsors Drum Feeds on Dalkeith Road at 9.30am and follow a route through various fields before proceeding to Craigmillar Castle grounds for 2.45pm.

It will then continue through Holyrood Park from the Duddingston gate, heading towards the city centre and finishing at the Mercat Cross by St Giles’ Cathedral, on the Royal Mile, at 3.50pm.

At the Mercat Cross, the crowd will be addressed by Lord Provost Donald Wilson before this year’s selected ride-captain, Gareth Monro, returns the city banner.

Mr Monro said: “It’s a huge privilege to get the opportunity to ride up the Royal Mile accompanied by supporters from all over Scotland and beyond. Being elected captain has been a great honour, and I look forward to the ride on Sunday.”

During a similar event held in Coldstream in August, the riders of the Edinburgh Riding of the Marches Association collected a handful of soil from the field of Flodden, which last month was sprinkled on the four existing corners of the Flodden Wall – the city’s main defence – at Canongate, Castle Wynd, Vennel and Pleasance.

The sprinkling of the soil was followed by the Kirking of the Captain at Canongate Church, at which he and this year’s Lass, Rhian Reynolds, were officially installed and asked by the Lord Provost to report back to him that the boundaries of the city were ‘clear’. At this ceremony, the Lord Provost also entrusted the Captain and his officers with the city banner.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “The Edinburgh Riding of the Marches has brought significant historical tradition back to life and provided a visual treat since it was reintroduced to the city’s events 
calendar in 2009. I am very much looking forward to playing my part in the proceedings and I’m sure the uniquely memorable sight of the Edinburgh flag being carried proudly by this year’s Captain to the Mercat Cross, accompanied by hundreds of horses and riders, will draw large crowds.”

Blanket coverage

The Blue Blanket is the affectionate name for the “Standard of the Crafts within the Burgh of Edinburgh”, and legend has it that the blanket was presented to the city craftsmen by King James III after they rescued him from Edinburgh Castle.

The conditions that came with ownership of the Blue Blanket were twofold – should the banner be unfurled, the Deacon Convenor Of The Trades would be granted an audience with the monarch. The Blanket could also be raised to summon all the craftsmen of Scotland to fight in support of the Monarch. This happened in 1513 with disastrous consequences, with more than 10,000 Scots fatalities.