Dorothy Dunnett

Dunnett Related Places to Visit

Edinburgh and the Surrounding Area

Central Edinburgh

Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh Castle

Perched high on its rock overlooking the city, the castle must be one of the most photographed buildings in the world. There has been a fortification on the site certainly as far back as Roman times and probably earlier. The oldest part of the castle still in evidence is the beautifully simple St. Margaret's Chapel which dates from the 12th century.

Amongst many 'must see' items are the Honours of Scotland - the Scottish Crown Jewels (the oldest in Europe) - and the famous old seige gun Mons Meg with four of its enormous stone cannonballs.

The Honours consist of the Sceptre, which was sent to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in the 1490s, the Sword, given to James IV by Pope Julius II in 1507 and the Crown. The Crown was remade from the earlier one in 1540.

Mons Meg - click for larger pictureMons Meg is a muzzle-loaded bombard which weighs over 6 tons and fired stones weighing over 150kg a distance of nearly 3km, but could only be fired about 8 times a day because of the enormous amount of heat generated.


Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street GardensOk, so you're wondering what this has to do with Dunnett - well these beautiful gardens are the site of the Nor Loch, where the attempt on Gelis' life is made while it is frozen over, and which Lymond swims across at the beginning of Game of Kings on his way to meet Mungo's Pig!

The Nor Loch was actually man made - which would probably surprise many Edinburgh folk, who, if they haven't read the history, probably assume it was natural and was later drained. It was created as an extra defence by James II using a natural spring situated at the base of the Castle Rock. Considering that the hollow where it was formed was carved out by glacial action it's perhaps surprising that it hadn't formed naturally, especially as the spring proved to be very plentiful and allowed the planners to change their ideas from a simple moat to a fully fledged loch, controlled by a dam and a sluicegate. The well and the tower which surrounded it are still there today.
There are some interesting old prints to be seen on a Nor Loch page on the Heriot Watt University site.

For a while the loch was an attractive feature which was much admired but it inevitably became overgrown and filled up with rubbish (and worse) from the city, until it eventually became a health hazard. It was reduced in size by drainage for the construction of the North Bridge and then divided in two by the Mound which was constructed (to connect the Old Town with the New Town which was built in 1767) from earth and rubbish produced when new streets were excavated in the town. Eventually it was drained completely and the gardens were gradually developed. They have survived several ludicrous proposals for car parks and buildings, although they did succumb to the mania for railways when the original Edinburgh and Glasgow railway was pushed through close to the castle rock to terminate at Waverley Station. Thankfully a local law was passed which prevents any building construction on the south side of Princes Street which would of course destroy the finest city centre view in Europe.

The Mound is the home of two major art galleries - the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland. The latter is home to many superb works including a Turner watercolour collection and a series of Dutch masterpieces but the one of special significance for us is the Portinari Alterpiece from the Trinity College Church. There is also a portrait of Lord Grey which is usually situated close to the alterpiece, and a portrait of a woman which I am convinced is Gelis!

click for a larger pictureThe High Kirk of St. Giles

Scene of the dramatic confrontation and swordfight between Lymond and Graham Reid Mallett at the end of Disorderly Knights. There has been a church on the site since 854, the four central pillars dating from around 1120. The massive crown steeple dates from 1495, though the present form of the building is much more recent at 1829. Having been changed so much over the years the layout is not the same as it was in Lymond's time, so you cannot exactly match the scenes described to the current floor plan. The Lauder Aisle (where Lymond takes his vow) is to the right as you enter the kirk, but the area is now panelled off, while straight ahead is the main altar. St Giles was a Greek hermit who was the patron saint of beggars and criminals!!

The Royal Mile and its "Closes"

These old passageways and wynds are fascinating and contain a great deal of history. Unfortunately, of the closes mentioned in the Chronicles, Gosford Close no longer exists and Bruce's Close was absorbed into Warriston Close.

Chalmers Close, just up the hill from John Knox's House, contains what remains of Trinity College Church where Nicholas sings a motet. Originally a very fine piece of gothic architecture, it previously stood where Waverly Railway Station is now but was taken down in 1848 when the station was constructed and the stones numbered so that it could be rebuilt. Unfortunately many of the stones were stolen and as a result only the apse could be recreated in the close. It now houses the Brass Rubbing Centre.
Further down the Royal Mile in the Canongate there is St. John's Pend - named after the Knights of St. John who had their house here. The Priory of the Most Venerable Order of St. John still stands in St. John's Street and displays the Maltese Cross above its door. There is another painted on the roadway just above Old Playhouse Close.

Gladstone's Land in the Lawnmarket is well worth a visit to get a feel for life in Lymond's time as it has been restored as closely as possible to its original condition and is run as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland. A narrow six storey building, it was built in 1550 and extended in 1620 and contains original painted ceilings and walls and is furnished in contemporary style.

There are many more interesting nooks and crannies to be found for those interested in more general history, and plenty of guides - both human and printed - to their stories.


Holyrood Palace

Not really mentioned much in the books but a major attraction and so closely connected to the Scottish crown and Mary that it's not to be missed. Situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile at the edge of Holyrood Park, it was started by James IV in 1501 and is today the official residence of the Queen.
The ruins of Holyrood Abbey adjoin the palace - the Abbots of Holyrood owned much of the land around Edinburgh that is mentioned in House of Niccolo, and it was near the Abbey that Nicholas staged his spectacular play. The Abbey was destroyed by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 during the Rough Wooing. The last person to be buried there was Darnley - the same Henry Lord Darnley that we meet in the Chronicles as the young son of Margaret Lennox.


Outskirts and Environs

Craigmillar Castle

Situated at the eastern edge of the city, Craigmillar is featured on the cover of Gemini and was the scene of the divining commanded by James III. For anyone who has seen the promotional pictures for Dorothy's 1997 US tour, this was where the photographs were taken. John of Mar was imprisoned there in 1480 and Mary Queen of Scots stayed there for a time after the murder of Rizzio in 1566 and it is believed that the conspiracy to murder Darnley was formulated at that time.

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn ChapelIn the village of Roslin on the southern side of Edinburgh hides an amazing piece of church architecture and stone decoration. The chapel is closely connected with both the Knights Templar and the Knights of St. John and is the centre of much speculation as to what may be hidden in its vaults. Some of the more outlandish say that the Holy Grail was concealed there while other stories include a "lost Gospel" rescued from Jerusalem, and various suggestions have been made to open the sealed sections to search for them. Other even wilder suggestions put it at the centre of powerful spiritual forces indicating a gateway to another world.
The real richness of Rossyn is more than enough without these speculations - the skill and detail of the carving is overwhelming. The famous Apprentice Pillar is well worth seeing in itself, its four strand spiral of foliage being a masterpiece of stone carving, while experts in masonic symbolism will enjoy checking the rest of the heavily decorated stonework, which abounds in figures, animals and flowers. The Chapel features heavily in the early Scottish scenes in Gemini, including one of the most poignant.

Rosslyn CastleJust down the hill from the Chapel sits Rosslyn Castle which was the home of Nowie Sinclair in Gemini. It is situated over the lip of Rosslyn Glen and the bridge which leads down to it takes you to the top of it rather than the bottom as would be the case in most castles - an arrangement which makes it difficult to photograph effectively. It was partly destroyed in 1544 by the English army and was largely derelict until 1982 when parts of the mostly 16th-17th century East range were conserved, along with some 17th century paneling, and this section is now once again being lived in. There are a number of paths and walks through the pretty glen which holds the base of the castle.

 

 

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