Only in Edinburgh

Picture of book cover on Edinburgh


I’m always on the lookout for new guidebooks for the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.  Books that offer something more than the usual visitor attractions.  I found this book in Bank House Living, Melrose a few weeks ago and knew I had to have it.  Based on personal experience walking through Edinburgh, “Urban Explorer” Duncan J D Smith, gives a new and unusual perspective.  He reveals the Edinburgh of secret gardens and haunted theatres, mysterious monuments and unexpected underworlds, industrial relics and unusual places of worship.

Only in Edinburgh

Only in Edinburgh is a comprehensive illustrated guide to more than 100 fascinating, unique locations, hidden corners and unusual objects.  His clever use of chapter titles captures your interest straight away.  On the way you find yourself captured by his stunning photography of yet another little-known attraction.  From historic homes and ruined churches to an Art Deco petrol  station (#92) and a library for poets (#28). Attractions include the ‘Innocent Railway Tunnel’ (#46), Arthur’s Seat Coffins (#35), Trainspotting in Leith (#73), and the Skating Minister (#57). But even for fairly mainstream attractions, the book is filled with all sorts of easy to miss details.  For example Edinburgh Castle Gatehouse, while looking old, is a combination of 1888 construction and a 1970s tunnel to allow military lorries to enter.  Or discover the cemetery for Soldiers’ Dogs or the  “Laird’s Lug”, a window for eavesdropping  conversations in the Great Hall.

This level of detail continues for some of the other attractions, such as the Museum of the Mound’s display of a million Scottish Banknotes (#8). Or the easy-to-miss marker in the pavement noting the location of Scotland’s last public execution (#10).  Or even explorations of the various nooks and crannies of the Old City itself, such as the remnants of the old town wall (#39)   Having lived in Edinburgh as a student and as a frequent visitor I thought I had discovered most of Edinburgh’s hidden treasures  – but it appears not.   I still have much to discover.

Gin & Coffee

And when your ready to sit down, lookout for the  Gin (#47) and coffee from  a Police Book (#91).  Or maybe follow in JK Rowling’s footsteps and have coffee with Harry Potter (#37).

So if you only buy one book for your visit to Edinburgh, this should be the one.  And who knows we may meet as we discover the lesser known joys of Scotland’s Capital City.

Here’s a link to a previous post on more books on Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders to help you plan your visit.

A bit more about The Urban Explorer

Duncan decided in 2003 to write and illustrate his own travel books after a career selling other travel writers’ books.   As a self-styled ‘Urban Explorer’, he has embarked on a lifetime’s adventure, travelling off the beaten track in search of the world’s hidden corners and curious locations. Duncan has so far traversed three continents in search of unusual places and people.  From the wartime bunkers of Berlin, the Baroque gardens of Prague to the souks of Damascus and the rock-cut churches of Ethiopia.  His ground breaking series of  ‘Only In’ Guides, cover 11 European Cities. Berlin, Budapest, Cologne, Edinburgh, Hamburg, London, Munich, Paris, Prague, Vienna, and Zurich.

A Little Bit of Garden for World Poetry Day

Spring blossom with a bee


the Poetry of the Outback

William H Ogilvie (1869-1963) is a well know poet in Australian but less so in his Scottish homeland.  Born in Kelso in 1869 he left Scotland at the age of 20 for the Outback of Australia.  There he followed his passion for horses and became an accomplished station hand, drover and horse-breaker.  Among his friends was the legendary horseman Harry “Breaker” Morant.  It was in the Outback that he began writing his romantic verse.


Return to the Scottish Borders

On his return to Scotland 12 years later he continued writing, including a number of stirring poems about the Scottish Borders.  He died in 1961 at the age of 93, in his home in Ashkirk.  His ashes were scattered on the road to Roberton.  In 1993 the William H Ogilvie Memorial Trust erected a cairn to his works, close  to where his ashes were scattered.  An exact copy of the cairn is located in Bourne, New South Wales.  There are many more monuments to Ogilvie in Australia, including a formal portrait of Ogilvie posing with his miniature fox terrier,  in the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

The Trust has collected his works together for future generations to view.  You can view the archive at the Heritage Hub in Hawick.  They have also published a number of books of his poems (see their website for details), covering his work on the Scottish Borders.  Alastair Moffat included his poem The Raiders in his book  on The Reivers.  It’s one of my favourites along with A Scotch Night.

A recent episode of ITV’s Border Life gave a short insight into the life and works of Ogilvie.  Click on this link to access the  episode from the 14th March 2016, (feature starts at 11 mins).

So we chose Ogilvie’s poem A Little Bit of the Garden to celebrate World Poetry Day and Spring arriving in the Scottish Borders.


A Little Bit Of Garden

We need no crown or sceptre,
for now that it is spring,
just a little bit of garden-
and every man’s a king!

A little breadth of border,
a little patch of grass,
above it all the April sky
where soft the south winds pass.

A spade and rake for comrades,
the smell of rain-wet mould,-
and every time we turn a clod
we turn a mint of gold.

A little bit of garden,
with daffodils a-swing,
and tulip-flowers whose crimson flags
are only flown for spring.

Shy blossoming primroses,
forget-me-nots of blue,
and here a blade and there a blade
of green things peeping through.

Who seeks for crown or sceptre
when every man’s a ming
whose patch of cottage garden
has felt the feet of Spring!