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Copyright Historic Edinburgh Tours 2019 Registered in Scotland I SC 454482

The Eccentricities of an

Edinburgh Tour Guide (Volume 1!)

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I genuinely love being an Edinburgh tour guide. There’s something great about having the privilege to show off my home town to people from around the World. Sometimes people are travelling through Edinburgh; some come for a day trip, some are locals and want to learn a few different things about their town and some people, to my constant delight, have travelled thousands of miles just to see the old place in all her glory. Ok, sales pitch done, but what’s the point of this blog entry? I wanted to ‘fess up to something that I still get a ‘kick out of’ when I explore the Old Town. I love walking the streets and imagining long lost places as they once would have been. I’m positively evangelical about it. The thing is, I’ve always loved history. Although today I’m a primary school teacher (and tour guide), my first interest was history, specifically military history. Roman soldiers charging around mimicking large tortoises, knights clanking around in serious need of some WD40, that sort of thing was what I was keen on. Edinburgh’s social history? Oh, jeez no. I remember being disappointed about having to study the Old Town when I was at school. Stories of wigs and Whigs simply didn’t float my boat. Some revelation for someone who now makes a living taking Edinburgh tours eh? So what changed? In 2005 I got interested in photography, specifically 360-degree photography. And then one day I picked up a copy of a book by Marie Stuart all about Edinburgh’s Old Town taverns. This topic was a surprising choice for someone who isn’t much of a drinker and who wasn’t riveted by social history. But this book changed everything. Stuart vividly paints pictures in your mind of the things she’s discussing. As the rain hit the windows of my bedroom, Ms Stuart’s writing took me back more than two hundred years. Every story she told was punctuated by me going “Oh! I know what that place is today!’. And then I became a bit of an Old Town obsessive. I went out taking 360-degree photos all around the Old Town. I built up a huge collection of archive images so that I could position these photos into my 360-degree scenes. Each new addition to my collection helped me imagine how each location appeared. I loved it. I still love it. I soon found that the Old Town wasn’t just a nice collection of buildings smattered with a few historical stories I’d read about and learned in school. Suddenly I was able to walk past places and think ‘I knew what that once looked like”. I love walking past newer buildings, turning my head and conjuring up some of the images I have of what used to sit there and of the people who used to live and work there. The more and more I researched, the more layers were added to my imagination. Where once I walked past the Heart of Midlothian and merely focussed on dodging the spit from a few Edinburgh traditionalists, now I imagined the walls and rooms of the Tolbooth Prison. An account by historian and social campaigner Hugh Arnott about a visit he made to this place enhanced my imagination. Arnott talks about the sights and smells of the condemned cells in the prison. Since reading his account, I don’t think I’ve ever walked past that location without imagining the horrors he saw. I don’t think I crinkle my nose in imagined disgust as I walk past the site of those specific cells, but I’m not completely sure I don’t! That’s just one of the places in today’s Edinburgh which has changed completely for me. I intend to share more of my rambles (and ramblings) as I reveal a few more of Edinburgh’s long lost places. Once I started leading my own Edinburgh tours, I soon realised that a big problem wasn't finding out things to say, it was working out what stories I had to focus on. The thing is I’ve often mixed groups consisting of people new to the city, locals who know all the familiar stories and more than a few with a historical understanding light years ahead of my own (I’m not too shabby in that field). How can I make my Edinburgh walking tours accessible to everyone yet interesting to those who already know the city intimately? That’s a challenge I love. I see tour groups like this as my own version of an episode of the Simpsons. You know how that show works, kids can be sitting laughing away at the antics of Bart, Homer, Lisa and Marge, while any adults in the room can be chortling away at something equally funny but which the show did on a very adult level. The writers of that show managed to make a multi-level show. I try to do the same on my tours. If I can cover the key history and stories for some, while revealing more than a few surprises to the locals and experts then all to the good. Few things please me more in my tour guide role than locals leaving reviews which say they never realised things about their town. I was once the same, and I still am, there’s always more to discover and more to be revealed. Isn’t it exciting? So, if you see me walking past St Giles looking around as if it’s the first time I’ve been there, or walking past walls and looking at them strangely then don’t be surprised. It’s actually just me doing what I love to do in Old Edinburgh, imagining it as it once was. And if you’re so inclined, look carefully, I probably will be crinkling my nose!
You can experience this for yourself (!) on our Old Edinburgh walking tour. This guided tour runs most Thursdays - 10.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm and then the same times on Saturdays. It’s the perfect introduction to Edinburgh’s history.
Robert Howie is the sole tour guide for Historic Edinburgh Tours. He owns the company and researches and resources all our tours. He has led guided tours for more than ten years. Robert was born in Edinburgh, teaches in the local area and received his university education in one of the most historic buildings on the Royal Mile. You can learn more about Historic Edinburgh Tours by clicking here.
Your tour guide.
In which I discuss why I love being an Edinburgh tour guide, what my tours and the Simpson’s TV show have in common and what strange thing I love experiencing as I wander around the Old Town … even if it’s on my own!
Robert working with a class on Old Edinburgh hygiene...
Our Old Edinburgh tours for schools allow me really to enjoy my inner nerd! Here I am using two of our most popular props…
Ah, the Old Town and I…and on a pretty decent day too!
Your guide in Edinburgh's New Town.
Me during a busy Edinburgh Festival!
Edinburgh tours are popular things to do in the Festival.
The Eccentricities of an Edinburgh Tour Guide (Volume 1!)
In which I discuss why I love being an Edinburgh tour guide, what my tours and the Simpson’s TV show have in common and what strange thing I love experiencing as I wander around the Old Town … even if it’s on my own!
Contact us
Historic Edinburgh Tours Ltd , 28/2 Bridge Road, Edinburgh, EH13 0LQ
Copyright Historic Edinburgh Tours 2019 Registered in Scotland I SC 454482
I genuinely love being an Edinburgh tour guide. There’s something great about having the privilege to show off my home town to people from around the World. Sometimes people are travelling through Edinburgh; some come for a day trip, some are locals and want to learn a few different things about their town and some people, to my constant delight, have travelled thousands of miles just to see the old place in all her glory. Ok, sales pitch done, but what’s the point of this blog entry? I wanted to ‘fess up to something that I still get a ‘kick out of’ when I explore the Old Town. I love walking the streets and imagining long lost places as they once would have been. I’m positively evangelical about it. The thing is, I’ve always loved history. Although today I’m a primary school teacher (and tour guide), my first interest was history, specifically military history. Roman soldiers charging around mimicking large tortoises, knights clanking around in serious need of some WD40, that sort of thing was what I was keen on. Edinburgh’s social history? Oh, jeez no. I remember being disappointed about having to study the Old Town when I was at school. Stories of wigs and Whigs simply didn’t float my boat. Some revelation for someone who now makes a living taking Edinburgh tours eh? So what changed? In 2005 I got interested in photography, specifically 360-degree photography. And then one day I picked up a copy of a book by Marie Stuart all about Edinburgh’s Old Town taverns. This topic was a surprising choice for someone who isn’t much of a drinker and who wasn’t riveted by social history. But this book changed everything. Stuart vividly paints pictures in your mind of the things she’s discussing. As the rain hit the windows of my bedroom, Ms Stuart’s writing took me back more than two hundred years. Every story she told was punctuated by me going “Oh! I know what that place is today!’. And then I became a bit of an Old Town obsessive. I went out taking 360-degree photos all around the Old Town. I built up a huge collection of archive images so that I could position these photos into my 360-degree scenes. Each new addition to my collection helped me imagine how each location appeared. I loved it. I still love it. I soon found that the Old Town wasn’t just a nice collection of buildings smattered with a few historical stories I’d read about and learned in school. Suddenly I was able to walk past places and think ‘I knew what that once looked like”. I love walking past newer buildings, turning my head and conjuring up some of the images I have of what used to sit there and of the people who used to live and work there. The more and more I researched, the more layers were added to my imagination. Where once I walked past the Heart of Midlothian and merely focussed on dodging the spit from a few Edinburgh traditionalists, now I imagined the walls and rooms of the Tolbooth Prison. An account by historian and social campaigner Hugh Arnott about a visit he made to this place enhanced my imagination. Arnott talks about the sights and smells of the condemned cells in the prison. Since reading his account, I don’t think I’ve ever walked past that location without imagining the horrors he saw. I don’t think I crinkle my nose in imagined disgust as I walk past the site of those specific cells, but I’m not completely sure I don’t! That’s just one of the places in today’s Edinburgh which has changed completely for me. I intend to share more of my rambles (and ramblings) as I reveal a few more of Edinburgh’s long lost places. Once I started leading my own Edinburgh tours, I soon realised that a big problem wasn't finding out things to say, it was working out what stories I had to focus on. The thing is I’ve often mixed groups consisting of people new to the city, locals who know all the familiar stories and more than a few with a historical understanding light years ahead of my own (I’m not too shabby in that field). How can I make my Edinburgh walking tours accessible to everyone yet interesting to those who already know the city intimately? That’s a challenge I love. I see tour groups like this as my own version of an episode of the Simpsons. You know how that show works, kids can be sitting laughing away at the antics of Bart, Homer, Lisa and Marge, while any adults in the room can be chortling away at something equally funny but which the show did on a very adult level. The writers of that show managed to make a multi-level show. I try to do the same on my tours. If I can cover the key history and stories for some, while revealing more than a few surprises to the locals and experts then all to the good. Few things please me more in my tour guide role than locals leaving reviews which say they never realised things about their town. I was once the same, and I still am, there’s always more to discover and more to be revealed. Isn’t it exciting? So, if you see me walking past St Giles looking around as if it’s the first time I’ve been there, or walking past walls and looking at them strangely then don’t be surprised. It’s actually just me doing what I love to do in Old Edinburgh, imagining it as it once was. And if you’re so inclined, look carefully, I probably will be crinkling my nose!
Robert working with a class on Old Edinburgh hygiene...
Our Old Edinburgh tours for schools allow me really to enjoy my inner nerd! Here I am using two of our most popular props…
Ah, the Old Town and I…and on a pretty decent day too!
Your guide in Edinburgh's New Town.
Me during a busy Edinburgh Festival!
Edinburgh tours are popular things to do in the Festival.
You can experience this for yourself (!) on our Old Edinburgh walking tour. This guided tour runs most Thursdays - 10.30am- 12.30pm and 2-4pm and then the same times on Saturdays. It’s the perfect introduction to Edinburgh’s history.
Call us : +44 (0)7590 026 077
Call us : +44 (0)7590 026 077