A – Z of Travel For Quirkiest read Gruesome Edinburgh

I thought long and hard about the quirkiest thing I have ever seen in 50 odd years of travel. Was it Sherlock Holmes’s loo or the Krakow Dachshund Parade perhaps.

No the strangest thing to me is our gruesome inhumanity towards our own species and nowhere I have ever been beats Scotland’s capital Edinburgh for gruesome goings on. These are a few of my gruesome Edinburgh highlights:

Well this street corner on the Royal Mile looks pretty innocuous doesn’t it?

Corner of Lawnmarket and Royal Mile

But wait what does that brass plaque on the wall tell us?

Thanks we needed to know that

Burke and Hare were two of Edinburgh’s most infamous inhabitants. Contrary to popular belief they never actually dug up bodies for Dr Knox at the medical school, since murdering people saved quite a lot of time and effort.  Between 1827 and 1828 they are thought to have bumped off around 17 people. Now since all of them folks ended up on the dissecting table, none of them had a proper Christian burial and it is thought that these tiny dolls and coffins,

Arthur’s Seat dolls

discovered by some boys hunting rabbits on Arthur’s Seat in 1836, may be their symbolic bodies given a symbolic one. A strange admixture of Christianity and pagan sympathetic magic should it be true.

You can see these in the of National Museum of  Scotland on Chambers Street. Close to the dolls you will find a Mortsafe.


These iron caskets could be rented out for your dearly departed to rot in peace, until they were beyond interest to the resurrectionists.

Of course it didn’t end well for Burke and Hare. While Hare got off with a prison sentence after turning King’s evidence, Burke was hanged and anatomised by the surgeons. His skeleton is in the Surgeon’s Hall , but another gruesome little curio is also on show in the little Police Centre Museum on the Royal Mile.

Ah murderer’s skin card case for the man who has everything

Yes it’s a visiting card case made from Burke’s very own skin. Now there is lots more of this sort of stuff from my second favourite city that I’m collecting together for future posts so keep coming back to Shipscooksstuff.


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