Winter photos to wet your appetite for making a windy climb down from the Royal Mile and up Calton Hill for the fabulous views of Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat and more.

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I took the Hidden Heroines Tour on International Women’s Day (8.3.2019) of places in the city centre where you can find out about famous Edinburgh women.

Carla Nebulosa was our tour guide and she and her team had researched and prepared the itinerary. Originally from Madrid, she delivered it in a personable, even exuberant manner. She has started to write a book of the same name and is looking for donations from the tours to cover her up-front costs.

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Carla (with the hat on, pointing) on the steps of Lady Stair’s Close and the back of the Writers MuseumEdinburgh

St Margaret (1070 – 1093) was an English princess: devout Catholic; charitable; mother of eight; wife to and good influence on King Malcolm; and, most importantly, she established a ferry across to Fife so folk could walk pilgrimage to St Andrews. She is further remembered because the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, part of the Castle, is in her name.

The roots of the summer pilgrimage dates back to June 1250 when the relics of Saint Margaret were translated to a new shrine in Dunfermline Abbey following her canonisation that year by Pope Innocent IV.

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The Witches’ Well can be found at the entrance to the Castle Esplanade. It is a memorial to the women who died unnecessarily as a result of the 1563 Scottish Witchcraft Act

The Witches’ Well, a cast iron fountain and plaque, honors the Scottish women who were burned at the stake between the 15th and 18th centuries. It’s an easy site to miss for people only focusing on the castle that looms ahead. During the 16th century, more women were murdered at this site than anywhere else in Scotland. Each victim was denied a proper trial.

The Witches’ Well
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The Witches’ Well, Atlas Obscura, Edinburgh

We visited sites associated with Catherine Sinclair (novelist 1800 – 1864), Susan Ferrier (novelist 1782 – 1854), and Elsie Inglis (doctor and suffragist 1864 – 1917). Inglis was one of the first women to be educated at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, though later she transferred to Glasgow to complete. I always remember her name as I went to visit my friend Tracy in the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital (1925 – 1988), the day she gave birth to her first daughter, Gemma.

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St Cuthbert’s from Princes Street Gardens where Susan Edmonstone Ferrier is buried, Edinburgh
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Looking towards Abbeyhill, site of the former Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital, Edinburgh

Mary Somerville, featured on the £10 note, was a Scottish scientist (1780 – 1872) and she gave her name to one of the houses at my secondary school in Tonbridge, Kent, so I was pleased to hear her mentioned.

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Bank of Scotland, The Mound on the left with the green dome, Edinburgh

Lady Mary Shepherd was born to the Primrose family (1777 – 1847) just outside Edinburgh. A Scottish philosopher, she wrote two philosophical books (1824 criticising the views of David Hume, and 1827 on the perceptions of an external universe) which were influential in Edinburgh philosophical circles at the time. (thanks Wikipedia)


She finds them (the main tenets of the Scottish school) unable to sustain scientific inquiry, everyday practical reasoning, and belief in an almighty deity.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

You can add your signature to a petition here to get a statue erected to her, if you like.

Detail from painting by Alexander Nasmyth, depicting the family of
Neil 3rd Earl of Rosebery in the grounds of Dalmeny House.
Courtesy of Dalmeny Estates

Bessie Watson was the youngest bagpipe playing suffragette! Born in Edinburgh in 1900, she was encouraged to play to strengthen her lungs as prevention against tuberculosis which ran in the family. Look at her little pale face! She joined the WSPU, the Women’s Social and Political Union, with her mother, marching down Prince’s Street in 1909 to celebrate ‘what women have done and can and will do’.

Bessie Watson
Princes Street, Edinburgh


Jane Haining was ‘A farmer’s daughter from Galloway in south-west Scotland, Jane was a Church of Scotland missionary, and went to the Scottish Jewish Mission School in Budapest in 1932, where she worked as a boarding school matron in charge of around 50 orphan girls. The school had 400 pupils, most of them Jewish. Jane was back in the UK on holiday when war broke out in 1939, but she immediately went back to Hungary to do all she could to protect the children at the school. She refused to leave in 1940, and again ignored orders to flee the country in March 1944 when Hungary was invaded by the Nazis. She remained with her pupils, writing ‘if these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness’.” Her brave persistence led to her arrest in by the Gestapo in April 1944, for “offences” that included spying, working with Jews and listening to the BBC. She died in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz just a few months later, at the age of 47.’ There is a fitting memorial to her on Calton Hill. There is a book about her, Jane Haining, A Life of Love and Courage by Mary Miller published by Birlinn.

Jane Haining memorial, Calton Hill, Edinburgh


Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1851 – 1911) was a Scottish astronomer active in the United States. During her career, she helped develop a common designation system for stars and cataloged thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena. ‘One of nine children of a Scottish craftsman and his wife, she already knew the cold reality of family survival. Her father had died when she was seven; at 14, she had become a student teacher to help support her mother and siblings. At 20, she had married a Dundee bank employee and widower, James Orr Fleming, 16 years her senior—who would abandon her and their unborn child shortly after her arrival in the United States. Despite it all, “Mina” Fleming would rise to a key position in Harvard’s astronomy program and be hailed as the nation’s preeminent woman astronomer..(classifying) by far the most extensive star compilation of the era.’

The Edinburgh Observatory, now the Collective Gallery, Calton Hill, Edinburgh (not my photo)
‘Edinburgh’s Acropolis’, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The Hidden Heroines tour took in women of politics, literature, medicine, education, witches and business and I highly recommend it if it is ever held again.

9 thoughts on “Edinburgh – New College and Calton Hill

  1. Do you know about the poetry book Quines, by Gerda Stevenson? It’s about notable Scottish women and is truly a joy to read, I’m a member of edge textile Artists Scotland and in March 2020 , to celebrate international women’s day, we opened an exhibition of work inspired by the poems at the central library. Only to have the doors well and truly shut on March 23. The Quines are presiding over the museum, or maybe wreaking havoc, and one day they will again see the light of day! Hopefully you will be able to see the work one day..

    Liked by 1 person

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