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Cowgate Attractions 


Cowgate Grassmarket Edinburgh was the road in to Edinburgh from the east. previously the south Loch before drained circa  1300. Named after the gate in the Flodden wall that surrounded Edinburgh. The Gate was the way the farmers brought their stock (Cow's) to market. Through the Cow gate of the City Wall (Flodden Wall). Now it is the hub of pubs, restaurants, clubs accommodation, within walking distance of all the attractions, historic sites, Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. There are some places that still exist in the Cowgate from  Edinburgh's History; The Magdalen Chapel, James Connolly birthplace, St Patrick's Church, One of George Heriot's Schools, Tailors Hall, The first bridge to spa the Cowgate (South Bridge), the vaults created by the bridge that once were used as shops The history of Edinburgh is vast and I have hopefully given a good account of it on this site. 

Cowgate From Cowgate Port Edinburgh

Magdalen Chapel Cowgate

Attraction Edinburgh 

The Magdalen Chapel Cowgate Edinburgh was Built completed in 1542 as a chapel and Hospital for the poor.  

The Magdalen Chapel Cowgate Edinburgh

Tailor's Hall

Cowgate Edinburgh

The Incorporation of Tailors of the Canongate records go back as far as 1438 (National records of Scotland).The incorporation of Tailors purchased land in the Cowgate in 1620. The site was where they built their meeting hall which was completed by the next year. In February 1638 a draft copy of the National Covenant was approved in the Tailor’s Hall. The building was extended in 1757 by the way of an upper floor. The buildings are now a bar and accommodation. The National Covenant was first signed at Greyfriars churchyard Edinburgh on the 28th of February 1638 before travelling the country for signatures.

Cowgate Tailors Hall
Tailor's Hall. Cowgate Edinbugh

Heriot’s Hospital (School)

Cowgate Edinburgh

Heriot’s Hospital (School) Cowgate was in a building on the corner of the Cowgate and Pleasance in Edinburgh. It was built after the wall and Cowgate Port were removed for development and it is possible the stone from the wall was used to build the Hospital (school). This building is still standing originally built between 1838 -1840 the clock face has a date of 1840 and on the front of the building is an inscription George Heriot's | Hospital | School | 1838  This is one of seven schools opened by the governors of Heriot’s school to educate poor children throughout the city.

Heriot's School Cowgate Edinburgh

James Connolly Birthplace

Cowgate Edinburgh

James Connolly was born in Edinburgh at 107 Cowgate on 5 June 1868. The first time he stood on Irish soil was as a British soldier at the age of fourteen. He was the secretary of the Scottish Socialist Federation in 1892 aged 24.

He also founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party who’s aims were to secure the national and economic freedom of the Irish people. He started a weekly newspaper, the Workers’ Republic and the first publication was issued in August of 1898. At the age of 46 in 1914 he became Acting General Secretary of Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He formed an Anti-War Committee and as the leader he Committed the Labour movement to oppose recruitment and conscription to the British Army ‘We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland’. When the Secret military council of the I.R.B.  decided on an armed rising in 1916, Connolly took part in the preparations and in 1916 he had become convinced that a nationalist revolution was the only way to free Ireland from what he saw as imperial and capitalist oppression. He was sentenced to death for his part in the uprising and was executed in Kilmainham Jail Dublin 12 May 1916.

Plaque of where James Connolly was born 1888
James Connolly Memorial Cowgate Edinburgh

Cardinal Beaton Plaque 

Cowgate Edinburgh

David Beaton was born in 1494 and died in 1546. On 20 December 1539 David Beaton was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III. Cardinal Beaton became a regent for Mary Queen of Scots and appointed himself the Chancellor of Scotland in 1543. He was disliked by most but was in favour with the royals of both France and Britain. He had many mistresses and 20 illegitimate children. He was arrested for fraud and the cause of the rough wooing, Henry the VIII invasion of Scotland.    

statue of Cardinal Beaton scottish national portrait gallery queen street edinburgh
Cardinal Beaton Lived here Plaque Cowgate Edinburgh

St Patrick's R.C.

Cowgate Edinburgh

St Patrick’s Edinburgh was built in 1774. It was first Presbyterian then Episcopal and finally in 1856 it opened as a Catholic church to serve the growing Irish community in Edinburgh. There were reported to be 2600 attend the first service.  In 1869 Canon Edward Hannan established the Catholic Young Men’s Society (CYMS) and started a football team to help the Irish Catholic community from Edinburgh’s Southside mix with the larger Edinburgh Catholic community. It was decided after many different names were rejected that the football club should be named Hibernian after the Roman name for Ireland. The Hibernian Football Club have been a part of Edinburgh sporting history ever since.

ST. Patricks R.C. Church Cowgate Edinburgh

First Printing Press

Black Knight

This plaque donates the place where the first printing of a book in Scotland took place. The printers Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar printed the first book in 1508 after being granted a licence by King (James IV) a year earlier.

The printers stood in the Cowgate at the foot of Blackfriars Street near to Cardinal Beaton’s House.

Plaque of where first book in Scotland was Printed Cowgate Edinburgh

Robert Louis Stevenson Plaque 

Cowgate Edinburgh

“To look over the South Bridge and see the Cowgate below full of crying hawkers, is to view one rank of society from mother in a twinkling of an eye”.  Robert Louis Stevenson 1878. The plaque can be found on the wall of the Rowantree a Venue in the Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1NN near the South Bridge.  

Robert Louis Stevenson Plaqe Cowgate Edinburgh

Underground Vaults

Cowgate Edinburgh

The South Bridge was constructed circa 1788 due to the ground and valleys the bridge was constructed with 19 arches. The arch that spans the Cowgate is the only one that is visible.  Underground can be seen vaults that were made due to the bridge. The vaults were occupied by tradesmen, shops and taverns the first underground shopping mall. This did not last due to the conditions of the vaults with lack of light and air, the vaults were soon abandoned.

South Niddry Street Cowgate Edinburgh

Bridges Spanning

Cowgate Edinburgh  

The 2 bridges that span the Cowgate in Edinburgh were built to allow access to the south of Edinburgh. The South Bridge was completed in 1788 and was an extension of the North Bridge and crossed the High street at the Tron Kirk which was for long the centre marker for Old Edinburgh. The George IV Bridge was completed in 1832 which started from the Lawnmarket and was a continuation to Bank Street and the Mound. Many houses and closes were demolished to make way for the bridges to enable easy connections to south Edinburgh. The offices of the Merchants Company of Edinburgh was where the arch of the George IV Bridge stands now. This was where the first ladies school was established by a gift from Mary Erskine in 1694 , known as the Merchant Maiden Hospital .

George IV Bridge over the Cowgate Edinburgh
South Bridge over Cowgate Edinburgh
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