Return to Transcripts main page


Tour of Edinburgh

Aired December 12, 2012 - 05:30:00   ET


JAMIE, GHOST TOUR GUIDE: The heart of Edinburgh is the Royal Mile. You have the two valleys coming off the Royal Mile, which one is now the Cowgate, but a lot of people don't venture down to the Cowgate. They come to the Royal Mile, they walk from the palace to the castle, and that's it, they think they've seen Edinburgh, and there's so much more to Edinburgh than just the Royal Mile.

Thousands of people every day walk along South Bridge. They have no idea what is literally, maybe, you know, eight feet below their own feet. They're walking on the bridge, they have no idea there's underground chambers and tunnels and routes.

The old structure of South Bridge is made up of a total of 19 massive arches. It runs basically from Infirmary Street, up the top of the street, all the way to the Royal Mile, which is behind me. Nineteen massive arches. If I'm doing tours with members of the public, we take them in to our section, and we tell them the history of the place, the kind of things that happened on our tours to people, and, of course, the kind of people that unfortunately have to live in there.

Various things have been felt on our tours. Over the years, we've had people, the reports of being scratched, kicked, punched, pushed when there is nothing beside them, or it's just a brick wall. It can become terrifying in seconds. It was -- good fun can turn terrifying. Especially when you get somebody who doesn't believe in ghosts, which it really doesn't matter if people believe or not in them. There is something in these walls that's not human.

This is real. You are really going underground. I have no regard for public safety, I couldn't care less. We're going to be in the walls for about an hour, so get used to it. If you do feel it difficult to breathe at any point, I have chloroform.

If you are frightened of dead people touching you, this not a tour for you. And if you are usually offended by ginger jokes, this is not a tour for you.

One of the characters I believe is responsible for the interactions that people have in the walls is a man called Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was a twisted, twisted little man, and I don't mean mentally twisted. He was physically twisted. It was a lack of vitamin D.

Now, if you had a problem, as long you have gold coins, Joseph will try and fix it for you.

One man approached Joseph one day. He said, Joseph, please help me. My daughter has been attacked, and nothing is happening to the man because he is a counselor. He then proceeded to shove a big bag of gold coins in front of Joseph. The man in question was called William Chambers, a local politician. Joseph sent two men out to find William Chambers. They found him. Joseph arrives. Joseph gets the two men who are holding him down -- open his eyes, open his eyes. Joseph had one pointy fingernail, he pressed on the man's retina, and he starts rubbing, and he starts rubbing, he starts pushing in until the man's eyes almost go back. And then he'd twist, he'd rip, and he goes -- so the eye is left hanging on the man's face with the optical nerves holding it.

ROBBIE, ROCK CLIMBER: I have been climbing for around seven years now, more or less full time since I left school.

So, this is the world's largest indoor climbing arena. This center is an amazing place for the development of youth climbers and youth athletes across several sports.


ROBBIE: As you can see over here, we've got lots of people who are just hanging out enjoying the wall, and along here we've got people trying the speed wall. We've got these massive climbing walls here that anyone can have a shot at. Really, it's an amazing place.

The best thing about this place is just the sheer size of it. The volume of climbing you can do. And you can come in here and just get on anything and enjoy climbing with friends.

For me growing up as a child, it was my home away from home. A lot of my friends I've grown up with are now full-time climbers or are involved in outdoor industry. They are taking kids out climbing. Edinburgh is a fantastic place to live if you're into adventure sports, not just climbing, but we also have an access to the mountains really easily. You can go up north and go skiing, snowboarding during the winter season.

Edinburgh has a lot of people, scaffolds (ph) and statues, and festivals. To me, this center proves that there is more to Edinburgh than simply what you see in the postcards. It's really close to the airport, so as soon as you get off the plane, just jump on -- just jump on a (inaudible) and have a climb.


SHONA, PHOTOJOURNALIST: I was born in Edinburgh, but brought up here. Traveled quite extensively, but back in Edinburgh and absolutely love the place. The Firth of Forth is absolutely teaming with wild life. I think it's a great sad (ph) sometimes when tourists think that they need to sort of use Edinburgh only for heritage, and the highlands for the wild life. As (inaudible) sail from this island at the right time of the year, you can see puffins, killer (inaudible), a whole wealth of sea birds.

I think Edinburgh is a really stunningly beautiful city and particularly its relationship with the sea. Historically, that was very, very important. Around the coast of the Firth of Forth, you will see concrete bulwarks, because they believed that the Germans were going to land here, and that tanks and things would come on shore.

We hear in the U.K about the London blitz, but there was also bombing that happened in Scotland, and there was a huge military operation, where people were coming into the Firth of Forth. At Massinburgh (ph), there was a German plane shut down, there was another German plane shot down at Lunesse (ph). And also around the Isle of May (ph), there was a naval fight went on there, and ships sank. And so, actually, for people that are interested in diving in the Firth of Forth, the water is absolutely full of old vessels and wrecks.

It's so beautiful. For people who come and visit this city, I would always say to them, get into the rural areas and the coastal areas, because there's so much going on. Yes, there are all the wonderful historic buildings in Edinburgh, but to go down to the beach I think you can't beat Edinburgh's sea front.

HOWIE, KILT DESIGNER: I started this modern collection of kilts within my parents' business when I was 18 years old. They still work on the Royal Mile doing traditional kilts. I moved to Festival (ph) Street, a very lovely small street in Edinburgh away from the tourist trap, to be honest, because there were a lot of kilts out there for 20 pounds, 50 pounds, but they were made abroad and were not a good quality. So, this shop is my own little haven of loveliness and the way a kilt shop should be, that when you are investing in a piece of clothing that you can wear for the rest of your life, you want to do it in a nice environment. There will be a little whiskey, there will be a glass of wine for the ladies.

We as an industry in Scotland, we've tried to gain a PGI, which is a protected geographical indicator from the European Union to try and protect what's called a Scottish or traditional or Scotch kilt. And just as people see, it's pure wool, hand sewn, made in Scotland. A 21st century kilt can be that, but it can also be a denim kilt, which is machine stitched and has pockets. Or a leather kilt even.

At 21 -- I'm now 34 -- 13 years wearing a kilt every day. I don't own jeans and I don't own a suit, and personally, if I were driving, flying, or partying on a dance floor, I could not go back to trousers. This for me now it's a complete life choice, even more so than a business choice. If there's a negative response to wearing a kilt, what you want to try and do is take what they have said and turn it around and make it funny. So over the years, you know, there's been all sorts, but a guy might go, what the hell are you in a kilt for? You know? And you go, yeah, you know, your mama loved me in the kilt this morning. It's pushing it, and you don't want to get a black eye, and.

So, this is a small sampling. This is a little kid's kilt. Even a wee leather one that is a sample. My own little boy's denim kilt. Some girls kilts that are unfinished, so women coming in can have them made to the exact size.

A random PVC one that was made as a sample. This is a Continental Airways tartan. And ladies again, that's a ladies linen long kilt. And then a whole wedding outfit, which is hemp, very natural fabric, very breathable, and we got a little embroidery there for me and my wife. My wife's English and Scottish, so she is my rose and I'm her thistle.

And then a leather kilt going out to Hong Kong for a customer. For Keith's (ph) birthday, in Hong Kong, absolute beauty. Very heavy, weighty piece.


ALINA, STUDENT: I originally come from Ukraine, and I'm in my third year of studying history of art at the University of Edinburgh. The reason why I chose Edinburgh is the combination of this location and the great academic reputation that the university has.

So, we're since now in the middle of the New Town, a plan for which was proposed in approximately 1767, as far as I remember. So the main motivation behind proposing a plan for the New Town was the fact that the Old Town was becoming incredibly overcrowded, and therefore there was a need to construct the New Town. This was primarily the new residential area for Edinburgh residents. Originally, Charlotte Square was meant to be named St. George's Square. Together with St. Andrew Square, it's based on Princes Street. These two places would symbolize the two patron saints of England and Scotland. So, it really shows how much Scotland wanted to integrate into Britain, and especially after the 1707 political union.

The building on my left is the National Gallery of Scotland, and the building which is just over here is the Royal Academy. I'm particularly impressed by the relationships that these building have between each other. If you pay attention to the National Gallery of Scotland, it has an Ionic order of architecture, and the truth is, the ancient Roman historians compared it to something really, really feminine. When you look at this building, you can see the Doric order, which is compared to something very masculine. So you have two buildings which embody masculinity and femininity standing in front of each other.

This is the castle. There is a superstition that if you go to the Castle while a student and don't pay for your ticket, you are not going to graduate. Unless (inaudible) that is actually true, but I think I'll stay and stay safe and not go there.

ALAN, WRITER & GUIDE: Where we are standing now is effectively the birthplace of the world's first two superheroes, if you like, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This is where Conan Doyle met the man who inspired his Sherlock Holmes, his teacher, Dr. Joseph Bell. And one of the things he would do was, he'd have a glass of liquid, very obnoxious liquid -- cat's urine, dog's urine, something disgusting. And he would say to his students, gentlemen, we could easily test this liquid chemically to find out what it is. But I want you to use your powers of perception, taste and smell to tell me what it is. But I wouldn't ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself. So he'd smell it, taste it, and he'd send it around 200 guys and they are all turning green and they are ready for vomiting. Eventually it gets back to Joe Bell. And he would say something like, well, gentlemen, I'm extremely disappointed in you. It's obvious you have not developed these powers of perception I'm always going on about. You see, but you do not observe, which is a line in the Sherlock Holmes in the future. If you'd watched closely, although it was my middle finger, it was my pointing finger I put in my mouth.

If you look up, you can see it says "The Hispaniola," established 1834. If you remember, the Hispaniola was the pirate ship in "Treasure Island." The Hispaniola was actually established in 2008, or was established in 1834. It was a pub called Rutherford's. And this is the original Victorian front of the original pub. It's closed about five or six years ago, but Rutherford's was Robert Louis Stevenson's favorite pub.

You can see the cafe on a corner here, Spoon Cafe. Well, it was that table behind the windows on the corner there that J.K. Rowling wrote some of early chapters of the very first Harry Potter novel. It wasn't called Spoon Cafe in her day, it was called Nicholson's. Now, if you read Harry Potter, you know there is a character in the novel called Professor McGonagall. And as coincidence would have it, just up the street here, above the Captain's Bar, was where the Scottish poet, William McGonagall, died.

Now, after Robert Byrnes, one of Scotland's most famous poets has to be William McGonagall. But he is not famous for writing good poetry, he is famous for writing bad poetry. He's known as the world's best bad poet. In his day, mid 1800s to early 1900s, he would just read in pubs, and he always - and he read in this pub, the Captain's Bar. And he always carried an umbrella, but he didn't carry an umbrella for the rain. He carried it to fend off the missiles that people would throw at him or pull over his head.

Every year on his death date, we have McGonagall Dinners in Scotland. McGonagall Dinners are not serious, and they are always done in the same way, and they're always done backwards. So when you arrive for the dinner, the first thing the host will say to you is, "I hope you enjoyed yourself, have a safe journey home." And when you sit down for the meal, the first thing you get is the mint, then the coffee, then the dessert, all the way back to the soup. I even knew a McGonagall Dinner in Dundee that had a stripper, and the stripper came on stark naked and ended up with all her clothes in. It was great fun.