Discovering Edinburgh Through 101 Objects

Updated June 15, 2017
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Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

It’s easier than you think to live in a city for years and never discover the stories behind the things you walk past every day. It’s even simpler to visit a new place and only stop by the top recommended things to see or do, without knowing the full story behind them or that there’s something else just as interesting (if not more) to see along the way.

Scotland is celebrating a year of history, heritage, and archaeology in 2017, and in a bid to help locals and tourists alike discover facets of Edinburgh they might not have otherwise, This is Edinburgh have launched a campaign to tell the tales of Edinburgh through objects. #Edinburgh101 is an opportunity to recognise some of Edinburgh’s best known historical and archaeological sites, as well as uncover the lesser-known stories of many others.

Climbing Arthur’s Seat is one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh, but do you know about the collection of tiny coffins containing miniature dolls that were uncovered there by a group of schoolboys in 1836? Calton Hill is a favourite viewpoint overlooking Edinburgh, but have you examined the stone cairn that is a tribute to democracy in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament, complete with stones donated from places like Paris, and Auschwitz?

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

It’s always been a popular goal in travel to see what hasn’t been seen, to go where others haven’t, or learn something new and unique about somewhere that’s been viewed many times before. Edinburgh has so many amazing things to do and places to see, but even the hidden gems are in the spotlight more, especially on Instagram. Are you sick of seeing the same top ten things everyone else does, and not even knowing why? Then why not try and discover Edinburgh in a new way?

Edinburgh’s 101 objects are diverse in both scale and nature, so to give you an idea I’ll share a few that I visited on a recent tour of the New Town with Edinburgh World Heritage. Even though I’ve walked through these streets for several years I saw things I’d never noticed and heard tales I never knew.

Parliament Cairn on Calton Hill – Object #87

For five and a half years after the 10th April 1992, when a Conservative Government won their 4th election in a row, a vigil was held on Calton Hill for a Scottish Parliament. It finally came to fruition after a 1997 referendum saw Scotland vote yes in favour of a Scottish Parliament with devolved powers.

Object number 87, the Parliament Cairn, was built in commemoration of this vigil (which I had never heard of!) and includes stones from Auschwitz, in memory of Jane Haining, a Scottish teacher who died there, a stone from Paris commemorating students who fought for more democratic rights, and one from near Robert Burns cottage in Ayrshire.

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

Cafe Royal – Object #66

In 1886 Edinburgh held a World Expo on the Meadows, allowing thousands to gaze in wonderment upon the latest inventions and works of art. Sadly at the end of the summer the building had to be dismantled, but some of the objects were salvaged, including 9 tiles showcasing inventors at the point of discovery.

The gold medal award winning tiles were part of the Royal Doulton pottery display can now be found gracing the walls of the Cafe Royal, in itself a beautiful Victorian pub that was originally a bath and kitchen showroom!

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

Poem on Rose Street – Object #42

Rose Street is currently a popular pub street in Edinburgh, just as it was the favourite drinking hangout for a number of new wave poets in the 1950s and 60s, one of whom was George MacKay Brown. Now at the end of Rose Street, you can find one of his poems, ‘Beachcomber’, brought to life in a steel cut illustration by Astrid Jaekel. Walk from left to right to see a window for every day of the week in a beachcombers life.

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through ObjectsPhoto Credit: Phil Bolger

Oxford Bar – Object #100

Edinburgh has a rich literary history, and Ian Rankin’s fictional Inspector Rebus series is certainly among some of the most popular. It follows Detective Inspector John Rebus on a journey through Edinburgh’s past and present.

This pub on a lane behind George Street in the New Town is where Rankin himself would enjoy a drink, as well as gain inspirations for the characters in his novels. The “Oxford” is so-called because it was down the road from the Oxford University Press.

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through ObjectsPhoto Credit: Phil Bolger

And that’s just a few of Edinburgh’s 101 objects in the New Town! If you set out to discover the history of Edinburgh through some of the objects in the Old Town you’ll find yourself at the base of one of Edinburgh’s prettiest streets, examining the city crests on an old water well, or searching for the remains of one of Edinburgh’s city walls in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in addition to the names that inspired the Harry Potter series.

But don’t think Edinburgh’s 101 objects are all about ancient history because amongst them is a signed transcript of the first Trainspotting movie, as well as a fan photo of the Bay City Rollers, a teenage band from Edinburgh. There’s something on the list worth discovering for everyone.

Edinburgh101 Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

Want to experience #Edinburgh101?

You can discover Edinburgh’s 101 objects on the This is Edinburgh website by searching according to a theme, or on a map. While the campaign technically runs until May 2018, most of these objects have been a part of the fabric of life in Edinburgh for many years and they’ll continue to be a part of the future. You just need to look a little more carefully to uncover the unique stories of Edinburgh that are everywhere you look.

Have time to escape the city when you visit Scotland? Check out how to spend a week in East Scotland, or why you should visit the Isles of Lewis and Harris.

Do you try to uncover the less obvious tales behind the things you see when you travel?

Sonja x

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Edinburgh101 - Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

Edinburgh101 - Discovering Edinburgh through Objects

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  • Reply Kathi June 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I love the look of Cafe Royal – it reminds me of what traditional coffeehouses look at home in Vienna! So majestic 🙂 Need to check out the campaign – I’m sure there are loads of things to see that I’ve never heard of!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      I had never been in before and it was so cool! Definitely need to stop back there for a drink. I learnt so much from just a few of the objects so I’m really excited to use it as a way to discover more 🙂

  • Reply Mel June 15, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    I wish I had known about this when we were in Edinburgh in April. It’s so interesting. I know we saw some of these things, but I didn’t know the story behind it. Knowing the history or backstory really brings it to life. I wish more cities would run 101 object campaigns!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 15, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      Knowing the story behind these things really makes a difference to me too! I’ve lived in Edinburgh for a little while and I’m still learning :). You’ll just have to come back 😀

  • Reply Maggie June 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I honestly had no idea Edinburgh had so many interesting things to see. I love the art work in Cafe Royal! And I totally agree about living in a city and taking things for granted. I live in one of the most touristy places in the US and it seems that the tourists get more out of it than I do, being here every day!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Haha you’re not the only one though! I think that happens to all of us. People always tell me about all the things they saw or did in New Zealand and I’m like, uhhh yea I haven’t done half of those. Especially since it’s the whole country! Edinburgh is pretty much overflowing with stuff to see and do but people often stick to the top ten type things, so hopefully this helps!

  • Reply James June 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Edinburgh is a place I will hopefully visit this fall. I’m glad I’ve found out about the 101 objects, the ones you’ve photographed are like nothing I’ve seen on Instagram before on Edinburgh. I’ll check out the This is Edinburgh website and photograph some more unusual things on my upcoming visit, it will make exploring the city more fun too!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 15, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      This post is great timing for you then! The campaign will still be running so you’ll be able to take full advantage of the opportunity to discover all the different things :). I hope you have a great trip!

  • Reply Iza Abao June 16, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    This is pretty cool! I just checked out the to discover the 101 things to do and see. I definitely got curious about #55 because it is the world’s most famous sheep. Haha! I am also eager to know more about #25 (The biggest arts festival in the world), #27 (The world’s longest continually-running film festival), #28 (A lesson in design), and so on. How I wish that I can visit Edinburgh too (or soon). This is a very clever way to boost tourism. If you are a local, you would love more living in Edinburgh.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 16, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      I thought it was a great idea too! And a way for locals and tourists to really make the most of Edinburgh. Hopefully you do get to visit soon!

  • Reply Kristine June 16, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Edinburgh is one of those cities I’ve always wanted to visit, always had the opportunity to visit, but for some reason never did. I love Scotland – and Edinburgh is known for being the most beautiful city there! Café Royal looks gorgeous. I’d love to go there!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:25 am

      Well sounds like that needs to change! 😀 Edinburgh is a really lovely place well worth the visit!

  • Reply Kevan June 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I know what you mean about taking your hometown for granted and overlook so many things to see and do. It seems that there are many things to see in Edinburgh that are below the radar. I especially like the idea of visit the Oxford Bar. Mystery novels and beer are two of my joys in life and it would be right up my alley. I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the list of 101 things to see.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

      I’m really excited to discover some more of the below the radar things as well. I lived here a few years ago and still didn’t know a lot of this! Sounds like you need to have a drink in the Oxford Bar then 🙂

  • Reply My Travelogue by Bhushavali June 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    That’s a very good initiative by ThisisEdinburgh! I did climb the Calton Hill, but didn’t know of the Parliament Cairn.
    I checking out Edinburgh 101 to figure out how many of those 101 have I seen!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:23 am

      It’s a good way to find new things to see and check off what you’ve seen!

  • Reply Jenni Sheldon June 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    I love Edinburgh I have lived a couple of hours away for years and never visited until last year and I was really missing out as there is so much to see and do. I might have to go back and find these 101 things.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:22 am

      There really is! You should definitely make it back, especially during festival time!

  • Reply Alison - Up&AtEm Travel June 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I think this is a really great way to connect with the city – especially because tourists can search by theme and region! I attended Edinburgh for an arts festival, and would love to go and explore the city more. Beautiful pictures, by the way!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

      I think it’s a great way to showcase some of the unknown sites as well as tell people more about the big ones too! And thank you!

  • Reply Christine June 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Edinburgh is such an incredible city! Was just there last month! You’re right about Arthers Seat being a must! Beautiful view!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:17 am

      It really is! I feel very lucky to be living here 🙂

  • Reply Susan R June 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    What a fascinating idea, to see a place through the history of its objects. We went up Calton Hill but didn’t spot the Parliament Cairn. Love the idea of visiting Ian Rankin’s favourite bar too

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:16 am

      I thought it was a great way to showcase Edinburgh as well! I’ve been up Calton Hill many times but never spotted it either :).

  • Reply Julianne June 18, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I love this post — especially the objects you chose to focus on! (I’m not gonna lie, I thought your post would actually have 101 things in it… haha.) I wish I knew about this when I was in Edinburgh last month! Just means I’ll have to get back soon. Would love to see Oxford Bar and the Poem on Rose Street!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 19, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Thanks so much! Haha well we did speak about doing a challenge where we would go to all 101! The campaign is running until next year so there’s still time :D. Hopefully you come back in that time!

  • Reply shannon June 19, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    No joke I have a cousin and good friends on separate trips to Edinburgh right now. I don’t know much about Edinburgh but I love history and anything historic so I rather enjoyed this post. I’m officially adding this to my list of places to visit!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 20, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Haha you definitely need to add it to your list! It’s awesome 😀

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