The Companion Guide to Edinburgh and the Borders

How useful this guide would have been two decades ago when your Boydell marketer had around eight hours to kill in a freezing Edinburgh. In fairness, I did make it the Carlton Hill and have never forgotten it, but much of the city centre remained a secret.

This is a wonderfully rich and entertaining volume from A.J. Youngson, just see his scathing thoughts on the unfortunate St James Centre.

On the Edinburgh Tattoo:

Fully floodlit, the Castle is a more spectacular backdrop than was ever contrived for Wagner. The emotional impact of the Massed Pipes and Drums, flooding onto the Esplanade from the Gatehouse like coloured silk handkerchiefs from a conjuror’s sleeve, wave after wave of them, finally creating a sea of different tartans and filling the night with the alarming, thrilling sounds of Celtic music, is irresistible and when joined by the Massed Military Bands the scene, the sound and the setting are heroic. It is a tournament at full tilt – or, as someone said, at full kilt. All ends with the Last Post, only a solitary piper to be seen, high on the battlements, as the Castle illuminations gradually dim to darkness.

Chapter One, The Castle, p. 17.

Looking west from the Scott Monument

On the Carlton Hill:

But what a masterpiece the Carlton Hill is! It is an echo of Greece and a reminder of the Regency, and after. Moreover, it has not altogether lost its wild character, has not altogether been tamed. The town laps around its feet, and third-rate buildings of the twentieth century multiply and come too close, approved by planners. But the sides of the hill are still very steep, and the grassy slopes above are mostly pathless. You cannot lose yourself here, but you can wander out of sight, and come on aspects of the hill and the buildings that are quite surprising.

Chapter Nine, Carlton Hill,p. 151.

Melrose Abbey, the south transept

On the St James Centre:

The St James Centre looks cheap and nasty and it is not even good to use. For its existence we are indebted to the developers who promoted it, the architects who designed it, the Government which hastened to occupy a large part of it, and the Town Council which sanctioned it and profited from it. All protests were unavailing. Too prosperous for a white elephant, it is not nearly handsome enough for a hippopotamus. It is truly a barbarous building, so please do not go there. Trade only encourages them.

Chapter Seven, Princes Street, p. 115.

On Floors Castle, near Kelso in the Borders:

Once outside, do not fail to walk round to the front in order to admire the view. Perhaps it is the setting which causes people to be so enthusiastic about the house. It stands on a wide sweep of ground which declines very gently to the river. There are trees on the left (a small wood which constitutes and unusual car park), and the spires and roofs of Kelso are distinct but unobtrusive a mile away, beyond the long line of the river; just opposite is the tree-studded knoll on which linger the last remains of Roxburgh Castle; and the delicate line of the grey-blue Border hills is on the horizon. it is a wonderfully soothing scene, and does much to restore one’s confidence in the goodness of the universe.

Chapter 25, From Berwick-upon-Tweed to Kelso, p. 326.

The Tweed, a bridge, and a viaduct, near Melrose

See the complete list here:


The Companion Guide to Edinburgh and the Borders
By A.J. Youngson
9781900639385, Paperback, £11.70 or $16.22

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