Walking Cowgate, Old Edinburgh

The Castle

I always get excited when I arrive in Edinburgh. The dark eerie stone of the architecture really speaks to me. It helps that I can’t seem to find much of a difference between our countries and cultures, aside from said architecture.

I am sure that has everything to do with Canada being built and settled by a bunch of Scots (and some Irish and British – not to mention the Japanese and Chinese workers responsible for building the railway out west – or the prairies that were settled primarily by Ukrainians).

It helps too that the Scottish are terribly friendly, and economically speaking, Scotland is only marginally more expensive than Canada.

Whatever the reason, a welcome feeling of home envelops me every time I visit.

There is a hostel that I usually stay at, in the most perfect location. Right off the Grassmarket, across from Greyfriars, Cowgate and the Royal Mile, you might want to book ahead if you are going to try to stay at friendly, aesthetically pleasing and clean Budget Backpackers.

View from Budget Backpackers


Perhaps the only non HI hostel I will recommend, I have met some of my favourite people at the comfortable and friendly BB hostel on Cowgate. Stories for another time.

Of course we didn’t plan (noticing a theme yet?), so we didn’t stay at our preferred hostel. We ended up somewhere that shall remain nameless (but if you are right across from the golden cow, be aware!).

Golden Cow at Cowgate

Yes, it was awful – and cheap. We should have known better because it was still World Cup Soccer time and the other hostels we tried were full but this one was almost completely empty.

At 10 euros a night, we figured we couldn’t go wrong – we were wrong! But the staff was friendly, so it wasn’t a total loss.

One of the things my husband noticed right away were the number of churches and cathedrals that had been converted into night clubs and bars.

There is a long, long history of religious strife in the UK, and at some points in the not so distant past, ‘the church’ has had an immeasurable amount of money and power.


The result, an explosive development of numerous places of worship, many of which over time became beautiful but expensive, derelict burdens upon their communities.

Without congregations to support the maintenance and care of these buildings, many of them fell into disrepair. And certainly they were (and are) a financial burden.

Unfortunately, the loss of a large community structure (especially one as significant as a church) can trigger the process of neighbourhood ‘deconstruction’.

Gothic Architecture

The chance of other businesses toppling down in a domino effect greatly increases. Much in the same way the closure of a theatre, grocery or department store will scar a community (when the space is not immediately re-used), potentially and probably anchoring it into a downward economic degradation spiral.

So thank goodness then for the night clubs, and the ‘congregation’ willing to drink their tithe!

The UK isn’t the only place I have noticed this phenomenon, certainly I have seen it in corners of every major city I have visited, and some of the smaller ones, across Canada.


I am not saying I am opposed to it, or that I don’t understand it – nor am I saying I am a deeply religious person (though I admit to being spiritual!) – but there is really something about seeing a converted church/nightclub named ‘SIN’ with (fake) fire blazing from its (once piously) stained glass windows.

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, and you can enjoy many more photos of Edinburgh, Scotland by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


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4 responses to “Walking Cowgate, Old Edinburgh

    • I am fascinated by history, and I could hear the same ‘stories’ over and over, I never tire. Speaking of history, that is exactly the reason I decided to follow you! I did make the assumption that you were a fellow history buff – judging by your ‘handle’ ;).


      • I retired Aug 31 as an instructional consultant for History-Social Science in our county. So,yes, I guess you could say I’m a history buff. I’m still learning which keeps life exciting!!


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