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Logo.jpg Edinburgh: Cowgate

An antique wilderness of streets and wynds, so narrow and lofty as to shut out much of the light of heaven, seal off Cowgate. The construction of South Bridge buried the wandering byways and alleyways behind brick and steel, condemning forgotten corners to languish in the gloom. Uncharted vaults are said to extend over untold distances, a warren carved out by desperate men and criminals eager to evade the Edinburgh authorities. Here the poor struggled to eke out their existence, the very lowliest of the low felled by plague, poverty, and hunger. Irish immigrants claimed the darkest recesses of Old Town as their own up until the Second World War, birthing a rich heritage in the Hibernian football club and St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. Today Eastern Europeans and Slavs are more likely encountered than the Irish, the result of slum clearances that severely depopulated the Royal Mile and adjacent streets for many years.

Chill winds funnel down Cowgate and whip around buildings occupied by the University of Edinburgh and dingy, low-rent theatres and clubs, a strange concoction of potent idealism and escapist fantasy. The area’s recovery from a loss of lucrative industrial sites took a blow after a devastating fire in 2002 swept through nightclubs and the artificial intelligence archives at the School of Informatics. Patched up facades restored after the blaze stand out against worn, sagging storefronts and pollution blackened stonework that dominate this forgotten quarter.


Zone: Old Town
Grid: DT D5
Resources: 2
Security: 3

Businesses: Cabaret Voltaire
National Library
National Museum
Affiliations: None

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