The Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Heart of Midlothian

Incongruously located just to the west of St. Giles Kirk in Edinburgh is the Heart of Midlothian, which consists of a heart-shape set in the cobble-stones of the street. Despite Edinburgh having been very much the centre of Midlothian for hundreds of years, local government boundary changes in 1974 established a separation between Edinburgh and its Midlothian hinterland. The past connection between Edinburgh and Midlothian can also be seen through the old Midlothian County Chambers, located on George IV Bridge, temporarily used as a visitor centre for the new Scottish Parliament (1999 - 2004) and continue through, for example, the football team, Heart of Midlothian (or simply 'Hearts'), based at Tynecastle Stadium.

The heart we see today set into the Royal Mile records the position of the 15th Century Tolbooth of Edinburgh, demolished in 1817, which was the administrative centre of the town, prison and one of several sites of public execution. The tolbooth features in Sir Walter Scott's novel, also called The Heart of Midlothian, published in 1818. The criminal fraternity used to spit on the door of the tolbooth as they passed by, and this tradition persists with many Edinburghers still spitting on the Heart on walking past.

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