6 unusual Edinburgh traditions explained

6 unusual Edinburgh traditions explained

Traditions can be somewhat odd. But once you know the stories behind these charming traditions, you’ll want to experience them for yourself.

Washing your face in the dew at Arthur’s Seat

What started as a pagan tradition soon became a favourite Edinburgh custom in the 1940s when forty people climbed Arthur’s Seat to wash their faces in the dew at the peak. The tale goes that washing your face in the dew of the Seat on May Day will bless you with eternal beauty. By the ’60s, over a thousand people were making the journey at sunrise on May Day.

One o’clock gun

The gun which sounds off on Edinburgh castle every day at 1pm has been a tradition since way back in 1861. The origins of this tradition states that in the 1850s, there was a demand for a city-wide method of time-keeping, so a ‘time-ball’ was installed on the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill. The problem was, the ball wasn’t visible in poor weather so an audible signal was chosen instead. Now it’s become a daily routine for the 64-pound cannon to be sounded.

Edinburgh Zoo Penguin Parade

One of the city’s cutest and most beloved events actually started by accident. The famous Edinburgh Zoo Penguin Parade, which attracts heaps of visitors every day, began in the 1950s when the zookeeper accidentally left the gate to the penguin enclosure open. As a result, the penguins followed him around the zoo, much to the delight of the paying guests. Nowadays, a third of the zoo’s penguin population takes part every day.

Rubbing David Hume’s toe

David Hume was one of the world’s most celebrated philosophers, and was commemorated in 1997 with a statue on the Royal Mile. The sculptor, Sandy Stoddart, deliberately left Hume’s toe hanging over the base of the statue to encourage people to touch it. As such, it’s become a tradition to rub the toe if you’re in need of luck, and the act is particularly popular with university students preparing for an exam.

The irony here is that one of Hume’s famous theories was that two unrelated events can have no causal relationship to each other, so he would most likely have seen the toe-rubbing as a completely nonsensical thing to do.

99 Ice Cream on Portobello Beach

You’ll come across the tradition of eating a 99 ice cream on the beach in coastal locations throughout the UK, but it has particularly strong ties to Edinburgh. The story goes that eating an ice cream cone topped with a chocolate flake was started by the Arcari family in Portobello. Stephen Arcari founded an ice cream parlour in 1922 located at 99 Portobello high Street, and he named his creation after the parlour’s address.

Getting tapped on the head by John Knox’s breeches

Those who graduate from the University of Edinburgh are tapped on the head with a ceremonial bonnet as they walk across the graduation stage. It’s said that this bonnet, known as the Geneva Bonnet, is made from material taken from breeches which once belonged to John Knox. Knox was a famous theologian and religious reformer whose house still resides on the Royal Mile.

Although the theory regarding the bonnet was disproved in 2000, the tradition still continues in good spirit to this day.

If you’d love to have all of these traditions and more on your doorstep, maybe it’s time you made the move to Edinburgh’s most desirable new district right here at Quartermile. Contact the team today to arrange a viewing on 0845 000 25 25 or contact us here

blog comments powered by Disqus
Don't miss a thing