Victoria Street Edinburgh

Victoria Street is a jamboree of colour & quirky shops, admired as the bonniest street in Edinburgh. Soaking in it’s bewitching old world charm is essential to any exploration of the old town with Tripadvisor rating it the 5th best activity in the city.

It’s reputed to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley, with a ribbon of cobbles curving upward, multiple levels hosting an eclectic throng of boutique shops and pointy roofs touching the sky it’s not hard to see why.

The brick he had touched quivered – it wriggled – in the middle, a small hole appeared – it grew wider and wider – a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway on to a cobbled street which twisted and turned out of sight.
Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone
Victoria Street Edinburgh, Diagon House Harry Potter shop @ no. 40

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the Philosopher’s Stone in 2017, Diagon House, a stone vaulted Harry Potter shop exploded onto the scene, echoing Professor Snape's Potions classroom.

Diagon House shared a post on Facebook:

Muggles Welcome, Relatives by Appointment. Please let us point your Nimbus 2000 in the right direction to find our two stores situated in the heart of Edinburgh's medieval Old Town, The Birthplace of Harry Potter.

A few more sorcerous shops stud the street outfitting pupils with the essential kit for a new term at the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world.

I’m Sam a Harry Potter tour guide (& former old town tour guide). I’m fast friends with anyone whose pulse beats faster at the sight of a lightning scar and this is my:

  1. Selection of Victoria Street’s best Harry Potter shops,
  2. The tale of how Victoria Street was born
  3. An account of the legendary Witch & Wizard who haunt the street
The best view of Victoria Street is from the bottom, near the Bow Well

Museum Context (Diagon House)

Home of interesting curiosities for the curious...

2 stone vaults stacked one upon another connected by a twisting narrow stair, a hungry metal dragon curves along the ceiling and every shelf, nook and corner is stuffed full of a curated selection of the finest instruments of witchcraft and wizardry in Potterdom.

Diagon House a Harry Potter shop on Victoria Street
Edinburgh’s premier Harry Potter shop & purveyors of all things Potter

After the 20th anniversary celebration summer, the shop rebranded as Museum Context, honouring it’s eclectic Scottish collection. Potter pilgrims the world over continue to converge on the shop for it’s Tardis like transportation.

Developed by Alice and Andrew McRae, a conservation architect, this is the busy, claustrophobic full on immersive Diagon Alley experience. The same scene & bustle Harry would have experienced elbowing sniggering Slytherins aside as he struggles to purchase his new year supplies.

Owner Andrew McRae says “The unique nature of these premises feels as if it was purpose built to offer a Harry Potter collection. This building feels like it’s found its perfect usage – you walk in and it feels like you’re walking into Ollivanders.”

What to do?

Explore the wand selection, take Hogwart’s magical Quill of Acceptance and try to wrestle your your name into the stern Book of Admittance, consider a T-shirt to declare your allegiance to the boy who lived, and scare companions with the monstrous props.

If you don’t have a house scarf yet, they sell officially licensed scarves made here in Scotland. The home of Hogwarts. I’m sure JK Rowling would happily tell you Scottish sheep are the best in the world, how else could our Hebridean Black Dragons grow to 30ft (9.1m) in length?

Naughty boys and girls perhaps?

It has something for every pocket but what I think it shines at is unique interior decorating.

There is a second Harry Potter Museum Context similarly stuffed to the brim on Cockburn Street. I really love the teddy bear dragons, I wish I was 2! They must have breathed some kind of fire because when I read the price tag my eyes began to water.

Many of the items are exclusive to the shop, the owners want to create something unique and special, I think they have.

Beware: If you don’t have Hagrid along to guide you, you may feel jostled and harassed. And don’t place your fingers too near the monster books of Monsters. The staff have a bucket by the door full to the brim with student’s digits bitten clean off.

The boy wizard

Victoria's Street's lush new Harry Potter shop.

There's a Harry Potter bar in Manchester formerly known as 'The Horcrux bar', they received a howler from Warner Brothers - much like Molly's to Ron - it was DEAFENING. They ran a poll on Facebook for a new name and 'The bar that shall not be named' was shortlisted.

Christening this shop "The Boy Wizard" allows them to tell the Brother's Warner
'Uh? Harry Rotter? Never 'eard of im'.
Genius.

If Museum context, with it’s higgedly piggedly selection of curiosities is the heart of cramped and crammed Diagon Alley, then the Boy Wizard is Walmart, a gleaming concept store.

It’s safe, it's charming in it's own way, if it had floating candles, you'd known they were LED and weren't going to splosh hot wax on your head or dinner.

I'm with Harry, I like it. Everything’s laid out neatly, and fronted and sparkling. My eyes weren’t fatigued darting around trying to drink it all in, my elbows had their full range, and I never never never, not for a moment, feared a collision with a surly Draco Malfoy. I didn’t say "Sorry" once.

There might be a hungry Acromantula crawling around in the vaults beneath George IV bridge, occasionally, late at night, pushing a drain grate aside and dragging down a hapless tourist taking them to their nest and spinning them in silk. There might be, but they're definitely fought back out of this well groomed shop.

It’s the shop for, you know, ‘Harry Potter was alright and all that, but I just want the T-shirt not the trauma’.

While Museum Context feels authentic because of the stone vaults and it's mix of licensed merchandise, with curious curiosities, just like the bric-a-brac Diagon or Knockturn Alley; this shop is laser focused on the Potter range.

A room that goes on and on like Hermoine's Hallow's bag it offers a good number of familiar affordable-ish Warner products, perfect for kids who are tugged to keep up with their schoolmates.

In it's sister store, Wizarding World AKA Galaxy, 47-49 South Bridge, you can take a take a selfie upon a hard wooden stall in a crazy hat, just ask Professor Mcgonagall to hoist it on your head, while the shop's Harry Potter music transports you to Hogwarts.

Wizarding World has a sister room, much like Diagon’s sister Knockturn Alley. It contains a Star Wars and marvel shop. Muggles eh?

No, Tom isn't literally related to Harry. That would be a bit Starwars
JK Rowling

I'm reminded of one of my kind reviewers “we got our Geek on and we loved it”, this is how I feel about all our Harry potter shops. They open and I think ‘Ohhh What's new? What haven't I seen? What do I miss that they might have?’ I desperately want a mad eye sooo bad.

Isn't it magical?

We pass all 3 shops on Rowling’s Edina & Complete Potter tours, if you’re after a harry potter souvenir, come along and decide which for yourself.

Find a Harry Potter Tour perfect for you

The Mutt’s Nuts

Orwellian for The Dog’s bollocks, or in California ‘most excellent’

You wouldn't normally say that you need anything that is stocked here. A lot of the stuff is very tongue-in-cheek, and is the sort of thing that you'd maybe give as a humorous side-present beside another main present.

The prices may not be amazingly low, but the stuff is of a great quality, and I can't think of another place with their range of stock. Where else could you get a grow-your-own Jesus?

This is a great place to go for the person who has everything, because they almost certainly won't have most of the stuff that this place stocks. I always find that as I wander round, I try and justify in my head why I need, for example, a really small cheese grater. If you visit, prepare to come out having bought something, whether you intend to or not!
Review by Mark W

An interview with Gary

What's unique about shopping here?
You can get a good mix of things, we've got the Christmas shop on the other side so you can get Christmas decorations all year round, so I think you can't get much more unique than that.

They look specialer than Lidl,
Yes, they’re collectables for people who come on their holidays.

Bagpipe playing Highland cows on Victoria Street Edinburgh
No Christmas tree is complete without a Highland cow playing the bagpipes

There's lots of Scottish themed ones, they'll really make a Christmas tree pop and conjure memories of someone's visit to Scotland.

What's your most popular product?
Well the Harry Potter stuff is selling very well, we sell a whole range of products from books to mugs to anything you can think off.

What do people get most excited about when they're kind of the shopping for Harry Potter?
Oh definitely the wands that's why they’re right up front and center there. They’re Warner replicas [ genuine, snatched from the hands of witches and wizards ], ornaments more than toys.

Quidditch balls in Mutts Nuts Victoria Street Edinburgh
A Quidditch ball set; fake Bludgers of course, the originals kept bludgeoning the shop assistant so had to be put down

You’ve got some badges here “I would rather be at Hogwarts” yes I share that sentiment. And Hogwarts prefect badges!
[ Fred and George have even visited and enchanted some of them to say ‘Pinhead’, that got my sister's birthday sorted. I also bought her tickets to Britain's longest zip line. A flying Pinhead. ]

Exterior of Mutts Nuts Victoria Street Edinburgh

What’s it like working here? What do you like to do here with friends?

Well it’s meant to be the inspiration for Daigon Alley, so we’re kept busy.

I like to have an ice cream over from the police box over there which opened last year. Sit out on the Conventer’s monument, the old hanging zone you know? A bit morbid for ice cream but probably a better use of the square now. That and then going to one of the many pubs in the Grassmarket around here.

The pedestrianised Grassmarket at the bottom of Victoria Street has tables outside and in the summer it’s a very relaxed continental feel.

Jokes Aha ha ha, jokes and novelties

"We have whoopee cushions we have fake jobbies we have chattering teeth, rubber chickens, all the classics."

Exterior joke shop Victoria Street Edinburgh

I interviewed the bubbly helpful staff, this is it:

What's unique about shopping here?
Ohh the friendly service, [ laughter ]
That’s not unique though, that's honest.

But there’s not many joke shops you know in Edinburgh? It’s a novelty in itself.

What's your most popular product?
I think the fake jobbies,
No Way! Yeah you’ve got a full range there: cat jobbies, Human jobbies and kind of biscuity dog jobbies

We sell many many masks as well, the fake horse mask, and Donald Trump masks are very popular.
Yeah you’ve got Donald Trump in 3 different colours, that is amazing.
4 actually.
That’s going to be a really scary Halloween.
Yeah there’s going to be a lot of Trumps about.

So what’s the weirdest thing you’re asked for?
Well I’ve had some weird phone calls, I guess the weirdest, well a lot of people ask for Gimp suits.
No way!
And then Phalluses in various forms.
Ah of course, Hen parties visiting the Grassmarket.

Victoria Street Edinburgh inside Joke Aha ha ha

What’s it like working on the street?
It’s great, there’s a lot of atmosphere, especially during Halloween and the festival. It gets very busy during the festival, artists come in for theatre props and magic as well. Everyone comes in, we had a few celebrities during the festival, jugglers...

Which celebrities?
Mostly standup comics, Al Murray has been in, Jack Whitehall
What did he buy?
He tried on this Trump mask, but he never bought it. He didn’t say very much he was like a little lost boy, he just let his agent do all the talking. His agent had to ask if he could use the toilet.

What would particularly interest Harry Potter fans?
The usual wands, a golden snitch, cloaks, scarves, we have ties of the various houses. Voldemort overhead mask.

I think a lot of people like to visit as well because this is what the joke shop was based on in Harry Potter, the Weasley brothers joke shop of course right on Diagon Alley [ Weasley Wizard’s Wheezes ] So we have a lot of fans coming in on their pilgrimages.

Florean Fortescue's Ice cream parlour

Overlangshaw Farmhouse ice cream

Florean was abducted and murdered by Deatheaters. So Scotland’s smallest ice cream parlour is now run by a family farm and, of course, they have a snake!

Young Witch in a Sorting Hat floats in mid air above Princes Street Edinburgh, the Castle in the background

The Police box sells ice cream from the Bergshaw farm down in the borders near England. The bread basket of Scotland. The farm is powered by a wind turbine called Winifred, solar panels, the ice cream is made in a machine called “Sylvester” and everything’s organic.

Occassionally Lucy Bergshaw tests her will power with in a stint in the dream Police box, and I’ve been given the full Bergshaw briefing. Their farm is special, all their animals have been given passports and liberty.

Killer hens

Seemingly normal hens, they’re basically bred for factory farms, if you open the door they sit in their cages and squawk ‘get away, I’ve got neighbours to peck’. They’re essentially brutalised House elves, hopeless.

But ice cream needs egg yoke to keep it stuck together, or it will just slop off the cone, instant slimed hand.

So the farm has a special breed of Braveheart chicken, who every morning paint half their face blue and charge out of the shed doors crying “Freedom!”. Columbian Black Tails who stay out to nightfall, 11pm in summer, marauding the fields, seeking stray English. Menace.

Lucy Bergshaw of Overlangshaw Farmhouse ice cream Grassmarket

Lucy also told me her cousin has also left her pet snake on the farm. You cannot believe how excited I got, “is it called Nagini?”, “No”, said Lucy, “it’s called No no”. Presumably it’s ravenous.

I interviewed Lucy's wonderful assistant in the police box (she didn't at all bribe me with free ice cream to say that).

What's unique about shopping here?
What’s unique, well the flavors are all very unique. We’ve got Whisky flavour, salted caramel flavour, we’ve got some wacky flavours, they’re very good.

They’re quite individual, we’re the only people who sell them because they’re made in our own farm, so you can’t get them anywhere else apart from here.
[ And a handful of fancy fancy restaurants. ]

Which one do you most often have with lunch?

Salted caramel, I feel that’s kinda perfect any weather as well, you can have it when it’s raining and you forget where you are.

Our most popular one is the Whisky one, Whisky ripple, it’s rippled with Raspberry.

What’s it like working here?
When it’s sunny like today it’s so nice working here. Before I worked in shops, and every day was the same, here every week we get different flavours.

JK Rowling was asked what butterbeer tastes like: "I made it up. I imagine it to taste a little bit like less sickly butterscotch."

Sometimes We have a slightly less sickly Butterscotch at the Police box (Please keep stocking this Lucy). Imagine... Butterbeer ice cream in Rowling’s home (although whisper that around the Brothers Warner).

  • Rocky Royal Mile,
  • is their sensational take on chocolate. It’s rammed full of fruit and vegetables: cherries, coconut, marshmallow, Honeycomb. [ Sections of the spit of rock that is the royal mile is a honeycomb of passages and basements carved into the rock. ] It’s like 4 of your 3 a day, so you won’t need to eat vegetables for a week. I don’t know how that works, but it’s kinda magic.

    By far the most popular flavour is

  • Jura Whisky
  • Whisky is our biggest export and our national drink, the ice cream is the most Scottish thing within a 1 mile radius, it’s more Scottish than The Castle, that’s just made of rock. It’s so Scottish the government has mandated it be served with a Saltire cross.

    I’m not mad on whisky, but I really like this ice cream, all the alcohol is boiled out during pasteurization just leaving a cool-hot, spicy flavour. If you’re going for a few flavours, it’s Scotland, it’s sacreligious not to make Whisky the summit. Scotland, always on top, splat.


    Overlangshaw ice cream is also available in the Dog house, a friendly dog themed pub, where they sell alcoholic biscuity Butterbeer. Fosters with a gloop of secret sauce.

    Bains retro sweets

    A little bit further than the Lucy's icecream is Bains. If you’ve never had one of Dumbledore's hard-boiled Sherbet Lemons, midway up the Southside of the Grassmarket is Bain’s retro sweets, £1.20 for 100 grams. The same place Albus gets his.

    Sherbet Lemons are Muggle candy, Dumbledore has strange tastes, but Bain has sweets that grow on trees, which is a bit magic.

    Mr Bain says he'll never be rich, but it's a job and it's been building and building for 5 years and best of all he says "nobody can sack you". He loves his nutty customers saying his website gets orders from all over the world despite the fact the postage cost often matches the price of the order.

    Bain says he does a lot of coorporates with his sweet cart, for banks and things, he says folk are never too old. Well I think close your eyes and suck a Bains hard boiled sweet and you're transported to an earlier age.

    Make a weird memory by posing with one of Bain's 1 meter lollies for his Facebook. You may as well, he says they don't sell and are utterly useless, so cheer Bain up

    Bains is utterly Scottish, he sells Haggis poo - Haggis poo collecters are apparently called 'Haggis trackers' - and Iron Bru creams. Iron Bru is Scotland's second national drink, the sugar infusion pick us up the morning after a whiskied night out.

    Mr Bain's biggest selling item is Scottish tablet, he has 350 reviews of it from all over the world. Mr and Mrs Bain make 8 trays of Tablet a week, so it's like it's just been plucked from the Tablet Tree.

    What's it taste like? Well he usually has little samples on his counter, but it's like a softer crumblier fudge, it melts in the mouth with a buttery sweet taste.

    Swish

    Swish, clothes to make you pop in a slum.

    I did an interview with the well spoken assistant in Swish, he made a good impression. He was passionate about Victoria Street’s identity as the most interesting sweep of boutiques in Edinburgh, and their battles to keeping the gimlet eyes of slave-wage Cafe Nero’s and the like averted.

    Window of Swish Victoria Street Edinburgh
    Justice for Gingers T-shirt upback

    What’s it like working on Victoria Street?
    Lots of interesting shops and lots of great customers, always a really positive energy and a really unique interesting street to work on.

    What’s unique about shopping in Swish?
    What's unique is that we're an independent business, Independent shops fuels the local economy and it creates an interesting vibrant store.

    What’s your most popular product, what do people get really excited about when they come into the shop?
    They get quite excited about quite a lot of our stock We have them wide range of stuff that appeals to a lot of different people. Probably some of the Harry Potter inspired stuff does kind of create a great reaction in people, as well as our justice for ginger T. shirts, that’s quite popular too.

    Do you have a big influx of redheads then into the shop?
    Yep we do, we sell them on tote-bags and mugs too, people can buy one for themselves or for a gift or a joke whatever it's got a really wide range of appeal.

    Victoria Street's Swish Harry Potter bag

    So there's this character called Ginny Weasley who has red hair she's a very feisty, strong character, I think she’d probably go for that T-shirt if she was passing by.

    We have a loose Harry Potter collection [ about 5 distinct designs ]... the store has a division between casual wear like the printed T-shirts, and what we call boutique wear , formal shirts, formal trousers, sweaters.

    We try and ethically source a lot of our brands, we have a lot of different brands a wide range to suit a wide range of people [looking for something a bit special] and we try and include a wide range of prices to suit many people also. We try and give every customer an interesting and positive experience.


    They will clothe everyone from the Wizengamot to liberated house elves, and much of everything you can buy will have been sourced locally and every purchase prevents chains from gobbling Edinburgh’s Diagon Alley.

    If you’re after a Harry Potter T-shirt or sweater, to remember your visit by, then this shop is ground zero. The designs are all dreamed up within Edinburgh, and printed in a workshop just down the road, they’re not available on the internet or anywhere else.

    Swish makes me proud of Victoria Street, I think the street’s shops make us worthy of Rowling’s inspiration. And I point the Harry Potter Tees out nearly every tour. It bothers me when Swish freshens the window display and switch out one of my favourites, ‘Oh no, the tour is RUINED’.

    Other curiosities nearby

    Opposite the end of Victoria Street at 5 Cowgatehead there’s

    Mr Wood’s fossils
    minerals and meteorites and fossils. Evidence of the Fantastic Beasts which roamed the Earth before the international statute of secrecy was signed and they were hidden from Muggle eyes.

    For much of the Highlands it’s the wizarding clan McFusty who hide them. Thanks to Nessie, many folk will tell you they don’t do a very good job.

    Why splurge in Edinburgh?

    If there’s something you've always fancied from the wizarding world, or you have someone who might cherish your impulse, (or extravagance), Edinburgh is the most meaningful and memorable place to splash the Galleons.

    And if you spend here it allows us to buy pitchforks to fend off the Acromantula colony. I swear it’s growing. Where’s Newt when you need him?

    How Victoria Street grew up

    In the 1800s the middle class had taken flight to the New Town and Edinburgh’s old town, around the Royal Mile, was a slum bursting with crime, poverty and addiction.

    At its peak each room in a tenement housed from 6 to 15 people, who slept in shifts. There would be one toilet between 250. Edinburgh was a petri-dish of disease.

    And then one collapsed. An 8 storey tenements shaking like an Earthquake and then thundering down into rubble crushing 35 slumbering people, half it’s residents.

    The council, housed on the Royal Mile, had known it was bad for sometimes and hadn’t been sleeping, but change had been too slow.

    The council comissioned Architect Thomas Hamilton to create Edinburgh Old town bridges, George IV bridge, and 19 arch South bridge, to span the valleys either side of the old town, connecting and reinvigorating the slum on the rock.

    With George IV bridge completed, the council decided to overhaul the Westbow, a steep Z shaped street, it was one of the main thoroughfares to the Royal Mile and carriages frequently needed a little bit of extra encouragement from shop boys to make the climb.

    Medieval West Bow was mental

    Mad timber framed buildings overhung the street, as landlords built upward they extended the new floors over the road, so the tenements grew to resemble upside down medieval pyramids.

    At lower levels washing lines extended across the divide but at some of the top floors the distance between the rooms on either side of the street was so little that it is said neighbours could enjoy ‘the pleasure of tea drinking, without the trouble of leaving their respective abodes’.

    The council instructed Hamilton that the buildings along the new street should be ‘Old Flemish’ in style, and draw inspiration from the details of majestic George Heriot’s school on the ridge opposite, meaning Edinburgh’s Diagon Alley echoes our Hogwarts.

    Panoramic mosaic of Victoria Street Edinburgh
    George Heriot's school is lit up in amber

    In fact one of the best views of George Heriot's original front can be discovered from the end of Victoria Terrace. Rising majestically on the far ridge with the oldest buildings on Victoria Street leading your eye towards it, it’s my favourite vantage.

    Volcanic Edinburgh

    The Royal Mile is a long tail of lava spewed out of Castle rock, with the soft rock of the Grassmarket carved out by passing glaciers. The rebuilt tenements on the North side soared up to the top of the lava rock to accommodate entrances on the Royal Mile’s Lawnmarket.

    Between these sheer tenements and Victoria Street, Hamilton put in a series of arches, supporting a walkway, Victoria Terrace above. This gives the view up the street toward the Royal Mile a pleasing staggered effect. From the Bow well your eye is led up the ribbon of cobble and drawn back across Victoria Terrace, it feels like the city pulses with life.

    It was christened Bow Street. In 1837 it was renamed Victoria Street in honour of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

    Victorian Edinburgh

    We also honoured Queen Victoria with a statue, planted on top of the Royal Academy Gallery, one of only 2 statues to women in Edinburgh, we have 5 statues of dogs, 1 of a bear. But Victoria punches above her weight.

    Queen Victoria by John Steell atop the Royal Academy
    Queen Victoria by John Steell

    She weighs ninety tons and was taken up in parts, the gallery portico had to be reinforced to support her. I looked it up and 90 tons, for the rest of the world, is 1.9 million Bertie Botts - steady on your majesty.

    But when Victoria visited Edinburgh in 1842 she was unimpressed. ‘Foul burns’, streams rich with piss and poo, ran down the tail of the Royal Mile, pooling at Holyrood palace. Their stench was so vile Queen Victoria refused to stay there.

    Victoria Street was no better, Riddle’s Court backing onto Victoria Terrace, installed an underfloor waste reservoir, for controlled release of waste on occasions when they wouldn’t flood the street’s houses.

    From Victoria Terrace you can see

    Victoria Street’s Witches tower

    Witches tower Victoria Street Edinburgh
    These are the India Buildings, soon to be a 5 star Virgin hotel. Satan has a beard much like Richard Branson

    Finished in 1864 in the fashionable Scots Baronial style, the small turret is called a ‘bartizan’, it’s inspired by medieval battlements.

    Almost opposite lived...

    Major Thomas Weir stands on Victoria Street Edinburgh
    Major Thomas Weir, hellfire burning in his eyes as brimstone & sulphur spew from his mouth

    The Witch & Wizard of the West Bow

    The building on this site was once the most feared house in town.

    Quaker meeting house Victoria Street Edinburgh

    Its windows were lit up at night, with weird shapes flitting past and strange music playing. It was thought to be teeming with evil spirits and was abandoned and left for centuries before being knocked down.

    The home was a hotbed of sexual perversion, christian fanaticism, satan and the occult.

    It was once the home of Major Thomas Weir, who was a touch unusual.

    Born a devout Presbyterian, he fought bravely in the army of the Covenant, militant Scottish Christians.

    At 50 he became commander of the Town Guard. Keeping the unruly Highlander watchmen in order.

    When the Marquis of Montrose, General of the King’s armies against the Scottish Covenanters, was captured and brought to Edinburgh, Weir, a thorough-bred covenanter, was delighted.

    On the way to the Scaffold, Weir led the jeers of the crowd, calling the Marquis a ‘dog’, ‘Godless’, and ‘traitor’ and making him trip so the crowd could smuggle a kick. Thinking different around Weir was a bad idea.

    Quite worn out, Major Weir retired, but not to rest. He held bible meetings in his house, leading them in prayer. They were nicknamed the “Bowhead Saints”, because the house then was at the head of a street called the West bow, and ‘Saints’ for the purity of Weir’s fierce bible thumping devotion. Church ministers would shoot across the road when they saw Weir coming, fearing a brow beating.

    West Bow Thomas's Weir's home, preceded Victoria Street
    Weir's home the West bow, before Victoria Street

    In 1670 the major was 70, and his Godly and orderly life collapsed.

    Weir became ill, and from his bed, at a gathering of the bowhead Saints, he told them he had been having an incestous relationship with his sister, Jean, since she was ten.

    1. He’d slept with his step-daughter, the daughter from his wife’s first marriage, who he’d made pregnant.
    2. He’d slept with servants' daughters.
    3. Worse, Weir says he regularly has carnal knowledge of horses and cows, the cattle market was just down the road, in the Grassmarket.

    In 1605, John Jack had been executed for bestiality on Castlehill. With his too loving cow burned alongside him. This was still Presbyterian Edinburgh, you didn’t want to stick out and now Weir was the talk of town.

    The Lord Provost, head of the city, refused to believe such a Godly man could be guilty of such things. But as more and more colourful gossip spread Weir and Jean were taken to the Tolbooth, for questioning.

    Tolbooth Edinburgh where Thomas Weir was jailed
    Edinburgh's Tolbooth, a jail & police station beside St Giles' Cathedral

    Weir wouldn’t stop talking.

    Weir was charged with a catalogue of sexual crimes. Jean, foreseeing the loss of her old age companion, raised the bar by confessing to being a witch saying in September 1648 she and her brother had made a round trip between Edinburgh and the village of Dalkeith in a coach drawn by fire breathing horses supplied by the devil.

    Painting of Thomas Weir's infernal steeds on Victoria Street
    Jean's carriage from the devil thunders down Bow Street

    Satan, according to Jean, had given Weir his carved thornwood walking stick, which he was inseparable from. (It possessed a demonic spirit).

    Supposedly Weir depended on it for errands and messages. Jean begged the guards to keep Weir away from it, being the source of his strength and powers.

    He was nicknamed ‘Wizard of the West Bow’, Jean was it’s Witch. And suddenly people were giving accounts of Weir being seen walking down the West Bow with his walking stick hopping down in front of him.

    Both were found guilty,

    due to their confessions. Jean was hanged in the grassmarket, you can see the silhouette of her gallows near the blue ice cream police box. But not before Jean threw half her clothes off too, as she proclaimed ‘I die with the greatest shame possible’. The crowd was delighted.

    Jean tried to kick the hangman off the scaffold and clung firm to her faith, declaring
    "Many, weep and lament for a poor old wretch like me; but alas! few are weeping for a broken Covenant".

    Perfectly sane then.

    The authorities were afraid of Weir though, they wouldn’t risk killing him inside the city instead taking him to Gallow Lee today that’s swanky Multrees walk, in the New Town.

    A priest urged Weir to pray, "Lord, be merciful to me!", Weir thundered
    "I will not - I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast!"

    He was nailed to a wooden stake, garrotted and burned. The priest threw his walking stick into the fire and it writhed and shrieked in the flames.

    Legacy

    For 150 years the house remained largely unoccupied. It was said Weir and his sister would occasionally come to stay, driven up from hell in the phantom carriage coach with the fire breathing steeds.

    One couple bravely moved in and lasted a single night. They woke to find a spectral calf peering at them as they lay in bed, whilst Weir’s staff tapped across the floor.

    The haunted house was demolished in the 1860s and today it is Victoria Street's Quaker meeting house. One of the staff has been said to have seen Major Weir walk through the wall whilst seated on the toilet. A recent investigation by a historian suggested that the toilet level was part of Weir’s original house.

    If you hear the tap-tap-tap of a ghostly stick pogo-ing down Victoria Street late at night, seek shelter, for Satan's infernal steeds & their passengers are surely enroute.

    Victoria Street's Major Thomas Weir thrusts his staff
    Best brother ever
    Find a perfectly sane Harry Potter Tour just for you

    Nearby

    How to have the most fun at the Elephant House cafe; it's 2 minutes walk.

    Gringotts aka the Museum on the Mound is 3 minutes walk and displays 200,000 gold galleons (converted to Muggle notes).

    Tom Riddle's grave and other character's namesakes are buried in Greyfriar's Kirkyard. It's 5 minutes walk through the lower, wrought iron gate of the Kirk. Or, if shut, scoot up atmospheric Candlemakers Row.

    Credits

    Scotsman's history of Victoria Street.
    Dynamic Major Thomas Weir cartoons by George Coleman.
    Adrian Brannan mosaic Victoria Street
    Lesley Ann Derks bonny painting of Victoria Street