As you pass St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile be sure to cast your eyes to the ground and lookout for the Heart of Midlothian, a mosaic set in the cobbles of the pavement in the shape of a heart.
This heart shaped mosaic is a reminder of where the main entrance was to Edinburgh’s 14th Century Old Tollbooth which served Scotland and the city for over 400 years in various guises including housing the early meetings of the Scottish Parliament, the Burgh Council, the Court of Sessions and the Burghs main jail. In addition to incarceration, physical punishment and torture were routinely carried out on the site.
Brass dates and studs in the cobbles also highlight the former dimensions of the Old Tollbooth. One set are beside the Heart of Midlothian but be sure to look around and see if you can find the other set.
A tradition for locals is to spit on the ‘heart’, these days it is thought to bring you luck but previously it was to show disdain for the building and criminals housed within.
The Old Tollbooth was demolished in 1817.