(Last Updated On: 30th January 2019)

 

If you were walking along the Royal Mile and saw someone spitting on the street, the appropriate reaction would usually be to throw them a horrified glance and maybe even mutter a grossed out ‘ewww’. But in Edinburgh, there’s one place where hocking a big old loogie is not only acceptable, it’s damn near patriotic; at The Heart of Midlothian.

Found on The Royal Mile, The Heart of Midlothian is a heart shaped mosaic lying on the footpath outside St Giles Cathedral (the big Gothic thing dominating the view where the Royal Mile becomes High Street).

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The mosaic is the perfect example of hiding in plain sight. If you’re not looking for it, it’s very easy to miss.

In the 15th century, the spot where the mosaic lies was the entrance point for what was known as The Old Tolbooth, a set of council buildings which included an infamous jail. It was here where the people of Edinburgh gathered for public hangings and where anyone unlucky enough to be sent inside may very well have been subjected to court sanctioned torture.

In those days it was customary to spit at the door as you were freed from the prison, a kind of ‘F You’ to the system. The Old Tolbooth was demolished in 1817 but ever since then it’s been considered good luck to spit on the heart as you walk by.

If you’re into soccer/football, you might be interested to know the logo of The Heart of Midlothian team incorporates a heart. This is where it comes from.

Finding it

If you’re on the Royal Mile walking downhill toward Holyrood, away from the castle, The Heart of Midlothian is on your right hand side, on the footpath a little bit before you pass St Giles Church. Don’t get your churches mixed up though. The first Gothic church-like structure you’ll see on the right hand side soon after the castle is The Hub Cafe. This was once a parish for The Church of Scotland, but is now, as the name suggests, a cafe/restaurant and in August, also an information centre for  all the Edinburgh festivals.

You’ll need to keep walking until you come to the intersection with St Giles Street. Cross over that and from there the cathedral will dominate your view.

The Heart of Midlothian is just to the right of the benches you see in the foreground. Photo: Rich Barrett-Small
The Heart of Midlothian is just to the left of the benches you see in the foreground. Photo: Rich Barrett-Small

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So if you’re walking along The Royal Mile and someone spits on the footpath, have a look down and see if there’s a heart. If there is, you can now give them a smile and a knowing nod. If there isn’t, my first sentence will help you out.