It was a bright and sunny day and our last day in Edinburgh last month when we decided to walk from our hotel on Picardy Place to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street and from there make our way to Princes Street where my wife planned to shop while I would continue on to The Mound and browse the paintings at the Scottish National Gallery. The walk from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to the Scott Monument was only a couple of blocks and took about five minutes and in the middle of the walk we discovered St Andrew Square.
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Construction of Edinburgh’s New Town began in 1772 with the building of St Andrew Square at the east end of George Street. There’s an identical square (Charlotte Square) on the west end of George Street. St Andrew Square soon became one of the most fashionable places to live in the city. The famous philosopher David Hume lived on the square. Later on the square became a wealthy commercial center and most of the private mansions have been replaced with banks and restaurants.
The original plan was to build a church called St Andrew’s on the square but Sir Lawrence Dundas bought the land and built his own mansion there instead. His house is now the headquarters for the Royal Bank of Scotland.
In the center of the square is the Melville Monument built to honor Henry Dundas, the first viscount Melville (1742-1811). Dundas was the most powerful politician in Scotland in his day. He was William Pitt the Younger’s closest advisor and served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under Pitt. He was often called The Uncrowned King of Scotland and sometimes King Harry the Ninth. He was also the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom but was acquitted of misappropriation of public money.
The St Andrew Square Gardens were opened to the public in 2008 and now are the scene of several events held throughout the year including a Farmer’s Market and an outdoor international film festival. Essential Edinburgh is the name of the organization that manages the events. See here for their calendar of events and here for their Facebook page.
We spent seven days in Edinburgh and it only rained once during that time and that was on a Saturday night when we spent most of the time at a restaurant (on George Street near St Andrew Square, as a matter of fact). On several occasions during the week locals would thank us for bringing the sunny weather with us from California!