Book data

Duddingston: its story in 50 objects
Jacquetta Megarry  
07 November 2019
UK price £12.99
96pp, 978-1-898481-88-1

Duddingston: its story in 50 objects


Jacquetta Megarry

In stock

"This timely book will help to preserve this heritage for centuries to come" - Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Duddingston may be less than two miles from central Edinburgh, but its identity is utterly distinctive.  With the dramatic backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, outstanding buildings include the 12th century Kirk, classical Duddingston House and the famous Sheep Heid, Scotland’s oldest pub.  Over the centuries its residents and visitors have included Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, JMW Turner, Annie Stewart (accidentally rescued by grave robbers), James Tytler (balloonist, encyclopaedist and seditionist), Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Rev Thomson, the painting minister.

This book was created to mark 60 years of Duddingston Conservation Society, and it celebrates objects both large and small – from Dr Neils ‘secret garden’ and Edinburgh’s oldest railway, the Innocent, to the snuff box that King James VI presented to the Sheep Heid in 1580 and the Kirkyard’s smallest gravestone. Written by eight residents, all members of the Duddingston Conservation Society, and edited and published by one of them, the book is a tribute to the Society’s achievements. With over 180 photographs, it tells the secrets and reveals the human stories of this hidden gem. Practical information for visitors includes maps, where to find refreshments and bus information.


This book tells you all you need about how to explore Duddingston in person or from your armchair. It includes:

  • detailed maps showing where to find the 50 objects
  • concise text about each object
  • background on the history and heritage
  • biography of Rev John Thomson, Duddingston’s ‘painting minister’
  • architecture, wildlife and human stories
  • practical details about public transport, parking and refreshments
  • over 180 photographs, nearly all in colour.

Rather than plod along a time line, the book tells stories about Duddingston’s many interesting characters, such as

  • the bachelor 8th Earl of Abercorn who built Duddingston House in 1769 to host lavish entertainment
  • doctors Nancy and Andrew Neil, who prescribed gardening, rather than pills
  • Rev John Thomson, the famous painting minister and close friend of Walter Scott
  • young Annie Stewart who was accidentally resurrected by grave robbers
  • James Tytler, encyclopaedist, balloonist and seditionist, whose life ended in financial disaster and exile
  • Lady Carolina Nairne, whose Jacobite anthems are still famous, but who kept her identity secret in her lifetime.
Look inside

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Contents, Preface, Intro
Gatehouse, graveyard & manse
Duddingston Loch & Holyrood Park
Duddingston House

A love letter to the village of Duddingston

This superb book shows what can be achieved when local pride and enthusiasm is combined with publishing skill and experience. Duddingston: its story in 50 objects … is nothing short of a love letter to the village of Duddingston.

The book is packed with outstanding photographs. Most are in colour and contemporary, while a few are monochrome historical images. There are nice little colour maps throughout, showing the locations of many of the objects featured; and there is an excellent fold-out map at the back that doubles the size of the rear cover and gives a very clear idea of the village, its setting and many of the objects in the book.

We’d heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Duddingston or in Edinburgh more widely.

Read the full review here.

Undiscovered Scotland

An often-overlooked little gem of a village

This attractive new little guide … has been published and written by members of the vibrant Duddignston Conservation Society to mark the society’s 60th anniversary.

The book is crammed full of fascinating facts and little-known details about this long-forgotten village. They include descriptions of the 12th century Duddingston Kirk with its Norman arches and doorways; the 18th century Palladian-style Duddingston House built by the 8th Earl of Abercorn, and the Sheep Heid in the Causeway, said to date from 1360.

Most fascinating were the accounts of the mysterious and still unexplained four-inch-long coffins complete with tiny carved wooden human corpses found by schoolboys on the north eastern slopes of Arthur’s Seat in 1836 … Duddingston still has many stories to tell.

Roly Smith, Outdoor Focus, Winter 2019 page 5

This timely book ...

It is marvellous that this excellent book has been published to mark the 60th anniversary of the Duddingston Village Preservation Society. The village is not only unique in Edinburgh. There are no other villages of mediaeval origin in Britain that have retained their distinct identity at the heart of a large modern city nestling in the lee of an extinct volcano! This timely book will help to preserve this heritage for centuries to come.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind


This 2-minute video shows Duddingston Conservation Area and its surroundings; it illustrates images from the book, with original music by Christian Henson.