I have a girl crush. Her name is Victoria.
I mean how was I not to fall for her? She is everything that makes me happy. She’s sophisticated, unpretentious, cheerful, elegant, vibrant, charming, and just the sight of her causes my heart to beat a little faster. Simply put, she’s beautiful. I think it might be love.All right, I’m just being silly. A girl can have a little fun on a Friday morning, right? Seriously, though, I do love Edinburgh’s Victoria Street. In my first pre-trip research, I had seen plenty of pictures in my guide books and on the internet. But it wasn’t until we actually rounded the corner from Old Town’s George IV Bridge and I caught sight of old Victoria that I realized what a lady she really is.
I read somewhere that Victoria Street was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I could definitely see how some might think that. The narrow, curved, cobbled street, the stony upper buildings and terraces, and the brightly painted storefronts do seem to bear a striking resemblance to the street in Harry’s world. It’s certainly an interesting notion.
Victoria Street, formerly called Bow Street until Queen Victoria took the British throne in 1837, was built during the early 19th century as part of Thomas Hamilton’s Improvement Act of 1827. The planned improvements were designed to radically transform the original road (simply known as the West Bow and the only feasible route from the Grassmarket to Lawnmarket) from a precipitous, narrow, Z-shaped street into a route that would provide much easier passage into the rest of the city-particularly for the carriages that had an extremely difficult time managing the awkward hill.
This radical alteration in design meant that, sadly, most of the original medieval structures were lost forever. A few of the original buildings do still remain, particularly at the foot of the curve where Victoria Street meets the Grassmarket.
Most of what we see today is the result of 19th century development. If you ever find yourself on Victoria Street, look for the staircase that marks the turn in the road as it was prior to the newer construction. Victoria Street is arguably one of the prettiest and most photographed streets in Edinburgh and continues to be an area of thriving commerce today. New meets old in an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and pubs all set within this preserved picture of the past.
When you go to Scotland (and I hope one day you do), be sure to visit this lovely part of Old Town. Don’t forget your camera! Oh, and be ever so careful on the cobbles.
Till next time…