The Out About Scotland complete guide to Greyfriars Bobby
What’s this attraction all about?
Greyfriars Bobby has long been a part of Edinburgh folklore and is famous the world over, but what’s the real story behind the tale of the faithful Skye Terrier? If we watch the movie and read the books then we know that Bobby was an Edinburgh police officers dog, who after his masters’ death refused to leave the grave site for 14 years until his own demise on January 14th, 1872.
The legend of Bobby lives on to this very day and if you pass by Greyfriars Kirk you can see the life-size commemorative statue to the wee chap on the outside pavement, which was originally commissioned to be the decorative centrepiece for a drinking fountain at the junction of the George 4th Bridge and Candlemaker Row. Interestingly, the statue is officially Edinburgh’s smallest listed building and it originally had two drinking bowls – an upper one for humans and a lower one for their canine companions.
The Bronze statue is now showing signs of damage to his nose due to the popular belief that rubbing it is good luck, so if you see him please try to refrain from causing further wear. If you venture further into the Kirkyard you’ll see Bobby’s grave just inside the entranceway, which has a commemorative plaque that is permanently decorated with flowers from dog lovers from all over the world.Read more...
The history of the attraction
It’s known that John Gray was a night watchman who worked for Edinburgh city police in the late 1800s, and at some point late in his career he took the little terrier under his wing. However, much beyond this isn’t known for fact and there are many conflicting stories about who John Gray actually was. What is confirmed is that around that time it was quite common for stray dogs to scavenge graveyards for titbits handed out by kind-hearted church-goers. It wouldn’t take much of a leap of belief to think that these dogs were faithfully guarding their former owners’ graves.
The legend of Greyfriars Bobby was popular in Edinburgh even during the time he was alive, and it was recorded that visitor numbers to the kirk increased significantly in those days due to his story. These yester-year tourists boosted the income for the local community which might explain why Bobby apparently lived for so many years. It’s been frequently rumoured that he secretly died some five years before his recorded death, only to be replaced by a much younger dog!
But whatever the truth is behind this popular tale his little monument offers a brilliant photo opportunity in Edinburgh and if you’re in the area to explore the Natural History Museum or Greyfriars Kirk you may as well say hello to Bobby while you’re there.
What I liked about this attraction
- Coupled with a visit to Greyfriars Kirk this a fascinating part of Edinburgh’s history
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- Poor Bobby’s nose is getting worn away by visiting tourists. Please don’t rub it!
Greyfriars kirk is located at the junction of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge, opposite the National Museum of Scotland. The memorial statue to Greyfriars Bobby can be found directly outside the kirk entrance.
For Greyfriars kirk telephone: 0131 225 1900
Website: Greyfriars Kirk
Prices and opening times
If you want to visit the Kirk, the Story of Greyfriars Museum, and the shop, then you will find them open to the general public Monday – Saturday from April – October. Check with the kirk before travelling as they are sometimes closed for services and concerts. Greyfriars is also open to visitors on some Thursdays during the Winter season (November to March) from 11am – 3pm.
The kirk and graveyard are free to enter but donations are welcome. The Greyfriars Bobby fountain and grave have no visitors fee and are available to view at all times.