Greyfriars Bobby

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Last Updated: by Craig Neil.

Greyfriars Bobby has been part of Edinburgh’s folklore for well over one hundred years and is famous the world over, but what’s the real story behind the tale of the faithful Skye Terrier? Discover the history behind Scotland’s most faithful canine companion with this complete guide to Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh’s famous Skye Terrier who lived in Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town in the 1800s.

Greyfriars Bobby

Overview

If you’ve watched the movie or read the book you’ll know that Bobby was an Edinburgh police officer’s dog who refused to leave the gravesite of his master for 14 years until his own demise on January 14th, 1872.

The legend of Bobby has since become one of the city’s biggest attractions, as can be seen by the life-size commemorative statue of him on a drinking fountain at the junction of the George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row.

This is one of those fascinating Edinburgh curiosities that you might blindly walk past without giving a second glance, but if you’re sightseeing in Edinburgh it has to be somewhere on your list of things to take a selfie in front of.

Interestingly, the statue is officially Edinburgh’s smallest listed building and originally had two drinking bowls – an upper one for humans and a lower one for their four-legged friends. The bronze statue is now showing signs of damage on his nose due to the 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 Greyfriars Kirk you’ll see Bobby’s grave just inside the entrance which has a commemorative plaque that’s permanently decorated with flowers from dog lovers worldwide.

Greyfriars Bobby

Visiting Tips

1: Poor Bobby’s nose is getting worn away by visiting tourists as there’s a myth that rubbing it is good luck. Please don’t rub that nose!

2: It’s well worth exploring Greyfriars Kirk while you’re visiting Bobby. There’s a small museum inside and the graveyard is fascinating, especially for fans of Harry Potter as J.K. Rowling drew inspiration for her books from many of the gravestones.

3: The Greyfriars pub behind the Bobby statue is good value for money but there are restaurants all around the area. I recommend walking down Candlemaker Row and visiting one of the pubs in the Grassmarket for a traditional Scottish meal.

Greyfriars Bobby

Tourist Information

There’s not exactly a huge amount to do at Bobby’s monument other than take photos of it, but there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area if you want to explore one of the oldest parts of Edinburgh’s city centre.

Greyfriars Kirk is located just a short distance behind the statue which is a fascinating place to wander around even without the legend of Bobby. Stepping through the gate at the main entrance you’ll see Bobby’s grave which is usually covered in flowers. After viewing the grave it’s worth taking a walk around the back of the kirk to look at the other gravestones – some of which inspired J.K. Rowling when she wrote the first Harry Potter book.

The kirk was built in the early 1600s, and there’s a small museum inside it that will tell you about its history and the haunted graveyard that surrounds it. Of particular interest is one of the few remaining sections of the Flodden Wall as well as a number of Gothic monuments, tombs, and crypts.

If you’d like a deeper look at Edinburgh’s history I recommend popping across the road from Bobby’s statue to visit The National Museum of Scotland which houses a vast collection of historic objects, many of which are from the time Bobby was alive.

Greyfriars Bobby

History

It’s a fact that John Gray was a night watchman who worked for Edinburgh’s city police in the late 1800s, and at some point late in his career, he took a Skye terrier under his wing.

In 1858 he was treated by a police surgeon for tuberculosis and died within weeks of the diagnosis, after which he was buried at Greyfriars Kirk. However, much beyond this isn’t known for fact and there are many conflicting stories about John Gray and whether or not the dog actually sat on his master’s grave for fourteen years waiting for him to return.

It’s known that around that time it was quite common for stray dogs to scavenge graveyards for titbits handed out by kind-hearted church-goers, so it’s easy to believe 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, as visitor numbers to Greyfriars Kirk increased significantly due to his story. These yester-year tourists boosted the income of the local community, although it’s rumoured that he secretly died five years before his actual recorded death and was replaced by a much younger dog in order to maintain public interest.

If you’d like to visit Bobby, Greyfriars Kirk is located at the junction of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge, opposite the National Museum of Scotland. The memorial statue can be found directly outside the kirk entrance.

Greyfriars Bobby

Book Tours

Things to Do Nearby

The Grassmarket. Edinburgh EH1 2HJ. 4-minute walk.
A historic site in Edinburgh that was originally the city’s main cattle market. It slowly evolved into a courtyard city square with several traditional pubs that offer outside dining. The photogenic West Bow and Victoria Street are to the north while Greyfriars is to the south.

St. Giles Cathedral. High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE. 7-minute walk.
A grand Gothic-style medieval cathedral also known as ‘The High Kirk’, it was the place of worship where John Knox preached. Free to visit and guided tours are available. Shop and café on site.

National Museum of Scotland. Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF. 1-minute walk.
This is the largest museum in Scotland. It is split into two main sections – the restored Victorian Grand Gallery and the modern section that includes science, archaeology, natural history, design and world culture galleries. There are frequent temporary paid exhibitions throughout the year and the museum also houses shops, a café and a restaurant.

The Meadows. Melville Dr, Edinburgh EH9 1ND. 8-minute walk.
A large public park that is very popular with Edinburgh’s residents and the university community. The Meadows comes alive in August during The Fringe when there are theatre and circus shows staged in the park.

Edinburgh Vaults. South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1QR. 7-minute walk.
Underground chambers with a ghostly history. Guided tours take visitors through the subterranean rooms while explaining the story of Edinburgh and the people who lived there over the last 500 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Greyfriars Bobby?

Greyfriars Bobby lived in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. There is a gravestone dedicated to him at the entrance and a memorial fountain in the street outside the entrance.
Address: 26A Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, EH1 2QE.

Who is Bobby the dog in Edinburgh?

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who was owned by night watchman John Gray in the 1800s. When Constable Gray died, the faithful terrier refused to leave his grave in Greyfriars Kirk and continued to watch over it for 14 years.

How long did Greyfriars Bobby stay at the grave?

Greyfriars Bobby stayed at the site of his master’s grave for 14 years from 1858 until his own death in 1872.

What visitor facilities are there at Greyfriars Kirk?

Greyfriars Kirk has a gift shop. Food and drink are readily available from shops on George IV Bridge.

Related Posts

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.