Learn the history behind Scotland's ancient castles and buildings
The remains of the Flodden Wall lie in several areas around the city, and there are various routes you can take to visit them. However, the most visited section lies in Greyfriars kirk graveyard, although it can also be seen where Drummond Streets meets the Pleasance, and again on Forrest Road.
Prices and opening times
The Flodden Wall is accessible at all times of day and there is no fee to view any of the remaining sections.
As you walk around the ancient city of Edinburgh you will likely notice several sections of fortified wall that seem slightly out-of-place in relation to the other buildings that sit alongside them. These walls are the remains of an immense fortification that at one time encircled the Old Town area of the city. However, today there are only a few locations where the walls are still standing, so if you are unaware of the history of the Flodden Wall then you will likely walk past without taking any notice. But why was the wall built in the first place?
The Flodden Wall was completed in 1560 and was built in response to the Scots army defeat at the battle of Flodden in 1513. There, the armies of King James IV were defeated by the English, and fears of an English retaliation prompted Edinburgh councillors to propose a defensive wall to protect the city. The wall would also go some way to dealing with the smugglers that had been blighting trade within the capital for some time, and it would be an important tax revenue for traders who needed to enter and exit the city.
Standing 24 feet tall with walls nearly 4 feet thick, the Flodden Wall enclosed an area of almost 140 acres, with the entirety of the Old Town protected within it. However, as the population in Edinburgh grew, the presence of the wall began to be resented due to the high taxes that were paid every time residents wanted to enter and exit the city. It’s for this reason that the high tenement buildings of the Old Town were built, as without any way to build outwards the architects of the time could only build upwards, and to a lesser extent downwards into the earth. Although the impending English invasion never materialised, the wall survived and was instrumental in protecting the city for many years. After the threat from the Jacobite uprising ceased in 1746, the Flodden wall was left poorly maintained and either collapsed or was built over in the ceaseless expansion of the city, so that today only a few small sections can still be seen standing.
If you keep a watchful eye out you might see several brass cobblestones embedded into the street in various locations throughout Edinburgh, which mark the boundaries where the original wall once stood. But for a real taste of how immense the Flodden Wall was in its heyday, take a journey to Greyfriars kirk, where one of the last remaining sections can still be seen.