A visit to Edinburgh simply isn’t complete without learning about the bittersweet tale of Greyfriars Bobby. Anyone who’s ever lived in Edinburgh can tell you the story of the city’s most loyal dog, and you can visit his memorial just across the road from the National Museum of Scotland.
The Story of Greyfriars Bobby
The story goes that Bobby, a young skye terrier, used to belong to a night watchman by the name of John Grey. Being a night watchman was a lonely job, but faithful Bobby always kept John company on his evening patrols.
The pair would roam around the Edinburgh streets at night, and became a familiar sight for most residents in the city. Wherever John Grey went, wee Bobby was never too far behind.
Sadly, in 1858, John developed tuberculosis. Despite the best efforts from the police surgeon, John lost his fight with the disease and died. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and just like when he was living, Bobby remained by his master’s side.
Come rain or shine, the little dog kept a vigil at John Grey’s grave. The story about Bobby spread far and wide, and crowds of people used to come and see him waiting, patiently, by Grey’s gravestone.
He became one of the city’s most beloved pets, so much so that when a bylaw was passed that required every dog in Edinburgh to be licensed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh paid for Bobby’s himself .
Despite the fame and the forever growing crowds, wee Bobby remained faithful to his master, and remained at John Grey’s graveside until his own death 1872. He was buried close by, and his red granite gravestone has pride of place in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. On it, you will find the inscription
“Let his loyalty & devotion be a lesson to us all”
The statue of Greyfriars Bobby
Shortly after Greyfriars Bobby’s death, a statue was commissioned by Baroness Burdett-Coutts and unveiled in 1873. It remains there today, and is now one of Edinburgh’s most iconic attractions.
Even though the statue is fairly small, you won’t be able to miss it – it’s the thing in the middle of that massive crowd of people trying to take a picture with their fancy cameras – be prepared to wait your turn.
You might also find people rubbing his wee nose for luck – please, don’t join them. I have no idea where this “tradition” came from, but it has literally just started in the last couple of years and is the reason poor wee Bobby’s nose is so shiny. The consistent rubbing does real damage to the statue, which the people of Edinburgh have to pay to repair, so please be respectful and leave his nose alone.
Once you’ve got your postcard perfect shot of Greyfriars Bobby, I would recommend popping over the road to visit his grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
As soon as you walk in the gate, you’ll spot the large gravestone dedicated to our favourite dog. You might also see little gifts that folk have left at his grave, such as flowers, sticks or balls for him to fetch. You’d have to have a heart of stone for the scene not to tug at your heartstrings a little…
The bittersweet tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby is an essential part of any trip to Edinburgh. It’s completely free of charge to explore the Kirkyard and see the statue, so I’d highly recommend you drop in and pay homage to Edinburgh’s favourite pooch.
You can find Greyfriars Bobby on George IV Bridge at the corner of Candlemaker Row. It’s just a short walk from the Royal Mile. or you can get there on the 2, 23, 27, 35, 41, 42 or 47 bus.