The History of Leith

December 2, 2004

The Kirk below the Castle

For much of its existence St Cuthbert’s was a country kirk, outwith the city wall and in the county of Lothian and Tweeddale. In the reign of King David I of Scotland (1124 – 1153), Edinburgh was clustered on the ridge which runs eastwards from the Castle. All along the foot of the northern slope of the Castle rock was a morass or marsh and from there northwards it was all countryside until one came to Newhaven and Leith on the coast.

The Kirk below the Castle of Edinburgh has a claim to great, but imprecise, antiquity. One theory about its origins is that St Cuthbert journeyed from Melrose and stayed awhile in the sheltered hollow below the Castle rock. Another view is that the Church came into being only fifty years before the 1127 Charter. Simeon of Durham, in 1130, wrote of a church in Edwin’s Burgh in 854 but whilst some believe it was St Cuthbert’s others think St Giles.

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