• About Me

    : My Story :

    : 3 Reasons Why I Give Tours :

    : Other things I do :

  • Hi! I'm Hetty.

    (That's me in the hat visiting Berlin with my sister.)

     

    Although I've been a city dweller for almost 30 years I grew up in Orkney, a group of islands off the north coast of Scotland. A community centred around farming and fishing, life in Orkney is close to nature, I can recognise wild-flowers and hand-milk a cow - not that there's much call for that skill in Edinburgh!

     

    While I've been lucky enough to travel to places in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, it was my childhood in Orkney that gave me a love of landscapes and where my life-time interest in history began. With everything from Neolithic villages to Second World War navy bases it’s hard to ignore history in Orkney.

    Moving to Edinburgh in 1992 I spent 25 years working in a variety of sectors, from hospitality to higher education, before sitting my university entrance exams on my 40th birthday and becoming a student myself. I graduated with a first-class MA (Hons) in Social and Architectural History from the University of Edinburgh in 2018. The following year I started Hetty's History Walks to offer walking tours for people curious about the "how's and why's" of Edinburgh's past rather than just the "oohs and aahs" of its history as entertainment!

  • 3 Reasons Why I Give Walking Tours...

     

    1. Edinburgh is a city jam-packed with history and it has so much more to offer than stories of notorious characters and dramatic historical events.

    With over 900 years of history Edinburgh is, and always has been, a living, breathing city full of ordinary people going about their everyday lives. How did they live and why did the city grow from a tiny settlement into one of Europe's most visited capitals? This is the history that I find more interesting.

     

    My tours look at Edinburgh’s social history and cultural identity, along with its urban development and industrial heritage, to uncover the history of the city itself.

     

    2. Buildings and people go together so exploring Edinburgh’s streets, with their diverse range of architecture, is one of the most accessible ways to engage with the city’s history.

    Unlike most historical artefacts which are buried in museums, galleries and private collections, the built environment is freely accessible to anyone at any time. As the physical manifestation of a society’s past you can tell a lot from its remaining built environment.

     

    Once you know a bit about what you're looking at, you can see a place with a whole new light and understanding.

    Three Edinburgh buildings. Three different eras. Three architectural styles. Three different functions.

    The clock tower and turrets of George Heriots 17th century Jacobean school (foreground). The main entrance to the 19th century Royal Infirmary hospital with its pointy, faux-baronial Victorian spire (background to the left). The clean, straight lines and large, glass windows of Quartermiles 21st century mixed office and residential development (centre background). Each can tell us so much about the era it was built in and the society who built it.

     

    3. I really enjoy researching and studying Edinburgh’s social and urban development and sharing my discoveries with others.

    Not just with Edinburgh’s many visitors but also with new and long-term local residents. History is neither static nor singular with new discoveries, theories and points of view developing all the time.

     

    It's always interesting to hear other perspectives and I love it when tour guests share their experiences, memories and thoughts about Edinburgh in return.

     
     
     

    "One might regard architecture as history arrested in stone."

    historian A.L. Rowse

  • Other Things I Do...

    Abbeyhill History Walk

    In 2021 I provided free guided history walks as part of Abbeyhill's Colony of Artists 16th Annual Arts Festival weekend. The tours looked at the history of Abbeyhill over the 19th century, specifically its 'colony' housing and relationship with the industrial heritage of the area, and were a great chance for me to contribute to my local community.

    Assembly Rooms

    Before the pandemic I guided the Doors Open Day tours at the fabulous Assembly Rooms, in Edinburgh's George Street. In 2020, I provided the research and narration for a series of video shorts that look at the 230-year-old building's social history. Watch the short introduction below or view the complete collection.

    (all links open in new tab)

    Museum of Edinburgh

    I also volunteer at the Museum of Edinburgh in their courtyard of architectural fragments, something I started doing when I was a student. The courtyard is a bit of a hidden gem and most people stumble across it by accident, but its collection of stone carvings contain examples covering over 500 years.

     

    The Museum is free to visit and, in normal circumstances, is open 7 days a week. During 2020 I created the first visitor guides to the Courtyard Collection, a full version and one of selected highlights.

    You can also visit my LinkedIn profile.

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    A random selection of things I like...

  • Join me on social media for photos and facts about Edinburgh and its history...

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