Located off the main path at the top of Edinburgh Castle, a small garden space holds a soldiers’ dog cemetery that dates back to 1837. The year marks the ascent of Queen Victoria to the British throne, and her reign (until 1901) was noted by several cultural traits, among which was an appreciation of pets and companion animals.
The same appreciation for animals that led to the story of Greyfriars Bobby could also have led to the establishment of this cemetery, especially since burial plots in castles were often considered exclusive to military personnel and nobles. The small graveyard is home to about 20 headstones. Many of the engravings have worn away over time, but the oldest visible inscription is from 1881, a dedication to Jess, band pet of the Black Watch 42nd Royal Highlanders. The youngest headstone commemorates Winkle, who died in 1980 and was the “dear and faithful friend of Lady Gow and the Governor.”
The Scottish poet Robert Burns once commemorated the dog cemetery of Edinburgh Castle in verse: “Berkin dugs here lie at rest / The yappin worst, obedient best / Sodgers pets and mascots tae / Still the guard the castle to this day.” However, this has proven to be erroneous. The words actually were penned by Ali Strachan, who worked for Historic Environment Scotland and were mistakenly attributed to the national bard when she was compiling poems for a Burns Night Supper.
The site of the cemetery may have once been a medieval tower, but it now acts as the final resting place for honored canine companions of the regimental officers. Visitors cannot enter the cemetery, but it can be viewed from above.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery can be seen from the top of Edinburgh Castle, down from the Argyle Battery ledge located east of Mons Meg and St. Margaret's Chapel.