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The History of The Witchery

by Sandy

Take a sharp left turn at the close just before you get to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile and you’ll soon find yourself entering the wonderful world of The Witchery! Built in 1595, this five-star restaurant is a city institution. It’s the place you go to pop the question, close a business deal or — in my case — take your best friend for tea on Friday the 13th!

Filled with anticipation, we walked down this narrow stone alleyway expecting to be impressed — and we were not disappointed. Rounding the corner, I struggled to take it all in: Antlers on the wall, rich red leather seating, church candlesticks adorning the tables — and a giant grinning bust of Bacchus holding court in the dining room.

Finding it impossible to divert my eyes from his devilish grin, Bacchus, at first glance, appeared to be cast entirely in bronze. But, in reality, it is a papier-mâché stage prop that belonged to a 19th century French theatre troupe. (For fans of the Roman gods, you may recall that Bacchus was the Roman god of grapevines, wines and fertility.)

Taking our seats at a corner table, we unfolded our napkins and placed them across our laps. And, for the better part of the next three hours, on Friday, April 13, we fully immersed ourselves in the History of The Witchery over the most sinfully wicked teas, sandwiches and scones.

Established nearly 40 years ago by James Thomson OBE, The Witchery takes its name from the many hundreds of witches burned at the stake on Castlehill during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is believed that more witches were put to death on Castlehill during the reign of James VI than anywhere else in Scotland.

As our time here came to an end, we thanked our hosts for a most bewitching afternoon and quietly gathered our belongings. Making our way back through the elegantly-appointed hallway toward the close through which we had entered this enchanted place, I couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild. Oh, if these walls could talk!

Sandy Nelson, The Sandy Papers, Making Travel a Breeze!, (703) 975-1747, thesandypapers@aol.com

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