4 Reasons To Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral, Travel Thursday

St Giles Cathedral- a quiet but gorgeous cathedral tucked away on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh! Technically the High Kirk of St Giles, this cathedral is the heart of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church. It may not have the size and grandeur of Westminster Abbey or York Minster, but it still has a quiet beauty that is well worth a stop on your way through Edinburgh.

4 Reasons to Visit St. Gile's Cathedral, Edinburgh

Although I love Dublin and London dearly, Edinburgh is a gorgeous city that is rich with history and not nearly so busy or bustling as it’s English and Irish counterparts. We were only in the city for two days, so we decided to focus on the Royal Mile as the Cathedral, Holyrood, and Edinburgh Castle were all high on our list. (Next trip, I promise I will branch out further!!) I was able to see it in early March, meaning that winter was still visiting Edinburgh. As a Canadian, I was thrilled when it began to snow, although many other tourists looked less than impressed. St. Giles’ is right in the heart of the city and with a spare hour, you can see a truly beautiful cathedral that has quite the storied past! So, why should you visit?

St Giles Cathedral Exterior 1

St Giles Cathedral Exterior details

St Giles Cathedral Courtyard

St Giles Cathedral Interior details

The Details

St Giles’ isn’t a particularly ornate cathedral, but that in no way means that it is a plain building. It’s quietly beautiful, and the detailing in the stonework still something to behold. It’s slightly more difficult to see in the interior, but that’s true of most cathedrals as light wasn’t the primary focus in the high middle ages when these structures were being built. Taking your time to wander about, you will notice the craftsmanship and work that went into the cathedral! (You will also notice Holy Blood Aisle, in honour of Mary, Queen of Scots’ half brother who served as regent.)

st Giles Cathedral Interior Stained Glass

St Giles Cathedral stained glass window 2

St Giles Cathedral Stains glass window horse

The Stained Glass

The stained glass is as beautiful as you would expect it to be- although they don’t provide much light through into the cathedral, they do offer beautiful pieces of art that are particularly incredible given that the Presbyterian church has historically been known for “four walls and sermon” rather than a decorative setting. Most of the glass dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and because they are later windows, they mostly depict saints and their Lives rather than Biblical stories as older windows would have.

St Giles Cathedral Montrose memorial

st Giles Cathedral Argyll memorial 2

St Giles Cathedral Great War Memorial

St Giles Cathedral Chloroform memorial


This cathedral happens to be lousy with memorials. The two notable memorials are those of the Marquises of Argyll and Montrose from the mid seventeenth century- as far as memorials go, they are quite lavish. Not only is it the standard tomb with effigy atop, they are both complete structures that dome over. To be honest, I had no idea at the time why they warranted such a tomb but as I’m sure we could all guess, they were both leading figures in a war (the War of the Three Kingdoms, if you are curious to know which specifically). However, in addition to these guys, there are also memorials all over the cathedral for different people, many of whom died in battle. The Great War is particularly represented! Also, my favourite memorial/shout out was for James Young Simpson’s discovery of chloroform….

St Giles Cathedral Thistle Chapel ceiling

St Giles Cathedral Thistle Chapel seat detail

St Giles Cathedral thistle Chapel detail

The Thistle Chapel

The Thistle Chapel is one of the most interesting chapels that I have been to, and that includes the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. The Chapel is home to The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, aka Scotland’s leading order of chivalry. It consists of seventeen members, the sovereign and sixteen knights and ladies of the order (with members of the British Royal Family being “extra” members), and is the second highest order in the United Kingdom in order of precedence. Each current member of the order has a stall in the chapel, complete with their heraldic devices and mantle displayed. When a member passes away, everything is removed aside from the stall plate- this means that you can trace all of the members of the order back to 1911 when it was built by following the stall plates! It is a quiet but impressive room, mostly due to the ceiling of thistles!

What is your favourite cathedral? 

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!

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17 thoughts on “4 Reasons To Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral, Travel Thursday

  1. Susie July 27, 2017 / 9:11 am

    Love this! Definitely hope to make it to Edinburgh one of these days! Beautiful shots.


  2. gigglingfattie July 27, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Beautiful pictures! I love Edinburgh – but didn’t get to see this cathedral when I was there.


      • gigglingfattie July 27, 2017 / 10:11 am

        Definitely would have to be the castle and the shops along “the royal mile”. I was also there during the military tattoo performances so that was SUCH a great thing to experience as well.


        • anhistorianabouttown July 27, 2017 / 10:17 am

          I’m so jealous- I would have LOVED to see a tattoo!! I’ve watched recordings and those are something else- I’m hoping to catch one next visit!

          Liked by 1 person

          • gigglingfattie July 27, 2017 / 10:54 am

            I went on a bus tour and it was one of the weeks that still had some space available. I had no idea what it was before I went, but I was so glad that I was picked that week. It was a great show!


  3. Pam Avoledo July 27, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    I love England. It’s on my bucket list. I seriously want to spend a month there.


  4. fattymccupcakes July 28, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Edinburgh! Truly one of my favorite cities ever. I only got to spend two days in the city, too. I have a great picture of St. Gile’s, but I didn’t go in. Next time!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. gemmaorton October 5, 2017 / 12:24 pm

    I love wandering around Cathedrals! I’ve still never visited Edinburgh. I must.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. josypheen October 5, 2017 / 5:27 pm

    Oops. I’ve been to Edinburgh quite a few times, but somehow managed to miss heading into this Cathedral.

    I can only blame my lovely piss-head friends as I always end up in pubs/doing karaoke in Edinburgh. I’ll try to be more cultured next time! 😉

    Anyway, lovely photos!


    • anhistorianabouttown October 6, 2017 / 10:20 pm

      Hahahahahaha, best description of friends ever!! It’s easy enough to miss St. Giles, it is fairly unassuming for a cathedral and really blends into the Royal Mile as a whole. If I’m remembering correctly, there are office buildings around it, so it looks like it might be part of it. And thank you!! I’m so glad my little point and shoot could handle the details 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. gemmaorton March 29, 2018 / 5:35 am

    Great photography! I love visiting churches and cathedrals, but have never been to Edinburgh.


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