Edinburgh’s Lost Loch

It was 1460 when King James III gave the order to flood the ground between Old Town and Princess Street to strengthen the Castle’s defenses. To do so a dam was built where the North Bridge is today and natural spring water from the original St. Margaret’s Well was used for the flooding that created the Nor’ Loch. In the beginning, it was almost picturesque with the reflection of the castle on the water and a place to relax from the people in Edinburgh where they could sail their boats during the summer then during the cold winters they could skate over the ice.

Over the years it became the dumping ground for the waste from the population of Edinburgh where they would throw their gardyloo’s and while it started off as a popular place for sightseeing after time it became popular for suicide attempts and witch dunking so bodies began to litter the bottom of the Loch.

The Witch Trials

The hunting of witches was huge during the late 1500’s and most of the 1600’s in Scotland and while the chosen method of killing a witch was to burn them at the stake they had many different ways of testing you to see if you were a witch. They may stab you with needles and pins because they thought that if you wore the ‘Devil’s Mark’ so you could not feel pain but what the professional ‘Stabbers’ would do was to do it in a way that you couldn’t feel what was happening so you would still be burned at the stake.

Witch Dunking Stool

Douking Stool

Or they would tie your thumbs and toes together and dunk you into a body of water and if you drowned then you weren’t a witch but if you floated then you were so you would be burned at the stake, if you lived in Edinburgh that would be on Castlehill so either way, you would be dead. Sometimes they would even kick you in the stomach so that you would be winded before dunking you.

During this time they would use the Nor’ Loch for their dunkings in Edinburgh so with the number of people in Scotland who would be convicted of witchcraft it didn’t take long for it to become rotten and disgusting and on top of that people would use this Loch as a place for suicides, smuggling and executions so really it was a Loch of many uses.

When dangerous gasses were affecting the health of the people and caused them to have hallucinations, so they choose to drain the lake in 1759 when they found a locked chest and when they opened it up they bones belonging to three different people, three siblings who were executed after they were found guilty of incest so they were locked in a chest alive and dropped in the lake long before they found them again. At the same time, they drained the lake the New Town was being built just to the north of it. So after that, the Nor’ Loch was known as Edinburgh’s Lost Loch.


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