Sociological Walking Tour, by Hayley Swinson

Photos by author.

Our group trekked through the streets of our (adopted) home city, gleaning the sociological side of its history from half a dozen of the Sociology Department’s experts. We passed many popular destinations but focused on the less obvious sites of the city.

What is Sociology?

“What makes sociology so interesting,” one of the guides explained to me, “is its sheer range. Anything involving the movement and relationships between groups of people can be classified as sociology.”

Tour Guides

George Square: A Crime?

We began the tour in George Square, which, I learned, was one of the first developments constructed in the 18th century for the upper-middle class. The garden was intended as free space for the gentry, away from the crowded underbelly of Old Town. Unfortunately, the University demolished a large portion of the Square’s original buildings. This was met with much opposition, and many considered it “the worst crime committed against the city by the University.” Who would have thought?

A Room with a View

Our next stop was the Camera Obscura. Developed by scholar Patrick Geddes, the site offers many different views of Edinburgh, a city largely shaped by its mobile classes. For instance, The Mound, I discovered, was a man-made obstruction meant not only to bridge the New and Old Towns, but also to obscure the filth of the Old Town (talk about an oxymoron) from the drawing room windows of New Town!

Camera Obscura

Utopia or Dystopia?

After a quick stroll down the High Street, we stopped outside of Dumbiedykes, built as council housing in the 1950s and 60s. “Council housing then did not have the connotation it does now,” our guide explained. The poor are becoming more and more marginalised, pushed beyond Leith and the farthest edges of the city as formerly poor neighbourhoods are gentrified. Communities have begun to redefine themselves, evolving alongside their populations.

View of Leith from Calton Hill

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