Edinburgh World Heritage

Secret Romance at the White Hart

The White Hart is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs, linked to famous poets and once infamous for offering secret marriages…..

In 1791Robert Burns stayed there, on his return to Edinburgh to say goodbye to his mistress Agnes MacLehose – known as Clarinda.  She was sailing off to the West Indies to try and repair her relationship with her husband, and in response to what must have been a tearful farewell, Burns wrote the poem, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’.

In 1803 William and Dorothy Wordsworth stayed at the White Hart, in preference to the classy hotels in the New Town. In her journal she described the inn as, “…not noisy and tolerably cheap.”

in the 1700s the inn was well-know as a place offering a ‘half-merk’ marriage, a quick no-questions asked ceremony for eloping couples. One of the ministers offering this service was James Wilson, who also wrote poems under the name ‘Claudero’. He told the tale of one customer of his at the White Hart who queried the cost of 15s, when a soldier dealt with previously was charged only 1s. Wilson told him, “He’s a gude customer…I’ll hae him here at least once a week.”

Story hosted by: White Hart Inn www.grassmarket.net

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