Looking down the High Street towards the Tron Kirk, the section rebuilt in 1828 following the Great Fire of Edinburgh (1824).
On the south side, about one-third of the way down from the Castle toward the Palace is Parliament Square, named after the old Parliament House which housed both the law courts and the old Parliament of Scotland between the 1630’s and 1707 (when its existence was ended by the Act of Union)
Parliament House now houses the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court. St Giles’ Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, also stands in Parliament Square.
By the West Door of St Giles’ is the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped pattern built into the “setted” road, marking the site of the Old Tolbooth, formerly the centre of administration, taxation and justice in the burgh. The prison was described by Sir Walter Scott as the “Heart of Midlothian”, and soon after demolition, the city fathers marked the site with a heart mosaic.
Locals have traditionally spat upon the heart presumably to express disgust.
The custom has been to some extent sanitised by tourist guides who claim that the spitting is merely for good luck. On the north side, opposite St Giles’, stand Edinburgh City Chambers, where the council meets. On the south side, just past the High Kirk, is the Mercat Cross from which royal proclamations are read and the summoning of Parliament announced.