Edinburgh Meat Market – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Edinburgh Meat Market

The lasting remains of a bygone era of open-air meat markets. 

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Should a visitor to the nation’s capital find themselves traveling down Lothian Road, the main traffic artery running north to south on the western side of the city, they may encounter two large arches crowned with a pair of bovine heads and the words: Edinburgh Meat Market.

What travelers might not realize is that this is a restored version of the original created by architect Peter Hendersen in 1883. The following year, a slaughterhouse opened just a few yards away on Semple Street. During the 19th-century, the city expanded and abattoirs were moved from the center as it was tantamount with hygiene and respectability. This area was chosen because of its proximity to other cattle markets.

In less than 50 years, this current iteration also lost its appeal and usefulness. Once again, the meat market was relocated further outside the city’s limits. Though the handsome building with the decorative frontage would remain. In the 1960s, the building was given a revamp and turned into a popular nightclub. A quarter of a century later it would take on a new life, appropriately enough, as a Chicago-style diner named Fat Sam’s.

Finally, the meat market would be completely demolished in 2007 to make way for the new office development of Exchange Place. However, the city planners decided that this vestige of a bygone era should be remembered. So, in 2009, the iconic entrance was restored along with its pair of cattle heads. Situated not far from its original location, there is a small plaza for visitors to reflect. 

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