Friday, August 21, 2020

The Sweet Smell of.....???

 Some of you may have noticed that I’m from Glasgow which is on the glorious west coast of Scotland. 

On the other side of the country there’s a coastline with one island and a city with a castle on a hill and that’s about it. The east coast and the west coast don’t always see eye to eye. In fact most Scottish people dislike everything so while we are genuinely one of the friendliest nations on the face of the planet,  we sort of don’t like anybody else. 

I suppose the rivalry between the two main cities stems from Edinburgh being small and pretty to look at where as Glasgow rolls up its sleeves and gets on with it. Edinburgh may be the seat of the parliament but Glasgow is the home of the national ballet and the opera. I'll let you decide who has the more theatrics.

 Glasgow’s quite flat and open, the river Clyde rolls right into the centre of the city and brings a strong breeze with it. The climate in Glasgow is wetter and warmer. Indeed, only last week I found out that the entire west coast of Scotland is classified as a rain forest. Edinburgh is drier with a wind that bites right through you. It might have incredible views but in 2003 it was voted the smelliest city in the world. In 2009 odour control towers were erected to monitor the smells coming from the local breweries and distilleries.


I don’t think that’s what’s causing the smell. 

Edinburgh just smells. 

The other name for Edinburgh is Auld Reekie which means 'old stinky' and the city didn’t get called that because it was scented with the perfume of rose petal and cinnamon. It was a combination of too many chimneys and too few toilets and the general mix of bodily waste that caused a stink in those days. There’s just a claustrophobia about the city that doesn’t blow the smell away. 

And as an interesting addendum (appendage ?) there is a penis plant at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens. It's  real name is amorphophallus titanium, also known as the corpse flower because it has the scent of decay and death. The plant is known locally as new reekie and new reekie has two younger cousins, called wee reekie and wee reekie 2. When it flowered in 2019 people queued up to get a whiff of the pungent aroma - maybe because even that was better that the smell of the city itself.


Thinking back on the smelliest place I’ve ever visited, many coastal fishing towns obviously smell of fish, plus the weird chocolate  smell of Chicago, the doors of that shop that sells perfumed soap but ..... but there’s one place that made me physically sick with the smell; Bourbon Street, New Orleans. We might have caught it on a bad day but the mixture of stale urine and crack cocaine is a cocktail forever in my memory.

Caro Ramsay


  1. Maybe we could make Edinburgh a Covid quarantine zone. When the patients are able smell the city again they get to go home. It'll ake up for the lack of Festivals this year.

  2. Ahh, stinky smells. They are everywhere. I'm living in the south of Spain and right now there is a flower in bloom that releases the most putrid stench my nose has ever come across. At least I assume it's a flower. I did wonder if one of my neighbours offed their spouse, but it's gone on far too long for that to be the case.

    The closest I can come to describing the offending odour is a mix of rotting flesh, bad breath, and stagnant pond scum. And in the 35+ degree heat we're having it's so much worse that it probably should be.

    I never thought I'd say this, but some days I'm thankful to be wearing a mask.

  3. I could not agree more that the Scottish people are the friendliest on earth. As for smelly part of the country, I'm blessed with immunity to that as many years ago I largely lost my sense of smell. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed Edinburgh so...but not as much as Glasgow, of course. As for the penis plant reference, I dare not take the bait, though I do wonder whether they keep it tucked safely away from the orchids.

  4. There are places in Accra, Ghana, that would make Edinburgh smell like Chanel No 5

  5. I found the yeasty smell of Edinburgh so hard to bear! There is stinky air everywhere, but this was the strangest I've experienced

  6. Years ago, depending on where you were in town, my beloved Florence had a stinky drains issue. It has now been fixed I am happy to say. When they dug up the paving stones (no mean feat) to fix the problem, they often found terracotta tubing that than been there since the Renaissance!