Grassmarket is a history-rich market square in Edinburgh's Old Town, just south-east of the cities magnificent castle, which dominates the northern skyline and seems to loom over the market itself. Today, the market is dominated by pubs, clubs, shops and hotels, though for nearly 350 years, from 1477 to 1911, the main use of the Grassmarket was for the sale and purchase of horses, cows and other cattle, and also as the stage for many public executions.
A popular story in Edinburgh, and the most famous execution that took place at Grassmarket, is the hanging of Maggie Dickson in 1728. Maggie was a simple fishwife from the town of Musselburgh, who was convicted of murdering her own baby, and thus sentenced to hang. However, after the hanging, as Maggie's body was being taken back to her home town in a coffin, she miraculously awoke, as if rising from the dead! Maggie Dickson was subsequently set free, for in the eyes of Scottish Law, she had already served her sentence of punishment. It wasn't until after this incident that the words 'until dead' were added to the punishment of hanging. There is now a pub in Grassmarket named 'Maggie Dickson's Pub', in memory of this odd event.
During 2009-2010, the market was the subject of a £5million re-development, which made the area much more pedestrian friendly, and added and extended several pavement cafe areas.