Over Three Hundred Women, Alleged to be Witches

In the 16th Century more torture and killing of women, alleged to be witches, were carried out at Castlehill than anywhere else in Scotland. They were burned, hanged or drowned, often after being tested in ways which were designed to kill them whatever the outcome.. In Edinburgh they were often nearly drowned by being douked (submerged) in the Nor' Loch (an artificial loch, now filled in, the location of Princes Street Gardens) before being killed.

The fountain on the west wall of the former Castlehill Reservoir (which served the castle with water from Comiston Springs), facing Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, commemorates these women and was designed by John Duncan, R.S.A. It is near the site on which many of these women were burned at the stake.

This plaque accompanies the fountain and explains the symbolism on the fountain. The two heads, one apparently evil, the other calm signify that some used their knowledge and alleged powers for evil purposes while others used their talents for good. This duality is emphasized by the inclusion of a serpent and the foxglove plant (a name for which is witches' gloves) which have positive and negative connotations in relation to having the potential to heal and poison, for good and evil.