Where can you find unicorn emblems in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh coat of arms
Edinburgh coat of arms
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There are several tributes to Scotland's national animal, the unicorn, around Edinburgh. How many have you spotted?

Since the 1100s the unicorn has been Scotland's heraldic supporter - first appearing in the Scottish royal coat of arms of King William I.

A natural enemy of the lion - the English national emblem - and regarded as proud creatures of pious purity, proud intelligence and courage, the unicorn was viewed as the perfect embodiment of Scotland and it's people. Since the rule of King James III, the unicorn has appeared on Scottish currency and the royal coat of arms.

Statues of the fabled beast can be found across Scotland, with a particular concentration of them appearing in Auld Reekie:

The Mercat Cross

A unicorn stands proudly atop of the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile by St Giles' Cathedral. Announcements of national importance, such as royal weddings and births are made from the old meeting place. In the past the one horned horse would have overseen executions and punishments of local criminals. The current unicorn dates from 1869, a reproduction from the previous 1617 cross. Each of Scotland's cities has its own Mercat Cross complete with the country's national animal.

Holyrood House gates

A unicorn and a lion stand guard at the gates to the city's royal residence, Holyrood Palace. This scene replicates Queen Elizabeth II's royal coat of arms which is sidelined by the two natural enemies. Following the crowning of James VI and I in 1567, one of the two unicorns which featured on the original Scottish coat of arms, was replaced by a lion to represent the effective union of the two countries under one king.

The Queen's Gallery

Opened in 2002, the fabled unicorn can also be found at the Queen's gallery. An intricate, golden unicorn hugs one side of the museum's ornate wooden entrance, while a lion mirrors the unicorn's pose on the opposite side. The gallery itself features rare images of the Royal family, alongside art by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Edinburgh Castle

There are several depictions of the unicorn within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. In the Royal Palace a Royal coat of arms featuring the mythical animal can be found above a fireplace, while a copy of the Edinburgh coat of arms featuring two unicorns can be seen on the castle walls. A unicorn and lion sideline the entrance the National War memorial, although there is debate over whether this is the fabled beast or a regular horse, due to the statues lack of horn.

The Queen's chair in the Thistle Chapel

Tucked away on the right flank of St Giles' Cathedral is the immaculately decorated Thistle Chapel. The chapel is dedicated to the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, a chivalrous group made up of sixteen knights and the country's monarch. Each member of the order is represented by a seat in the chapel - including the Queen, who's chair features an ornately carved wooden unicorn.

The Mason's Pillars, The Meadows

Two stone pillars, one crowned with a unicorn, the other with a lion can be found at the northwest corner of the Meadows. These are known as the Mason's Pillars and were erected in 1886 to mark the Edinburgh International Exhibition.