Tucked away at the bottom of Grassmarket in Edinburgh, dwarfed by tall Georgian houses and overlooked by the Castle on the western skyline, is one of my favourite shops in the world. Perhaps I should qualify this by saying that I’m not a seasoned world traveller and generally I hate shopping.
Mr Wood’s Fossils is an Aladdin’s cave of rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils, some large and beautifully polished, others small, sparkling and glistening, all vying for your attention in glass cabinets and on row upon row of shelves. Familiar beauties like amazonite, citrine and labradorite rub shoulders with rarities like cavansite, larimar and vesuvianite, while the petrified remains of ammonites, belemnites, fish and insects are flanked by startling finds like a cave bear claw and woolly mammoth bones. Merlin would be at home here. If there’s an underground chamber, that’s where he’ll be.
We visited Mr Wood’s Fossils last Friday, and the owner kindly gave me permission to take some photos. I eventually forced myself to make a choice, by way of a birthday present, and I came away with a tumblestone of green prehnite with epidote, two fossilised sea urchins, a slice of chiastolite, a small lump of orthoclase with smoky quartz and topaz from the Mourne Mountains, a piece of peacock ore and a beautiful limestone slab from Wyoming containing the fossilised impression of a 50-million-year-old leaf.
I am sitting and looking at these as I type; I’ll find a home for them in my cabinet soon, but for the moment they need to be picked up and admired just a few more times. The owner of the shop even writes little cards to go with each specimen, giving the name and source, and the age (if known). Perfect. I love them all.
Mr Wood’s Fossils is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year; you can browse their online shop at www.mrwoodsfossils.co.uk, or better still, pay them a visit in person at 5 Cowgatehead, Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 1JY. Believe me, you won’t want to come out!