Fancy a tipple? Head to Semples Close for some Scotch at ‘The Wee Whisky Shop’
Edinburgh’s Old Town was originally made up of the Royal Mile, running between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, and the narrow, winding alleys that branched off it to the north and south. Known as closes, these streets were generally named after a memorable resident, or a trade plied by numerous residents.
The closes are like live-in archeological digs. By contrast, the Royal Mile, with its kilt-clad mannequins, tartan scarves and tinned haggis, is only the surface of Edinburgh’s Old Town. History yet lives in its eerie, cobbled closes, as if memories have been trapped and preserved under subsequent developments. There are many dozens to explore, though some in particular warrant a visit.
Mary King’s Close is one of Edinburgh’s most famous closes, and it has a particularly gruesome story. During the 17th century its residents fell victim to the plague. In an attempt to contain the disease, city officials bricked up the close, leaving all those inside to die. The close was never reopened, and has since been built over — but since 2003 it has been open to tours. It is truly spooky, and renowned for its paranormal activity.
Brodie’s Close is named after Deacon Brodie, who was a respected citizen by day and burglar by night. He eventually hanged. His double life famously inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.
Lady Stairs Close is beautifully preserved and famous for its literary associations. It contains Makars’ Court, the stones of which are inscribed with the great names of Scottish literature, and also the Writers’ Museum, with memorabilia celebrating three writers who are especially close to Scottish hearts: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns.
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