Edinburgh’s ‘unloved’ Closes to receive a makeover

Bakehouse Close is one of the Old Town Closes currently on the shortlist for the project
Bakehouse Close is one of the Old Town Closes currently on the shortlist for the project
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EDINBURGH’S Old Town Closes are set for a radical makeover - which city bosses hope will encourage greater public use of the neglected historic spaces.

Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) has announced it will transform twelve of the capital’s Old Town Closes, using artwork and lighting to make the spaces more appealing to tourists and residents.

A lighting demonstation of Bakehouse Close in the Old Town

A lighting demonstation of Bakehouse Close in the Old Town

The trust say that the £400,000 development - part funded by Edinburgh City Council - will revamp areas they describe as “under-used, unloved or unsafe”.

They say the Closes will be able to maintain their “atmospheric charm and rich history” while reclaiming them as useful pedestrian links across the city.

A recent makeover of nine listed buildings at Advocate’s Close in the Old Town was named Britain’s best development earlier this year.

The Old Town’s network of closes and wynds are a key element of the city’s World Heritage status, and date back to the medieval beginnings of Edinburgh.

We hope to encourage people to explore these neglected historical spaces, improving the quality of the spaces for the residents, and supporting businesses by encouraging footfall

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage

Today there are still 74 closes, forming an integral part of the fabric of the Old Town, and home to residents, businesses and many city institutions.

Originally, individual plots of land were set up lining the main street, with paths to gain access to the land behind.

As each plot became built up over time, they developed into narrow lanes connecting with courtyards and streets behind the Royal Mile.

The final selection of closes that will benefit from the revamp is still under discussion, but the current shortlist includes Riddle’s Close, Crichton’s Close, Stevenlaw’s Close, Fleshmarket Close, Carruber’s Close, and Bakehouse Close.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “Historically the closes were the secondary routes through the medieval city, however they have long been underused and in some cases neglected spaces.

“We hope that with the help of residents, students, artists, local businesses and the City of Edinburgh’s street lighting and neighbourhood teams we will be able to create something of beauty and enchantment in the closes.

“We hope to encourage people to explore these neglected historical spaces, improving the quality of the spaces for the residents, and supporting businesses by encouraging footfall”.

Councillor Ian Perry, planning convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The improvements to the closes are a key part of the Royal Mile Action Plan.

“However, many visitors may be unaware that these unique aspects of the city’s history are there to be explored. This project is a great way to showcase the closes using new lighting techniques. Council planners and lighting staff have been working with Edinburgh World Heritage and we are pleased to continue our support for this impressive project.”

The main funding for the project will come from Edinburgh World Heritage. Grants, sponsorship from local businesses and public donations, as well as contributions from the City of Edinburgh Council and other partners, will match the EWH budget of £190,000 to complete the project.

EWH will work in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust to deliver the project.