IT HAS been one of Edinburgh’s most recognisable landmarks for more than 350 years – yet none of the thousands of visitors to the Royal Mile can get past its padlocked doors.
But that is set to change this August when the Tron Kirk, which dates from 1636, becomes a Fringe venue for the first time.
Drinks giants Drambuie has agreed a deal with the city council to lease the A-listed building, which is earmarked to become a visitor centre for the world heritage site in the longer term.
The building – which will be fitted with a temporary cocktail and café-bar – will be opened up to the public during the day and host festival shows in the evening.
It is thought the venture will be promoted as a “return home” for the famous whisky liqueur, which was first made in Edinburgh in 1910, but is now produced and bottled in Glasgow.
It would be the first public use of the building since 2006 when a tour company which had a lease with the council was ousted to make way for a refurbishment that never got off the ground.
Plans for a £2.2 million overhaul of the A-listed landmark – which would have seen the creation of a performance and events space, a permanent exhibition charting the history of the site – had to be shelved due to funding problems.
The kirk, once the informal gathering place for revellers on Hogmanay, was last used as a church in 1952, but the site’s historic significance was not realised until 1974 when part of the oldest surviving street in Edinburgh was found under its floor.
Around £60,000 will be spent by Drambuie on temporary flooring in the 100-capacity venue to protect the only known remains of Marlin’s Wynd, which used to link the Royal Mile to the Cowgate.
Part of the floor will be glazed to allow festival-goers to see the historic remains, which include old shops, tenements and cobblestones unearthed by the most recent dig, in 2007.
The transformation of the Tron Kirk into a Fringe venue would come a year after the historic Signet Library on Parliament Square played host to a champagne bar for the festival.
A spokesman for the company said: “We are to make a significant investment in the reopening of the Tron Kirk.
“The investment will ensure that the building will be available to the public this year. Further details will be released as they are confirmed.”
John Lawson, the council’s archaeologist, said: “The building hasn’t been used for anything at all since the last dig was carried out, so it will be good to get people inside it again, although we’re still waiting on more detail on exactly what is going to be happening there.
“We found an awful lot of new stuff in the last dig, including sections of the Royal Mile that were up to 600 years old, but no-one has really been in the building since then.”
The secret recipe for Drambuie was said to have been gifted by Bonnie Prince Charlie to the MacKinnons of Skye in 1746.