Scotland’s hidden wonders: Advocate’s Close
WHAT IS IT?
A steep and classically narrow lane in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Advocate’s Close is named after Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees. The late Sir Stewart was the last Scottish advocate in office during the Restoration, Revolution and eventual Union, with the quirky lane commemmorating him to this day.
WHERE IS IT?
The close is a narrow lane which connects the Royal Mile’s High Street to Cockburn Street. It’s clearly marked from both entrances, with its proximity to the Royal Mile’s St Giles’ Cathedral making it a handy shortcut for Fringe-goers come August.
WHEN WAS IT BUILT?
Initially dating from 1544, Advocate’s Close has seen development throughout the five centuries of its existence. The Bertram/Cor House in the Close was the home of a wealthy merchant named Andrew Bertram, who wished to be on the doorstep of the city’s busy trading ports.
When he sold up in the 1550s, the home was taken over by national merchant Clement Cor and redecorated extensively. Inscriptions in Latin and English above his doorway, reading “Blessed be God and all his gifts”, were discovered as recently as 2009 during restoration of the close.
Throughout the centuries to follow, the close was the home of a brewery and overcrowded housing during the Victorian period, before appearing run-down in the 20th century.
WHO DESIGNED IT?
Due to the morass of buildings in the area, no one person is responsible for the dwellings which span the length and breadth of the close.
Nevertheless, the restoration of the site designed by Morgan McDonnell Architecture and completed in 2014 was enough for Advocate’s Close to win the 2014 Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland award. During its £45m redevelopment, nine buildings were modernised for use as private homes, offices and business premises, with the end result also being named Britain’s best development earlier this year.
Since its redevelopment, there has been a new pedestrian throughfare installed and a new 208-room hotel has opened its doors.
IS IT A TOURIST ATTRACTION?
As one of the oldest closes on the Royal Mile, Advocate’s Close is a compelling tourist throughfare due to its connections to the Old Town. Open all year round, it’s home to several local businesses.