© ©Dr Val Williamson Edinburgh Canongate People’s Story and John Knox House Museums
© ©Dr Val Williamson
Edinburgh Castle hosts a regimental museum and a war museum as well as historical exhibits within the castle itself, so it’s a day tour in itself. By the castle gates, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, evolved from a mid-19thC science museum and observatory in ‘Short’s Tower’, offers visual tricks and effects, and hands-on exhibits and puzzles for interactive enjoyment.
Alleyways off the Mile lead to restored Closes of seventeenth and eighteenth century houses and tenements (apartment blocks), among them 1600s Gladstone’s Land.
The Writers Museum, in a restored 1662 Edinburgh old-town house, is a repository of materials and artefacts commemorating Scotland’s most famous and culturally significant writers. Exhibits include the press on which Ballantyne printed Walter Scott’s novels, and the little desk at which Robbie Burns penned many of his best-loved poems. Also a cupboard, made for Robert Louis Stevenson’s family by the infamous Deacon Brodie, who installed his bespoke furniture in houses by day and returned by night as a thief.
The quaint old premises of Deacon’s House Cafe were once Brodie’s workshop, a mural there now tells the tale. More of the ancient ‘underbelly’ of Edinburgh may be seen only at certain times of year, noteably during the Edinburgh Festival each summer, when the now subterranean Mary King’s Close may be toured to experience the plague-ridden seventeenth century.
The Museum of Childhood runs special exhibitions but houses a varied collection of antique toys, books and games, while John Knox House opposite is home to the Scottish storytelling centre.
The People’s Story mainly depends on reconstructions. The various eras of the Canongate’s history are brought to life here in the old Tollbooth building, from medieval to 1940s, and substantial evidence from written, audio and visual records are used. Museum of Edinburgh is housed in Huntley House, repository of the city’s local history archive.
Holyroodhouse Palace, sixteenth century home of Mary Queen of Scots and central to Edinburgh history, is open to the public daily except when the Queen is in residence. A separate Queen’s Gallery is also open to the public.