National Trust Properties in Edinburgh, Scotland
Happy birthday, National Trust! 2020 marks 125 years of the organization protecting and caring for the UK’s ‘special places’.
What is the National Trust?
Originally set up by a social reformer, a priest and a lawyer in 1895, the National Trust has always been passionate about preserving historical and natural places and opening them for visitors to enjoy.
One of its most famous supporters is Beatrix Potter, the creator of world renowned Peter Rabbit, and, thanks to the National Trust, you can still visit her property, Hill Top, in Ambleside in the Lake District. In 1931, National Trust Scotland was also established and, with 356,000 current members, is dedicated to Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage and works towards protecting it for future generations. There are many sites to visit across the country, including 11,000 archaeological sites, 271 listed buildings, 500 ruined house sites and 8 historic battlefields, including the famous Culloden and Bannockburn.
The organization also relies heavily on volunteers to preserve and upkeep these wonderful places. In 2017/18 61,000 gave up their time across the UK - that’s enough to fill the Olympic Stadium! Over the years the many membership and ticket purchases have contributed valuable funds to protecting coastlines, land, historic houses, castles, parks and gardens. You can even get married at some of their properties!
There are two fascinating National Trust properties to visit during your stay in Edinburgh, as well as several in the surrounding area. If you’re a member elsewhere in the UK you can use your membership card to gain free entry at National Trust Scotland locations. In addition, if you’re a member of the affiliate Royal Oak Foundation in the USA you can also gain free entry as part of your membership. Even if you’re not a member we highly recommend a visit to the properties below – your entry fee will go towards the upkeep and preservation of these two fantastic buildings for future generations to enjoy. Read on to find out more….
Easily recognizable from the gilded bird of prey at the entrance, Gladstone’s Land is located near the Hub on Lawnmarket. Constructed 400 years ago at a time when Edinburgh was rapidly expanding and recognized as one of the world’s leading cities, it is one of the oldest buildings on the Royal Mile. Look out for the only remaining example of a 17th century arched shop frontage, designed to protect shoppers from the grim Edinburgh weather.
During your visit you can learn about the intriguing (and sometimes outrageous!) lives of Gladstone’s Land’s residents. At its peak these were often wealthy individuals, thanks to the redesigning of the building by Thomas Gladstone, a merchant who redeveloped the building to create luxurious apartments, an example of how property owners adapted in a dynamic city. Prominent tenants included William Struther, minister at St Giles, and John Riddoch, a high-end grocer who operated his business from the ground floor.
Good times don’t always last though, and in the mid 1800s only Edinburgh’s poorest residents lived in the Old Town following the construction of the modern New Town, and Gladstone’s Land sadly fell into disrepair. However, National Trust Scotland, just three years after being formed, acquired the building in 1934 as one of its very first projects, rescuing it from demolition. Thanks to funds from the organization you are now able to enjoy the property in all its glory, including the winding stone staircases, painted ceilings and hand painted Renaissance interior décor typical of the 1620s. Don’t forget to look out for the shellfish in the walls! Choose to visit the property at your own pace, or pre-book on a guided tour.
Please be aware this attraction has no toilets or baby changing facilities. The ground floor, which contains the shop, is fully accessible (including for guide dogs and well behaved dogs) but the rest of the property is up a steep staircase.
Located in Charlotte Square, Georgian House is a typical New Town house with grand architecture and paintings by Scottish greats such as Sir Henry Raeburn and provides a gripping insight into the lives of the Lamont family. Begin your visit to the property with a video following a day in the life of the family, from those below stairs to the family hosting a lavish dinner party. You can then wander at your own pace through the house, visiting the drawing room, dining room and bedrooms, all designed to impress the Lamont’s peers back in the day. There is even the chance to dress up as the family would have done and to write with a quill pen.
My personal recommendation is to keep an eye out for the medicine cabinet in the bedroom – it contains a few surprises, including poisonous medicines we would never dream of giving patients nowadays! There is plenty of information in each room, translated into several languages, plus a knowledgeable guide on hand to answer any questions – just ask them about tea smuggling!
While you’re visiting Georgian House, why not take a look at Bute House next door, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland
In terms of accessibility, there are various children’s activities as well as a baby change, hearing loop, braille and large print information