Doors open on treasure trail of historic Edinburgh sites this weekend

Take a step into the past and discover some of Edinburgh's most historic locations this weekend when a number of Council-managed venues play host to Doors Open Day 2011.

Edinburgh Doors Open Day is organised by The Cockburn Association (Edinburgh's Civic Trust). Now in its 21st year, the event has become one of the Capital's most popular free days out. 

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: "Doors Open Day is a wonderful opportunity to explore some of Edinburgh's most historic and fascinating sites and buildings and we're very much looking forward to welcoming the crowds to all our venues this coming weekend. Take in the stunning city views from Old Observatory House on Calton Hill, hear the words of Burns at the Monument erected in his honour, walk in the footsteps of Edinburgh's civic leaders past and present at the City Chambers or simply soak up the tranquil surroundings at St Bernard's Mineral Well - whatever special place you choose to visit (and we hope you'll take in them all!), you're certain to have a memorable and informative day out."  

BURNS MONUMENT

Another chance to see inside this beautiful neoclassical temple on Regent Road, built by architect Thomas Hamilton in 1831 and recently restored as part of the Twelve Monuments Restoration Project.

Based on the Choragic monument of Lysicrates in Athens, the monument was designed to house a statue of Robert Burns by sculptor John Flaxman. Flaxman used the portrait of Burns by Alexander Nasmyth as a model.

Members of the Edinburgh and District Burns Club will express their love of the monument and Burns in poetry and song.

CITY CHAMBERS

The City Chambers houses a number of key civic spaces used by the Council and members of the public for civic and private functions, including weddings.

In recent years, the City Chambers has undergone extensive conservation work to retain original features and update the general infrastructure of the building. The focus of this has been the restoration of the main chamber to its former splendour, along with the refurbishment of the impressive ten storey central staircase. 

OLD CALTON BURIAL GROUND

Calton Old Burial Ground in Waterloo Place is one of the 'famous five' historic graveyards in the heart of Edinburgh World Heritage Site and was opened in 1718 by the Trades of Calton. The site is situated on a spectacular slope, enjoying superb views of the city. Calton Old contains many magnificent monuments dating from 18th and 19th centuries commemorating eminent figures from the history of Edinburgh and Scotland. Highlights include: the mausoleum to David Hume; the Scottish-American Soldiers Monument, erected in 1893 to the Scottish Soldiers who died in the American Civil War and the only such memorial outside the US; and the imposing obelisk of the Martyrs' Monument put up in 1844 to commemorate the political martyrs who were deported to Botany Bay in 1793.

OLD CITY OBSERVATORY

The New Observatory on Calton Hill was built to the plan of WH Playfair between 1818 and 1822 to be a Scientific Observatory and is the earliest of Playfair's many Edinburgh masterpieces. Modeled on the Temple of the Four Winds in Athens, it blends with the nearby Classical Architecture. The building was the Royal Observatory throughout the 18th century and some of the original instruments and time pieces can still be viewed in their historic setting. 

OLD OBSERVATORY HOUSE

This A-listed 18th century home (pictured above) commands breathtaking views over Edinburgh from its lofty position on Calton Hill. Designed by James Craig, the famous "architect of the New Town", in the latter part of the 18th century, the house was originally home to the city observatory. It was last lived in during the 1980s, by which time it had become very dilapidated and pervaded by various types of rot. By 2002, the building was on Historic Scotland's Buildings at Risk Register. Restoration work began in late 2007 and Old Observatory House is now available through Vivat Trust for short term holiday stays year-round.

ST BERNARD'S MINERAL WELL

Alexander Nasmyth's enchanting neoclassical building was constructed in the 1790s. It has a domed ceiling supported by ten columns covering a statue of the goddess Hygeia. Water from the mineral spring was popular for its supposed health giving properties from the mid 18th century until the well's closure in 1940.

SCOTSMAN STEPS

Earlier this year, the Council worked with Edinburgh World Heritage and the Fruitmarket Gallery on a major project to bring the historic Scotsman Steps (connecting North Bridge with Market Street) back to life.

Originally built in 1899, as part of the Scotsman building, the steps have undergone a major refurbishment to create an attractive way to get quickly from one level of the city to another as well as creating a unique art destination in its own right.

Commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery, in an installation entitled Work 1059, the Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist Martin Creed has had the 104 Scotsman Steps clad in different coloured marble. 

Visitor Information for Doors Open Day weekend:

  • Burns Monument: Saturday 24 September, 11:00 to 16:00
  • Old Calton Burial Ground, Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September, 11:00 to 15:00. Activities: guided tours at 11am, 12am, 2pm & 3pm.
    Children's 'I-spy' game, self guided leaflet with prizes.
  • Old City Observatory: Saturday 24 September, 11:00 to 16:00. Access by guided tour only (lasting approximately 30mins), which must be booked in advance by email to currievale@hotmail.com
  • Old Observatory House: Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September, 10:30 to 15:30. Guided tours only - to book a place, please contact Bronwyn Neal at Vivat Trust on 0845 0900194 or bronwyn@vivat-trust.org
  • Scotsman Steps: Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September all day
  • St Bernard's Mineral Well: Sunday 25 September, 11:00 to 16:00

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