Historian, presenter, writer. David C. Weinczok lives and works in Scotland and has visited over 160 castles. He works with major heritage organisations and has appeared as an expert in a BBC2 documentary. Follow him on Twitter at @TheCastleHunter
Published October 16th 2016
Update December 21st 2018
Admission is now by guided tour and prices can be found at www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/gladstones-land
Birds are no longer outside.
The collections have been re-arranged and the baby-walker is no longer on display.
Currently, there are no dressing up clothes.
From princes to pigs & plague, discover Edinburgh's story
For hundreds of years life in Scotland revolved around three things – work, kirk, and king. With the bustle of the 'Kingis High Street' on its very doorstep, the bells of nearby St Giles' High Kirk tolling, and the mighty walls of the castle looming large, few places stood as close to the beating heart of all three as Gladstone's Land.
Inside is not only one of Edinburgh's top 10 shops, but an exhibition leading visitors through life in Edinburgh from the 1500s to the present day. Learn how plague would spread in the 16th century kitchen, what gentlemen did in their leisure hours in the Georgian Room, and best of all, discover a secret code written in vibrant colours and images on the Painted Ceiling, dating from 1617-1620.
One of my favourite aspects of Gladstone's Land is that you leave will all kinds of great trivia knowledge in hand. You'll discover, for instance, where the phrases' piggyback' and 'lose face' come from; you'll encounter a baby walker from long before you thought they had them; you'll learn that witches were rarely burned at the stake, but instead drowned or hanged (not far off at the nearby Grassmarket!); and so very much more.
One of the many surprises inside - a medieval baby walker
If your timing is right you might even catch the birds of prey that often hang out under the one-of-a-kind arcade at the musuem front. They're there several days a week and fan favourites include Ragnor the snowy owl, Tea the tawny owl, Nevermore the raven and Hazel the European eagle owl (pictured).
While a small museum, the site is run by extraordinarily dedicated and knowledgable volunteer guides. There is written historical information, both on information sheets and on larger panels with accompanying pictures. At the end of the exhibition there is also a Victorian Era dressing up room, with costumes, tasting samples, toys and trinkets available to try.
Few places cover such a span of history in such an evocative and accessible way as Gladstone's Land. Whenever I find myself on the Royal Mile I make sure to stop by, and if you're looking for the perfect weekend history fix then so should you.