Edinburgh's Old Town Close

Updated: Jun 15, 2020


Edinburgh's old Town is one of six of Scotland's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The High Street or also known as the Royal Mile takes centre stage with many a close leading of to apartments, secret gardens and with incredible views of the city. Did you know the scottish word close comes from when the early inhabitants of Edinburgh couldn't get their horse and cart through. They said it was to "close".

View Down The Royal Mile From St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh ©MDHarding

A Closer Look At Edinburgh

Edinburgh's High Street, Lawnmarket and Royal Mile comprises of seventy narrow close lanes. Some of which date back to the 12th century and perhaps even earlier. They have a wide and varied history, today filled with atmospheric charm.

Cannonball House Close

"There are two stories about why it is there, The first story, which gunners dismiss as impossible, is that the cannonball was fired from the castle in 1745 and that it was aimed at Holyrood Palace, where Bonnie Prince Charlie was in residence during his march south (Edinburgh's allegiances were divided on this attempt by the Stuarts to regain the British throne). The second, more prosaic story is that the cannonball was carefully placed here by engineers to mark the precise height above sea-level of the fresh springs at Comiston, in the hills seven miles to the south, which provided Edinburgh with its first piped supply of fresh water, in about 1621.

Certainly the low building opposite on the north side of the street was until recently a large reservoir, serving the Old Town. Now, it is home to the The Tartan Weaving Mill." - Royal-Mile.com

Cannonball House Close, Edinburgh ©MDHarding

Boswell Close

Named after an uncle of Dr. Johnson's biographer, James Boswell) Today its a private/dead end.

Skinner's Close

This close gets it's name from the Skinners & Furriers of Edinburgh who are recorded to occupy this spot in 1635. Skinner’s Close was the originally Built by the Incorporation of Skinner’s and Furriers and a William Brown Skinner had a house in the close. It was also the site of Fortunes tavern before moving Old Stamp Office Close then to Nicholson Square and finally to St Andrew’s Square.

Fortune’s Tavern was a place for the well-heeled and gentlemen of Edinburgh. This close was demolished circa 1850 Now replaced by 549 Castlehill-Camera Obscura. Today you can see the sign above a small doorway halfway along Castlehill elevation where the site of this old Close once was.

Skinner's Close ©MDHarding

Fisher's Close

Previously known as Hamilton's Close and Cant's Land, this is named in honour of Thomas Fisher, the first Chamberlain of Edinburgh, who built a tenement on this site at the end of the sixteenth century. Later to become home to the Duke of Buccleuch's family, much of the property was destroyed around 1835 to allow construction of Victoria Street. The close was restored by the Carnegie UK trust in 1953, and currently houses administrative staff for the nearby National Library on George IV Bridge. Today it leads to Victoria Terrace.

Fisher's Close, Edinburgh ©MDHarding

Semple's Close

Semple’s Close was named after the owner Lady Semple, widow of Francis, 8th Lord Semple. Lords Semple of Castle Semple (SEMPILL). The mansion was originally built for Lady Semple in 1638. Lord Hugh Semple Purchase a property next door to increase the size of his present residence in 1743. A military officer, Major in the Cameronians, Commander of the Black Watch and Colonel of the Edinburgh Regiment and commanded the left wing of the Hanoverian Army at Culloden. Inscription above door of Semple’s Mansion PRAISED BE THE LORD, MY GOD, MY STRENGTH & MY REDEEMER ANNO DOM 1638. The remains of a mansion can be found here dating 1638. Now a dead end, no route remains.

Semple's Close, Edinburgh ©MDHarding

Brodie's Close

Brodie’s Close is named after the ‘gentleman by day, thief by night’ rascal, Deacon Brodie.

Brodie's Close, Edinburgh ©MDHarding

Jollie's Close