Unlock hidden gems as city throws open doors

A RARE chance to see inside a busy city centre police station, historic graveyard tours and an exhibition inside a 180-year-old memorial to Robert Burns are among the attractions added to this year's Doors Open Day.

The free event on September 29 will see many old buildings, including Donaldson's College and Duddingston House, open to the public for the first time.

But visitors will also be invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at bustling workplaces, such as Gayfield Square police station, as well as the inside of the iconic Burns Monument on Regent Road.

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Calton Old and New Graveyards on Waterloo Place and Regent Road will offer free guided walking tours of some of Edinburgh's most interesting graves.

Clinging to the side of Calton Hill, the graveyards are the final resting place of such city luminaries as philosopher David Hume and Robert Stevenson, the lighthouse engineer. The old graveyard is also dotted with monuments, such as the Martyrs' obelisk and a memorial to Scots who died in the American Civil War.

Dorothy Marsh, senior conservation officer at the council's museums service, said visitors will be in for a rare treat. She added: "We want to raise the profile of this neglected but exciting part of the city.

"Graveyards are fascinating places and the Burns Monument, a very lovely Greek temple which is open so rarely, is in the middle of the two."

The Burns Monument's one small room, which can hold around 20 people, will show an exhibition on Scotland's national bard. The monument was built in 1831 by Thomas Hamilton to house the statue of Robert Burns by Flaxman, now displayed in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

For those more curious about buildings still in use, the Gayfield station will be open depending on policing commitments.

Visitors will see the CCTV room, police dogs and horses, and be able to check out officers' new hand-held computers.

Inspector Sandy Baptie said that it would be a day aimed at providing information.

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He said: "Visitors will experience the hustle and bustle of a police station as well as getting advice from our bogus workmen team and our drugs awareness team."

Art-lovers will be drawn to a never before seen collection at Royal Mile Primary School. The listed Victorian school contains four large 18th-century Italianate landscapes by William De La Cour.

The paintings were recovered from Milton House, a mansion which previously occupied the site in the Canongate.

Headteacher Annabel Macrae said: "We decided to open the school because the paintings are largely unknown outside the school community.

"They are beautiful landscapes and we are holding an art exhibition by pupils, staff and other artists to go alongside."

Stephen Murray, the coordinator of Edinburgh's Doors Open Day, which is organised by the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage, said this year's programme was the best yet.

"I have been overwhelmed by the number of building owners looking to take part in this year's event," he said.

"What's more, this year's participants have included more activities than ever before - all helping to bring the history and current use of the buildings to life."

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For more information, log on to www.cockburnassociation.org.uk.


Almost 80 buildings will open for free visits on September 29.

New to the list this year are the James Clark Maxwell Science Centre at the Edinburgh Academy, the 18th century Duddingston House and a hard-hat tour around a new housing development on Waterloo Place.

The buildings on Calton Hill will open at 10am, with the City Observatory closing at 4pm and Nelson's Monument at 6pm. The Burns Monument will be open from noon to 4pm.

The Calton Old and New Graveyards will have guided tours at 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm, while the much-anticipated final viewings of Donaldson's College will take place from noon to 4pm.

Vintage fire engines and fire-fighting equipment from 1426 to the present day can be viewed at the Museum of Fire on Lauriston Place, which is open from 12pm to 4pm.

Riddle's Court on the Lawnmarket - containing the Beam Room with original painted ceiling from the early 1600s - will open from 1pm to 5pm.

And last year's hottest ticket, the recently restored HBoS headquarters on the Mound, will open from 1pm to 5pm for visitors to enjoy its grandeur and learn about banking through the ages.

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