Hidden secrets revealed at Doors Open Day

Marianne Smith with a surgical textbook at the Royal College of Surgeons. Picture: Esme Allen

Marianne Smith with a surgical textbook at the Royal College of Surgeons. Picture: Esme Allen

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SECRET gardens, gold buildings and a staircase where the writing is quite literally on the wall are among the treasures opening to everyone this month.

Hidden architectural gems and private homes all feature in this year’s Edinburgh Doors Open Day which boasts 14 new entries.

Inviting you through the looking glass into this wonderland is the Cockburn Association which has organised the event for more than two decades.

The 120 venues will include celebrated regulars like The Royal College of Surgeons and Magdalen Chapel alongside newcomers like 31 Heriot Row, and the Arcadia Children’s Nursery designed by Malcolm Fraser.

Also on the list this year is an ancient church with its very own tram stop, and a museum with the skeleton of a notorious murderer on display.

Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, says: “I’m very excited to have the chance to celebrate and explore this city’s beautiful architecture through the theme of Sustainable Edinburgh in this, the 24th Edinburgh Doors Open Day.

“As always, we have a busy programme with 14 new venues and more than 120 buildings opening over the weekend, a series of talks, walks and a variety of activities taking place.

“I believe the 2014 programme is as diverse as ever, and I hope the event will bring huge enjoyment to everyone who takes part.

She adds: “Let’s hope the weather is good to us again this year.”

The 24th Edinburgh Doors Open Day will present a rare glimpse of areas of the city, some of which are usually out of bounds to the public.

New entries include the UK National Centre for Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi, Arcadia Children’s Nursery, St Martin’s Community Resource Centre, and Regent Gardens. And among old favourites are Royal Circus Gardens, Newington Cemetery, George Square Energy Centre, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, Town HG 603 Squadron RAAF, and the Edinburgh Gin Company.

Among the newcomers, 31 Heriot Row, a Georgian staircase with a 21st-century twist, is a must-see say organisers. The staircase and lightwell which were used by the young James Clerk Maxwell for balloon experiments have been boldly re-interpreted by artist Angus Reid through the installation of silhouette and poetry on a giant scale.

Marron says: “It must be one of our star pieces. What they have got is a Georgian house complete with stairwell. It hasn’t been broken up like many homes of this period.

“It is covered with purples and pinks and poetry written on the walls as you go up these splendid stairs. It is a bold interpretation, a modern take on a traditional stairwell.”

She adds: “There will be a cellist playing on the stairs.”

The Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), which is among the venues opening for first time, has also been recommended by organisers.

It will provide organised tours of the laboratory facilities plus demonstrations.

Grove Community Garden at Fountainbridge has transformed a brownfield site into a thriving community hub and has been ranked as one of the top venues.

The Secret Herb Garden, on the list for the first time, will have activities for all ages.

For the young there is Magic Faeries and Herbal Walk or a Herbal Safari at the Secret Garden on Old Pentland Road, Lothianburn.

The herb nursery on the outskirts of the city only opened in April and has a bee observatory, vintage glasshouse and orchard.

Programme highlights include a two-hour guided walk from Calton Hill to the Ross Fountain with a member of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association.

The event was set up to provide the public with a unique opportunity to explore some of Edinburgh’s most architecturally, culturally and socially significant structures, both old and new.

It will be held on Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28.

For the third year, a series of talks will take place between Monday, September 22 and Friday, September 28 hosted by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Hosted by Riddles Court, the talks will take place from 1pm until 2pm, and from 6pm until 7.30pm.

Edinburgh Doors Open Day was first organised in 1991 and has grown to become one of the most popular free days out in the Capital – attracting about 80,000 visitors.

All venues will feature a wide range of free activities, including guided tours, exhibitions and musical recitals. Free brochures are available in city libraries, the Tourist Information Centre and on The Cockburn Association website.

Sponsors include Edinburgh City Council, Baillie Gifford and Brown Shipley.