The eerie quiet of Edinburgh's Royal Mile right now adds an extra dimension of drama as you explore its ancient pends - Liam Rudden

IF you have ever walked down the Royal Mile late at night or very early in the morning, you will know how easy it is to imagines the ghosts of Edinburgh’s often bloody past wandering the closes and setts of the High Street.

Friday, 17th July 2020, 4:27 pm
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile

Atmospheric is easily an understatement but then, the stone walls and historic buildings that would normally be attracting visitors in their millions right now have witnessed so much history down the ages - much of it dark. From war and revolt to the plague, this is where it happened.

During the current lockdown, I’ve taken to keeping my step count up by going for a daily walk after working from my makeshift office. Like many, the enforced sedentary life-style would take its toll otherwise.

This week I decided to explore the High Street. It’s a thoroughfare I’m more than familiar with, or at least thought I was. When the Evening News was based at Holyrood I’d traverse it every day, hopping off the No 35 at the Canongate and nipping down either Bull’s Close or Crichton’s Close to get to the office.

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In my younger days, the Lawnmarket was my haunt; Fisher’s Close the location of the first Fringe show I ever appeared in and Riddles Court next door my Festival home for a number of years. Everywhere you looked the past just screamed out at you. Consequently, I thought nothing of it when I decided to revisit the Royal Mile as part of my new fitness regime - regime might be too strong a word, actually.

The idea came to me after I downloaded The Omega Factor: Divinity, the latest audio book from Big Finish Productions. Originally The Omega Factor was a BBC Scotland TV series created by Jack Gerson and screened way back in 1979. Set in the Capital, it followed the adventures of two paranormal investigators - Dr Anne Reynolds, played by Louise Jameson, and reluctant psychic Tom Crane, played by James Hazeldine.

It only ran for one series, thanks to the interference of self-appointed moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse who objected to its themes of the supernatural and the occult - today it is hard to believe such a person held so much power. Big Finish resurrected the series as a radio drama and continue to produce new audio books featuring the characters with the blessing of Jack’s daughter Natasha, who also appeared in the original TV series.

As much of the original series featured locations in and around the Old Town - looking somewhat more dilapidated back then - it seemed Divinity was the ideal companion to accompany me as I rediscovered the Royal Mile. Despite the latest investigation not being set in Edinburgh, it certainly added an extra dimension to the drama as I explored the shadowy closes and pends, some I had never ventured down before.

Perhaps the most unnerving thing, however, was the stillness of the famous street. The quiet calm that has descended on what would normally be bustling with tourists. The lack of people and traffic makes the Royal Mile experience more eerie than ever right now. It’s almost as if the ghosts have been released to come out and play - or maybe I’ve been listening to The Omega Factor too much.

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