New walking trail highlights Edinburgh’s connections to the silver screen

Ewan McGregor running along Princes Street in Trainspotting
Ewan McGregor running along Princes Street in Trainspotting
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THEY were the days when there was a cinema on every corner and crowds flocked to see their favourite stars on the big screen.

Edinburgh’s lost cinemas are being celebrated in a new walking trail which also pinpoints the locations of some classic films shot in the city.

Princes Street where one of the first Trainspotting scenes was filmed

Princes Street where one of the first Trainspotting scenes was filmed

Though not an exhaustive guide, it allows fans to take a wander round the city centre in the footsteps of Miss Jean Brodie or relive the opening scenes of Transpotting.

The map was produced by the National Library of Scotland with help from Cinematic Scotland as part of the library’s new exhibition, Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema.

The exhibition turns the spotlight on the role played by Scotland in the story of the cinema from its earliest days to the latest blockbusters. The trail forms a circular route around the library, allowing visitors to explore another side to Edinburgh to that presented by the Castle, whisky and shortbread trail.

“It encourages folk to get out and look at Edinburgh in a slightly different way,” says Gordon Barr, joint editor of Cinematic Scotland.

“It makes you look twice at places you walk past every day.”

Some former cinemas highlighted include the New Palace cinema on the High Street, now a shop, whose former identity is carved in sandstone with the word Pictures.

Another is the Monseigneur News Cafe and Cinema on Princes Street, also converted into a shop, which showed news reels until television took over that role forcing it to move into more adult racy fare.

Of the cinemas to survive, the Cameo is the oldest, having opened its doors in 1914, while the Edinburgh Festival Theatre has returned to its cinematic roots in recent years. The site of the first Scottish showing of the Lumiere brothers’ Cinematograph in 1896, it is now the new home of red carpet premieres for the Edinburgh International Festival.

As well as studying buildings, the hope is tourists can bring their film experiences to life as they stroll around the city centre.

In Bristo Square, they can see where Kevin McKidd’s character Frankie got into a fight in the 2003 film 16 Years of Alcohol or at Greyfriars Kirkyard, they can see where Bobby the Skye Terrier ran around in the 1961 film Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog.

Jonathan Melville, film critic for the Edinburgh Evening News and joint editor of Cinematic Scotland, said: “Edinburgh is like a giant film set. It’s always there and it doesn’t change that much.

“In Restless Natives they drive down the Mound and up Castle Street and apart from the trams, it’s no different.

“You can go and stand where Anne Hathaway did in One Day or run down Princes Street like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting.”

Ruth Washbrook, Senior Curator at the National Library of Scotland’s Scottish Screen Archive said: “The walking trail complements the exhibition wonderfully.

“After delving into more than 100 years of Scottish cinema at the Library, we hope as many visitors as possible pick up a copy of the map and explore where films were shot in the surrounding streets and where they were seen.”

Copies of the map are available at the National Library of Scotland as well as other locations in the city.