Restalrig named Edinburgh’s 50th conservation area

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IT was a place of holy pilgrimage and the site where Britain’s first hot air balloon flight landed.

Now the historic heart of Restalrig has been declared Edinburgh’s 50th conservation area.

The move, which follows a consultation with the community, will protect the character and appearance of the area, which includes St Margaret’s Parish Church, its graveyard and nearby buildings.

Ewan Aitken, who served both as minister of the church and as councillor for the area, said the designation was fantastic news.

He said: “As well as the church there is a schoolhouse and an ancient street, but also where the stocks were. There is social history and economy all captured here. It’s great we acknowledge the stories in the villages that make up the city.”

And he said local people would welcome the move. “It’s an affirmation of where they live and the fact they are part of the city, but with their own story.”

The current church at Restalrig dates from 1487 and was restored in 1836. St Triduana’s Aisle, which adjoins the church, is a hexagonal chapel dating from the 15th century and dedicated to a fourth-century nun from Asia Minor, who came to Scotland, spent the last years of her life at Restalrig and became associated with healing the blind.

On Restalrig Road South is a gatehouse, once a school and later a schoolmaster’s house.

Across the road is the church hall in a row of converted cottages. And further up, there is a rubble stone wall which was part of the outer wall of the Deanery of Restalrig and dates back to the 16th century. It now forms part of the boundary wall for a new block of flats.

Restalrig is also home to the Bunch o’ Roses pub, so named because it was said to be popular with railwaymen and the landlord would put a bunch of roses in the window to warn them when the managers were in.

And in 1784, the first British manned hot air balloon flown by James Tytler landed in Restalrig after taking off from nearby Abbeyhill.

The consultation produced 40 responses, 39 of them backing the conservation area.

Planning convener Neil Gardiner said: “The comments were almost unanimous in expressing support for the area being given conservation status.

“Conservation areas have special architectural or historic interest and we protect them by putting in place extra rules to control building work. The use of natural materials in several of the listed buildings in the area, such as rubble stone, creates a sense of place and are integral to its character.”