Rooftop tours for St Giles’ Cathedral

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Sightseers are being invited to enjoy the Edinburgh skyline from a never-before-seen perspective – the rooftop of the city’s most historic church.

Bosses at St Giles’ Cathedral have launched tours from the rafters of the Royal Mile landmark for the first time in its history.

Four-strong groups will now be able to climb the 91 steps to the rooftop for unique panoramic views of the Old Town, a tour of the clock tower and a first-hand look at the famous crown spire.

It is hoped the tours – lasting around 20 minutes and costing £5 per person – will help pay maintenance costs and avoid having to charge visitors entry to the building, which is mostly funded through donations.

A gantry has been created on top of St Giles’ which service manager Veronika Kallus said had been “quite a challenge from a health and safety point of view”.

“The walkway gets a perfect view of the unique spot where you can see the whole of the Royal Mile,” she said.

“It’s not that high but the view there gives people the chance to see the city from a completely different angle. Visitors have so far said it’s a completely different experience.”

Ms Kallus said more than 140,000 tourists visit the cathedral in August alone but greater emphasis had been placed on opening it up to Edinburgh residents.

Around 20 rooftop tours have already been held with a guide providing a rich insight into a building that is thought to date back to the late 14th century.

Tour guide Stephen Prescot, 22, a history graduate at Edinburgh University, said: “Four people works really well because it makes it a really tailored tour.”

He added that the rooftop adventure showed how the church had been constructed and then restored – much of which remains unseen from ground level.

“I think it’s really good that we’ve opened it up and we can teach the people the history of Edinburgh,” he said.

David Hicks, of Edinburgh World Heritage, praised the venture which he said was “extraordinarily worthwhile”.

“I think it’s a great additional offer for the city,” he said.

“Edinburgh is extraordinarily photographic, with hills and valleys, which means that panoramic vistas pop up all over the place, but allowing people up into the external part of the cathedral means it will be one of the few places where you will be able to look up and down the Royal Mile.

“The good thing about this is that it’s seeing the value in the assets they have.”

The tours, which are currently available between 10am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, are currently being booked at the cathedral in person and can be booked for up to one week in advance.


ST Giles’ history spans more than 1000 years, with the first record of

a parish church on the site dating to 854, before King David I started to build a stone Roman Catholic church in 1120.

By 1800, St Giles’ was in a poor state of repair, so in 1829 architect William Burn drew up new plans for the building.

Some chapels were demolished before a major overhaul took place between 1872 and 1883.

Edinburgh lord provost William Chambers paid for the building to be cleaned and the old galleries and partition walls were removed, creating a single interior space.

It was also during the work that new stained glass was put into the windows.