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18 Aug 2022

Gladstone’s Land makes the most of Edinburgh festival visitors

Written by Paul Williams
A view of the front exterior of Gladstone's Land on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, showing old stone arches dividing the building from the pavement. A set of external stone stairs run up beside the building to a first floor door.
Gladstone’s Land will host a variety of events throughout August.
Gladstone’s Land, the National Trust for Scotland’s historic Royal Mile townhouse, is welcoming visitors to the capital with a series of events to add to the packed festival programme, throughout August.

The 17th-century Edinburgh ‘land’ (tenement building) is located in the heart of the city’s Old Town and provides a fascinating insight into the lives of people who lived and worked there. Each floor represents a different century, viewed through the lens of one of Gladstone’s Land’s residents.

The building takes its name from Thomas Gladstone who purchased it in 1617 and built the front extension. It was occupied by upper- and middle-class tenants until the end of the 18th century, when the wealthy moved to the recently built New Town, marking the start of a period of severe decline for the property and the Old Town as a whole.

Claire Grant, Operations Manager at Gladstone’s Land, said: ‘We’re excited to welcome both home-grown and international visitors to Gladstone’s Land this August with a host of new events taking place to communicate the colourful history of one of the Royal Mile’s oldest buildings. The guided tours, tastings and lectures offer a variety of opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the property’s past and discover what life was like for people who lived and worked in Edinburgh’s Old Town over the last 500 years.’

Here is the full line-up of events at Gladstone’s Land in August.

Saturday 20 August

4pm – Water of Life: Whisky tour and tasting

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The tempestuous story of Scotland’s favourite drink is told through the eyes of Gladstone’s Land inhabitants. Visitors can taste their way through history with four whiskies over the 2-hour tour. Discover what makes Scottish whisky the ‘Water of Life’ and how the drink has changed throughout the centuries, from medical cure to illicit substance to highly profitable export product. Whiskies are included in the ticket price and will only be served to adults. Visitors are advised to bring ID on the day to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday 24 August

5pm – A history of tea

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Join a seated guided tasting of one of Britain’s most-loved beverages and hear its fascinating story over a cuppa or two. ‘Tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country’ wrote George Orwell in 1946, but when and how did the British develop such an affinity for a drink for which they had to travel across the world to obtain? And how has teatime become such a staple of the British cultural identity? Join this special tea party to find out more.

Friday 26 August

4pm – Intimate Lives: The history of sex and desire in Edinburgh’s Old Town

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This in-depth 1-hour tour of Gladstone’s Land is not for the easily embarrassed, as it looks at the history of sex in Edinburgh and covers topics including privacy, masturbation, sex work and LGBT+ relationships. It is recommended that visitors are over 16 years old as the tour includes some very crude (but historically correct) language.

7pm – Sextorical Lectures: Inside the closets of historical figures

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This online lecture is part of a series that offers an insight into the traditionally hidden sexuality of historical figures. The Sextorical Lectures run on the last Friday of the month at Gladstone’s Land and feature experts and academics talking about the history of sex, intimacy and other related topics. A link to the online lecture will be sent to visitors with their order confirmation.

Find out more about all the events taking place at Gladstone’s Land.

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