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500 years of trading history in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town

The story of Gladstone’s Land is inextricably linked to the history of commerce in Edinburgh. Over the years, the property has played host to a wide range of businesses and tradespeople, from spirit dealers to shoemakers, bakers to boarding-house keepers, and drapers to dairymen. The goods made in the property (and sold from it) indicate the prosperity of the inhabitants and give a fascinating insight into their daily lives.

Gladstone’s Land takes its name from Thomas Gladstone who purchased the tenement in 1617 with the intention of renting out the apartments. To attract the wealthiest tenants, he extended the building to the front, adding three intricate and fashionable painted wooden ceilings in the new rooms he created. These ceilings were later concealed beneath plaster and remained hidden until the 1930s, when the National Trust for Scotland bought the property and rediscovered them during renovations. All three are now on display in the house.

Gladstone’s Land was occupied by upper- and middle-class owners and tenants until the end of the 18th century, when the wealthy moved to the recently built New Town. This marked the start of a period of decline for the property, and the Old Town as a whole. By the early 20th century, the property had become so run down that it was labelled as ‘unfit for human habitation’ and scheduled for demolition before being rescued by the Trust.

During your visit you can learn about the lives and professions of residents at the property over 300 years, from 1632 to 1911, including the sights, sounds and smells that they would have experienced.

You can choose to explore the property at your own pace between 10am and 3pm (last entry 2.30pm) or join one of our daily guided tours at 3pm.