The Real Mary King’s Close completes a renovation project to transform its listed Burgh Courtroom into a modern and attractive gift shop
The Real Mary King’s Close, the top Edinburgh tourist attraction that offers visitors a glimpse into the dark and fascinating history of the city’s underground, has invested £200,000 in a new retail space on the Royal Mile. The project aims to improve the visitor experience and showcase the original assets of the Burgh Courtroom, a listed building that dates back to 1690.
A new design inspired by Edinburgh’s market stalls
The new retail space is located in the Burgh Courtroom, which is situated across from St Giles Cathedral and near Mary King’s Close. The Burgh Courtroom was once used as a courtroom for criminal cases and executions, and later as a prison for political prisoners. It is now part of The Real Mary King’s Close museum, which tells the story of how people lived in Edinburgh’s hidden streets before they were covered by buildings.
The new design of the gift shop takes inspiration from Edinburgh’s 17th century market stalls, known as the Luckenbooths. These were the city’s first permanent shops, where merchants sold their goods such as cloth, leather, spices, and books. The gift shop features wooden shelves, iron railings, and glass cases that display various items related to Mary King’s Close and its history.
A new extension of the tour experience
The new retail space also connects more seamlessly with the tour experience offered by The Real Mary King’s Close. Visitors can now learn more about the history of the Burgh Courtroom on their tour for the first time. They can see how it was used as a courtroom for some of Scotland’s most famous trials, such as that of William Wallace in 1305 or that of James Hepburn in 1649.
The gift shop also provides exclusive monthly special tours for different themes and occasions. For example, there was a Herstory Tour for Women’s History Month in March and a Pride History Tour in June. These tours allow visitors to explore topics such as women’s rights, LGBTQ+ history, or social justice movements through historical artefacts and documents.
A record-breaking year for tourism
The Real Mary King’s Close has enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2023, with over a quarter of a million people visiting its museum and underground tunnels. Much of its highest footfall came during the annual Fringe festival and the school holidays. July saw an increase in visitors due to heavy rainfall that caused flooding in some parts of Edinburgh.
The museum also offers various social history experiences that provide deeper insight into Edinburgh’s past. For example, there was a Ghost Tour that explored haunted locations such as Greyfriars Kirkyard or Calton Hill; or an Archaeology Tour that uncovered ancient artefacts from different periods such as Roman or Viking.
Paul Nixon, General Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close said: “We are delighted to see our footfall increase despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. We want to invest in our fantastic Burgh Courtroom to ensure our guests are getting the highest quality visitor experience possible.”
For more information about The Real Mary King’s Close visit their website.