Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Edinburgh's Closes and Wynds

 Branching off from the Royal Mile are numerous alleyways, known as "closes" or "wynds". The narrow alleyways lead north and south from the mile and are narrow passageway between the high tenements and are a remnant from medieval days when the whole city was a mass of confusing alleyways.

A close provided entry to a tenement, and sometimes access  to the rear of the building. There was often a gate across the entrance that could be locked at night to "close" the alleyway.

One of the most famous of Edinburgh's closes, now a popular tourist attraction, Mary King's Close, was notable for a particularly gruesome event n the 17th century. In 1645 many residents of the close fell victim to the plague, and so in order to try and contain the disease, city officials bricked up the entranceway to the alley, leaving the residents within to slowly perish. It was never re-opened and eventually built over but the guided tours now take you down through the various layers of the tenements to the steeply sloping close. They are lead by guides in period costume who tell the stories of the various layers of life and society. Unfortunately no photos are allowed as the building overhead is a Government one!

 A wynd is a thoroughfare, open at both ends often between the various levels of the old town, usually very steep and filled with steps. Going down is fine, but I usually find an easier way of heading up. The arch over many of the alleys is known as a pend and adds to the charm.

Now many closes are much more open, often at both ends, although there are still quite a number gated and leading to residences.

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