Celebrating the histories of Edinburgh's LGBT communities.

Remember When

edinburgh lesbian gay bisexual transgender history

A joint initiative between the City of Edinburgh Council and the Living Memory Association.


An LGBT Geography

The Remember When Project has been all about reclaiming and rediscovering as many different strands of LGBT history as we can find. As well as interviewing contributors about their own individual histories and their experiences of community life, some of us have also become fascinated - not to say obsessed - with the city's LGBT history and geography of Edinburgh as a whole.

Back in the project's pilot phase, one of our first public acts was to put up a large-scale Edinburgh street map at an LGBT community event and to ask people to pin up luggage tags, identifying places that had meaning in their own lives or represented significant landmarks in our collective history. By the end of the day we had dozens of dangling labels. They marked the starting points of marches and demos, the time-honoured cruising places, the addresses of long-vanished (or still thriving) pubs and clubs, the sites of activist groups, the much-missed LGBT bookshops, the sports grounds associated with a gay rugby squad or a women's football team, the venues of festivals and groundbreaking gatherings, the grim locations of homophobic crimes.

Other tags not only marked the sites, but very concisely told the stories, of important personal events: "This is the place where I came out to my parents"; "This is where I kissed another woman for the first time"; "This is the place where our transexual group held its first meeting" …

The Memory Map was a starting point. But it could only go as far back as the recollections of the oldest-living community members. And we knew that such an old, old city as Edinburgh would, inevitably, have LGBT stories stretching much further back in time. There were some historical connections that were more or less common knowledge, such as the same-sex passions of King James VI. Our awareness of Edinburgh's venerable "queer geography" took a quantum leap when Remember When contributor Stephen Gellaitry arrived with a bulging file of notes on local LGBT history, ranging from old Gay Scotland articles containing recollections of the gay scene before World War II to a sheaf of articles on the fortunes of John Gray and Andr Raffalovich, two members of Oscar Wilde's notorious circle who made new lives in Edinburgh after Wilde's imprisonment for sodomy in 1895.

As we began to research further, other Remember When contributors and friends-of-the-project came up with new leads and fresh information. Historical novelist Iona McGregor helped us establish the precise location of a world-famous lesbian scandal from the early 1800s, which began at a finishing school for young ladies in what is now the West End. Bill McKee, of Pride Scotia and a revered Sister within the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, led us to the disgraced and defrocked ex-Bishop of the Church of Ireland, who - after being caught in flagrante with a young soldier in the back room of a London tavern - fled to Edinburgh, where he lived out the rest of his life in domestic service, as a gentleman's gentleman, under a new name.

We began to dig deeper, trawling the Edinburgh Room in the Central Library and surfing the net. We came up with such valuable nuggets as the names of men executed for sodomy in the 1500s, the location of the clinics where Sophia Jex-Blake, Scotland's first female physician, practised, and the Bruntsfield villa where she lived with her female partner, as well as the meticulously detailed memoirs of a prominent police officer who had spent much of the first half of the 20th century trying to purge the capital of the "homosexual menace". We followed up tantalising references to a prominent late 18th century churchman who was driven out of the country after a homosexual scandal, and found the verses that described his misdeeds in scathing, scatological detail.

On a freezing-cold day in February 2005, to mark the UK's first LGBT History Month, Stephen Gellaitry, who as well as being an enthusiastic LGBT local historian, is also a qualified tourist guide led a very successful, guided walk through the centre of Edinburgh. It began in the West End and wound up in Broughton Street, lasted three hours, and covered some of the potential key landmarks that might appear on a history map of LGBT Edinburgh.

Inspired by that walk, the Remember When Project and the LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing applied for, and received, funding from the Paths for Health fund to publish a pack containing seven self-guided LGBT History Walks through Edinburgh. The details of those walks can be found on the following pages.

They are, of course, only the beginnings of an LGBT historical gegraphy for Edinburgh. There are many key sites and stories that did not fit into the routes of the walks, such as the locations relating to Oscar Wilde's friends, Gray and Raffalovich, mentioned above. The two men were both devout Catholics; Gray, in fact, entered the priesthood before coming to Scotland. Together, they raised funds to build the very Spanish-looking St Peter's RC Church in Falcon Road, Morningside. They also hosted elegant salons in Raffalovich's house in Whitehouse Terrace.

While researching the walks, we also realised how the different experiences of men and women have affected their relationship to the townscape. For a start, outdoor encounters have always played a significant part in gay male culture. Centuries of legal and social sanctions made it impossible for all but the most privileged of gay men to come together anywhere that was not hidden, furtive or generally unwelcoming. The locations where men went to find each other were traditionally those places remote from prying eyes - safe in one way, but dangerous in others. So it would be dishonest and inaccurate to create an LGBT geography of Edinburgh that excluded such time-honoured cruising grounds as Calton Hill or particular public toilets known for generations as promising sites for quick and casual interactions.

Things are different for women. Specifically lesbian landmarks have been harder to find. This is partly a reflection of that perennial sexual-political issue of "lesbian invisibility". It is also a matter of economics: women historically, have much less spending power - and more demands on their time - than men, so there are fewer venues catering to them on the scene.

Personal tastes and lifestyles come into it too. As one of our contributors observed in her interview, "Women don't cruise." And, for obvious reasons, the night-time street has rarely been seen as a safe space for women. Although there are now more lesbian-friendly locations, such as the Broughton Street cafŽ-bar, Sala, a lot of lesbian social life has traditionally taken place inside women's homes. But if every house or flat in Edinburgh where a lesbian has ever lived were, by some mysterious means, to turn a luminous purple in the dark, there are whole swathes of the city, from Portobello to Morningside, where the resulting lavender glow could be seen from outer space.



East end of Princes St. >Calton Hill > The Triangle > Broughton St.


START at the East End of Princes St. on the pavement in front of Register House. Facing Register House, go to the left-hand corner of the building, where the narrow Register Street opens out into Princes St. On the Register Street side of the building, just past the corner, you'll see a small, boarded-up doorway set low in the stone base. This is all that remains of the large subterranean public toilets knownto generations of Edinburgh men as the city's prime cottaging spot--aka "GHQ."

CROSS Princes St. to the Balmoral Hotel. Alongside it, on the Castle side, the Waverley Steps run down to the station. In the 1950s, when any sexual relationships between men were entirely illegal, smartly-dressed gay men met at the Steps Bar, halfway down, for discreet socializing under the lady publican's protective eye. In the 1960s the hotel itself housed another popular gathering place, Le Carousel, which was entered via North Bridge.

CROSS North Bridge to walk east along Waterloo Place towards Calton Hill. After the row of buildings on the right there's a gate to the Old Calton Cemetery, where Percy Jocelyn (1764-1843), one-time Bishop of Clogher in the Church of Ireland, lies buried. The Bishop was caught in a clinch with a young soldier, in the back room of a London pub. Defrocked and disgraced, the ex-Bishop fled, eventually turning up in Edinburgh, where he lived out his days under the pseudonym of Thomas Wilson, serving as a butler in the New Town.

CROSS to Calton Hill, centuries-old cruising area, but also the scene of a 1988 murder, when teenagers set upon a man they assumed to be gay.


TURN LEFT into the street named Calton Hill. This emerges at a set of shallow steps leading down to Leith Street. Look left to the Black Bull pub on the corner, a popular wartime rendezvous for military men.

[ACCESSIBILITY NOTE: To avoid these steps, follow the street as it descends steeply to the junction of Leith St. and Calton Rd.].

CROSS to the wide pavement area in front of St. Mary's Cathedral.The top of Leith Walk, opening out before you, is home to pubs and clubs that, since the 1980s, have formed the heart of Edinburgh's Pink Triangle. On the right is the Playhouse Theatre, where the first distribution of AIDs red ribbons in Scotland took place (at an Erasure concert) in 1992..

CROSS York Place and head downhill into Broughton St., virtually the village street of LGBT Edinburgh. On the right, at 41, above the present-day Baroque Bar, was the all-male boarding house known as Mrs. Kenmure's Apartments which, from around 1930, advertised Good Accommodation for Naval Men.

TURN RIGHT into Forth St. The basement at 11A Forth St., on the right, was once Lavender Menace, Edinburgh's first-ever gay & lesbian bookshop, opened in 1982, famous not only for its richly varied stock but for its ever-popular community notice board. Other, more recent LGBT landmarks include the Remember When Project, celebrating the history of Edinburgh's LGBT communities and co-producer of these Walks (no.14) and the Equality Network (formerly at no.18).

RETURN to Broughton St., cross and walk downhill. The Santorini restaurant (32c) was formerly formerly Over the Rainbow, welcoming all LGBT Friends of Dorothy with a giant pair of Ruby Slippers. Just before the corner, is Blue Moon (no.36), pioneer of the city's LGBT cafes at its first site inside the old Lesbian & Gay Centre at no.60--still to come.

CROSS Barony St. Pass 52 Broughton St., once home of the late Ian Dunn, pioneering and controversial gay activist, and first editorial office of Gay Scotland magazine, launched 1982.

FINISH at at 60 Broughton St.,--now the site of the very LGBT-friendly Sala cafŽ-bar. The building was purchased in 1974 by the Scottish Minorities Group (Scotland's first lesbian and gay organization). For over 30 years, it's been a "GHQ" of a different kind--workspace, social centre, and activist base-camp for LGBT life in Edinburgh.



Princes St. Gardens > Princes St. > New Town


START in the square next to the National Gallery, traditionally Edinburgh's "Speakers' Corner", scene, in the 1980s, ofdemonstrations against the Thatcher government's notoriously homophobic Clause 28.

CROSS the foot of the Mound at the lights--picturing the thousands of marchers flooding uphill on Scotland's first Pride March in 1995.

PAUSE at the entrance to Princes St. Gardens West, at steps descending to the men's public toilets. Now very mundane, this was once a magnificently-appointed Victorian public convenience, featuring a circle of wooden cubicles. In an era when gay men could only meet in secret, it was known as the Wheel of Fortune.

GO DOWN the steps past the Floral Clock. Turn left and go down the steep path that runs down past the Gardeners' Lodge House on your right. At the bottom of the slope, take the path forking to the left. A little way further ahead, on the grass to your right, right you'll see the small memorial stone with a plaque commemorating the Holocaust. Remember that gay men, lesbians and other sexual minorities suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis, alongside Jews and Romany Gypsies. Walk west through the Gardens to the Ross Bandstand, site of Lark in the Park, 1988 festival of LGBT fun and protest.

[ACCESSIBILITY NOTE: To avoid steps entering and leaving the Gardens, enter and exit the park from Kings Stables Road, just off Lothian Road].

COME OUT of the Gardens and cross Princes St. to visit the following landmarks: On the opposite side of Princes St. on the western corner of Castle St. is the site of the International Club, a discreet gathering place for 1950s gays. Midway between Castle St. and South Charlotte St., above Waterstone's Bookshop, look up to the handsome first-floor bay window. This was once Fire Island-- Edinburgh's first large-scale commercial disco--reached by an unmarked door at number 127. During its late1970s-1980s heyday it hosted the legendary Eartha Kitt and other stars. This stretch of Princes St. was also the site of a celebrity visit from an earlier age: The playwright Oscar Wilde,later imprisoned for sodomy after a famous trial, came to Edinburgh on a lecture tour in 1884 He stayed at a hotel where Marks & Spencer's womens' clothing shop stands now, and spoke on the very gay topic, "Beauty, Taste & Ugliness in Dress."

GO INTO Castle St. and turn right, heading eastwards along Rose St. From the 1950s through the 80s, the Kenilworth (at152-4) was Edinburgh's best-known pub for gay men and lesbians alike. Frenchie's (at 87) entered from the lane around the corner) still retains its own distinctive atmosphere and loyal male clientele. Further east( 49) is the Saltire, formerly Paddy's. Veterans of the mid-twentieth century scene still speak fondly of its landlady, Mrs. Crossan, widow of a famous footballer. Note that all these pubs shut firmly at 10 pm, at which time their gay patrons reconvened at the now-vanished but once wildly popular Crawford's Tearooms in Frederick St. (According to some informants,the Castle St. branch was just as gay…).


WALK up Hanover St and turn left into George St to the venerable Assembly Rooms, scene of Lothian Gay & L esbian Switchboard's fabulous ceilidhs and balls. Now a major Fringe venue, this once housed the Edinburgh Festival Club, where drama queens from all over the world converged at the bar during the annual cultural orgy every August.

WALK BACK to Hanover St, turn left, and follow it downhill as it becomes Dundas St.At 25A West & Wilde Bookshop, flagship of LGBT literature's movement "from back street to High Street", was here from 1987 through the 1990s.

CROSS Dundas St. at Great King Street. Walk west along Great King Street to St. Vincent St.

ENTER St. Vincent's St. Turn right and go downhill to St. Vincent's Church. Keeping the church on your right, enter St. Stephen's St. Just past the corner of Silvermills was the site (now flats) of Tiffany's nightclub. Groundbreaking discos run by the Scottish Minorities Group were held here 1974-76. These attracted huge crowds, coming from all over Scotland and beyond. They stopped abruptly when the venue's owners, Mecca (of Miss World fame) discovered it was being used for gay and lesbian events--shock horror!--and pulled the plug.

GO BACK to St. Vincent St. and uphill into Howe St. mourning the disappearance of two important pubs of longstanding:the Laughing Duck in Howe St and Key West in Jamaica St.

FINISH with a visit to 9 Howe St., the LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing, co-producer, with the Remember When Project, of these Walks.



Charlotte Sq. > Ainslie Pl. > Randolph Cres.


Part of Edinburgh's magic, in the eyes of visitors and locals alike, is the existence of its hidden corners and secret places. So you might consider it fitting that this extended two-stage walk through the city's hidden LGBT histories includes two of the West End's most atmospheric hidden gems: the Dean Cemetery and the walkway along the Waters of Leith. The first and shorter stage, Walk 3A, is mostly on the flat and entirely urban--although the neo-classical facades of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site are far from anyone's idea of a contemporary cityscape. The second, although never straying more than a couple of kilometres from the heart of the city, is a hillier journey into some very different spaces: A magnificent Victorian cemetery filled with fabulous examples of that period's extravagant memorial art and architecture, surrounded by a spectacular collection of plants and trees, and an away-from-it-all riverside walk that few tourists ever see.

START the walk at St. Andrew's and St. George's Church in George St., between St. Andrew's Square and Hanover St. In the late 18th century, the minister here was the Reverend William Greenfield, a friend of the poet Robert Burns. He was a young high-flyer within the kirk, combining his ministerial duties with a professorship in Rhetoric at the University. In 1796 he became Moderator of the Kirk. Two years later, though, he fell from grace because of a sexual scandal that drove him out of the Kirk and out of Scotland, and persuaded the University to strip him of his academic honours. The details were not of the sort easily discussed in polite Edinburgh society, but a pamphlet from the period, now in the British Library, contains some scathing and scatological verses about his downfall, exposing his amorous dalliances with a local barber.

HEAD WEST along George St. towards Charlotte Square, crossing Hanover St. and passing the Assembly Rooms on your right. Opened in 1787 as a social centre for the elite of the rising New Town, this is still one of Edinburgh's favourite gathering places, and is the venue for the twice-annual Lothian Gay & Lesbian Switchboard-sponsored balls and ceilidhs--high points of the social calendar for the city's LGBT residents of all ages, tastes, styles and subcultures.

At Charlotte Square, make your way around the perimeter to the columned faade of West Register House, architectural focal point of the square. Keeping West Register House on your left, head north out of the Square, going downhill via short Glenfinlas St. to cross St. Colme St. (the westernmost extension of Queen St.)

In the 1980s, at 11 St. Colme St. (on the corner to your left) a group called the Edinburgh Transvestite and Transexual Group held its monthly meetings. As well as providing self-help, support and social networking, these Saturday sessions gave members an opportunity to dress according to their preferred gender identity before going out together to one of the city's bars.

GO ROUND THE CORNER into Ainslie Place. This street played an important role in the life of one of Scotland's leading early 20th century artists, the celebrated (and gay) Scottish colourist painter Francis Cadell (1883-1937). After spending his early years at No. 22 Ainslie Place, Cadell set up his studio at No.6, which became a landmark for the city's artistic community, identified by its colourful front door, painted in a striking--and not very New Town--ultramarine blue.

LEAVE Ainslie Place by its western exit into Great Stuart Street. Turn RIGHT to walk along Randolph Crescent, emerging at the traffic lights at its junction with busy Queensferry St. On your left, along the wall where the Randolph Crescent gardens adjoin Queensferry St., was the site of an early 19th century lesbian scandal, at a school for young ladies run by the Misses Pirie and Woods. In 1809 one of the school's pupils reported that she'd seen her two teachers kissing passionately and embracing each other in a far-more-than-sisterly manner.. For more details on that story--and its legacy--see the notes to Walk 4, the "West End Lesbian Special".



Queensferry St, > Dean Village > Water of Leith


Where Queensferry St. meets the Dean Bridge, GO LEFT DOWN the steep, narrow Bell's Brae into the picturesque Dean Village. Pass the entrance to the Dean to Stockbridge section of the Waters of Leith Walkway on your right, cross the bridge and GO UPHILL on Dean Path to the Dean Cemetery on your LEFT.

ENTER the cemetery (open daily, except public holidays:9 until dusk in winter or 5 pm in summer). This leafy, romantic cemetery houses amazing 19th century memorial sculptures. From the gates, GO RIGHT along the path that runs alongside the front wall of the cemetery. CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON, following perimeter wall, as path narrows, passes under an arch of overhanging branches and curves to the left. Keeping this wall on your RIGHT, continue for about 20 yards. On your left, look for the tallest monument in sight: a shaft adorned with the bust of General Hector Macdonald--"Fighting Mac".

He was a famous war hero from the imperial glory days; his battles are listed on the monument. Unlike most officers at the time, he wasn't upper-class. Son of a Black Isle crofter, he attained his rank through talent rather than pedigree. His troops adored him. But rumours about his sexuality destroyed him: He was alleged to have had relationships with men in South Africa and India (but was also revealed to have married secretly and fathered a son). In 1903, summoned to face a court martial on grounds of grave misconduct, he committed suicide in a Paris hotel.

His body was brought back to Edinburgh for a supposedly secret burial. But word spread as the coffin, drawn by horses with muffled hooves, was carried to the Dean. 40,000 people mobbed the cemetery to honour this working-class hero.

Look out for a tiny tartan-wrapped heather sprig attached to Sir Hector's bust. Cemetery staff say fresh sprigs appear, mysteriously, at regular intervals.

Artist Francis Cadell, RSA, (see Walk 3A) is also buried here. RETRACE YOUR STEPS to the main gate. GO STRAIGHT past the gate to the Cemetery offices . TURN RIGHT into the wide path opposite this building and GO STRAIGHT ALONG it, skirting a low wall on your left. Just past the bench, GO LEFT into the narrower path that forks off this one . On your left, approximately 40 yards along, just before the path divides again, is the Cadell family tomb--three tall gothic-arched marble panels. Francis Cadell's plaque is on the right.

WALK along the path that curves to the right until you reach the back wall of the cemetery . Next to a PINK GRANITE PYRAMID, GO THROUGH A SMALL GATE into the Dean Gallery carpark. TURN LEFT AND THEN RIGHT to walk past the front of the Gallery to Belford Road.

CROSS Belford Road to the Gallery of Modern Art. SKIRT the building and CROSS the car park behind it to reach a gate,signposted for the Waters of Leith Walkway.[ACCESS AND ACCESSIBILITY WARNING: Gate closes at dusk October-March, at 6 pm April-September. It leads to a very steep flight of steps. For a somewhat more accessible route to the HIV-Aids Memorial, see the note below.]

GO THROUGH the opening and DOWN the steps to the weir. CROSS THE BRIDGE. On your left is the HIV-Aids memorial. a black metal bench with red ribbons, facing a set of three stones carved with poetry and a red ribbon.. A meandering but peaceful stroll via Walkway and Dean Village leads back to town..

[ALTERNATIVE ACCESS NOTE: You can reach the walkway via the carpark behind and downhill from the hotel in Belford Rd, where there are only three short steps rather than the steep flights at other entry points. A longish but pleasant walk, on the flat, leads to the HIV-Aids Memorial .]



Queensferry St. > Manor Pl. > Grove St. > Lothian Rd.


START in Queensferry St, at the bus stop between the two openings of Randolph Crescent. The gardens were once the site of a row of houses, including a genteel academy for young ladies, opened in 1809 by Miss Pirie and Miss Woods. One of their pupils, Jane Cumming, was the illegitimate granddaughter of Lady Cumming-Gordon, a resident of posh Charlotte Square.

Little Jane was a bit of a handful. Sulking after some punishment, she told her Grannie that she had seen the two schoolmistresses kissing and caressing. Lady C-G. promptly pulled out her charge and made sure all other families did the same. Within weeks, the school closed for good. Pirie and Woods sued for defamation and for the ruination of their business. The case dragged on for decades.

The American writer Lillian|Hellman discovered the story, and turned it into a successful play, The Children's Hour. In 1936, Hollywood director William Wellman made it into a film, although the U.S. censors forced him to rewrite it as a heterosexual scandal. In 1961, Wellman brought out a remake, restoring the lesbian theme.

CROSS Queensferry St. at the lights. Head west along Drumsheugh Gardens and Chester St.

PAUSE at junction of Chester St. and Manor Place. Glance further westwards (no need to detour) towards Palmerston Place, where number 56 once housed the Palmerston Hotel. In the 70s the hotel's bar was frequented by gay men and lesbians alike. One night a group of women arrived to be told they were no longer welcome--possibly because they spent much less on drink than the men.

In the bad old days LGBT people would have felt powerless to do anything about such treatment. But this was the era of Gay and Women's Liberation. The Scottish Minorities Group made an official complaint. The owners backed down, but many lesbians stayed away. 

GO DOWN Manor Place to Number 4, on the right, just before West Maitland St..A plaque marks the house where Sophia Jex-Blake (first female doctor to practise in Scotland) set up her first surgery for women in 1878. Although the L-word was not part of the Victorian vocabulary, Jex-Blake enjoyed a series of passionate relationships with women throughout her life.

Manor Place patients were mainly middle- and upper class. But Jex-Blake also treated women on the far side of Victorian Edinburgh's gaping social divide.

To visit these sites, TURN RIGHT into West Maitland St.. CROSS IT at the lights on the corner of Palmerston Place. GO LEFT into Torphichen St. then immediately TURN RIGHT up Torphichen Place to Morrison St. Cross Morrison St. at the lights.TURN LEFT THEN TURN RIGHT into Grove St. On your right at No.6 Jex-Blake and her supporters opened a small women-only hospital, with in-patient beds, at No.6, in 1885. Further up the street on the left, somewhere near Marco's Leisure Centre, the now-vanished No.73 was the site of their first (1878) dispensary, treating thousands of poor women every year.


CONTINUE UP Grove St. TURN RIGHT at Fountainbridge, to the small shopfront premises at 160. In the late 1970s this was the Edinburgh Women's Liberation Workshop, focal point for intense political (and other kinds of) action within the city's vibrant new lesbian-feminist community. Ironically, the adjoining shop currently sells vacuum-cleaners, feminist icon of housewifely enslavement.

GO BACK eastwards along Fountainbridge to Lothian Road, passing Tollcross School, former base of Stonewall Youth, now LGBT Youth Scotland.( See the "Tollcross/Bruntsfield" walk for more info).

TURN LEFT into Lothian Rd. CROSS Morrison St.

END THE WALK at the Filmhouse, base for the Edinburgh Film Theatre and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Until the 1970s, films on LGBT themes--apart from those relying on negative stereotypes--were few and far between. The Film Festival, with a worldwide reputation for visionary programming, became a powerful force for change. Filmhouse audiences have reaped the benefits ever since.



Castle Esplanade > Lawnmarket > Royal Mile > Parliament


START on the Castle esplanade, enjoying the spectacular views. You are standing on the rock rumoured to be a key inspiration for the images of the Emerald City and the Bad Witch's castle in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz (starring gay icon Judy Garland). George Gibson, the scenic artist who worked on the film, was born at 12, Spittal Street, in the very shadow of the castle rock, and studied at the Edinburgh College of Art before migrating to Hollywood .

The Castle was the birthplace, in 1567, of King James VI(later James I of England) who, though doing his duty by fathering heirs, put far more passion into relationships with male courtiers on both sides of the border.

On a grimmer note, the Castle Hill was at that time Edinburgh's execution ground. We know the names of men put to death for what chroniclers called "the wild, filthy, execrabill, detestabill and unnatural sin of sodomy." So spare a thought for John Swan and John Litster, strangled at the stake and burnt to ashes on 1 September 1570.

WALK DOWN down Castle Hill into the Lawnmarket. On your left is James Court, first premises of the celebrated Traverse Theatre, established in 1962. At a time when the very mention of same-sex love remained taboo among the strait-laced Edinbourgeoisie, the Traverse presented homoerotic works by dancer and mime artist Lindsay Kemp, grappled with local gay issues in the drama "Rents", based on the experiences of the city's young male prostitutes, and in 1971 staged a groundbreaking forum on homosexuality as part of a series of public debates-- the Traverse Trials.

LOOK LEFT at the junction of the Lawnmarket with Bank St., where the domed Bank of Scotland is a focal point of the Edinburgh skyline. In 1999, the Bank also became the focal point for a massive public stushie, when it entered a business partnership with the notoriously homophobic (and wealthy) American television-evangelist, Pat Robertson. Hundreds of individuals and organizations, including the Scottish Trade Union Congress, withdrew--or threatened to withdraw--their business from the Bank. The LGBT community picketed, the Bank's share values slumped, and the deal collapsed.

TURN RIGHT into George IV Bridge itself. Pass the National Library of Scotland, whose archives include the papers of the late gay activist Ian Dunn. After the Central Library on your right, railings overlook the Cowgate. WALK STRAIGHT ON past the buildings where another opening allows a glimpse down to tiny Merchant Street, running into Candlemaker Row. For 30 years, Merchant St stood at the heart of Edinburgh's gay biker and leather scene, housing the "clubhouse" of the MSC--the Motor Sports Club. FURTHER ALONG George IV Bridge, on the opposite side, is St. Augustine's Church, where the LGBT-friendly Metropolitan Community Church holds Sunday services.

RETRACE YOUR STEPS to the Royal Mile. TURN RIGHT TO GO DOWN the High Street. ON THE LEFT are the City Chambers. During Scotland's first Pride March, 17 June 1995, the City of Edinburgh made a powerful statement by flying the Rainbow Flag over Council headquarters for the first time in history, as thousands of us proceeded along Princes St. and up the Mound. For many marchers the sight of that flag represented an unforgettable turning point. 

CONTINUE DOWNHILL, crossing North Bridge. On the left lies the house of John Knox, father of the Scottish Reformation, whose puritanical views left a heavy imprint on Scottish lives across the centuries.

FURTHER DOWN, ON THE LEFT you'll pass the People's Story Museum, base for the city's Social History collection. This nows include the Remember When Project's archive of interviews, photographs, and other materials documenting LGBT lives in Edinburgh.

END THE WALK at the Scottish Parliament. Here, in 2000, MSPs made the brave--and at that time highly controversial---decision to scrap the homophobic legislation commonly known as Section 28 (in Scotland, Section 2)--three years ahead of its abolition south of the border.



Bristo Sq. > George Sq. > Nicolson St. > North Bridge


START in Bristo Square, the windswept, skateboarder-haunted heart of the University of Edinburgh, just outside the McEwan Hall and the Teviot Union. Here, in 1974, the city's emerging community of gay and lesbian activists dragged the subject of homosexuality out of the shadows and into the public arena by staging the world's first international Gay Rights Conference. Participants engaged in fevered debates and even more fevered 70s-style disco dancing, as well as treating Scotland to the sight of its first ever gay demo (more of that later).

LEAVE Bristo Square by walking south along the short pedestrianised strip that links it with George Square. TURN RIGHT along the northern side of the Square. GO LEFT at the row of small Georgian houses that line its west side to No. 23/24, the University's Catholic chaplaincy centre. In 1972, with the support of the late Father Anthony Ross, its basement cafŽ--the Cobweb--became the meeting place for Scotland's first official gay and lesbian rights organization, the Scottish Minorities Group. After much debate, these social gatherings began to include discreet same-sex dancing. Attendance grew by leaps and bounds. And, since male homosexuality at this time was still illegal, the crowd inevitably included a contingent of easy-to-spot undercover policemen.

GO STRAIGHT along this side of George Square to the point where the pavement begins to slope steeply downhill towards the Meadows. LOOK LEFT past the University Library, to the George Square Theatre. In 1973 this was the venue for a "Teach-In on Homosexuality", featuring academics, prominent media intellectuals, and enlivened by a surprise performance from the celebrated dancer/mime-artist/impresario Lindsay Kemp.

CROSS the lane alongside the Library and ENTER the Meadows. In 1995 Scotland's first Pride March climaxed here, with a festival of music and other events attended by thousands of people.

HEAD LEFTWARDS , past the tennis courts, to leave the Meadows at Hope Park Terrace (Buccleuch St.)..

CROSS Hope Park Terrace at the lights, and GO LEFT down Buccleuch St. To your right, on the corner of short Gifford Park, the premises now occupied by the Brazilian cafe was, 1983-86, the feminist bookshop Womanzone, source for the rich variety of lesbian and feminist works published at that time.

CONTINUE down Buccleuch St.until you reach the triangular opening of West Crosscauseway. GO RIGHT along West Crosscauseway, then TURN LEFT into busy Nicolson St. On your left, the large church that is now the Southside Community Centre housed the Scottish Lesbian Gathering with a rich menu of events and workshops on many different subjects, including what was then still the pie-in-the-sky notion of "Dykes and Devolution".

GO STRAIGHT down Nicolson St.. At its junction with West Nicolson St., TURN LEFT, literally and metaphorically, to Wordpower Bookshop, source of LGBT literature and sole survivor of Edinburgh's once-thriving radical/alternative bookshop scene, on the right at No. 43.

RETURN to Nicolson St. and GO LEFT, heading back towards the High St. On your right, note the columned faade of the Surgeon's Hall. Here, in 1870, male university students rioted in protest over the admittance of Sophia Jex-Blake and other aspiring female doctors to medical lectures. (For more on Jex-Blake, see the West End "Lesbian Special"and Tollcross/Bruntsfield walks). CONTINUE down Nicolson St., which turns into South Bridge, passing the Old College of the University of Edinburgh on your left.Prominent among the university's thousands of known and unknown LGBT students and scholars over the centuries was the military surgeon James Miranda Barrie (1795-1865)--sometimes identified as a lesbian "passing" as male, sometimes identified as transgendered. During her time in Edinburgh the medical faculty would have been a short walk east of the Old College, in High School Yards.

The Old College is also very near the site of the 16th century house known as Kirk o' Fields, where Henry, Lord Darnley, English husband of Mary Queen of Scots and father of King James VI, died in 1567, in an explosion engineered at the behest of his unloving spouse. Like his royal son, Darnley is believed to have been primarily attracted to members of his own sex--although the concept of a homosexual or bisexual identity was not part of the mindset of his time.

HEAD DOWN South Bridge, which crosses the High St to become North Bridge. END the walk at the Scotsman Hotel on the left. Here participants at the 1974 Gay Rights Conference (see above) marched from the University to stage Scotland's first recorded Gay demo at what were then The Scotsman newspaper's offices.



Tolcross > Bruntsfield


START in Tollcross, at the point where Lothian Road becomes Earl Grey St, at the corner occupied by the imposing Methodist Central Halls.

ENTER the narrow but busy side-street, West Tollcross. On your left, still a club venue, was an early 20th century dance hall known as Maxime's. According to the memoirs of the celebrated Chief Police Inspector "Wee Willie" Merrilees, Maxime's was popular with soldiers from the barracks south of the city, but the dancing went on long after the last trams stopped. The management helpfully organized private cars to take their military customers back to base. Merrilees learned that these midnight drives were used to lure presumably innocent soldier-boys off the straight and narrow. Dedicated to rooting out what he called "the homosexual menace", Wee Willie went undercover to catch the perpetrators, taking pride (!!) in his own ability to walk, talk, and act convincingly as if he were "one of them". It's worth remembering that this took place half a century before the decriminalization of sex between men.

COME OUT of West Tollcross with the fire station on your right. Pause to look across Ponton St. to the back of Tollcross Primary School. Between 1996 and 2000, the pioneering organization then known as Stonewall Youth--now LGBT Youth

Scotland--had its offices here. Since its founding in 1989, this group has provided a safe, supportive and inspiring environment for young people of all sexual orientations. What would "Wee Willie" make of that?

TURN SHARP LEFT left into Thornybauk, which swings round to bring you into Home St., the heart of Tollcross. On your left is the Cameo Theatre, where many significant LGBT films have been screened.

Cross Home Street and turn right, heading uphill towards Bruntsfield. PAUSE to admire the ornate 100-year-old King's Theatre,stamping ground of Scotland's most in-your-face pantomime dames) .

BEAR LEFT at the mighty steeple of the Barclay Church to walk up the side of the the Church, and cross the small street into the Bruntsfield Links. HEAD UP THE SLOPE across the Links towards the large school building --now a university hall of residence-- at the top of the rise. When still James Gillespie's High School, this featured in the film of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, based on the novel by Edinburgh-born Muriel Spark.

WALK ALONG THE PATH in front of the school, keeping the building on your left, to Whitehouse Loan.. TURN LEFT left up the Loan, crossing Warrender Park Crescent. Just beyond the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op is the Links Hotel, formerly the Orange Grove. In the early 90s this housed a popular lesbian club/cabaret/meeting place called The Easy Alternative, offering gigs by lesbian performers, quiz nights, and a low-key atmosphere.

At the top of the Links, at the corner of Whitehouse Loan and Bruntsfield Crescent, you'll see a development mixing modern and Victorian buildings. This is the site of Bruntsfield Lodge, one-time home of the pioneering Victorian feminist, Sophia Jex-Blake--the first female physician to practise in Scotland-- and her partner, Ursula DuPre. In 1899, Jex-Blake and DuPre retired to England, leaving the house in trust to be converted into the Bruntsfield Hospital for Women, which served the city for nearly a century. A plaque placed here by the Council identifies it as a landmark on the Edinburgh Women's Achievement Trail (For more on Jex-Blake, see the Walks leaflet "Lesbians in the West").

END HERE, but before you leave the Links, pause to consider that this was once the northern edge of the wild Boroughmuir, allegedly the site of 17th century witches' sabbats. During the moral panics of this era, anyone deviating from social conventions could find herself--or, more rarely, himself--accused of witchcraft. We may never know the sexuality of the people tortured and executed on these charges, but it's a fitting place to remember the torments inflicted by an authoritarian establishment on those who were "different."