Lauriston Castle marks Digital Doors Open Days 2020 with new virtual tours
To mark Digital Doors Open Days 2020 on the 26th & 27th September, the team at Lauriston Castle have created a series of virtual tours capturing some of their own personal favourite stories and historical tales. The series of six virtual tours presented by Hilary and Norman, two of Lauriston Castle’s dedicated volunteers each explore various aspects and lesser known stories from the Castle, allowing supporters old and new the opportunity to explore and discover Lauriston Castle while the doors are temporary closed.
Please enjoy each of the six new virtual tours here. You can read further insights from both Hilary and Norman on their own connection with Lauriston Castle below.
Having moved to Edinburgh for work in 1986, my first involvement with Lauriston Castle was when I helped organise the Gala sports days in the bottom field on the Castle grounds, which I did for several years around.
During this period, I was aware of the Castle but I never actually had taken the tour, I suspect this is probably the case for many Edinburgh residents!
When I retired one of the activities I got involved with was as volunteer guide with The National Trust for Scotland at Kellie Castle in Fife. Alas, living in Edinburgh it proved a bit too far to travel more than once a week, so I began looking for other volunteering opportunities - and Lauriston Castle come up which was ideal.
I was accepted into the first tranche of volunteers and soon followed the training and induction which was informative and enjoyable. I began guiding some 3 years ago in early 2017 and have greatly enjoyed being part of the Lauriston Castle team since then, usually managing 2 or 3 tours a week during the summer and usually 1 day per weekend in the weekend.
The Castle doors are of course temporary closed for now which is why I was pleased to contribute in creating the new series of virtual tours. The Derbyshire Blue John tour came about in response to a request for volunteers to identify their favourite piece in the collections at Lauriston, as it my own personal favourite piece in the Castle. The Short History tour was chosen because it may prove useful to anyone who wishes to visit the gardens and wants an idea of how the house came about.
The first time I visited Lauriston Castle was in the 1980’s on a specially booked tour as a guest of friends. It was a very enjoyable experience to view the lovely rooms where Mr and Mrs Reid and Mrs Reid’s brother Mr Barton had lived in the early 20th century. I felt at that time that I wanted to find out more about how they lived, but a tour is too short to explore all your thoughts and I remember then I was somewhat disappointed to find there were no interesting personal effects such as household bills or letters left to posterity, not even a sewing box!
Years passed and my next encounter with Lauriston Castle was in 2010. Emails sent out at that time about events, asked for volunteers to help with Lauriston’s Living History group, now known as Edinburgh Living History. I thought, perhaps, I could help out with sewing and went along with a few others where we found ourselves persuaded to become part of the history drama group! This continues to this day, sensitively portraying Mr and Mrs Reid and Mr Barton and friends in costume and conversation on the day to day life in the Edwardian era.
As time passed, I was to become a tour guide, enjoying meeting the public as a result of the Lauriston Castle tours increasing. That appealed to me greatly as it delved into the whole history of the land, the owners through the centuries, the tower house, and the sympathetic extensions made over the years to Lauriston Castle. The tower house or country villa as it was in those days was described by Sir William Bereton in 1636 as ‘a gentleman’s house all castle- wise’ and it is, but later around the 19th century in Scotland the tower houses which had survived or perhaps those that had crumbled, came to be called castles because they looked like castles! However, many of them had historical connections as has Lauriston.
Lauriston Castle was fortified when completed in 1593 by Sir Archibald Napier, but has never seen any battle nor has it ever housed any royalty. However, there are always ‘connections’ that can lead to discovering more information and hidden stories, along with learning the interesting practicalities of living in totally different timescales.
So, to begin to see Lauriston and its estate as it is today is a beautiful and rewarding experience. A walk in the lovely expansive grounds with its naturally wild areas is like a walk in the countryside. To arrive at the Castle is exciting, it evokes your interest. In springtime especially, the Kyoto Garden is wonderful and to admire the wonderful vista over to Fife and beyond can take your breath away.
There are many events that take place at Lauriston, both inside and outside. Lectures, Murder Mysteries by Edinburgh Living History, seasonal events, costumed tours, family occasions have become the norm. Other popular events take place at Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. The tour inside the castle can absorb your interest in the beautifully arranged rooms, the furniture, the collections, and the objects that are of another era and yet make you feel that Lauriston was, and still is a comfortable home.
There are many volunteers at Lauriston, some like myself who have been involved in many programmes for several years. As groups we enjoy sharing and exchanging at meetings and outside socially as well. The feeling created by the Stewards has always been friendly, helpful and flexible and a pleasure to be some part of that team.
As for the future, I am sure the Lauriston Estate will continue to rely on the positivity of the Lauriston Team and volunteers, along with the supportive local community to maintain and protect its survival. While the Castle’s doors are temporarily closed, I was delighted to help create a series of virtual tours for this year’s Digital Doors Open Day.
To protect the safety of our visitors and staff Lauriston Castle is currently closed but the grounds are open are open to the public between 8am-7pm each day. Mimi’s Bakehouse is also open to the public from Monday-Thursday 10am-4pm and Friday - Sunday 10am-5pm, offering hot drinks, cake, scones, soup and ice cream to sit-in or takeaway.