Recounting Edinburgh’s LGBT History

By | Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Sponsors


And as LGBT History Month comes to a close, we’re highlighting Edinburgh’s rich history as the backdrop of LGBT inspiration and strength.

Before Pride Marches began in Scotland in the mid-1990s, Edinburgh was home to several events aimed at strengthening the LGBT community in public standing, respect and the law.

Did you know?  The Scottish Homosexual Action Group (SHAG) hosted Lark in the Park in 1988 in the city’s very own Ross Bandstand at West Princes Street Gardens. The festival comprised music, comedy, and other artistic performances in a time of national uncertainty on the standing of Section 28.

Just seven years later, the first large-scale Pride March in Scotland took place on June 17, 1995, in Edinburgh, with an estimated 3,000 citizens marching. Fast-forward to 2018, with Pride March Edinburgh attendance extending to over 5,000 people!

The first ever LGBT history month in Scotland took place in February of 2005, a culmination of events, education, and community strength establishing itself within the UK after years of activism, setting the stage for many advances in years to follow.

LGBT history is Scotland’s history, with the first evidence of transgendered women living in Scotland dating to the early 1800s. Jump over a century into the future to 1957, and the fight to recognise LGBT individuals takes form as the UK government rejects decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

Skip to the 1970s. Scotland’s first ever gay night takes place at the Cobweb Disco in Edinburgh. 1974, Scotland’s first Gay Centre opens at 60 Broughton St, Edinburgh.

Arrive in 1980, when homosexuality is decriminalized for men over the age of 21. 1989, LGBT Youth Scotland is established in Edinburgh, forever providing a home for Scotland’s LGBT community in need.

In the decades following, Edinburgh, and Scotland at large, has seen the repeal of Section 28, the Gender Recognition Act, same-sex civil partnership, Equality Act of 2010, same-sex marriage, and the recognition of non-binary peoples.

LGBT History Month carries on the legacies of these advancements and keeps conversation moving forwards in terms of equality, respect, and acceptance. March on!


Happy Chinese New Year! 10 Amazing Facts about Edinburgh’s Sister City

By | Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Sponsors

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year, also known as ‘chunjie’ or the Spring Festival, marks the end of the winter season. After the recent cold weather, we can all look forward to celebrating that! 

Did you know that out of Edinburgh’s ten twin cities, Xi’an, China is the largest? Here are ten facts about our twin city to help you bring in the (Chinese) New Year.

  1. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road, the world-renowned ancient trade route spanning from China all the way to the Mediterranean.
  2. Xi’an has been the capital of 13 Imperial empires under the rule of 70 emperors.  From one capital to another, that’s a lot of emperors. 
  3. Listed as one of four important ancient civilization sites in the world, Xi’an sits next to the likes of Cairo, Rome, and Athens.
  4. The capital of the Shaanxi province, Xi’an is a centre for culture, industry, and education for the central northwest region. But they are possibly known best for their food!
  5. Xi’an is listed as one of China’s most popular tourist destinations and is home to the famous Terracotta Army.
  6. The name Xi’an, as it is written in Chinese, can be translated to ‘Peace in the West’. A beautiful sentiment to share around the world this year of the pig!
  7. Xi’an is one of the few cities in the world that can boast a history of over three millenniums!
  8. Xi’an is home to China’s research and development facilities, national security, and space exploration programme. Not a bad connection to have!
  9. Xi’an is surrounded by a total of 8 rivers, with a landmass of approximately 16,808 km.
  10. Lastly, Xi’an is home to the largest musical fountain in Asia, outside the Xi’an Da Ci’en Temple. Who wouldn’t love a city with a fountain?

Hosting the largest Chinese New Year celebration in Scotland, Edinburgh will be home to the Official Chinese New Year Concert at Usher Hall, the Giant Lanterns of China at the Edinburgh Zoo, and the opening of the East Asia Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland! And if you’re wanting to celebrate with a night out on the town, you can catch some landmark buildings across the capital lit up in red!  

Good luck this year of the pig!

Challenge yourself with these three great fitness routes in Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens

By | Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Sponsors

Happy New Year! It’s mid January, and hopefully you’re still doing well with your New Year’s resolutions – and if not, it’s not too late!

If one of your goals for 2019 is to get fit and active, then West Princes Street Gardens is just the place to come – not only is it a gorgeous place to be, with scenic surroundings and world famous views, but with a little imagination it also boasts a great range of options for fitness fans.

Here are three great ways to use the Gardens while you get into shape for 2019.

Keeping it simple

Want to get a bit of exercise without wearing yourself out? Enjoy a calm jog a few times round the Ross Fountain (above), or up and down the flat central path connecting the Fountain to the Ross Bandstand.

  • Simply jog 1 mile, equivalent to 14 times around the Fountain, or 11 times between the Fountain and the Ross Pavilion.

Feel the need for speed

If jogging is a little slow for you,  challenge yourself to get from west to east and back as quickly as possible.

  • Start at the steps at the west end of the Gardens’ upper path and run east until you reach the steps at the other end (above)
  • Take the curving path down behind the Gardener’s Cottage
  • Come back westward along the lower path, passing behind the Ross Bandstand, heading towards the Fountain
  • At the Fountain turn uphill to your right, and then left to arrive back at the foot of the steps again.
  • We make that 1225 yards (or 1.1km) – try to do it in 4 minutes 12 seconds to average 10mph (16kmph), or make it in 2 minutes 48 seconds to average 15mph (24kmph)!

Get the blood pumping!

After a real cardio workout? Make use of some of the Gardens’ hillier parts, including the short steep slopes at the Ross Bandstand, the curving path(above)  behind the Gardener’s Cottage and the steps leading up to the western exit onto Princes Street.

  • Start at the back of the bandstand seating and run up to the upper path and back down on the other side. 10 reps
  • Run to the Gardener’s Cottage and run up and down the curving path at the back. 10 reps
  • Sprint east to west along the upper path until you reach the steps at the west end. Run up and down the steps. 10 reps

Too easy? Do it all again!

And if that all sounds much too energetic to you, why not just grab a coffee, find one of the Gardens’ many benches and simply enjoy watching others giving it a go!

Disclaimer – as with all exercise, always be sure to warm up and hydrate properly and don’t push yourself too hard. 

Main image credit: Ed DunensAttribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) 

Merry Christmas – and what a year it’s been!

By | Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Sponsors

Hello and Season’s Greetings from all us here at the Ross Development Trust – we hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

It has been a fantastic year for West Princes Street Gardens and the Trust, and as we approach the New Year we’re taking a look back at some of the great moments from 2018.

During Edinburgh’s seemingly endless summer we had one of the highlights of the year, as we launched the fully restored Ross Fountain after 12 months of hard work. Just a few months later we were delighted to reach another milestone with the official switch-on for the Fountain’s new low energy LED lighting system, bringing a new dimension to this famous Edinburgh landmark.

With inclusiveness one of our core values, we were very pleased to support the City of Edinburgh Council’s public consultation on our plans for the Gardens – thank you again if you took the time to send in your views.

It was also a year of partnerships as we worked closely with the City Council and heritage bodies like the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage to achieve a shared vision for the reinvigoration and continual improvement of the Gardens as a world-class city centre green-space, visitor attraction and public amenity.

We’re looking forward to making 2019 even better for the Gardens as we continue with our extensive plans to improve and make them more accessible to all while preserving everything that makes them so special to Edinburgh’s people and visitors. We hope to have more exciting news for you early in 2019!

A huge thank you to everyone who has visited and enjoyed West Princes Street Gardens this year, to everyone who has sent us their views on our work, and in particular to our very generous supporters. Your contribution is vital to continuing our work, and we’re very grateful.

From everyone at the Ross Development Trust, we would like wish you a very Happy New Year!

Have your say on the next steps for West Princes Street Gardens including the Ross Bandstand

By | Design Competition, Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Ross Pavilion

Views are being sought from the public on the Council and Ross Development Trust’s proposals to enhance West Princes Street Gardens.

An online consultation has opened today (Tuesday 26 June) with the first drop-in session set to take place on Wednesday 18 July at the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

The ‘West Princes Street Gardens Project’ proposes to invest in facilities to provide a cherished space for both residents and visitors. It aims to enhance the experience of users while ensuring the gardens remain a beautiful and accessible asset under public ownership. To date, work has completed on the project’s restoration of the historic Ross Fountain and refurbishment of the Gardener’s Cottage, thanks to donations raised by the charitable Ross Development Trust.

The next phase in the project is consultation to gauge public support of the proposals, which will be fed back within a report to Council.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, the public will specifically be asked to feedback on what the gardens mean to them, proposed upgrades to infrastructure and new ALEO to look after the area, which would allow the new Ross Bandstand to be run by an arms-length organisation.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Sitting in the heart of the city, between the Old and New Towns under Edinburgh Castle, West Princes Gardens are a central part of civic life in the city. The gardens are an important public asset for all of Edinburgh to experience and it will remain in public ownership and under Council control, available for everybody to enjoy.

“If approved the ALEO would be established to ensure this remains the case, while allowing the flexibility for the Ross Development Trust and other important stakeholders to raise the required investment for the future pavilion and other key areas of infrastructure. I want to know how these plans sit with the citizens of Edinburgh, what they see as priorities for them and their Gardens and we want people to play a part in this vision.

“Since the Gardens are so central to daily Edinburgh life – it’s where we relax, play, eat and enjoy incredible live events – I’m sure many people will want to have their say and join us on this journey towards revitalising the area.”

David Ellis, Managing Director of The Ross Development Trust, said: “This consultation period allows us a great opportunity to provide people with more detailed information about our work in West Princes St Gardens. Receiving feedback from the public will be extremely beneficial to the project as we continue to move forward.”

Face-to-face meetings will also take place with key stakeholders during the consultation period, which runs until the 14 September 2018.

Royal Scots monument in West Princes Street Gardens

By | General

The Royal Scots Memorial in West Princes Street Gardens, opposite the Gardener’s Cottage, was unveiled by HRH Princess Mary on 5 August 1952.  The memorial comprises a main stone facing the castle with all the Regiment’s battle honours – from battles as far back as the 1600s to Ypres and Gallipoli – inscribed either side of the regimental badge, which is cast in bronze.

There are seven further stone tablets which depict the history of the regiment. To the left of the main stone is the tablet which shows the formative make-up of the company in the days before it was officially raised as a Regiment in 1633.  To the right of the main monolith, the six further tablets bear the dress and equipment of the Royal Scots throughout their eventful history, with a final stone plaque which was unveiled by HRH Princess Royal, Princess Anne, on 9th May 2007 to mark the end of the regiment.

Linking all the tablets is a bronze band, on which an inscription from a section of the Declaration of Arbroath can be found.  It is a fitting testament to the spirit and bravery of all those who served in the Royal Scots:

“It is not for glory or riches, neither is it for honour that we fight, but it is for the sake of liberty alone, which no true man loseth, but at the cost of his own life.”


Top things to do in Edinburgh this festive period

By | General

Whether you’ve already had the Christmas songs playing for weeks, or you’re someone who puts the tree up on Christmas Eve and takes it down on Boxing Day, there’s no denying the fact that the festive season is upon us and there is arguably no better place in the world to be at this time of year than Edinburgh.

Whilst you can get that warm Christmas-y feeling from being wrapped up and strolling around the Gardens, here are some fantastic festive ideas for the most of this wonderful time of year.

Christmas market on George Street

We defy even the biggest scrooge not to feel festive after an evening under the lights on George Street.  The focal point is the incredible light cathedral at the junction of George Street and Castle Street and with plenty of places to go with a cup of mulled wine in hand, you can’t fail to get in the mood.

(Photo credit: Edinburgh Christmas)


Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar

It’s the 1st of December so hopefully you have all got an advent calendar of some sort.  But if you don’t, or even you do, we recommend this new, free event.  Over the last couple of years we have been treated to some fantastic light projections around the city and now we have a festive one.  Between 5.30 and 10.00 each evening until the 24th, images of Edinburgh in winter will be projected onto General Register House at the East end of Princes Street opposite the Balmoral Hotel.


La Clique Noel

If you’re wanting to catch a show, they don’t come more spectacular than La Clique.  Now something of a tradition on Edinburgh’s Fringe and Christmas Festival scene, an evening of burlesque, acrobats, contortionists and live music awaits in the famous Spiegeltent on Festival Square.

Find out more here:


The Dome

The spectacular lights outside one of George Street’s most iconic venues is part of the festive fabric that makes Edinburgh such a magical place at Christmas.  As beautiful inside as it is outside, they have festive food and drinks that are ideal after a hard day’s shopping on Princes Street.

Find out more here:


Boxing Day trip to Shrek: The Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

A trip to the Edinburgh Playhouse to see the outstanding Shrek: The Musical could be just the antidote to post-Christmas blues for you and your family.  Of course, you can also see the show from 12th of this month right through to 7th January if you can’t quite tear yourself away from your new gifts or don’t have the post-turkey energy for Boxing Day!

Tickets and information available here:


Ceilidh Under The Castle at Hogmanay

With all the excitement of Christmas, it is easy to forget about New Year’s celebrations.  Of course, the fireworks and street party need little introduction however for the closest possible view of the fireworks and a truly memorable evening, look no further than the Ceilidh Under The Castle in West Princes Street Gardens.  Starting at 8.30pm, we can’t think of a more beautiful backdrop to usher in 2018.

You can find out more here:


St Andrew’s Day

By | General


Today is St Andrew’s day, celebrating the life of Scotland’s patron saint and whose cross our national flag bears.  But how much do you know about him?  Here’s some fascinating facts to give you some background:

  • Saint Andrew was born in Bethsaida, in Galilee
  • A humble fisherman, Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter; he became Jesus’ first disciple and was baptised by John the Baptist
  • The St Andrew’s Cross which adorns the Scottish flag is named after the X-shaped cross upon which he was crucified in Patras in Greece.  The shape of the cross was apparently requested by Andrew as he felt unworthy to be crucified on the same upright cross that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred
  • He has been our official patron saint since the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, but was revered as such for at least 300 years before then
  • Saint Andrew is not only our patron saint, but also the patron saint of Romania, Greece, Russia and Barbados as well as Italy’s Amalfi region
  • St Andrews in Fife – which had been known as Kilrymont – became a place of pilgrimage as it was reputed that a kneecap, tooth and finger bone were brought there (there are varying storied about how this came to be)
  • St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh is home to the National Shrine of St Andrew and a piece of Saint Andrew’s shoulder was, in 1879, given by the Archbishop of Amalfi where his bones had been moved after the fall of Constantinople where they had been for hundreds of years
  • The memorial known as The Call 1914 in West Princes Street Gardens came to being thanks to John Gordon Gray, who was the president of the St. Andrew’s Society in 1923 and who put forward the idea of a memorial to celebrate the Scottish and American links through the war
Robert Louis Stevenson memorial in West Princes Street Gardens

Robert Louis Stevenson Day

By | General


Today marks Robert Louis Stevenson’s 167th birthday.  We have showcased the humble memorial to him that lies in West Princes Street Gardens before, and his many stories and poems such as Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde are still read and revered widely today.  But what did the great man think of his place of birth?  In Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes, Stevenson describes an Edinburgh as follows:


“Into no other city does the sight of the country enter so far; if you do not meet a butterfly, you shall certainly catch a glimpse of far-away trees upon your walk; and the place is full of theatre tricks in the way of scenery.  You peep under an arch, you descend stairs that look as if they would land you in a cellar, you turn to the back-window of a grimy tenement in a lane:—and behold! you are face-to-face with distant and bright prospects.  You turn a corner, and there is the sun going down into the Highland hills.  You look down an alley, and see ships tacking for the Baltic.”


He captures so eloquently the enduring appeal of Edinburgh; the stunning architecture, the sense of history and mystery; it’s remarkable to think that the very views and flashes of nature and scenery provided by places like Princes Street Gardens remain essentially the same as those that moved him to write these words.  So, if you’re walking through town today, and catch a glimpse of the Gardens, take a moment to think of “A Man of Letters” who shared those same views all those years ago.

Survey results

By | General

We asked Edinburgh’s residents and visitors what they thought of West Princes Street Gardens and the Trust’s plans to revitalise the city’s much-loved Gardens.  We’d like to thank everyone who participated; these are your Gardens and your feedback and opinions are invaluable.  Here’s an infographic showing some of the survey highlights.