Following a £1.5 million restoration, Gladstone’s Land has reopened at the top of the Royal Mile with an interactive historical food tour on Wednesday.

Tables Through Time will follow the lives of three women who lived and worked at the building explaining how the food we eat has changed over the centuries, and the impact of trade and fashion on our diets.

The 500 -year-old townhouse has a coffee shop and ice cream parlour at ground floor level all inspired by the history of the building as a place to do business and eat.

Gladstone’s Land

The conservation charity National Trust for Scotland (NTS) which owns and runs the visitor attraction will offer guests the chance to sample some of the food and drink which our forebears might have eaten. Visitors will get to taste the likes of bannocks sweetened with fruit, sugar or honey; parlies, a type of ginger biscuit named because they were a favourite with members of the Scottish parliament; and ‘donkey tea’, toast steeped in hot water.

Claire Grant, NTS Operations Manager for Edinburgh said: “It’s impossible to think about Gladstone’s Land without thinking of food. It has been at the centre of Edinburgh’s spice and coffee trade, it’s been a tavern, it’s been a home. From the ice cream flavours served to the spices that sit in the tables in the coffee shop, we’ve taken inspiration from the flavourful history of the building, its residents and its many uses over the centuries, to create a place people will love.” 

A PhD researcher in food history at the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, Lindsay Middleton, was commissioned to conduct the research. The tour takes visitors from the 17th century kitchen through the 18th/19th century draper’s on the second floor and a 20th century boarding house on the third floor.

Lindsay Middleton

Lindsay Middleton said: “Historical food is something we are becoming increasingly interested in, whether it is history week on the Great British Bake Off or reading recipes in historical cookbooks and marvelling at strange ingredients and cooking techniques. Scottish food does have a rich and varied history. In the harsh climate, Scottish people have had to be creative with food. 

“On the Tables Through Time tour, we look at three women who lived in Gladstone’s Land, and how food and drink figured in their lives. Considering the different foods that would have been cooked and eaten within the property throughout its history will show how food, life, and work have always been linked.” 

Tables Through Time: Food in Gladstone’s Land

A guided tour of Gladstone’s Land following the lives of three women that lived and worked in the property. Tables Through Time tells the story of changing tastes in food in Edinburgh’s Old Town and the impact of trade, class and fashion on people’s diets. Tastings included!
Wed June 9 at 4pm. Adults £8.50, concessions £7, children £6 (under 5’s free), family £25, one adult family £18. Members free.