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Lady Stairs Close

There was a cold breeze from the Forth , but this wasn’t the only reason Tyler shivered as he leaned smoking against the railings on the upper south side of Lady Stair's Close. He was dressed in jeans and a long coat, with his hat pulled low over his face. His left arm was feeling stronger and could almost straighten, but at night it still protested deep in the bone. People were drifting through the square, making their way from the Royal Mile, but he had no interest in them. Instead he covertly studied the other figures around the edges of the square. He counted ten, maybe more. They shuffled or leaned motionless, but each was careful to avoid the glow of the lamp.

Beginning as little more than a tunnel from the Royal Mile, then opening onto a hidden square, with views sweeping over Princes Street and the New Town, Lady Stair's Close epitomises the Old Town's flair for the unexpected. "Oh," you say as you step into the square, "I'd never have guessed this was here."

Once the site of a 17th century townhouse, the Close got its name when the house was bought by Elizabeth Dundas, widow of John Dalrymple, the first Earl of Stair. On the western edge sits the Writers' Museum, dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

In the centre is an old gas lamp - now electrified - and, late at night, it's easy to imagine figures loitering in the shadows, waiting for the appointed hour.

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