Milne's Court - The North West Gate

Freyja led her scouts out at exactly one o’clock on the first night of the Raids. They went in four squads of four, disappearing silently into the darkness.

 

Calder’s team slipped through the disused door below the steps on Milne's Court and dropped towards Princes Street. Instead of taking the pavements, they hoisted each other over walls and trotted through private gardens. The night was cloudy, no moonlight to play on their armour and betray them. They moved onto the steep tree-lined northern slopes below the Castle Esplanade and one-by-one dropped into pre-arranged observation points.

From the Mile, the entrance to Milne's Court is well concealed - just a small sign and the date 1690 carved into the stone. Yet, rising above it is one of the largest 17th century buildings. Six, even seven storeys, in places, this would have dominated the Old Town when first built and it became home to many wealthy Edinburgh residents. 

As with much of the Old Town, however, conditions deteriorated. The rich fled to the New Town and the poor moved in. By the 19th century life was appalling within the confines of this close - crowded, dirty, diseased. In 1960 the old buildings were even on the point of being demolished.

Today, Milne's Court is once more a desirable place to live in the heart of the city. Yet less salubrious corners can still be found. There is one door, graffiti-ridden, splattered with algae and seemingly unopened in decades. Where does it lead? What secrets lie behind it?