Doors Open Day: The Cottage, West Princes Street Gardens

My final Doors Open Day visit of the last open weekend at the end of September was to the sweet little cottage in West Princes Street Gardens, somewhere I've always been very curious about. As you can see from the photo below it's quite small so to visit here you needed to book a slot. I always leave these things to the last minute and assumed I probably wouldn't be lucky but I managed to get a slot on the Sunday so finally I could see inside somewhere I walk past everyday on my way to work. In the morning when I pass it the lights are often on on the upstairs level (which I now know to be offices) it always looks homely, warm and inviting, especially now the temperatures are dropping.

The cottage was built in 1868 and was originally the Head Gardener's house. The lower level has been restored to its original Victorian style with the space including a kitchen and dining room. Upstairs, as I said, are now modern offices and are the home of The Quaich Project, what a great place and location to work! If you don't know anything about The Quaich Project, which I'll admit I didn't, they are the people behind the plan to modernise West Princes Street Gardens making it a place for both residents and visitors to enjoy year round.

West Princes Street Gardens were originally private gardens for the houses on the opposite side of Princes Street. There have only ever been houses and shops on the one side of the street giving uninterrupted views across the gardens towards the castle. The gardens were however eventually given to the council and subsequently opened to subscribers from the New Town to access in 1821. There were strict rules for using the gardens at that time, especially in relation to what was not allowed to take place there, this included no dogs, playing cricket or smoking. In 1876 it was acquired again by the council and this time turned into a public park for all.

If you live in or are a regular visitor to Edinburgh you'll likely know that the Ross fountain in the gardens underwent a major renovation last year after many years of not working which was a part of this planned larger revamp of the area. The fountain was produced at a iron foundry in France and originally an exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1862 in London before eventually being gifted to the city. On a sunny day with the castle watching over it the fountain's restoration has really made it look pretty special and improved that section of the gardens just by itself immensely.

Before heading to the cottage in West Princes Street Gardens I had very little idea about what was planned for the revamping of the space. Not only did I get to see inside a little place I've always wanted to but I also learnt a whole lot more about the gardens future. The cottage with its renovated Victorian rooms on the lower level gives a nice insight into what the cottage was like when used for its original purpose with the modern upper level giving us a look towards the future. The designs and plans are sympathetic towards the green space the gardens provide but freshen up the whole area for everyone to enjoy in a new way. If you're interested you can learn more by visiting The Quaich Project website.

If you want to see where else I've got to on previous Doors Open Day weekends in Edinburgh, take a look here.