The National Trust for Scotland's Gladstone's Land, situated at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, opened to the public for the first time last month following a £1.5 million restoration project. This week (Wednesday 9th June) it will be introducing its first ever interactive historical food tour.
Food is a strong theme throughout the 500 year old townhouse, now home to a coffee shop and ice cream parlour on the ground floor, taking inspiration from the building's extensive and rich history as a place of commerce and catering. It has also witnessed momentous social and political change in the city, as well as the devastating impacts of war, fire, and disease.
‘Tables Through Time’ is 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 and evolving tastes in food in Edinburgh’s Old Town and the impact of trade, class, and fashion on people’s lifestyles and diets. The National Trust for Scotland will also be inviting guests to sample some of the food and drink these individuals may have eaten and enjoyed some 500 years ago. (Tables Through Time tour priced at: adults £8.50, concessions £7, children £6, under 5’s free, family £25, one adult family £18. Members free).
National Trust for Scotland’s Operations Manager for Edinburgh Claire Grant 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.”
Based on specially-commissioned research from Lindsay Middleton, PhD researcher in food history at the University of Glasgow and University of Aberdeen, the tour explores over four centuries of history, delving into a 17th century kitchen on the first floor, an 18th/19th century draper’s on the second floor and a 20th century boarding house on the third floor. 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.
After the tour, visitors can try out an ice cream flavour developed especially for the property. The elderflower and lemon curd ice cream has been created using research about the flavours and tastes that would have been associated with Gladstone’s Land over the years.
Food historian 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".
Tickets for the tour can be booked at https://nts.cloudvenue.co.uk/tablesthroughtime For more information about Gladstone’s Land, go to www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/gladstones-land
The National Trust for Scotland is the conservation charity that over 90 years has saved, maintained and shared many of the country’s most loved places, rich with history, heritage, nature and culture. The charity celebrates Scotland’s heritage and with almost 100 places in its care. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wildernesses, the National Trust for Scotland protects the national and natural treasures of Scotland. Support the National Trust for Scotland and help them protect the places we all love. Become a member at www.nts.org.uk.