Edinburgh World Heritage - Twelve Closes Project


Twelve Closes Project

The Twelve Closes project is a major grassroots urban renewal initiative to transform twelve of Edinburgh’s historic pedestrian streets.

Edinburgh’s steep, narrow closes with their spectacular views and historic buildings are a special part of its urban character. Dating back to the medieval origins of the city and forming a street pattern that is often described as like the bones of a fish, with the Royal Mile as the spine, these routes provide excellent pedestrian links across the Old Town.

But some of the closes also have recurring problems, in particular poor lighting, neglected nooks and crannies, and antisocial behaviour. This leads to them being dirty, smelly, underused, and feeling unsafe.

The Twelve Closes Project will tackle these issues using lighting, artworks, interpretation and collaboration to reveal the closes’ atmospheric beauty, share their rich history and reclaim them as useful pedestrian links across the city.

We hope that the new lighting and artworks will help to emphasise these public routes, to draw people into exploring them, and to make them feel safer and more comfortable places to be in.

Bakehouse Close showcase

To launch the project we held a week of lighting trials in Bakehouse Close, to test out just some of the creative ways you can light these atmospheric streets. Take a look at the photos to see for yourself what type of changes we hope to achieve.

Be inspired – Get involved!

Local communities will shape the change in at least half of the closes, becoming involved in researching their history to provide themes, ideas and design inspiration for their transformation. To register your interest in taking part, please contact us at info@ewht.org.uk.

In October the first of a series of community workshops was held, on this occasion for Carrubbers Close, at which we were able to listen to the needs and concerns of local residents and businesses, and agree priorities for the design. Similar workshops will be held over the coming months for Riddle’s Close and its outer court and Stevenlaws Close.

Working together to get it right

Public spaces belong to us all, which is why it’s so important to make sure we work together to make lasting improvements. Project partners include:

Napier University: Napier’s School of Creative Arts is providing professional lighting design, as well as generating opportunities for student research projects.

City of Edinburgh Council: As the custodian of Edinburgh’s public realm, the Council’s Street Lighting, Roads, Neighbourhoods and Community Safety teams will play an active role in developing appropriate design and management solutions and in contributing to delivery and installation.

Organisations and businesses based in the closes: the people that are based in the closes will be fundamental to developing solutions for their close. This will range from sharing their aspirations and design ideas, to helping to plan for improved management of the streets, to maintenance works on their own properties on the street.

When will it all happen?

We anticipate that the project will transform three closes per year, starting in 2016, with the final (twelfth) close completed at the end of 2019.


Edinburgh World Heritage has secured £190,000 for phase 1 of the project.  This will be augmented by contributions from partners such as the Council and organisations and businesses within some of the closes, and through fundraising activities.



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