Opposite St Giles is the building that was used as The Royal Exchange before becoming the City Chambers in 1811. It’s hard to believe now, but part of the building was built over the sealed-off remains of Mary King’s Close, an actual Old Town alley. This time capsule is now open to the public, who can visit an almost perfectly preserved 16th Century townhouse and a 17th-Century gravedigger’s dwelling, accompanied by a costumed character.
Lawnmarket was originally part of High Street, which accounts for the street numbering being a continuation of the High Street numbers. Lawnmarket is a corruption of Landmarket and this was where items, referred to as “inland merchandise” in a charter of 1477, such as yarn, stockings, coarse cloth and linen were sold. On the right side is the preserved 17th-century merchant’s townhouse Gladstone’s Land owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The lower end of the Lawnmarket is intersected by George IV Bridge on the left (south) and Bank Street on the right (north). Bank Street leads to The Mound where I saw the headquarters of the Bank of Scotland. Heading along George IV Bridge I passed The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote most of the first two Harry Potter books.