Wandering down the Royal Mile, you’ll see lots of museums that are owned by the council, free to enter and very well run. One of these is the People’s Story Museum, which you’ll find near Holyrood Palace in the Canongate.
I was struggling to think of something to do on a rainy day, but thankfully the folks at Edinburgh Expert suggested this little gem. I’d never explored it before, so I gave it a punt and was pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of the exhibits – especially considering there is no admission charge!
Where to find the People’s Story
The sign for the museum itself is quite inconspicuous, with the wee newspaper boy hanging above the door the only real clue to its whereabouts. However, all you really need to know is that it is part of the Canongate Tollbooth, the large clock of which is slightly harder to miss!
Originally, the building was used as a courthouse and jail, but its lax security meant that the prisoners often escaped! The jail was disbanded in 1848 and the picturesque building has had many functions since, such as library, fire station and police office. It wasn’t until 1989 that it became The People’s Story, but that is still how you will find it today.
Inside the museum
The People’s Story is situated over three floors, where you will discover the wide diversity of living quarters, careers and leisure pursuits of the Edinburgh people. The stories come to life with the help of real artefacts, costumed models and intricate displays of the room interiors during that time.
Highlights of the museum include the recreation of a jail cell, where you have to peek through a small window to see the prisoners inside, with an accompanying exhibition detailing more about the fascinating history of our city’s crime and punishment. You’ll also enjoy eavesdropping in on a couple of pals having a blether in the pub in the 1920’s, or watching their wives enjoying afternoon tea. There’s a huge variety of tales at The People’s Story!
The People’s Story Museum can be found at Canongate Tollbooth, EH8 8BN. You can get there directly on the 35 bus, or most tour buses that stop by Holyrood Palace on the Royal Mile. Alternatively, get off one of the many buses that stop on South Bridge and walk down the High Street from there. It’s on the left hand side – just remember to keep an eye out for the Tollbooth Clock!