FOUR centuries of Scotland’s LGBT history will be explored through a new educational tour launched in celebration of Pride month.

Beginning this week, the Edinburgh historical attraction The Real Mary King’s Close will be conducting a series of "Pride History Tours’" which aim to illuminate both the often overlooked history of the LGBT community in Scotland from 1546 onwards, as well as the struggles they faced.

Those taking the tour – which is based on research undertaken by The Real Mary King Close’s Robert MacRae and endorsed by Dr Emma Macleod, senior lecturer in history at the University of Stirling – will travel beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and encounter portrayals of notable figures from the capital’s history.

Visitors will be guided by the trailblazing physician Sophia Jex-Blake, who as part of the "Edinburgh Seven" was one of the first matriculated female students at any British university, and who in 1870 defied a mob to successfully complete an anatomy exam in what would later become known as the "Surgeon’s Hall Riot". 

In 2019, the Edinburgh Seven were awarded posthumous honorary degrees by the University of Edinburgh, while Jex-Blake spent her retirement with her partner Dr Margaret Todd.

Other personalities featured will include Dr James Barry, who in 1826 performed the first successful caesarean section; Henry Stuart Lord Darley, who had claims to both the Scottish and English throne and may have had an affair with Mary, Queen of Scots’ secretary David Rizzio; and the poet Robert Fergusson, who is often regarded as an inspiration for the work of Robert Burns.

Proceeds from the new tours will be donated to the national charity LGBT Youth Scotland to support local LGBT young people and amplify their voices.

The Real Mary King’s Close general manager Paul Nixon commented: “We’re extremely proud to be supporting LGBT Youth Scotland for Pride month and for having our new research approved by Dr Emma Macleod. Our series of six ‘Pride History Tours’ have been carefully designed to reveal the previously untold stories of LGBT community life in Edinburgh from as far back as 1546, at a time when homosexuality was a crime.

"We hope these tours will go some way to highlighting how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT equality and human rights, as well as celebrating Scotland’s LGBT history.”

LGBT Scotland head of partnerships Ali Kerr added: “We are delighted to be the charity partner for these Pride History Tours. It is wonderful that visitors to The Real Mary King’s Close can see Scotland’s rich LGBT history brought to life through these true stories, and at the same time be part of a new story – making Scotland the best place for future LGBT young people to grow up.” 

History will also be explored throughout Pride month at the National Museum of Scotland, where its Hidden History Trail – a collaboration between young people from Impact Arts, LGBT Youth Scotland and the museum’s Scotland 365 youth engagement team – will feature ten objects within the museum’s collections connected to LGBT history.

Pride month in Edinburgh will culminate in the annual Pride Edinburgh March on June 25, which will assemble at the Scottish Parliament at 12.30, before proceeding through the capital.

The one-hour Pride History Tours will start at The Real Mary King’s Close, Warriston's Close, at 5.15pm and 5.30pm on six separate dates during Pride Month, including Friday 10, 17 and 24 June, as well as Saturday 11, 18 and 25 June. Places can be booked on The Real Mary King’s Close website.