Giant advent calendar offers lots of treats in Edinburgh

An advent calendar with a difference is coming to Edinburgh.

Historic Environment Scotland’s John Sinclair House will be the first of a number of buildings across the capital celebrating the festive season by throwing open its doors for 24 Doors of Advent, as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas programme.

John Sinclair House, which is home to the HES archive, will be hosting a special ‘winter warmer’ event on 1 December, spreading some festive cheer with a series of talks, events and the opportunity to view some gems from the collection between noon and 7pm.

The public search room will be open on the day, showcasing a specially selected compilation of original drawings and photographs not usually on display. Experts will be on hand to answer questions on these fascinating collections, ranging from dazzling architect’s perspectives to archaeological excavations.

The event will also see some of Scotland’s most esteemed crime writers in attendance. Lin Anderson, Sara Sheridan and E. S. Thomson – contributors to the crime anthology Bloody Scotland, HES’s first foray into fiction which was published earlier this year – will be giving special readings from their stories inspired by Scotland’s built heritage.

The packed programme also includes a chance to see the Leith Listings exhibition, which explores buildings, structures, people and places of special interest in the historic district. The exhibition has been co-curated by Biomorphis and Leith Creative as part of the People and Places: Make Leith Better project.

Rounding off the day’s festivities will be a Japanese-style Pecha Kucha event, with a number of fun, frantic and fast-paced presentations from some of the city’s leading experts in culture and heritage.

Neil Gregory, deputy head of Engagement at HES, said: ‘With this event, we wanted to offer a fun and festive insight into our wonderfully rich and diverse archive collection, which offers a unique view of our historic environment.

‘If you’ve never visited our archive before, this event is a great chance to delve into our collections and discover more about the work we do to preserve the record of Scotland’s historic environment – and then enjoy a mince pie or two!’

Get ready for a sensational festive season in Edinburgh

The festive season will also offer another unique glimpse into the HES archive with Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar, also part of Edinburgh’s Christmas. Archival gems from the HES collection, and imagery made available through online learning service SCRAN – alongside material from the National Library of Scotland and National Records of Scotland – will light up General Register House with a spectacular projection uncovering Edinburgh winters from years gone by.

Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar will be projected at varying times from 5.30-10pm each day during Advent.

Steven McConnachie of Double Take Projections will be giving an exclusive talk as part of the Winter Warmer event at John Sinclair House on how the Calendar was created.

To view full details of the HES Winter Warmer programme, and reserve your free tickets for the talks, visit

Other HES sites that will be taking part in Edinburgh’s 24 Doors of Advent include Trinity House in Leith, which will be welcoming visitors on 8 December and Holyrood Park Education Centre, which will open its doors on 15 December.