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Edinburgh World Heritage/Graveyards

The aim is for all five graveyards to become a well-loved community resource and a key attraction for visitors

Dr Susan Buckham - Graveyards Project Manager


Graveyards Projects

A community-led revitalisation project in five of the city's burial grounds – important green spaces.

Making Lasting Impressions: Greyfriars Kirkyard

Edinburgh Graveyards Project

The Edinburgh Graveyards Project aims to increase community involvement with five historic Graveyards in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site area: Greyfriars, Canongate, St Cuthbert’s Kirkyards and Calton Old and Calton New Burial Grounds.

Each of these sites is at risk; suffering not only at the hands of weathering and erosion but also from limited resources, anti-social behaviour and a lack of awareness of their value as local green open spaces. The project is co-ordinating a joined-up approach to revitalising these places so that they became well-loved community resources as well as ‘must-see’ visitor attractions.

From January 2020 until January 2022, Edinburgh World Heritage will focus on Greyfriars Kirkyard, and delivery of the Making Lasting Impressions: Greyfriars Kirkyard Community Learning and Interpretation Project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. For more information go to the Making Lasting Impressions page.


The watchtower of Old Calton Burial Ground

The five graveyards are of international importance, charting the city’s development from the medieval burgh to the eighteenth and nineteenth century neo-classical city. As a group they also document some of the major changes in Scottish history, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution, but at a human scale showing how they touched people’s lives. Many historically important figures are buried in the five graveyards, such as philosophers David Hume in Old Calton burying ground, and Adam Smith in Canongate Kirkyard; George Buchanan, tutor to King James VI in Greyfriars and mathematician John Napier in St Cuthbert’s Kirkyard.

In addition to the many volunteer-based activities that have taken place through this project, a walking trail of each graveyard has also been developed.

Views from the graveyards

Walking tours, community clean-ups, improving the signage and pathways, and uncovering some of the fascinating stories behind the people laid to rest in these graveyards is just some of the work that has taken place during this project. View our gallery to see further highlights.

“The key to ensuring the future of the historic graveyards is community stewardship, ensuring that their management is shaped by local needs and encouraging people to realise that they are worth looking after. Once the local community is properly engaged, these areas can break the cycle of decline and be transformed into tranquil green urban oases.”

Susan Buckham

Graveyards Development Officer

Working together

Improving at-risk sites

"Each of the five of the graveyards in Edinburgh's World Heritage Site is unique. We have worked with members of the community to place these hidden treasures firmly on Edinburgh's tourist map." – Susan Buckham


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