Simon Pearce’s Edinburgh: Comiston House

“Comiston House sat aloof on a large tract of land, a little more than three miles to the south of Edinburgh, and north of the gently sloping, green-carpeted Pentland Hills. It was modest in size, square in shape, and constructed from large bricks of local sandstone. Ionic columns stood to either side of an arched entrance, and to the side of each of those, sculpted evergreens pointed up toward the stars.”

The Haunting of Comiston House by Jess Faraday

There are actually two properties that can claim the name Comiston House. Confusingly, they both stand very close to one another, in the same patch of South Edinburgh, a bit more than three miles south of the city centre. 

I discovered both properties along what is now my 5K running route–the one I take when I need to put in the miles but don’t really feel like it. I do my best thinking while running, and when I’m running through pretty and historical surroundings, it’s no wonder that story ideas seem to spring from the trees and the air and the ground beneath my feet.

Old Comiston House

From John Adair’s Map of Midlothian, 1682

The first mention of the lands around either of the buildings is in 1337, when an Elizabeth Auldburgh transferred the “lands of Braid, Baulay, Colmanstoun and Ravinisnuick” to a John Burgens Virgin. 

Historians believe that a defensive structure might have stood on the land as early as the 14th century. However, all that currently remains is a tower, which dates to the late 16th or early 17th century. The tower was used defensively, then later as a dovecot.

Photo by Jess Faraday, CC BY NC (no commerical use, please attribute)

The current owners have incorporated the tower into the wall around their new build.

The property is tucked away in a wood near Fairmilehead Park. There’s a trail that runs past it called White Lady Walk, which is purportedly haunted by, you guessed it, a female ghost in a white gown. I’ve never seen her, but my dog refuses to walk more than a few steps down that path.

Photo by Jess Faraday, CC BY NC (no commerical use, please attribute)

You can read more about the history of Old Comiston House at Straivaging.com, which is a wonderful resource.

New Comiston House

Photo by Jess Faraday, CC BY NC (no commerical use, please attribute)

New Comiston House, on the other hand, is the structure that figures into Simon’s story. In the story, it serves as the home of Cal Webster’s friend, Richard Fraser, Laird of Comiston. 

New Comiston House is a 19th century structure. It was the home of the Forrest baronets, a title that was created in 1838 for James Forrest, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. There were five Forrest baronets, each of which was named either James or William or John. The title went extinct in 1928.

Today New Comiston House has been converted into flats, albeit posh ones. The building borders Fairmilehead Park, and is located up a small rise from Old Comiston House.

Edinburgh is filled with ghosts, legends, and, most importantly, stories. Simon Pearce’s Edinburgh stories are but a few. If you’d like to read more of them, you can check out Simon’s anthology, Shadow of Justice wherever fine books are sold.

And if you’re enjoying these little travelogues, keep your eyes peeled for Simon Pearce’s Edinburgh, my upcoming collection of essays and photos about this magnificent city.

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