Historic Sites in Edinburgh

In this section you will find a list of Historic Sites in Edinburgh including Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace.

  

Gladstone’s Land

When merchant Thomas Gledstanes purchased the building which now bears his name in 1617, it had a wooden facade and a wooden gallery above the floor – a typical house of the 16th Century. Gledstane modernized it, replacing the wooden facade with stone arches and let out parts of the building to an assortment of tenants of different social classes.

The term “land” has been used for multi-storey apartment buildings which were built in Edinburgh due to lack of space at the time, some reaching 10 storeys in height. The wealthy citizens lived in the middle floors, while the poor resided at ground level or on the top floor.

Gladstone’s Land is the only surviving version of a town house from the 17th Century. It was taken over by the National Trust in 1934, who have since restored the first two floors of the building. As in ancient times one enters the house through a little shop on the ground floor where food stored in barrels was sold by the yard – the yard stick can still be seen on the wall.

The rooms upstairs are equipped with original furniture from the 17th Century.The kitchen has been faithfully reconstructed with utensils and furniture which mimic the former design. Ceiling paintings in the “Painted Chamber” originating from the year 1620 are evidence of a then very popular form of room decoration in Scotland, have since been restored to their former glory.

More information can be found at the Official Site.

How to get there


477b Lawnmarket, Edinburgh
Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus

Opening Times

1 April – 31 October daily 10:00-5:00 (last admission 4:30).

July & August 10:00-6:30 (last admission 6:00)

Admission Prices

Adult – £6
Family – £15.50
1 parent – £10.50
Concession – £5

Accommodation

Click here to find Hotels near Gladstone’s Land

North Bridge Edinburgh

The North Bridge is a bridge and street in Edinburgh which connects Princes Street with High Street, and Edinburgh’s Old Town with Edinburgh’s New Town. It was built in 1772 and enlarged a century later, before being completely rebuilt in 1896.

Magnificent views of the city can be seen from the North Bridge, including views of Edinburgh’s many hills, the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh University along with the new town’s bustling Princes Street with its many hotels and shops.

If you want to view the bridge itself, you can admire it from the esplanade of Princes Street. This is not the most attractive vantage point, but it is in good condition, painted white with brightly colored frames and with sculptures of Scottish warriors positioned in the middle.

How to get there


North Bridge, Edinburgh
Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus

Accommodation

Click here to find Hotels near North Bridge

Mary King’s Close

Mary King’s Close is an award winning underground attraction located in the heart of the city on the Royal Mile and opposite St. Giles Cathedral. Tour Guides in period costumes guide visitors, through a confusing maze of streets and countless underground homes.  The guides tell a story of the city which was ravaged by plague and famine in the 1600′s.

The term “Close” is used in Scotland to refer to the passage way or entrance shared generally by tenement houses which were very common in the Old Town in Edinburgh from the 15th century. Edinburgh’s Closes were usually named after the most notable resident on the close. Papers show that Mary King would have been a well known businesswoman in the 1630’s, trading in textiles as well as sewing for a living. It was considered highly out of the ordinary for any close to be named after a woman in those days, indicating Mary’s reputation in the town.

Please be advised, if you are afraid of the dark or confined spaces it would be best to avoid this tour.  If you do decide to venture in to this wonderful attraction, flat comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Opening Times

  • November 1st – March 31st
    Sunday – Thursday
    10.00 – 17.00 (last tour)
    Friday & Saturday
    10.00 – 21.00 (last tour)
  • April 1st – October 31st
    10.00 – 21.00 (last tour)
    Seven days a week
  • August 1st – August 31st
    09.00 – 21.00 (last tour)
    Seven days a week

Admission Prices

  • Adult £11.50
  • Child (5 – 15 years) £6.00*
  • Senior Citizen £10.50
  • Student (ID required) £10.50
  • * not suitable for children under 5

More info can be found at the official site

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Scott Monument

Scott Monument Edinburgh

Gazing at the impressive Scott Monument in central Edinburgh, the visitor might wonder: is it supposed to look this dark? The Gothic-style monument was made out of local Binnie sandstone which is said to attract dirt and to age very quickly; as a result it is strikingly dark and distinctive.

Built in 1841 as a tribute to writer Sir Walter Scott, the monument has a larger than life-sized statute of Scott at the base, depicted as thoughtfully pausing from his writing with his dog at his side. The monument was partially restored in 1999 with stone from the original quarry.

Stone figures of Sir Walter Scott’s characters from his fictional works adorn its numerous niches, from Ivanhoe and Friar Tuck from “Ivanhoe” to Rob Roy and Helen MacGregor of “Rob Roy.” The climb to the several viewing decks via narrow spiral staircases will reward the visitor with panoramic views over the city in every direction.

Opening Times and Prices

Opening times for the Scott Monument are as follows:

April through September:
Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm
Sun, 10am-6pm

October through March:
Mon-Sat, 9am-4pm
Sun, 10am-6pm

Admission Prices

Admission to Scott Monument is £3, for both adults and children.

Location

Address: East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Tourist Bus: Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus

Georgian House Edinburgh

Georgian House Edinburgh

One of the best examples of an 18th century townhouse, Georgian House in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh will delight visitors with its three floors of rooms faithfully furnished as they would have been around 1800 when the house was opened.

Rich in Scottish history, the house was designed by Robert Adams as a part of his project to develop Charlotte Square, a New Town mecca for the wealthy urbanites of the times. The last private owner of Georgian House was the fifth Marquess of Bute. It is now administered by the National Trust for Scotland.

Wandering through the elegant rooms, the visitor can almost hear echoes of the polite chatter of 18th century guests in the magnificent Grand Drawing Room (or imagine using it for a reception today!). Gazing at the immaculate white linen and fine china and silver in the Dining Room, it is easy to imagine guests being served a bountiful meal. Under the stairs, the servants would have been scurrying about in the Basement Kitchen which is fully restored and contains authentic collections of kitchenware.

Many of these townhouses included a staircase and cupola, always an interesting attraction. The artwork collection at Georgian House is exceptional.

Opening Times and Prices

Opening times for the Georgian House are as follows:

1 – 27 March, daily, 11am – 4.00pm (last admission 3.30)
28 March to 30 June and 1 September to 31 October, daily, 10.00am to 5.00pm (last admission 4.30)
1 July to 31 August, daily, 10.00am to 6.00pm (last admission 5.30pm)
1 – 30 November, daily, 11.00am to 3.00pm (last admission 2.30pm)

Admission Prices

Georgian House Entrance Prices

Adult £5; Senior £4; Family £14

Location

Address: 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
Tourist Bus: Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus

Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Nestled in central Edinburgh, Greyfriars Kirk is a Church of Scotland church with a history stretching back to 1602. The church itself has been renovated and restored, but its most famous feature is the ancient Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, a cemetery surrounding the church.

It is the burial site of many famous individuals such as James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, Regent of Scotland and Mary Erskine, founder of the Mary Erskine School. From the unmarked graves to the elaborate seventeenth century memorials of the rich and famous, the churchyard burial ground echoes with history and mystery.

Said to be haunted by ghosts and poltergeists, the Kirkyard is probably even more well-known for the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby. Bobby was a Skye Terrier who spent 14 years guarding the grave of his master, John Gray, until the dog’s own death in 1872. He is buried outside the consecrated grounds.

For peaceful surroundings steeped in local lore, Greyfriar’s Kirk is a must-see location for visitor and native alike.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, perched high atop the volcanic Castle Rock, looms over the city of Edinburgh. Today, visitors come from around the world to explore the castle, propelling it to the status of Scotland’s second-most-visited tourist attraction. Parts of the castle itself date from 1130 A.D. while the Castle Rock site shows signs of ancient human settlements dating from around 900 B.C. The castle presided over many years of important Scottish historical events , including the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and was a royal residence until 1603.

When you arrive at the castle, you will immediately notice the striking views of the city of Edinburgh nestled in the area below Castle Rock. Most of the castle’s buildings post-date the 16th century, when artillery fire during the Lang Siege destroyed the castle’s medieval fortifications—with the notable exception of St. Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the early 12th century. Just outside of St. Margaret’s, stop to visit Mons Meg, a 15th century siege cannon that has not worked since the late 17th century when its barrel burst while firing a birthday salute for the Duke of Albany.

In the center of the castle complex lays the main courtyard of the palace, Crown Square, whose foundation is formed by a series of large stone vaults built during the 1430’s and used to house prisoners until the 19th century. The Royal Palace, the former residence of Scottish royalty, lines one side of Crown Square. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI, the future King of England, in 1566 inside a small room within the palace. Today, the Royal Palace houses the Crown Room where visitors can see the Scottish crown jewels, as well as the “Stone of Destiny”, the ancient Scottish coronation stone.

The palace became primarily a fortress and arsenal after the Scottish court departed to London in the 17th century. During modern times, it found new life as an active army base that houses two regiments and as the home of the Scottish National War Memorial. The Scottish War Memorial commemorates the Scottish casualties of World War I, World War II, the Malayan Emergency, the Korean War, Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and the Gulf War. Each day—with the exception of Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday—Edinburgh Castle fires the One O’Clock gun, a time signal historically used by ships in the area.

Edinburgh Castle houses several gift shops, as well as a bookshop full of titles relating to the history of the castle and the area. The staff provides guided tours of the castle and you can also rent an audio tour online or in the visitor information area.

How to get there


Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus

Opening Times and Prices

Summer - 9:30am – 6pm
Winter - 9:30am – 5pm

Adult: £14.00
Child: £8.20
Concession: £11.20
Child under 5: FREE

More Information

> edinburghcastle.gov.uk
> Hotels near Edinburgh Castle

Royal Mile

Royal Mile, within the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, extends eastward from Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock to Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile measures one Scots mile – 1.1 English miles or 1.8 kilometres–the distance from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.

Construction of Edinburgh Castle heralded the founding of Edinburgh. The earliest extant structure in Edinburgh, Saint Margaret’s Chapel, lies within the castle built by her son, King David I. Additions to Edinburgh Castle were made by subsequent monarchs; in the 1600’s its function changed from residence to military base.

The history of Edinburgh is exemplified by the churches, tenements, residences, businesses and public buildings along the main thoroughfare and the intersecting closes (narrow alleys), wynds (alleys between buildings) and vennels (passages between houses).

The several sections of Royal Mile were established by royal decree. Castle Hill, a large esplanade and street at the western end, served as both execution square and parade ground. Lawnmarket, established as a cloth market, had a large foreign population in its heyday.

Highstreet forms the central section; many of its high-rise tenements date from the 1500’s. Continual wars with Britain made residents seek the protection of the castle; expansion grew upward instead of outward. Residents in the top storeys tossed trash from upper windows with admonishments to those in the streets below to beware. Today, Royal Mile Whiskies, opposite St. Giles’ Church, features more than 300 whiskies from distilleries predominantly from Scotland and Ireland.

Canongate, established in 1128 for the community of Holyrood Abbey, remained separate from Edinburgh until 1856. Canongate Church, decreed by James VII, was completed in 1690 after James vacated the throne. Its unusual style was designed by architect James Smith, who introduced the Palladian Style to Scotland. The kirkyard includes the graves of Adam Smith and Robert Fergusson.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill, home of the Scottish Government and spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, is a well-known stop on many tourists’ itineraries because of its many architectural structures and monuments.

The Playfair Monument, designed by W.H. Playfair in honour of his uncle John Playfair, is a temple-like structure designed in the Greek Doric style that sits near the top of Calton Hill. This monument features one of the best views of Edinburgh Castle.

Nelson’s monument, built in honour of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, provides another spectacular view of the surrounding area. The monument was built to pay tribute to Nelson and his defeat of Spanish and French fleets during the Battle of Trafalgar. The monument sits at Calton Hill’s highest point and its design is a reflection of the prison buildings that were once located on the hill in the early Victorian era.

Another of Calton Hill’s historic memorials is the National Monument, which was constructed in remembrance of those who died for the United Kingdom during the Napoleonic Wars. The structure was modeled after the Parthenon, but the cost of construction was so great that the project was left unfinished. Despite its incomplete state, the monument is still a dominant structure within the Calton Hill landscape.

The City Observatory was another structure built to honour John Playfair. The observatory resembles a Greek temple and is home to a 15-centimeter (6-inch) refractor in the dome and 16-centimeter (6.4-inch) transit telescope in the east wing. The dome currently serves as a lecture theatre, but the observatory is unusable due to vandalism.

St. Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh - Photo Credit - Satosphere - C.C. Licence

St. Giles’ Cathedral, sometimes called the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is a well-known feature of Edinburgh’s skyline. The cathedral is decorated with a traditional Scottish crown steeple and has been the focus of Edinburgh’s religious worship for nearly 900 years. Many people today consider it to be Presbyterianism’s mother church.

St. Giles is well known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which date from the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the most well known windows was designed by Edward Burne-Jones, which captures the sun’s light as it sets and displays it through its many rich hues. Another popular window is the Burns Window, which features many of the themes within Robert Burns’ poetry.

The cathedral also contains numerous monuments, most notably those of Robert Louis Stevenson and the Protestant reformer John Knox who is buried in the churchyard of St. Giles. While no grave marker exists, there is a statue near the west end of the cathedral dedicated to his memory.

While much of the stonework of the cathedral is dated to the medieval period, its structure has been rebuilt and the stonework resurfaced in such a manner that it does not resemble its original, unique appearance. Late in the 20th century, however, the crown spire was restored and re-gilded to resemble its original architectural state.

Opening Times and Prices

Opening times for St. Giles’ Cathedral are as follows:

Summer (May-September)
Monday – Friday 09.00-19.00
Saturday 09.00-17.00
Sunday 13.00-17.00 and for services

Winter (October-April)
Monday – Saturday 09.00-17.00
Sunday 13.00-17.00 and for services

Admission Prices

Admission to the Cathedral is free. Visitors are invited to make a donation of £3.00 per person.

Location

Address: St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, EH1 1RE
Tourist Bus: Served by Edinburgh’s Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus