Royal High School, Edinburgh, Building, Photo, Architect, Date, History, Picture

Royal High School Edinburgh : Architecture

Calton Hill Building: Neoclassical Architecture in Scotland – design by Thomas Hamilton, architect

2 Sep 2015

Royal High School Hotel in Edinburgh

Design: Hoskins Architects

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Vision for hotel at Calton Hill unveiled

New architectural designs by Hoskins Architects for the proposed “world-class” hotel at Edinburgh’s former Royal High School have been revealed and the operator partner confirmed within a planning application submitted to City of Edinburgh Council today.

Calton Hill Hotel in Edinburgh

Gareth Hoskins, the architect for the project, says the new designs respond to the comments made by heritage organisations and the public during the comprehensive consultation process earlier in the year. “We’ve listened and taken on board views from a wide range of organisations and individuals through the pre-planning process to develop a fundamentally different design for the site. The design focuses around an informed restoration of the central Hamilton-designed building, repairing its decaying fabric and maintaining the strong sculptural presence of its frontage without intervention. The existing building will be entirely given over to the public areas of the new hotel allowing its spaces to be fully accessible for the first time in the building’s history.

We hope to post alternative designs by Richard Murphy Architects online soon.

Royal High School

Date: 1829
Architect: Thomas Hamilton

Location: north side of Regent Road, just east of city centre


The Royal High School is one of the key Scottish examples of Enlightenment Architecture along with the National Monument behind it on Calton Hill.

Royal High School Royal High School Edinburgh Royal High School building
pictures © adrian welch, 2009

25 Mar 2009
£20m National Photography Centre proposal abandoned

CEC design competition inviting developers to submit proposals for the former Royal High School building. the Development Brief suggests it could be turned into a hotel, restaurant and tourist centre.

The charity Hill Adamson Trust has now withdrawn its lottery bid for the National Photography Centre proposal. CEC have transferred the £1m funding allocation for the photography centre into its capital projects budget.

Royal High School context : Calton Hill

The School is a potent symbol for Scots, esp. Nationalists as it was set to hold the Debating Chamber when Scotland had its first independence referendum in the 70′s; the building is generally held in high esteem.

Royal High School Royal High School Building Thomas Hamilton Building Royal High School Edinburgh
Royal High School, Edinburgh : images © Adrian Welch

Former Royal High School pupils include Robert Adam, Bell, Boswell and Scott.

Royal High School architect: Thomas Hamilton

Royal High School Edinburgh – Description:

Located on the southern edge of Calton Hill, the Royal High School of Edinburgh was designed by Thomas Hamilton and built in 1825-9. By that time Edinburgh’s New Town was well advanced and this was the only suitable site left. The Greek Doric columns are based on the Temple of Theseus, overlooking Athens.

Royal High School portico Royal High School photo
pictures © adrian welch, 2009

After the school had moved to modern accommodation towards the end of the 20th century, the large oval main hall was set up as a debating chamber for a projected Scottish Assembly in the late 1970s but that did not materialise. The school was again considered as the site for the new Scottish Parliament in 1999, but was rejected in favour of a new buuilding on a site in Holyrood.

Sir Walter Scott was a former Royal High School pupil in its former location in the Old Town. The Royal High School has been based at four different sites. The building now occupied by the Department of Archaeology was built by Alexander Laing in 1777. James Pillans invented the blackboard and coloured chalks at the High School.

By 1820 the Royal High School’s space had become insufficient for growing population, and, with the New Town development, there was a new and redefined catchment area. The Royal High School in 1829 relocated to the south side of Calton Hill. In 1832 the former school building re-opened as a Surgical Hospital, in which the University of Edinburgh held its Anatomy classes (Lister worked here between 1869 and 1877).

Royal High School Scotland
photo © Adrian Welch 2007

The Royal High School is currently located in Barnton on the west edge of Edinburgh:

Royal High School Edinburgh – Redevelopment:
One of the proposed new uses for this building was a Scottish Assembly in the 1970s. However, The Royal High School building (the Chamber but also the ancillary spaces) was viewed to be too small when Devolution finally came to fruition though Calton Hill (St Andrew’s House accretion) was one of the sites for the Scottish Parliament Competition. See the Scottish Parliament page.

Royal High School Edinburgh Royal High Edinburgh
no link, images © Adrian Welch

Proposals are afoot at the time of writing for a Scottish National Photography Centre (or ‘Scottish Museum of Photography’) in the the former Royal High School. In Sep 2004 Sony UK Ltd’s sponsorship of the Scottish National Photography Centre was announced – planned to be located in the former Royal High School site.

Royal High School Edinburgh – Educational History:
The Royal High School: is one of a series of Edinburgh schools – such as Donaldson’s, John Watson’s – that were built prior to the Education Act of 1872. This building ceased to be a school in 1968 and was eventually purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Greek Revival Edinburgh
Royal High School, Edinburgh: from Canongate, image © Adrian Welch

Royal High School: Thomas Hamilton – Scottish Architect

News Excerpt from 2002 re the Royal High School:

Royal High School: National Centre of Photography
The building needs around £1m essential upgrade/maintenance to ensure it has a use of ‘national significance’. Edinburgh City councillors have been urged to back plans to turn the Royal High School: into a national centre of photography.
Council leader Donald Anderson maintained they did however have two potential uses.

April 2002

Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle
Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh : Thomas Hamilton
Royal Mile

Other famous Edinburgh Schools include Donaldson’s College and former John Watson’s School, now the SNGMA

Royal High School pupil : former pupil Robert Adam

Another Thomas Hamilton project in Edinburgh: George IV Bridge

Edinburgh Schools

Scottish Architecture

Buildings / photos for the Royal High School Architecture page welcome

Royal High School Edinburgh Building : page