Edinburgh Old Town Architecture, Historic Buildings Photos, Royal Mile Designs

Edinburgh Old Town Architecture

Architectural Designs in the Lothians, South East Scotland

post updated 2 July 2023

Edinburgh Old Town Building Designs

Start the Old Town tour straight off the train, airport bus, etc. at the Fruitmarket, Edinburgh’s leading independent contemporary art gallery, refurbished by a man labelled in the 1990′s as ‘the most famous living architect in Scotland’:
Edinburgh Old Town

Fruitmarket Gallery, 29 Market St, 1991
Richard Murphy Architects
Refurbishment to form new art gallery & Fruitmarket Café in rectilinear sandstone building at south edge of Waverley Station.
Fruitmarket Gallery

Edinburgh Science Centre, Market St, –
Reiach and Hall Architects
Follow curving Cockburn St. to the Stills Gallery at No.23

Edinburgh Science Centre

Stills Gallery
Reiach and Hall Architects
Across the road is the Collective Gallery, then left through North Bridge Arcade up to North Bridge: the Pizza Express is across the road.
Stills Gallery

Pizza Express, 23 North Bridge, 1997
Malcolm Fraser Architects
Competent chain restaurant outlet with curved glass entry and open kitchen to rear. Oak ceiling plane to centre, with pleasant views through rear window – unusual for such a restaurant. One of many Pizza Expresses by Malcolm Fraser in Scotland. Turn onto Royal Mile at Bank Hotel, adjacent to Radisson Edinburgh
Pizza Express Edinburgh

Head South to the Royal Mile, at which point turn left and head downhill – noting John Knox’s (Calvinist reformer) House, and it’s jettied gables above: Malcolm Fraser Architects’ Scottish Storytelling Centre at the Netherbow next door.
Go past the lights (note the gold bars in the cobbles indicating the old city gateway) until you reach the Tolbooth (big clock over road) and turn right into Bakehouse Close.
Scottish Storytelling Centre

Calton Gate
Former New St Bus Station
various architects
New Street Edinburgh

North Holyrood Masterplan
south of Canongate, east of St Mary’s St.
Masterplanned by Edinburgh-based architect John Hope who selected mainly young design-led practices

A+DS offices, Bakehouse Close, 1996
Richard Murphy Architects
Since May 2005 this has been the home of Architecture + Design Scotland, who took over from the RFAC
A+DS offices Edinburgh

The famous Old Town ‘herringbone pattern’ drawing (right), shows the skeletal structure of the High Street. Its backbone follows the glacial crag-and-tail ridge line from the volcanic plug of the Castle rock down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There are hundreds of vennels or closes running off it; in the past there were more but buildings such as the Crowne Plaza have destroyed many. In the last two decades some have been restored.
Old Town Architecture

Back on the Royal Mile turn right and go down past the Canongate Tolbooth (1591) on the left and Moray House (1625) on the right until you reach Crichton’s Close opposite Canongate Kirk (1688, right), set back from the road allowing the tight Royal Mile to expand north forming a seating area.
Canongate Kirk

Calton Road runs parallel with the Royal Mile to the north. Along it are the following:- possible housing by Malcolm Fraser Architects, two Old Town Housing Association blocks, Buchanan Court and a new block behind Whitefoord House.
Calton Road housing

Old Town Canongate Housing, 112 Canongate, 1999
Richard Murphy ArchitectsPrivate Housing & ground-floor shop. Quirky low-budget housing with a contemporary twist.
Old Town Housing

Scottish Poetry Library, Crichton’s Close, 1999
Malcolm Fraser Architects
Sensitive steel-framed addition to another close off the Royal Mile using oak cladding and blue terracotta tiles.
Scottish Poetry Library

Crichton’s Close Housing
Arcade Architects
Crichton Close Old Town

‘rhetorical’: Crichton House, offices
Ungless & Latimer
Crichton House Edinburgh

Back to Canongate, keep heading down to the East. Flats – Basil Spence Housing

Canongate housing

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, 1999 – 2004
EMBT / RMJM Probably the most exciting building in Edinburgh, certainly the most talked about in decades: designed by Enric Miralles – who sadly died in May 2001 – and RMJM
Scottish Parliament

Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road, 1999
Michael Hopkins & Partners plc
Trademark Hopkins parachuted into town

Edinburgh Architecture

At this point the more energetic can trek up Arthur’s Seat/Salisbury Crags, visit Malcolm Fraser Architect’s Park Rangers pavilion (in park east of the Palace), Benjamin Tindall’s Queen’s Gallery or the Palace of Holyroodhouse itself (begun by James IV around 1500).

Edinburgh Architecture

Continue the tour by heading back into town up Holyrood Road. The image top right is an old painting of Arthur’s Seat from Charles McKean’s excellent guidebook to Edinburgh’s architecture through the ages.

Holyrood Education Centre – Park Rangers
Malcolm Fraser Architects
Holyrood Education Centre

Queen’s Gallery
Benjamin Tindall Architects
Queen's Gallery Edinburgh

The Park housing
Campbell & Arnott Architects
The Park housing

Scotsman Newspaper
CDA Architects

Scotsman Newspaper

Holyrood Park House
CDA Architects
holyrood building

The Tun, Holyrood Rd, 2001
Allan Murray Architects
holyrood offices

The Clocktower refurbishment, Holyrood Rd, 2004
Allan Murray Architects
Clocktower Edinburgh

Old Town Housing Association Housing, Holyrood, 1999
E & F McLachlan
Old Town Housing

Morgan Court Housing, Holyrood, 1998
Ungless & Latimer
holyrood road housing
Sugarhouse Close, Holyrood, 2010
Oberlanders Architects LLP
Planning consent under delegated powers for mixed-use circa £15m development including 300 bed student accommodation on a sensitive Edinburgh Old Town site

Sugarhouse Close Edinburgh

Follow Holyrood Road up past St Leonard’s Land to Cowgate – past St Cecilia’s Hall – and then left up Niddry St. Steps; cross South Bridge.

Old College of Edinburgh University: Court, 1789-, Robert Adamand later William Playfair; Dome, 1879, Rowand Anderson (right).

old college dome

Round the corner is the Royal Museum of Scotland – 1861, Captain Francis Fowke (entry); restored by Law & Dunbar-Nasmith [LDN] for the last twenty years: contains wonderful long galleried triple-height space (right); redevelopment proposed by Gareth Hoskins ArchitectsEdinburgh University Architecture Department is across the road.

Royal Museum of Scotland

Revolution Club, Chambers St
Revolution Club

McEwan Hall
Rowand Anderson
McEwan Hall

Edinburgh University Student Centre
Morris + Steedman Architects
Edinburgh University Student Centre

Potterrow Informatics
Bennetts Associates with Reiach and Hall Architects
Potterrow Informatics

George Square, University buildings: David Hume Tower by Robert Matthew Architect of Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners. Appleton Tower is nearby

Edinburgh University building

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 13-29 Nicolson St, 1994
LDN Architects
Lyric Theatre & Opera House
Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Museum of Scotland Extension, Chambers St, 1999
Benson & Forsyth
Museum of Scotland

Walk North past the National Library Edinburgh on the right and Edinburgh City Library on the left.
National Library of Scotland

Past the latter is Missoni Hotel Edinburgh replacing Lothian Regional Headquarters, Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners, stretching from Victoria St to High St, George IV Hotelby Allan Murray Architects
Lothian Regional Headquarters

Once on the Lawnmarket – Royal Mile axis – head right: Site of the old Parliament and the Signet Library, St Giles Cathedral (High Kirk), arcade of City Council (Royal Mile mostly arcaded at time of the Enlightenment); at the next lights the Tron Kirk & Hunter Square, part of Page & Park’s Royal Mile Project of 1994-95 with sculptures by Randal-Page (water fountain) and Hamilton-Finlay.

Tron Kirk Edinburgh

Two good eateries here – the simple space (with refined warm-coloured banquette) and basement garden of Banns Vegetarian Restaurant, by architects at Malcolm Fraser Architects, and Chocolate Soup (2000) by Graven Images, slightly spoiled by later add-ons and furniture.Further down Blair St is the famous City Cafe (right).

City Cafe Edinburgh

Design Beyond Words, Blair Street, 2002
Oliver Chapman Architects
Design Beyond Words

Old Town Fire, Dec 2002, and subsequent ideas competition, controversies and development proposals.
Old Town Fire

Tron Square, Fishmarket Close, 2001-03
People’s Palace, Fishmarket Close, 2001
Richard Murphy Architects
Tron Square Housing
Tron Square, Old Town Architecture

Cowgate Housing, Cowgate/Fishmarket Close, 2002-06
Richard Murphy Architects
Cowgate Housing

Tron Nursery, Fishmarket Close, off the Cowgate, 2001-02
Allan Murray Architects
Tron Nursery

Head towards the Castle; on the right is the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall (1999-2000 home of the Scottish Parliament) – behind which to the north is New College – refurbished by Simpson & Brown 1998-99, and, where the road divides, rises a towering dark spire: welcome to The Hub
New College Edinburgh

The Hub, Castlehill, 1999
Benjamin Tindall Architects
The Hub
Old Town Hub

Ramsay Gardens, Castlehill, 1890′s
Henbest Capper / Sydney Mitchell
Ramsay Gardens
Ramsay Gardens

Having completed the tour a great view can be had from the Castle Esplanade and of course the Castle itself is a fascinating place to discover (there’s a restaurant here by RMJM Scotland, 1993), as is the adjacent Edinburgh Camera Obscura.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Architecture Walking Tours

Martin Hulse discusses the context for some of the above Edinburgh Old Town buildings: Royal Mile

Old Town

Scottish Capital Building Designs

Contemporary Scottish Capital Property Designs – recent architectural selection below:

New Town St James Centre


Balmoral Hotel

Waverley Station Redevelopment

New Town Harvey Nichols

Oloroso Restaurant

Scott Monument

Rosslyn Chapel

Edinburgh Old Town : restaurants

Comments / photos for the Edinburgh Old Town Architecture page welcome