Old Royal High School, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland

This evening, I am providing an update on an iconic piece Scottish architecture which sits prominently on the skyline of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital yet is not open to the public. The subject building is the Old Royal High School which dates from 1825-29 and was designed by Thomas Hamilton.

Despite its name the building is not currently used for any educational purpose although planning approval has been granted for St. Mary’s Music School to relocate to the neo-classical building.

A major cause of controversy is a proposal by a local developer to turn the Old Royal High School into a hotel, a concept which is being vigorously opposed by a coalition of local bodies led by Edinburgh World Heritage. (The historic area, which was inscribed by UNESCO in 1995, covers most of the City Centre from Quartermile to Dean Village and from the West End to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.)

Next step is an anticipated, eight week long public enquiry commencing September following which a decision will be made by Scottish ministers.

As the coalition of civic groups fighting the proposal are not-for-profit and have limited resources various fund-raising initiatives are in process to cover the significant costs anticipated in fighting the hotel proposal.

Old Royal High School in context of Calton Hill skyline.

The Old Royal High School is considered a building of international standing and through integration of design with the nearby National Monument helped to contribute to Edinburgh’s nickname Athens of the North. This feature can be appreciated in the image above which shows the Parthenon-style National Monument directly above and behind the Royal High School. The Greek Doric columns are based on the Temple of Theseus overlooking Athens.

Internally, there is a central Doric temple which contains a splendid oval hall with shallow coffered ceiling and cast iron columns supporting the balcony.

Architectural detail.