Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Edinburgh's Georgian Shadows

One of the centrepieces of Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage area, the city's New Town turns 250 years old in 2017.

To celebrate this significant milestone in Edinburgh's history, six of the New Town's most interesting and history-rich buildings will be bathed in light from 5:30pm until 8:30pm from 23 February until 26 March, drawing attention to their beautiful architecture and distinct features.

Dundas House

Dundas House 600X250

36 St Andrew Square, Registered Office of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Originally a private mansion commissioned by MP Sir Lawrence Dundas (1712 – 1781), construction of Dundas House finished in 1774. Using Ravelston Quarry sandstone, architect Sir William Chambers based his design on the Palladian Villa of Marble Hill in Twickenham, England.

Dundas House was subsequently sold to the government in 1781 and served as Scotland’s principal Taxation Office. In 1825 The Royal Bank of Scotland acquired the building for £35,300, using Dundas house as its registered headquarters ever since. 1861 saw the main banking hall with its star-patterned domed ceiling completed – a design that until recently adorned the bank’s £5 notes. 

St Andrew’s & St George’s Church

13 George Street

Construction of St Andrew’s Church was completed in 1784, making it the first church to be built in the New Town and, being an elliptical design, an architectural first in Britain. In 1787 a spire of 51 metres was added which – at the time – made the church the tallest building in Edinburgh.

The design of the church was the result of a competition held by the Town Council, and the classical Greek and Roman architectural style throughout the building reflects 18th century fashion, as well as Edinburgh’s pride in its reputation as the ‘Athens of the North’.

Assembly Rooms

Assembly Rooms Evening View

54 George St

The Assembly Rooms, built at a cost of £6,000 on a site donated by the Town Council, was completed in January 1787 for the Caledonian Hunt Ball and represents an outstanding example of late 18th century public building. Since then it has hosted countless functions and events, remaining central to Edinburgh’s thriving cultural foundations.

The Assembly Rooms has seen extensive renovations and additions since construction, and has played host to guests such as Sir Walter Scott, King George IV, Charles Dickens, Seamus Heaney, J K Rowling, Prime Ministers and Presidents from across the Commonwealth, as well as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

General Register House

Gen Reg House 600X250

2 Princes St

Construction of General Register House began in 1774 but was halted due to financial difficulties, after which the unfinished structure was derided as ‘the most magnificent pigeon house in Europe’. Construction eventually finished in 1789, making it the first custom-built public record repository in Britain. Still serving its original purpose today, the building is also the oldest purpose-built archive building still in use in the world.

The design incorporates brick vaults, flagstones on most floors to ensure fire safety, and a central rotunda inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, with underfloor heating carrying hot air from furnaces to keep damp at bay.

Sir Walter Scott’s Home

Scott Castle Street

39 North Castle St

Scottish literary giant Sir Walter Scott had the beautiful and spacious three-storey Georgian townhouse at 39 North Castle Street built for his family to move into after the birth of his second child. While he spent summers elsewhere, he spent the majority of his married life in the property until bankruptcy forced him and his family out in 1826.

On his last day in the house, Scott wrote: ‘March 15. - This morning I leave No. 39 Castle Street for the last time… In all my former changes of residence it was from good to better; this is retrograding…  So farewell, poor 39, and may you never harbour worse people than those who now leave you. ... ‘

Bute House

Bute House 600 X 250

6 Charlotte Square

Leading Scottish Architect Robert Adam designed Charlotte Square, but died before construction could be completed. While elements of the square remained faithful to his designs, alterations to the plans were made by others. Bute House, central to the north side of Charlotte Square, is an example of Adam’s original specifications.

Now the official residence of the Scottish First Minister, the frontages of the house and its neighbours collectively create the illusion of an unbroken and palatial façade, embodying Adam’s vision of a harmonised architectural style throughout the square.

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