Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26896 73919
326896, 673919


Sir William Bruce (Architect) and Robert Mylne (Master-Mason) for Charles II, 1671-8. Later alterations by Robert Reid, William Nixon, Robert Matheson, John Fowler (see Notes). Exceptional, 3-storey and attic, quadrangular palace combining Baroque and Rennaissance influences and incorporating earlier 1532 tower (for James V) at NW angle. Sandstone ashlar with moulded dressings and roll-moulded margins.

PRINCIPAL (W) ELEVATION: tower at SW with pair of circular angle-turrets mirroring James V's at NW; both with string courses between floors; dentiled corbel at attic level with castellated parapet above. Corner towers have cap-houses with ball-finialled, conical bell-cast roofs. Towers are linked by recessed 2-storey flat-roofed range with deep mutuled cornice and balustraded parapet. Massive coupled Roman Doric columned gateway to centre with large carved Royal Arms of Scotland above and crowned octagonal cupola with clock-face. Symmetrical facades of 3-storey swept-roof inner court rise behind to far left and right of 2-storey range. Regular arrangement of bays to N and S elevations. E elevation with 17 pilastered bays with delicately superimposed Classical orders at each floor. Remains of earlier Abbey Church adjoins palace to NE angle.

QUADRANGLE: formal Classical articulation of superimposed Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pilasters in ascending order at each floor respectively. Colonaded piazza of nine arches to N, S and E. Pedimented to centre 3-bay W elevation. Elaborate double-headed lantern standard with stepped octagonal base to courtyard centre.

INTERIOR: Entrance to left of central quadrangle leads to Great Stair with cantilevered broad stone flights, stone balusters and richly decorative Baroque plasterwork ceiling by renowned English plasterers John Hulbert and George Dunsterfield.

Processional arrangement of sumptuously decorated and furnished state rooms at first floor of national importance including the royal dining room, throne room, the morning and evening drawing rooms and the great portrait gallery. Most rooms with highly elaborate plaster ceilings, tapestries and ornate chimney-pieces. Within the first floor of the 16th century NW tower are the Queen's ante-chamber and bed-chamber rising to Mary Queen of Scots' timber panelled and ceilinged outer chamber, bed chamber and supper room (former Kings apartments) at second floor level. Fine collection of Baroque furniture. Royal apartments at second floor. Attic level altered to provide smaller apartments. Predominantly services and former servants quarters to ground floor.

Graded grey Scottish slate. Splayed piended roofs with piended-roofed dormers rising to leaded flat-roof with broadly regular arrangement of axial stacks. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

GATES, GATEPIERS AND BOUNDARY WALLS INCLUDING MEMORIAL TO KING EDWARD VII: Monumental decorative wrought-iron entrance gates to N, W and S of Palace forecourt. N and S entrances with tall ashlar gatepiers surmounted by lion and unicorn statuettes; pedestrian gates flanking with moulded crown-capped piers. Curved ashlar wall with dentiled cornice to NW corner provides backdrop to bronze statue of King Edward VII. Rubble wall to E (adjoins boundary wall of Croft-an-righ House to NE - see separate listing).

Statement of Special Interest

The ground beneath the Palace of Holyroodhouse and nearby structures (including Croft-an-Righ House, the buildings on the N side of Abbey Strand and the buildings around Mews Court) is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 for its archaeological importance. The upstanding remains of Holyrood Abbey and Queen Mary's Bath are also scheduled monuments. Significant upstanding and below-ground archaeological remains may survive as part of and in addition to the structures and features described above.

Of exceptional national and international architectural and historical significance, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is a key example of 17th century Scottish architecture. Situated in an outstanding setting beneath the crags of Arthurs Seat at the foot of the Canongate, it is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh.

The origins of the Palace of Holyroodhouse can be traced back to the foundation of an Augustinian monastery on the site by King David I in 1128. In the 16th century, it became the premier Royal Palace of the Kingdom, the abbey becoming Chapel Royal. James IV commenced work on the palace around 1503, although the tower has been attributed solely to James V and dated to1532. It is the most substantial 16th century element to retain its essential form and which later, provided the cornerstone for Sir William Bruce's designs for the rebuilding of the palace in quadrangle form in 1671 including the duplication of the tower at the SW corner for symmetry. For the internal facades around the quadrangle, Bruce superimposed three of the classical orders to indicate the importance of the three main floors. The plain Doric order is used for the services at ground floor, the Ionic order is used for the state apartments on the first floor while the elaborate Corinthian order is used for the royal apartments on the second floor. Bruce's work, which has been described as 'the apotheosis of the Scots/Continental tradition' (McKean 1993) was directed by Charles II's Secretary of State for Scotland, James Maitland, whose luxurious tastes in internal decoration can also be seen at Thirlestane Castle (see separate listing).

General repairs and redecoration were undertaken by the architect Robert Reid between 1824-34. These included the partial rebuilding of the SW corner tower and refacing of the entire S front in ashlar. The NW angle was re-roofed, and the Duke of Hamilton's wing removed with considerable replacement of wood and plaster work. References to work by William Adam and Thomas Clayton for the Hamilton wing appear in 'Robert Adam and his Circle' by John Fleming (1962). This work however, appears to have largely disappeared during Reid's repair with only fragments of Adams work remaining. Further internal alterations were carried out by William Nixon in 1842. Between 1856 and 1880, Robert Matheson, the Office of Works' Scottish architect, carried out works to the throne room including the addition of an heraldic plasterwork ceiling, 2nd floor and attic within the S wing and extensive roof repairs and external alterations including the design of the fountain in the forecourt (see separate listing).

Part of A-group comprising: Palace of Holyroodhouse; 28 and 30 Croft-An-Righ (Croft-An-Righ House); Abbey Strand Eastern Building; Abbey Strand Western Building; Queen Mary's Bath House; North Garden Sundial; Palace Forecourt Fountain; Abbey Court House; Gatehouse and Former Guard Rooms; Palace Coach House; Stables; Queen's Gallery (see separate listings).

List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey (2007/08). List description updated 2013.



J S Richardson, The Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse (1978). John Gifford et al, Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, (1991) p218. Charles McKean, Edinburgh - An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992) p41-3. John G Dunbar, Scottish Royal Palaces (1999) p55-74. Ian Gow, The Palace of Holyroodhouse - Official Guidebook (2005). For comprehensive list of references and notes on construction phases and alterations, see RCAHMS Database - accessed 29.08.07 References from previous list description: Inv. 87; MacRae - Royal Mile Report 58. C & D Arch IV 130; .

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

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