Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing 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.


Status: Designated


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Group Category Details
100000019 - See Notes
Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 26814 73918
326814, 673918


Mostly Robert Reid, 1822-3 and Robert Matheson, 1857, incorporating some 16th century fabric. 2-storey, 4-bay crowstepped former courthouse with circular corbelled stairtower with conical roof at NE corner, situated on S side of entrance to Palace forecourt. Random rubble, droved and ashlar margins. Tower with flattened ogee-arch entrance with timber, metal-studded door.

N elevation with 4-bay pointed-arch blind arcading (see Notes). Off-centre boarded timber door with moulded door surround. Large in-set panel with painted Arms of James V to right.

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped gable and ridge stacks.

INTERIOR: (seen 2007). Stone turnpike stair at entrance to NE . Some rooms with moulded stone fire surrounds.

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.

Situated at the main entrance to Holyroodhouse from the Canongate, the Abbey Court House is an important component of the outbuildings of Holyroodhouse and is particularly interesting for the retention of the blind arcading of the original 16th century gatehouse on the North wall. It also forms part of the wider stable complex of buildings associated with the Holyroodhouse.

The current Abbey Courthouse, restored in 1958 when the old prison was refurbished into the Bailie's Room, is the current home of the High Constables of Holyrood, who guard the Queen when she visits Holyroodhouse. The Constables in their current form were founded in the late 18th century, although their origins are much earlier than this. The building also served as the Abbey Court. The Abbey Court held jurisdiction within the grounds of Holyrood Abbey, and mainly dealt with civil maters relating to minor debts and petty squabbles. It ceased as a Court of Law in 1880. Originally held in rooms in the Palace, the Court moved to the guardroom in 1746, which had the advantage of having a built-in prison. The guardroom was replaced by the current building in 1857. Robert Matheson (c1807-1877), the Clerk of Works for Scotland, carried out a programme of gradual improvements to the Palace, the Park and the Abbey Precincts at the request of Queen Victoria. These improvements included designing Lodges for the entrances to the Park and the fountain in the forecourt, as well as improving the buildings in the Abbey Courtyard.

In 1128, David I built an Augustinian Abbey at Holyrood. This flourished, and when the Royal Court was subsequently in Edinburgh many Royal Guests chose to stay in the guesthouse of the abbey rather than the Castle. In 1501, James IV built a Palace on the site of the Abbey guesthouse and a gatehouse was constructed. This gatehouse was a 2-storey building with a rib-vaulted pend and a tower at its SE corner. The building was destroyed in 1743, but fragments can be found in the stairtower of the current Court House, and also on the North wall, where the arcading from the original gatehouse is clearly visible.

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).

References from previous list description: Inv 87. General Report on works executed at Holyrood 1836, SRO.

List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey 2007-08.

Category changed from B to A and list description updated 2013.



1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, (1849-53). John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984. p141. Patrick Cadell, The Abbey Court & High Constables & Guard of Honour of Holyroodhouse, 1985. RCAHMS Canmore database at (accessed 29-08-07).

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). 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 only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. 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 Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at


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Printed: 20/03/2019 00:46