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.


Date Added
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25435 73528
325435, 673528


17th century, with later alterations and additions, including David Rhind, 1853 and Robert Wilson, 1896. 5-stage tower: crenellated parapet with chequer-set machicolation and angle rounds; octagonal timber caphouse with crenellated parapet and ogee dome to roof. Coursed ashlar to W; 1st 4 stories to Castlehill harled, coursed ashlar above; random rubble to E. Canted window in moulded surround to SW corner at 5th floor.

S (CASTLEHILL) ELEVATION: regularly fenestrated above 1st floor; cill course to 4th floor. Timber boarded door in roll-moulded surround to (lower) bay to outer right; small windows lighting stair above. Door to Skinner's Close in segmental-arched surround to centre. Entrance in projecting crenellated porch with chequer-set machicolations to outer left.

W (RAMSAY LANE) ELEVATION: advanced bay of tower to right: studded timber boarded door in roll-moulded surround (circa 1686) with coat of arms (painted and gilded) in pediment over (see Notes). Recessed rear wing to left.

12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to 1853 additions; 2-pane in timber sash and case windows below.

Statement of Special Interest

The 4 lower storeys of the Outlook Tower, including the door to outer right, are the remains of 2 3-bay early 17th century tenements, one said to be the residence of Ramsay of Cockpen. The building was reconstructed in 1853 as Maria Short's Observatory, the W side and rear walls being rebuilt in coursed ashlar, and the top 2 storeys and crenellated parapet added. Maria Short had previously operated an observatory on Calton Hill. After this was closed down in 1851 she bought the house on Castlehill, added the extra floors and installed the Camera Obscura. Patrick Geddes bought the Outlook Tower in 1892. Robert Wilson's Dean of Guild plans of 1896 are for the construction of a small domed observatory and the extension of the glasshouse on the roof, and the roofing over of the back court. The Tower became a centre for post-graduate studies, experimental education and civic improvement, 'the world's first sociological laboratory, nucleus of the University of the future for all neo-technic thinking and teaching and for the future Encyclopaedia Civica.' The domed caphouse still houses the Camera Obscura. The present lens system was installed in 1947 by Barr and Stroud, of Glasgow. The W door (circa 1686), with the arms and motto (Giving and Forgiving) of the Biggars of Woolmet, was brought from Woolmet House (demolished 1953) in 1955. In 1967 New College bought the Outlook Tower from the Town and Gown Association (founded by Geddes), together with No 1 Ramsay Lane, the former Dr Guthrie's Ragged School (separately listed), with the intention of developing the Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies. The property was acquired by the University of Edinburgh in 1972, and sold to Visitors Centres Ltd in 1982. The surviving Geddes Collection remains in the ownership of the University.



Dean of Guild 4th January 1853 and 6th February 1896. Grant OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH (1885) vol I p 91. RCAHMS INVENTORY (1951) No 9 p72. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) p 192. Sofia Leonard CATALOGUE OF THE PATRICK GEDDES CENTRE FOR PLANNING STUDIES (1998).

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.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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