Canongate South Edinburgh

Canongate South Edinburgh is all the attractions, famous residents through history, the historic buildings  and places to visit on the South side of the Canongate in the Royal Mile Edinburgh. This page takes you from the top of the Canongate on the south side at the White Horse Inn to the Scottish Parliament Building at the foot of the Canongate. The area around where the Palace of Holyrood House is now was once a small village called Herbergare, where the Abbey of Holyrood was built and was given to the monks by King David I in 1128 and a road that extended from Herbergare, to the Nether Bow Port was known as Canon gait. 

The White Horse Inn Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh

The White Horse Inn is the oldest Inn in the Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh with the stables at the rear with entry from Gullan’s Close the coaches left from what was known as Boyd’s Inn The other entrance for the coaches and horses was from Boyd’s Entry a short distance down St Mary’s Wynd, Boyd’s Inn now known as The White Horse Inn, was the starting point the long journey by coach to London. The White Horse Inn was also the main dropping off point for the coaches from London which was in Boyd’s Close off Boyd’s Entry at the back of the present day White Horse Inn. The White Horse Inn was also the place that runaway couples from England came to be married and many weddings were carried out here. The White Horse Inn consisted of a house for entertainment, stables for over 100 horses and sheds for over 20 carriages and rooms for the guests. This was the first 5 star lodging in Edinburgh the proprietor being James Boyd. James Boyd Sold the White Horse Inn in 1776 to retire.

Gullan’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Gullan’s Close at the side of the White Horse Inn was the fourth close on the south side of the Canongate prior to 1869  when the First three closes of the Canongate were demolished under the improvement Act of 1867 replaced by a tenement. Gullan’s Close was previously Halliburton’s Close and James Boyd the Innkeeper owned property on the west side of Halliburton’s Close(White Horse Inn)  (James Boyd the Innkeeper was a gambler and was about to lose everything when he had good fortune with a run of winnings on a white Horse hence where the name The White Horse Inn derived). The White Horse Inn was also famous for runaway couples from England that wished to marry. It was also the Start and finish to the coach trip to and from London. Gullan’s Close named after James Gullan who had stables led to the Stables where the coaches and Horses for the London coach journey where stabled. (100 horses and 20 carriages).

Gibb’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Gibb’s Close named after Robert Gibb who had stables at the foot of Halliburton’s Close. One of the residents of Gibb’s close was Constantine Burke the brother of the murderer William Burke and this was the place the murder of Mary Paterson took place. Her body was transported to Dr Knox who paid for the body for his experiments. Burke and Hare resided in Tanner’s Close (Portsburgh) in the West Port in a lodging House the place they carried out many of their evil deeds.

Pirrie’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Pirrie’s Close or as on old maps, Perries Close, were the lands of Elizabeth Murray and Alexander Pirie and the Pirie family stayed here for generations and Thomas Pirrie built a Brewery in the Close.  Pirrie’s Close was once called Fuird’s Close after Alexander and John Fruid and their descendants. The Close was first Known as Kinnaird’s Close and was then sold to Alexander Fruid.

Chessel’s Court Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Chessel’s Court was built in 1748 as mansion apartments for the architect Archibald Chessel and in 1769 became the Excise Office and was the scene of an armed robbery in 1788 by the notorious William Deacon Brodie and his gang. The robbery failed and Deacon Brodie was eventually caught and executed on the gallows in the High Street that he designed. To the Left of Chessel’s Court once ran Plain Stone Close (Plainstane Close). The plaque has been attached to a wall on the right side. Details of all the closes from the past can be seen on maps held by the National Library of Scotland link to get you there fast.  Plainstane Close was named as the close had been paved.

Weir’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Weir’s Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh was the home of George Chalmers founder of Chalmers Hospital which opened to patients in 1864 on the lower floors the upper floors were opened to fee paying patients in 1872

Old Playhouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Old Playhouse Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh was the entrance to the Playhouse Theatre where famous actors, actresses, singers and performers would ply their trade from 1747 – 1767. The tragedy DOUGLAS was first performed here in 1756 written by John Home minister and playwright.

Saint John’s Cross Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

The cross of St John marks the spot on the Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh where the boundary between Edinburgh and the Burgh of the Canongate was and also marks where the original St. John’s Cross was positioned. Moved to allow carriages which were becoming more popular to pass up and down the street.

St John’s Pend Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh.

The Knights of St John had their houses in this area. Go through the Archway and you will find the Masonic Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No 2 and the oldest masonic chapel in the world. The archway below the Moray House tablet in St John’s Street was also known as St John’s Pend this is where the first known masonic lodge was sited, date unknown. There are other Lodges that also claim to be the first lodge by way of minutes of meetings, but St John’s name has been synonymous with this area since the early 1500s.  It is believed that the name was first used by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who held property in this area. The entrance to the street that gave access to the Canongate was built in 1768 and the houses were occupied by famous families.

Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson Moray House College Royal Mile Edinburgh

Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson was an educational psychologist and the director of studies at Moray House College for 26 years and a pioneer of educational testing. Sir Godfrey Thomson’s plaque can be found in St John’s Pend in Canongate, Royal Mile, and Edinburgh. Sir Godfrey Thomson led the only IQ test to be held in Scotland testing took place in 1932 and 1947 of all 11 year old children.

Masonic Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No2 St John’s Street Royal Mile Edinburgh

The Lodge Canongate, Kilwinning has had many famous brothers, Robert Burns the Poet and John Napier the inventor of the logarithms. At the first gate on the right entering from the Canongate, above a black door on the lintel, can be seen the words SAINT JOHN’S LODGE. The next building is Lodge Kilwinning No 2 this is named after the original lodge in Ayrshire which dates back to the building of Kilwinning Abbey in 1140, however the Abbey of Holyrood built in 1124, was also linked to the Freemasons and is older. The difference is, Lodge Mother Kilwinning in Ayrshire issued charters and warrants to Lodges wishing the privileges of freemasonry. In the High Street Hyndford’s Close (St David’s Lodge) is where Sir Walter Scott became a mason. 

Lodge Canongate Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh

The first Lodge to request a charter was the Lodge Canongate. This was granted in December 1677 and is the first known example in the world of a Lodge being granted a Charter by an existing Lodge.  The Chapel of St John is the oldest purpose built masonic meeting room in the world. The first Grand Lodge of Scotland was Lodge Canongate Kilwinning in 1735. The Head Office of the Grand Lodge of Scotland is at 96 George Street Edinburgh. The Lodge of Edinburgh (St Mary’s Chapel) No 1 has the oldest recorded meeting minutes dating back to 1598 and is still in existence in Hill Street Edinburgh today.     

Old Moray House Canongate Edinburgh

Old Moray House was built in the early 1600s. It is now a group of three buildings and a courtyard. The Regent’s House to the east was built before the mid-1600s and the new house to the south was built in 1755. Take a walk through the gates to see the buildings. The Moray House College has been on this site since 1848 and became Moray House College of Education in 1959. After merging with other colleges it is now part of the University of Edinburgh. 

Sugarhouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Sugarhouse Close with the archway to the sugar refinery to allow carts to carry the loads of sugar. The sugar refinery started circa 1750 and continued for over 100 years. In 1858 it became the site of the Holyrood brewery owned by William Younger & Co (William Younger and Co merged with William McEwan to become Scottish Brewers in 1931) the Holyrood Brewery closed in 1986 and the land was sold in 1990. Holyrood Brewery stretched from Gentle’s Close further down the Canongate to Sugarhouse Close).

Bakehouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

In Bakehouse Close is a representation of a House of the 17th Century Canongate, Acheson House was the residence of Sir Archibald Acheson and  Margaret Hamilton from 1633 when it was built, it then was passed on to his son George Acheson. The Canongate became the area the wealthy of Edinburgh moved to as the Edinburgh Closes and Wynds were overpopulated, smelly and noisy.

Acheson House Bakehouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Acheson House was built in 1633 as a townhouse for Sir Archibald Acheson, who died a year later in 1634. Archibald Acheson was knighted by James I in 1620, made secretary of state for Scotland in 1627 during the reign of Charles I and a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1628. Acheson house was restored by the Marquess of Bute when he purchased the property from Edinburgh council in 1935 to save it from demolition.

Huntly House Canongate Edinburgh

In 1825 in the ‘Traditions of Edinburgh’ Robert Chambers calls Huntly House the ‘SPEAKING HOUSE’ because of the Latin inscriptions on the building’s exterior walls. There are five inscriptions, the original four inscriptions are from the 16th century and one added on renovation in the late 1920s early 1930s. The museum was housed in Huntly House before an extension was built where the entrance is now. The Building was originally the Marquis of Huntly’s House. Take a walk round and see the Scottish silver, pictures of old Edinburgh and maps of the building of the New Town. Free entry

The Five Inscriptions on Stone carvings of the wall of Huntly House Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh Read;


THERE IS ANOTHER HOPE OF LIFE.                                                                                   I AM OLD BUT RENEW MY YOUTH 1932. 





The Museum Of Edinburgh Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

You will find the Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate. Inside the museum tells the story of Edinburgh from prehistoric times to the present day. Displays illustrate life in the Old and New Towns from the 1760s. Home to important collections of Edinburgh history, exhibits include Grayfriars Bobby’s collar, the National Covenant signed in 1638, and Scottish pottery.

Wilson’s Court Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Wilson’s Court found between Bakehouse Close and Cooper’s Close was once circa 1650 A sandstone quarry which was filled in and a tenement now stands.  Surrounding the court Holyrood Brewery was built. Andrew Berwick established a Brewery in Gentle’s Close circa 1820 which extended to around Cooper’s Close and Wilson’s Close. Wilson’s Close was named after a William Wilson who owned land in 1778 His three sons all immigrated to the West Indies as did one of his daughters who married a John Hamilton of Tobago. Philip the eldest son also of Tobago inherited the land in 1782 and later sold it to Alexander Gordon in 1796.

Cooper’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Cooper’s Close was named after a wealthy merchant and engraver Richard Cooper in 1749 and owned further property in the High street. He also sold land to James Gentle of Gentle’s Close. The Cooper family has a connection to the close as a Margaret Cooper lived here in the 1840s  Later Cooper’s Close was where the barrels were made and supplied to the breweries. Positioned in the middle of the Holyrood Brewery site. The first Brewery was at Holyrood Abbey and moved to the site of Horse Wynd now where the Scottish Parliament Stands. A Cooper is a skilled tradesman who makes or repairs casks and barrels for Breweries.

Crichton’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Crichton’s Close when studying old maps (1813) of the Canongate seems to be on the site of the Carfrae Coach works of East Lothian a respected coach builder.  In a earlier map (1765) the same site is named Crichton’s Coach works a possible clue to the Close’s name. The Close was named after Alexander Crichton Coach builder circa 1760. John Carfrae had purchased the coach works by 1799 and his son Thomas was still running the business in 1832.

The Scottish Poetry Library Crichton’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

The Scottish Poetry Library can be found in Crichton’s Close in the Canongate. One of only three Poetry Libraries in the United Kingdom. Started in Tweeddale Court in the High Street in 1984 and moved to its present home in June 1999. The Library has the largest collection of Poems in Scotland and if you are looking for the poem for a loved one or special occasion, you will find it here. There is a shop. Entry and use of the Poetry Library is Free. Do not go past go in and find the poem that reflects who you are. This is the only purpose built poetry Library in Europe and possible the world.

Bull’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Bull’s Close extended from the Canongate to the South Back of Canongate now known as Holyrood Road and was part of the land owned by the Holyrood Brewery (Scottish Brewers). Close named after one of its many owners a Robert Bull many wealthy owners when purchasing property (land) change the close’s name to their own. John Carfrae also owned houses in the Close which had access to his Coach works in Crichton Close.

Royal Mile Primary School Canongate Edinburgh

Milton House School was built circa 1885 to educate the children of the Canongate area. The School was built on the site of Milton House, named after Lord Milton, (Andrew Fletcher) a famous judge of his time circa 1756 for who the house was built by the designer John Adam elder brother of the more famous architect Robert Adam. John Adam commission 4 wall panels for the original Milton Boarding School by William Delacour who died in Edinburgh 1767.

Nisbet of Dirleton’s House 82-84 Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh

82 – 84 Canongate was Nisbet of Dirleton’s House. The house with shop was originally built in 1624 by Lord Dirleton, Sir John Nisbet the Lord Advocate. A typical entrance stone to a 17th Century building.

Nisbet of Dirleton’s House Stone Lintel above door with translation in brackets



Reid’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Reid’s Close named after Andrew Reid Brewer circa 1770 had a common entrance from the Canongate with Haddington Close (Earl of Haddington built a house here circa 1790) with separate entrances from Back of the Canongate south (Holyrood Road) Bailie Reid’s Close or Reid’s Close was the site of a new brewery opened by the Berwick’s circa 1860, on the site of their malting’s which operated for several years. They then sold it circa 1870 when it changed its name to the Reid’s Close Brewery. Reid’s Close is at the west side of the Scottish Parliament Building on the Canongate and is a quick way to get to Our Dynamic Earth at Holyrood Gait.

Dynamic Earth Holyrood Gait Royal Mile Edinburgh

Dynamic Earth is a science centre in Edinburgh. The centre opened in 1999. The building’s structure consists of a steel mast-supported membrane stretched over a steel skeleton. Dynamic Earth takes you on a journey through our planet’s past, present and future, with interactive exhibits and impressive technology, including a 4D and 3D experience. Beginning with the Big Bang, children and adults alike can witness the creation of the Earth, follow the planet through its evolution and even catch glimpses of the earth’s future. The best way by foot to get to Our Dynamic Earth is down Reid’s Close of the Canongate Royal Mile or by car Down Holyrood Road from the west and past the Palace of Holyrood House from the east.

Vallence’s Entry Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

Vallence’s Entry was named after Adam Vallange who owned land here. Once named Valentine’s Entry circa 1830 Adam Vallange was a barber by trade and his land stood next to the Duke of Queensberry’s Land.

Queensberry House Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh

The Duke of Queensberry resided in a stately mansion till his death in 1695 and his family continued residence until 1803. At that time it was changed into a hospital and in 1834 it became a refuge for the poor. In 1945 it became and Old peoples home and in 1997 the Scottish government closed the home and moved the residents to enable the Scottish Parliament building to be constructed. On the Pavement of the Canongate between Vallance’s Entry and Queensberry House is the Canongate Wellhead dated 1817. This would have been where the residence of the canongate would get their drinking water. The wealthy land owners would have caddies to fetch water from the wellhead to their houses.

The Scottish Parliament Building (Main Entrance Horse Wynd)

On this land previous to the parliament Building, after Queensberry House, stood four close’s Cumming’s Close, Thomson’s Close, Penman’s Close and Charter’s Close. In Horse Wynd was a Brewery and prior to that was Lothian Hut a mansion House built by William Lothian 3rd Marquis of Lothian in 1750. The Lothian Hut (mansion House) was demolished in 1825 the last occupant being Dugald Stewart a Scottish philosopher and mathematician joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh I 1783. He was born in Edinburgh on the 22 November 1753 and died 11 June 1828. A memorial to Dugald Stewart stands on Calton Hill Edinburgh.

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