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Colinton Village Area

Colinton originally Collington. The area first known in circa 1090 where Ethelred son of Malcolm III and Queen Margaret (Edinburgh Castle) built a church. He later became Abbot of Dunkeld. Colinton at one time had many mills producing snuff, textiles and paper. A railway was built circa 1850 which connected Edinburgh to the village a popular day trip destination.

St Cuthbert's Parish Church Colinton Village

Saint Cuthbert’s Parish Church dates from 1626 when it was moved to this site. The present Church was built in 1908.  The area was used by many travellers including Royalty as this was a ford in the river easiest to cross, this was the shortest route from Dunfermline Palace to Melrose Abbey. For more details see the information board inside the church.  

 Colinton Village Church
 Colinton Village Church

Foulis Sundial

To the left of the entrance to the church at about 3 m (10 foot) can be seen a sundial with the date 1630 and bears the coat of arms of the Foulis family. 

Foulis Sundial Colinton Village Church

Oldest Gravestone 

Agnes (Heriot) Foulis

The oldest gravestone is with a date of 1593, Agnes Heriot the wife of James Foulis of Colinton.  Agnes Heriot was Heiress of Lumphey near Pembroke, Wales was born in 1556, and Agnes married James Foulis circa 1564, at age 8 and died 1593 at age 37.

Iron Coffin “Mortsafe”

You will see enclosed vaults and metal fenced cages called mort safes as a deterrent to grave robbers taking the bodies from their resting place to use in the medical school for autopsy and scientific experiments. The famous grave robbers of the time were (Burke and Hare). Circa 1826 there was a large problem of grave robbers The Body Snatchers as they were called would dig up the newly buried and sell the bodies, taking the bodies from their resting place to use in the Edinburgh medical school for autopsy and scientific experiments. There were deterrents put in place to stop the body snatchers, enclosed vaults and metal fenced cages with locks and iron coffins known as a ‘mortsafe’ could be hired out. The mortsafe would be put on the grave where the coffin had been buried and as the mortsafe were so heavy (1000 kilos) they could not be moved.  There is a mortsafe close to the entrance to the church thought to be the only one left in existence.

Mort Safe St Cuthberts Colinton Village

Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr Lewis Balfour was the minister of St Cuthbert’s Parish Church in Colinton in 1838.  His daughter being the mother of

Robert Louis Stevenson, author and poet.  As a boy Robert Louis Stevenson would played on a tree swing next to the manse and while sitting by the river would write poetry.

Robert Louis Stevenson Statue Colinton Village

Plaque on Statue 

Robert Louis Stevenson 

“All through my boyhood and youth I was known and pointed out for the pattern of an idler; and yet I was always busy on my own private end, which was to learn to write. I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” 

 “Memories and Portraits” Robert Louis Stevenson

Plaque on Robert Loius Stevenson Statue

Rev Lewis Balfour

Family Plot St Cuthbert's Graveyard

Colinton Village

Dr Lewis Balfour was born 1777 in Pilrig House Leith, Scotland and died at age 82 in 1860. Father to Margaret Isabella who married Thomas Stevenson and mother to Robert Louis Stevenson. Lewis Balfour became a minister in Ayrshire in 1806 and became the parish minister of Colinton Village in 1824 where he lived until his death in 1860.

Balfour Family Grave Grandfather of Robert Stevenson
Lewis Balfour Memorial Stone

James Gillespie of Spylaw Tomb

St Cuthbert's Graveyard

Colinton Village

James Gillespie's Tomb Colinton
James Gillespie's Memorial Stone

Henry MacKenzie's Cottage

Colinton Village

Henry Mackenzie was born in 1745 on Liberton Wynd which was a road from the head of the Canongate (Cranston Street) to the foot of Calton Hill (Leith Street). His education was like most wealthy Edinburgh families, High School then University of Edinburgh. He was a lawyer but his main passion was writing. His first publication after being rejected on several occasions was finally in 1771 he published, "Man of Feeling" anonymously, it was a great success. He had further successful publications and was part of the Enlightenment and a lodge member of Canongate Kilwinning.  HE was one of the first to help Robert Burns when he was invited to Edinburgh by his friend Dr Thomas Blacklock. Henry died in 1831.

Henry MacKenzie Cottage Colinton Village Edinburgh
Henry MacKenzie Plaque on Cottage Colinton Village Edinburgh

Redford Army Barracks

Colinton Edinburgh

Redford Barracks opened circa 1915 at the head of Colinton Village. This was the largest military in Scotland to be built since 1769 when Fort George Inverness opened.

Redford Barracks Colinton Edinburgh




These wrought-iron railings and gates

were commissioned by the well-known

Edinburgh printer Walter Bigger Blaikie

for his house in Colinton.


They were designed by Phoebe Anna Traquair,

with the technical help from the architect Frank Mears

and made in 1924 by Thomas Hadden,

 the leading wrought- iron worker in Scotland.


Phoebe Anna Traquair lived in Colinton

And was one of the most versatile contributors to the

Late nineteenth century British Arts and Crafts movement.


The ornamental railings are a unique example

Of her work in wrought iron. They were restored by the

Colinton Community Conservation Trust in 2007,

Using Chris Topp & Co Ltd.,

Stone masons from Edinburgh.


Spylaw House (James Gillespie)

Spylaw House in Colinton was the home to James Gillespie a tobacco merchant with a shop in the North Foulis’ Close, High Street. James Gillespie an Edinburgh city merchant and founder of James Gillespie’s Hospital and School. The hospital opened in 1802 and could accommodate up to 66 Pensioners with preferential entry going to people with the name Gillespie. The school was originally sited at Gillespie Crescent near to the original hospital at Wright’s house. James Gillespie was born in Edinburgh on the 28 April 1726 and died at his home in Spylaw, Colinton a suburb of Edinburgh on 8 April 1797. His brothers, John and James were Tobacco and snuff merchants had their own factory at the back of their house at Spylaw. Due to the civil war in the Americas they were a main British supplier to the trade and controlled the prices at the time. James Gillespie is buried in Colinton Parish Church.

Spylaw House Colinton Village Edinburgh Sign
Spylaw House Colinton Village Edinburgh
James Gillespie Tobaconist High Street Royal Mile Edinburgh

Water of Leith Walkway Colinton

Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, Redhall, Craiglockhart, Slateford, Harperrig 10m, Leith 8m

Water of Leith signpost Colinton Village
Colinton Village Bridge over the Water of Leith

Colinton Castle

Colinton Castle was the home of the Foulis family from 1531 was purchased by James de Foulis born 1490.  James married a Catherine Brown. He held the office of Lord Clerk Register. He was also a Member of Parliament and in 1526 became a Judge and was a Lord of Session in 1532. He died in 1549. Alexander Foulis of Colinton born circa 1600 – died 1665 was made a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1634. His son James Foulis, 2nd Baronet of Colinton was knighted by Charles I on 14 November 1641, and represented Edinburgh in parliament, was Lord Justice Clerk and known as Lord Colinton, he died in 1688. Colinton Castle was abandoned by its new owner Sir William Forbes who purchased the estate from the Foulises in 1800, who then built Colinton House, however he died before finishing. His son completed the house and had a staircase included in his alterations in 1840 that were carried out by William Playfair.

Colinton Castle Colinton Village

Colinton House

Colinton House was the home to James Abercrombie, 1st Baron Dunfermline (1776–1858), who was Speaker of the House of Commons and died at Colinton in 1858. The house was occupied until 1925 and in 1929 it became part of Merchiston Castle School.

Colinton House Colinton Village

Covenanters' 1666 Rullion Green

The memorial is to remember the covenanters' who died at the Battle of Rullion Green. It was at Colinton where the covenanters' turned for home, on their way the Royalist Army lead by Sir Thomas Dalziel caught up with them, just outside Penicuik at Rullion Green and after a short and bloody battle and many deaths, the Government troops took the Covenanters that survived and imprisoned them in Greyfriars Covenanters prison where they died, were executed or deported. A few were lucky and escaped. The column was erected by Mr MacFie and the inscription around top of column; "Covenanters 1666"  "Romans"  "Cromwell 1650"  "Charles 1745". 

Covenanters' Pillars Memorial Colinton
Covenanters' Pillars Memorial Colinton

Robert Louis Stevenson


The start of a trail of history around Colinton Village

Robert Louis Stevenson Steps Colinton Village

A walk with

Robert Louis Stevenson


As a boy RLS would have frequently passed this place when staying with his grandfather at the nearby Colinton Manse.

The Manse: “ It was a place in that time like no other: the garden cut into provinces by a great hedge of beech, and overlooked by the church and the terrace of the churchyard, where the tombstones were thick, and after nightfall “spunkies” might be seen to dance, at least by children;”  “Memories and Portraits” Robert Louis Stevenson.


Visit the swing café in the churchyard to see the old yew tree that held the swing believed to have inspired RLS to write his poem The Swing.

Robert Louis Stevenson Swing and Yew Tree
Yew Tree Robert Louis Stevenson Colinton
 A walk with Robert Louis Stevenson sign
 A walk with Robert Louis Stevenson  Looking – glass River

  A walk with

Robert Louis Stevenson

 Looking – glass River


Smooth it slides upon its travel,

Here a wimple, there a gleam –

O the clean gravel!

O the smooth stream!


Sailing blossoms, silverfishes,

Paven pools as clear as air –

How a child wishes

To live down there!


We can see our coloured faces

Floating on the shaken pool

Down in cool places,

Dim and very cool;


Till a wind or water wrinkle,

Dipping marten, plumbing trout,

Spreads in a twinkle

And blots all out.


See the rings purse each other;

All below grows black as night,

Just as if mother

Had blown out the light!


Patience, children, just a minute –

See the spreading circles die;

The stream and all in it

Will clear by and by.


A Child’s Garden of Verses


Lookout for wildlife as you stroll along the riverside paths of the Water of Leith

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