Princes Street Edinburgh

Attractions and History

Princes Street Edinburgh Attractions

Edinburgh’s famous Street “Princes Street” originally named St. Giles Street after the city’s patron saint, Saint Giles. King George III, after consideration, rejected the name St. Giles Street as St Giles being the patron saint of lepers and also the name of a slum area on the edge of the City of London. It was renamed Princes Street after his sons, the Princes. 

Princes Street is approximately 2 kms in length with shops on the north side and gardens on the south side of the street.

City Centre, Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens is a public park in the centre of Edinburgh in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Before the gardens were formed a Loch (Lake) surrounded the Castle Rock. Separating the two Gardens West and East is the Mound which was formed from earth and rubble when the new town was under construction, it became a connection between Old and New Edinburgh.

West Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh
East Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh

The Nor Loch (Princes Street Gardens)

The Nor Loch stretched from under the North Bridge where the Waverley Station is now and in the west at the edge of St Cuthbert's Church, the Castle Rock and King's Stables Road. The draining of the Nor Loch was required due to the fact that it had been heavily polluted from centuries of sewage draining downhill from the Old Town. The draining of the Nor Loch began in 1759 by way of making a canal to the Firth of Forth and The Gardens were created in the 1820s. In the 1840s the railway was built in the valley, and Waverley Station opened in its present form in 1854 it original name being Canal Street Station as the canal ran past it.

Register House Princes Street Edinburgh

Register House can be found at the foot of North Bridge Edinburgh built on what was at the time called Multrees Hill.  

It was opened in the 1790 and New Register House on the west side of the building in West Register Street was completed in the 1858. The buildings were built to store records of registry (births, deaths and marriages) and is also where the Tartan registry is now housed. Directly outside Register House can be found the Duke of Wellington’s statue which was erected in 1852 in memory of the Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo Place leading to the Calton Hill is also named in memory of the Battle of Waterloo which took place in 1815.

Register House Princes Street Edinburgh

Duke of Wellington Statue Princes Street Edinburgh

Directly outside Register House can be found the Duke of Wellington’s statue which was erected in 1852 in memory of the Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo Place leading to the Calton Hill is also named in memory of the Battle of Waterloo which took place in 1815. The name of the horse erected in 1852. The Horse was called Copenhagen.

Ritchie Clock | Edinburgh Circle

The clock that can be found on the west side of the Wellington Statue is a clock that was part of the “Edinburgh Circle” a number of electronic clocks placed around the city by Frederick James Ritchie to give the correct time to Edinburgh’s residents.

Frederick James Ritchie Clock Princes Street Edinburgh

Jenner's Department Store

(one of the oldest department stores in the world)

The original store opened in 1838 by 2 out of work drapers Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington at 47 Princes Street. The store grew with its popularity of fine goods and over time acquired 2 further premises in Princes Street and 8 in South St David Street to make it the largest department store in the United Kingdom. In early 1860s when Charles Kennington retired Charles Jenner became sole proprietor. The Store was burnt to the ground and rebuilt in 1893 by the same architect that designed the North British Railway Hotel (The Balmoral). The reopening of Jenner’s was in 1895 and was successful as an independent Department store until the House of Fraser group took over in 2005. Not surprisingly the Royal Warrant was awarded to the store in 1911 as the Royals at the time were frequent customers

Jenners Department Store Princes Street Edinburgh
Jenners Foundation Stone Princes Street Edinburgh

The Forsyth Armillary Sphere

Princes Street Edinburgh First steel framed Building in Scotland. An icon of the Edinburgh skyline for over one hundred years. This corner building was the first to be built with a full steel-frame in Scotland date 1906. The corner store features the Forsyth Armillary Sphere which has the signs of the zodiac around the centre with 3 Gilt cherub figures holding the sphere in place.

Forsyth's Sphere Princes Steet Edinburgh

St John’s Church Edinburgh

St John’s Scottish Episcopal Church on Princes Street has a history from 1818. St John’s offer the sacramental rite of marriage to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation

St John's Church Princes Street Edinburgh

Dean Ramsay Cross

Dean Ramsay was a clergyman in St John’s for 45 years. The Celtic Cross in his memory can be seen at the east end of the church near the entrance to Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh.

Dean Ramsay Memorial Cross Princes Street Edinburgh

James Young Simpson Princes Street

James Young Simpson (7 June 1811 – 6 May 1870) discovered the anaesthetic power of chloroform and introduced anaesthesia to childbirth. Simpson was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1863. On 4th November, 1847 Simpson first used chloroform. It was first used as an anaesthetic to help ease the pain during childbirth. Queen Victoria used chloroform during the delivery of Prince Leopold in 1853. Simpson was the first man to be knighted by the Scottish Court of the Lord Lyon for services to medicine. “Victo Dolore” (pain conquered) is the inscription on Simpson’s coat of arms. Simpson died at his home in Edinburgh at the age of fifty-eight. A burial spot in Westminster Abbey was offered to his family, but they declined and instead buried Simpson closer to home in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh. On the day of Simpson’s funeral, a Scottish holiday was declared, including the banks and stock markets, with over 100,000 citizens lining the funeral cortege on its way to the cemetery, while over 1,700 colleagues and business leaders took part in the procession itself. James Young Simpson Lived in 52 Queen Street Edinburgh for over 25 years. His first practice was at 2 Deanhaugh Street in Stockbridge across the road from where he lived with his brother at 1 Raeburn Place above his brother’s bakery.

James Young Simpson Statue Princes Street Doctor Inventor Edinburgh

Thomas Guthrie Statue Princes Street Edinburgh

Thomas Guthrie was the founder of the first Ragged Industrial School in Scotland in 1847. His first introduction to the idea of Ragged Schools was in 1841, when he was the Parish Minister of St. John’s Church in Edinburgh. His first school was in Ramsay Lane and was for the poor and destitute children of Edinburgh. Thomas Guthrie died in 1873 and was buried in The Grange Cemetery Edinburgh. Ragged Schools were free education for the poor and homeless children.

Royal Scots Greys Memorial Princes Street Edinburgh

The Equine statue can be found in West Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh at the foot of Frederick Street. The Royal Scots Greys were a cavalry regiment of the British Army from 1678–1971. Part of their standard is the eagle that was taken from the French standard seized at Waterloo by Sergeant Charles Ewart. The Royal Scots Greys fought alongside the Light brigade at the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815. The full story is in The Royal Mile Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle Esplanade and the Royal Mile Booklet read the story of Sergeant Charles Ewart.

Royal Scots Greys Memorial Statue Princes Street Edinburgh

Allan Ramsay (Poet)

Allan Ramsay was a trained Wigmaker and poet. The statue of Allan Ramsay is wearing a night cap, in the act of writing. He holds a book in his left hand and a pencil in his right. He is on a pedestal decorated with portraits of Lord Murray (north side), who had the statue erected in memory of his great uncle. Mrs Ramsay his wife (west side), General Ramsay his father (south side),and  Lady Campbell and Mrs Malcolm his daughters (east side).


For the last 15 years of his life he lived in Ramsay Lodge an octagonal house on Castlehill. Now part of Ramsay Garden which was an extension of the original House. The white house is visible on the hill behind the statue on Ramsay Garden.


In 1725 he was instrumental in opening the first lending library in the High Street near to St Giles Cathedral. This was the first lending library in Britain. 


Allan Ramsay was born in Lanarkshire in the west of Scotland on 15 October 1686. He died at the age of 71 on

7th January 1758 in Edinburgh.  Allan Ramsay first came to Edinburgh in 1700.


His first job was a wig maker’s apprentice He then established the Jacobite Literary Society in 1712. In his writing he used pen names which were, first Isaac Bickerstaff and then Gawin Douglas, he changed his occupation in 1721 and became a bookseller which he retired from in 1740.  He is buried in Greyfriars Kirk yard.

Royal Scottish Academy of Art Mound Edinburgh

The oldest and most prestigious academy of contemporary art in Scotland. The Academy is active in the promotion of young artists from Scotland’s Colleges of Art and Architecture and takes a lead role in promoting living artists in Scotland. Royal Scottish Academy seen with the entrance from Princes Street Edinburgh.

Mound Precinct

The area to the east of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and in front of the national gallery is mound precinct which has access from the top of the mound by way of the Playfair steps. A great meeting place as this is the centre of Princes Street and the new town.

Mound Precinct Princes Street Edinburgh
Playfair Steps Mound Precinct Princes Street Edinburghh

Professor John Wilson (a.k.a Christopher North)

John Wilson born 1785 near Paisley in the west of Scotland. A Lawyer and writer and was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University in 1819. He lived in Ann Street in the new town and Died in Edinburgh 1854. He is buried in the Dean Cemetery less than a mile from where he lived. John Wilson made his name writing for Blackwood’s Magazine under the pseudonym of Christopher North. He had many influential friends of one was Sir Walter Scott.

John Wilson Princes Street Edinburgh

Adam Black

Adam Black was born in Charles Street Edinburgh in Feb of 1784, the son of a builder and educated at the High School and Edinburgh University. He was twice Lord Provost of Edinburgh. In 1826 he was the main bookseller in Edinburgh. He published the 7th, 8th and 9th editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica. He died of old age, 89 almost twice as long a life as most lived in these times.  

Adam Black Princes Street Edinburgh

Scott Monument

A 200-foot-high monument to Scottish Author Sir Walter Scott was erected in Princes Street Gardens in 1832 in his honour and funded mainly by another author, Catherine Sinclair, author of Holiday House. Climb the steps to the top for a wonderful view of Edinburgh city centre. There is a replica of the Monument on the corner of St Colme Street, down from Charlotte Square which was erected in honour of Catherine Sinclair by way of public donation.

David Livingstone

David Livingstone born in 1813 was an explorer and Scottish missionary. Deep in Africa, Livingstone lost contact with the outside world for six years. In 1871 Henry Morton Stanley was sent as a publicity stunt by The New York Herald to find him, eventually tracking Livingstone to the shores of Lake Tanganyika and giving rise to the saying for which he is best known. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

David Livingstone Arican Explorer Statue Princes Street Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Waverley Mall and Waverley Train Station

The Waverley Train Station entrance in Princes Street is one of 4 entrances into the Waverley rail Station which is below street level. The Station was built in 1854 and is the main rail station in Edinburgh where you can travel in all direction with a direct line to London with a journey time of just over 4 hours. There are trains to Highlands, Glasgow, the Scottish Borders all points north and south.

Edinburgh Waverley Rail Station Princes Street Entrance

The North British Station Hotel (The Balmoral Hotel ) Edinburgh

The North British Station Hotel (The Balmoral) opened for Business in 1902 and is positioned next to the Waverley Station Between Waverley Bridge and the North Bridge, which gives direct access to Edinburgh’s old town, The Royal Mile, The Castle and The Palace of Holyrood House (Holyrood Palace). Directly behind the hotel is Calton Hill. The Hotel is at the east end of Princes Street, one of the most famous and picturesque streets in the world. The clock has historically been set 5 minutes fast giving rail travellers the illusion that they are late for their train. The site it stands on is where the first ever hotel in Edinburgh stood. The first hotel being The Crown in 1811 and then changed to Royal Eagle and Prince Regent before being demolished to make way for modernisation and the building of the present hotel.

Balmoral Hotel Princes Street Edinburgh

© 2020 by All About Edinburgh. 

All About Edinburgh 

Advertise your business here

Be Seen on every page of this website over 370 pages

For more things to do outside Edinburgh go to

Lothian and  Borders.JPG

started 16 / 03 /2017

Prestige Golf and Travel (2).png