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

First House in Princes Street

The first house built in Princes Street was No 10 in 1769.  

This was Silk Mercer (haberdasher) owner

Mr John Neale. Then Pooles Coffee House 1783,

then Archibald Constable purchased the house in 1822. 

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 (West Gardens Laid 1816-20 and East Gardens Laid 1830),  a Loch (Lake) surrounded the Castle Rock, separating the two Gardens West and East is the Mound (building started 1781) 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 that emptied into Lochend at the back of Calton Hill. The Gardens were then laid. In the 1840s the railway was built in the valley, and Waverley Station opened in its present form in 1854. The first station was originally named Canal Street Station where Waverley Market now stands.

Nor Loch and Edinburgh Castle by Alexander Naysmith
Canal Street Station Edinburgh

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
Register House Princes Street Edinburgh
New Register House West Register Street Edinburgh
George III Statue Edinburgh
Register House Crown Hotel Princes Street Edinburgh
Register House George III Statue

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.

Wellington Monument Princes Street Edinburgh

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 world's first department stores)

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
First Steel Constructed Building in Scotland

 North British Station Hotel

(The Balmoral Hotel )


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

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.

Royal Scottish Academy of Art
Royal Scottish Academy of Art Princes St

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.

Waverley Entrance Calton Road.JPG
Edinburgh Waverley Rail Station Princes Street Entrance
Waverley Steps from the Princes Street Entrance.JPG
Edinburgh Waverley Station Market Street.JPG

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
St John's Church Princes Street Edinburgh.JPG

Anne Rutherford

(Mrs Walter Scott Esq)

1733 - 1819

Anne Rutherford was born in 1733 and died in 1819 her grave can be seen on the east side St John’s Church west end Edinburgh. Her father was John Rutherford and her mother Jean Swinton. The Swinton family being one of the oldest families in Scotland. Anne Rutherford was mother of Sir Walter Scott her ninth child, six of which died in infancy.

Sir Walter Scott’s, grandmother was a Halliburton which gave the Scott family the hereditary right to be buried in Dryburgh Abbey. Where Walter Scott is buried with family members.

Anne Rutherford  Headstone Sir Walter Sc
Anne Rutherford  Grave Sir Walter Scott'

Sir Henry Raeburn R.A. 

1756 -1823


Sir Henry Raeburn R.A. was born in Edinburgh in 1756 and became Scotland’s foremost portrait painter. He lived in Stockbridge area north of Edinburgh. HIs studio Raeburn House where he worked is in York Place Edinburgh an extension of Queen Street which was an original part of Edinburgh’s new town. He was knighted in 1822 and was portrait painter to King George IV. His work can be seen in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and on the outside wall of the Gallery stands a statue of Sir Henry Raeburn amongst others. A memorial stone is in St John’s Church at the west end of Princes Street close to Sir Walter Scott’s mothers grave.

Sir Henry Raeburn  Headstone

George Burnett 1822 -1890

George Burnett Lyon King of Arms grave stone is in St John’s graveyard at the west end of Princes Street Edinburgh. George was born in 1822 son of John Burnett, Fifth Laird of Kemnay Inverurie. The family home Kemnay House would pass to Alexander the 6th Laird, George’s older brother.


George became a lawyer in 1845 a member of the faculty of Advocates and was appointed Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1866. He remained in the position until his death in 1890. Lord Lyon King of Arms is the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and is the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in that country.

Lord Lyon Scotland George Burnett
George Burnett Lord Lyon King of Arms
Johnnie alker Visitor Centre

Johnnie Walker

Visitor Centre

Old Clock

 1962 the Clock on the corner of Princes Street and Hope Street was erected in 1962 and twice each hour the miniature Pipers circled the base of the Clock playing the tune Scotland the Brave.  This was originally a Binns department store built in 1935 for a company founded in Sunderland in 1811 by a draper called George Binns.

History of John Walker

Princes Street Edinburgh Binns Clock

John Menzies

61 Princes Street

John Menzies moved from London to Edinburgh at the age of 25 and opened a book shop in 1833 at 61 Princes Street, Edinburgh. With in a few years it became what is now known as a newsagents, being the first to sell The Scotsman newspaper

(another business still trading) over the counter. John Menzies is now Menzies Aviation and is still going strong.

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