Royal Terrace, Edinburgh

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View of the western end of Royal Terrace, from London Road Gardens, formerly Royal Terrace Gardens

Royal Terrace is a grand street in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the north side of Calton Hill within the New Town and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1995,[1] built on the south side of a setted street, facing the sloping banks of London Road Gardens, formerly Royal Terrace Gardens, with views looking north towards Leith and the Firth of Forth.

Showpiece of the Eastern New Town[edit]

A section of Royal Terrace at the west end of the street, with six Ionic columns. This contains two townhouses: number 4 with the central entrance and two bays to the left, and number 3 with the right two bays and an entrance in the un-colonnaded section to the right (just out of view).

William Henry Playfair designed Royal Terrace between 1820 and 1824. Together with the adjoining Carlton and Regent Terraces, the three streets are in a continuous line, cut only by Carlton Terrace Lane giving access to mews, leading around the eastern end of Calton Hill and surrounding Regent Gardens, the largest of the private gardens of the New Town. These streets, with Royal Terrace the grandest, were the showpiece of Playfair's conception for the Eastern New Town, intended to be grander than James Craig's original development.[2] The streets were named in connection with the visit to Edinburgh in 1822 of George IV. The extension was projected to reach from Calton Hill down towards Leith, although ultimately very little of the northern section was ever built.[3]


Royal Terrace is in the form of an extended, 121-bay 'palace front' of classical 3-bay (and one 4-bay) townhouses.[4] Playfair's original drawings are held by Edinburgh University, including plans for the whole facade as well as individual sections.[5] The houses are now all category A listed buildings.[4]

The design of the townhouses is unlike those in neighbouring streets. Door entrances and windows on the ground floor are arched and surrounded by V-chamfered rusticated stone work. Ten of the houses still have their original fanlights. The upper floors throughout are of polished ashlar stone with basements of droved ashlar. The houses are of two or three storeys with attics to the colonnaded sections.[4][6][7]

The long symmetrical facade alternates between colonnaded and un-colonnaded sections, from east to west, as follows:[4][6][7]

  1. plain with roof balustrade
  2. pavilion with 6 Ionic columns
  3. plain with roof balustrade
  4. pavilion with 6 Ionic columns
  5. plain with roof balustrade
  6. pavilion with 7 Corinthian columns
  7. plain with roof balustrade
  8. pavilion with 10 Corinthian columns (centre)
  9. plain with roof balustrade
  10. pavilion with 7 Corinthian columns
  11. plain with roof balustrade
  12. pavilion with 6 Ionic columns
  13. plain with roof balustrade
  14. pavilion with 6 Ionic columns
  15. plain with roof balustrade

Panorama of Royal Terrace, Edinburgh, reaching from Carlton Terrace in the east (extreme left), to Greenside Church in the west (extreme right) — this is probably the longest Georgian terrace in Europe, a straight, continuous structure measuring 360 metres from east to west.


40 Royal Terrace, the first house to be built in 1821, an example of a two-storey townhouse (with basement and attic) in a section without Greek columns

Playfair hoped to attract "fashionable and wealthy people" to Calton Hill,[8] but almost immediately he encountered competition from new developments to the western end of the New Town, in particular the Moray Estate.[2] Building began in Royal Terrace in 1821, but was not completed until 1859–60. This was in contrast to Regent and Carlton Terraces which were completed in the 1830s.

Length and 'Whisky row'[edit]

Royal Terrace is a continuous straight structure of about 360 metres, reputedly the longest Georgian terrace in Europe.[9] It is 30 metres longer than the Royal York Crescent (1791–1820) in Clifton, Bristol.[10] The Moray Estate claim a single built-up environment of nearly 600 metres,[11][12] but unlike Royal Terrace, this is a series of unbroken streets rather than a single entity.

Royal Terrace was known in Edinburgh as 'Whisky Row', supposedly because merchants living there had an unobstructed view of their ships coming into Leith Harbour. In fact, some wine merchants did come to live in the terrace, including John Crabbie (1806–1891), founder of John Crabbie & Company, responsible for Crabbie's Ginger Wine, who lived in number 22 from 1861 to 1891.[13]

Former residents[edit]

Entrance to 4 Royal Terrace with original fanlight above the door
Garden behind 11 Royal Terrace

Listed by address[edit]

Present use[edit]

The terrace is now in both commercial and residential use. This includes six hotels, including the Crowne Plaza that occupies the central colonnaded section (numbers 17 to 22),[14] a restaurant, the Finnish Consulate,[15] the Ukrainian Community Centre,[16] offices, including those of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the arts-supporting Dunard Fund, and rental accommodation. Most of the former townhouses have been split into flats.

Royal Terrace Mews, originally the stables for the street

See also[edit]


  1. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Site Inscription Accessed 2018-02-09
  2. ^ a b Youngson, A.J. (2001): "The Companion Guide to Edinburgh and the borders", Chapter 9 (Calton Hill), Polygon Books, Edinburgh, UK, ISBN 0-7486-6307-X
  3. ^ Report on The New Town Conservation Area by Edinburgh Town Council Archived 2006-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d Listed building information for 1 and 2 Royal Terrace, Historic Environment Scotland, accessed 10 February 2018
  5. ^ Edinburgh University William Henry Playfair Architectural Drawings 821-877
  6. ^ a b Listed building information for 3 Royal Terrace, Historic Environment Scotland, accessed 24 February 2018
  7. ^ a b Listed building information for 4 Royal Terrace, Historic Environment Scotland, accessed 24 February 2018
  8. ^ Youngson, A.J. (1966): "The Making of Classical Edinburgh", pp. 155-156, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-1768-X
  9. ^ Space and grace, The Scotsman, 28 September 2006
  10. ^ Historic England, Images of England
  11. ^ Michael Carley at al (2015): Edinburgh New Town: A Model City
  12. ^ The secret garden, The Guardian, 8 July 2017
  13. ^ Mitchell , Anne (1993), "The People of Calton Hill", p. 83, Mercat Press, James Thin, Edinburgh, ISBN 1-873644-18-3
  14. ^ "History galore". Th Scotsman. 2007-08-11. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  15. ^ Finnish Consulate in Edinburgh
  16. ^ AUGB Scotland, Scottish Ukrainians website


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°57′25″N 3°10′39″W / 55.9569°N 3.1776°W / 55.9569; -3.1776