Old College


After having visited the oldest remaining teaching building of the University of Edinburgh – the cottage in the Botanic Gardens, where botany classes were held – I thought I had better finally make a visit to the main Georgian building, planned in 1789 to replace various buildings owned by the university which were falling into disrepair (nothing has changed there!) and partly built, then completed from 1815 after the Napoleonic wars.

This was once the site of the original Kirk o’ Field, of Darnley fame, and when the courtyard was renovated a few years ago unexpected bodies turned up – not illicit ones, but where the medieval graveyard had simply been built over – as well as remains of earlier buildings including the church and an earlier university library.

Old College courtyard

The buildings are impressive, to be fair, but it is hard to be properly impressed when they are primarily a place you hurry to with exam papers that someone has given you at the last possible moment!

Registry entrance

A dome was in the original plans, but was not added until 1883.

Old College dome

An inscription over the imposing entrance from North Bridge (probably now only used by tourists and post vans, as the rest of the university is on the other side of the building) commemorates the building works.

Old College inscription

The University of James VI King of Scotland founded in the Year of Our Lord 1582 in the year 1789 renovations were begun under the gracious patronage of King George III, the Provost of the City Thomas Elder, the Principal of the University William Robertson, the Architect Robert Adam.

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