In the 1590, Bailie John McMorran, a magistrate and one of the wealthiest citizens of the late 16th century, built himself a mansion in the middle of Edinburgh. Situated on the Royal Mile, this house is now known as the Riddle’s Court after Georges Riddle reconstructed parts of the house in 1726. Many features from the original construction remain today, including beautiful painted and plastered ceilings and panelled rooms.
Riddle’s Court is also famous for having been David Hume’s residence from 1751. It was transformed in 1892 by Patrick Geddes into a University Hall, when the Victorian Council was threatening to demolish it. As you enter the second courtyard you can still read “Vivendo Discimus”, meaning “by living we learn”, Patrick Geddes’ motto.
The mansion underwent conservation and refurbishment in 2016 by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and LDN, and now hosts a Patrick Geddes Centre. During the year, this architectural gem is available to hire as a reception venue, so this event is a rare opportunity to wander in freely.
Patrick Geddes Centre will also host a few talks before the open door days, which can be booked on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-patrick-geddes-centre-at-riddles-court-8617499172.
The Georgian House
In 1790, the Scottish architect Robert Adam designed Charlotte Square, finishing the construction of the initial New Town. He planned for the town houses on each side of the square to create a palace-like frontage, making Charlotte Square the most prestigious address in the city. Sadly, the architect died in 1791 and never saw his design completed.
However, unlike Adam, over two centuries later we have the chance to explore and visit his design. The Georgian House has been completely restored and furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the first owners of the house, the Lamont family, who moved in in 1796. From the servants’ quarters to the luxurious drawing room, visitors can fully grasp the late Georgian lifestyle along with its architecture. Although the Georgian house is open all year, it is usually only free to National Trust members, so if you are not, it is worth heading there on Open Doors Day to see it for free.
Parliament House (Supreme Courts and Advocates library)
The Parliament House was a place the Parliament of Scotland originally sat. The building was completed in 1641 and designed by Sir James Murray. The architect’s masterpiece is best observed in the Parliament Hall. In collaboration with John Scott, the King’s master wright, he designed the widest single span flat roof in Scotland. The beautiful ceiling features timber trusses inspired by hammerbeam design. It is not a true hammerbeam roof structure, however, as that would have required the roof to be incredibly deep, unlike the actual flat roof exterior. Today the dark oak structure is accompanied by numerous artworks, including a fantastic stain glass window, worth a visit alone.
After the Union of Crowns, when the Parliament of Scotland was adjourned, the hall became a place for the sitting of courts. Today the Parliament Hall remains a meeting place for lawyers. During Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day, you will be able to watch a re-enactment of a court trial and take a tour through the historical building.
The Parliament House also incorporates the Advocates library, open for the weekend. William Playfair’s design features a magnificent deep square-coffered ceiling with central pendants. It was used as the national deposit library of Scotland until 1925, when the National library was built. Today it still holds an impressive collection of books, receiving a copy of every law book entered at Stationers’ Hall. During Open Doors Day timed tours will be organised allowing visitors to see the main part of the Library. Booking Essential.
In the 1860s, the site surrounding the Dean Bridge was threatened by new developments. Residents petitioned to collectively buy the land and install a shared garden. Like many private gardens in the New Town, the design of the gardens rewards visitors who enjoy curated landscapes. The local architect John Dick Peddie, along with McNab, played with the natural topography of the land by creating two terraces connected by paths and steps, offering good views onto the St Bernard’s Well on the other side of the river. The vista towards the Dean Bridge is also unbeatable.
Today the original layout remains largely unchanged. The gardens are closed to the public for the majority of the year, so the Doors Open Day offers a rare opportunity to explore this quiet part of the city.
All of the events are free and suitable for the whole family. Some of the venues have free ticketed access and you can book on: https://www.doorsopendays.org.uk/. Our own free New Town tour for Doors Open days 2019 is now sold out, but you can use the code DOD50 for an exclusive 50% discount any of our tours on 28th-29th September.
We hope you will have a nice weekend getting into buildings!
Riddles Court : https://ewh.org.uk/iconic-buildings-and-monuments/riddles-court/
Georgian House : https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/LB28502
Parliament House : https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/LB27704
Dean Gardens : https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/GDL00367