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Edinburgh, Colinton Road, Napier University, Merchiston Castle

College (20th Century), School (19th Century), Tower House (15th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Colinton Road, Napier University, Merchiston Castle

Classification College (20th Century), School (19th Century), Tower House (15th Century)

Canmore ID 52598

Site Number NT27SW 13

NGR NT 24259 71805

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Digital Images

First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT27SW 13.00 24259 71805

(NT 2425 7180) Merchiston Castle (NR) Twr (NR)

OS 6"map, (1920); OS 1:10,000 map, (1973).

NT27SW 13.01 NT 24298 71781 Gateway

Merchiston Castle, the tower-house of the Napiers of Merchiston, built in the 15th century, was in a neglected condition when visited by the RCAHMS. When it came into the possession of Edinburgh Corporation in 1935, it was the centre of a cluster of attached 19th century buildings. These were removed just before and after the Second World War, some emergency repairs being carried out in 1949 to the now free-standing tower. Restoration work was carried out from 1958-64 preserving the medieval features.

It is L-shaped on plan, with a main block 28ft 10ins by 43ft 1in over 6ft thick walls, running E-W and a wing 18ft 9ins by 22ft 6ins projecting N in line with the W gable. It was originally of five floors, and was probably surrounded by a barmkin wall. As it now appears, the present roof and all buildings above the parapet walk are of late 17th century date. The parapet walk was rebuilt during restoration. A few 16th century stones may be associated with repair work after the castle was attacked and beseiged for a short time in May-June 1572 by the Queen's forces.

RCAHMS 1951; H Armet and S Harris 1962; S Harris 1972.

Merchiston Castle has been incorporated within a modern building but remains as described by the previous authorities.

Visited by OS (B S) 1 December 1975.

The greater part of a large painted ceiling, dated 1581, from Prestongrange (NT37SW 2) has been reinstated in Merchiston Tower.

C McWilliam 1978.

Architecture Notes

NT27SW 13.00 24259 71805



W Schomberg Scott Photograph Collection Acc no 1997/39

view looking up from the garden - 2 prints

Inglis Photograph Collection Acc no 1994/90

memorial gate (John Napier), with Merchiston Castle behind the wall

engraving ? early 19th century - view from North East


S M T Magazine, April 1950 - article and photograph


Watercolour sketched by Thomas Brown Adv.

Vol 88, No 71 - 1 sketch


30/6/1784 Carron Co Invoice

to Hon Chas Napier, merchiston Hall

A bath stove

This site was surveyed as part of the Listed Buildings Recording Programme (LBRP) for 1999-2000. The survey was carried as a result of a request from Dr Michael Bath of the University of Strathclyde to provide appropriate photographic coverage of the painted ceiling from Prestongrange Tower, dating from 1581, which has been inserted into Merchiston Tower. This ceiling, which includes representations of various grotesqueries, is one of the most unusual "Renaissance" painted ceilings to survive in Scotland.

See also M Bath, "Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland", Edinburgh, 2000.

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28275- DC28314, 1935, 1949, 1954,1958, 1964 & 1972.


Watching Brief (19 March 2012 - 8 August 2012)

Headland Archaeology Ltd was commissioned by Edinburgh Napier University to undertake a programme of archaeological works at the Merchiston campus of Edinburgh Napier University. The works were in advance of the redevelopment of the campus. The work comprised an evaluation followed by monitoring of all ground works carried out across the site. Two trenches were excavated in the northern courtyard, just north of the 15th century Merchiston Tower, No archaeologically significant remains were encountered in these trenches. The subsequent monitoring works recorded a series of modern deposits with no significant archaeological remains or artefacts identified.

Headland Archaeology 2012 (D. Wilson) OASIS ID: headland1-135647

Watching Brief (14 August 2015 - 18 August 2015)

NT 24259 71806 A watching brief was carried out, 14–18 August 2015, during the removal of a mid-20th-century reinforced concrete stair built against the 15th-century tower house at Merchiston. The breaking of foundations at ground level, and the removal of the reinforced concrete of the stairs built into the S frontage of the tower at first floor level, recorded no features predating the mid-20th-century concrete.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Napier University

Information from Kenneth Macfadyen (Addyman Archaeology) August 2015. OASIS ID: addymana1-298249

Watching Brief (23 March 2017 - 24 March 2017)

NT 24245 71822 A watching brief was carried out, 23–24 March 2017, during excavation work associated with the maintenance of steps close to the E side of Merchiston Tower. The existing steps were removed and the ground reduced by 1m. Modern made ground deposits were observed and there were no finds or features of archaeological significance.

Archive: NRHE

Funder: Edinburgh Napier University

Matthew Ginnever – Headland Archaeology Ltd

(Source: DES, Volume 18)


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