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Holyrood Park

A Scheduled Monument in Southside/Newington, City of Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.946 / 55°56'45"N

Longitude: -3.1615 / 3°9'41"W

OS Eastings: 327556

OS Northings: 673164

OS Grid: NT275731

Mapcode National: GBR 8WJ.30

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.DTR2

Entry Name: Holyrood Park

Scheduled Date: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13032

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel; Prehistoric domestic and defensive: cultivation terraces; Secular: Royal Par

Location: Edinburgh

County: City of Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Southside/Newington

Traditional County: Midlothian


The monument comprises the whole of Holyrood Park, which has been associated with the royal household since the 12th century and was first enclosed in 1541-2 by James V. This scheduling includes all archaeological and historic sites and monuments within Holyrood Park, as well as most boundary walls and gates. Holyrood Park lies S and E of The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the palace gardens, beyond the E end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. It includes landmarks such as Arthur's Seat. The park was last scheduled in 1994, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this. Holyrood Abbey, the palace gardens and other land in the vicinity of Holyroodhouse are the subject of a separate scheduling.

Holyrood Park contains a number of highly significant archaeological sites. The oldest visible today comprise the remains of four prehistoric or early historic forts, situated on Salisbury Crags, Samson's Ribs, Arthur's Seat and Dunsapie Crag. A smaller enclosed settlement lies on the eastern flank of Dunsapie Crag (between Dunsapie fort and the park wall), and another lies a short distance to the SW of Windy Gowl. By far the most extensive remains in the park are cultivation terraces and furlongs of rig-and-furrow cultivation, some overlain by the 16th-century park wall. These are the best cultivation remains in the Lothians. The most striking cultivation terraces lie on the E flank of Arthur's Seat, where a flight of 15 terraces resembles a staircase climbing the hillside. These may have been used into the early medieval period. They are accompanied by a furlong of rig-and-furrow that encroaches on the lower terraces, while the banks of two later enclosures overlie the terraces on the NW.

The precinct of Holyrood Abbey, an important Augustinian monastery founded by King David I in 1128, extends into the park from the palace gardens to the W. Archaeological evaluation in the N corner of the park has revealed buried remains of a possible outer precinct boundary, enclosing a group of postholes and pits that are probably the foundations of medieval timber buildings. Historical sources indicate that other medieval structures included a dam and sluice to control the drainage of Hunter's Bog and a mill to grind the grain in the same area. St Anthony's Chapel, a picturesque ruin perched on the crag above St Margaret's Loch, is of late medieval date. To the SW of the chapel are the remnants of the priest's accommodation, partly built into the rock-face. Other religious features in the park include seven holy wells, the most visible today being St Anthony's Well, on the slope leading up to the chapel. The buried remains of likely 16th- and 17th-century boundary walls, garden features and demolition deposits, identified in archaeological evaluation E of the palace, are probably associated with St Anne's Yards, a township of tenements. The park contains several major quarries dating from the 16th century onwards, the earliest probably those along Salisbury Crags and on the adjacent slope N of Camstone Quarry. Other industrial features include part of the 'Innocent Railway' (now a public footpath and cycleway) opened in 1831 to carry coal from Dalkeith into the city. It incorporates one of the earliest surviving railway tunnels at its NW end. Landscape features of the mid 19th century include the Queen's Drive (first called the Victoria Road), St Margaret's Loch and Dunsapie Loch. The most recent archaeological remains are associated with the use of Hunter's Bog as a military range from the 1830s to the 1950s.

The area to be scheduled consists of the entire royal park, all of the features mentioned above and all of the ground between them. The area to be scheduled measures approximately 2600m NW-SE by 1800m transversely, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

The scheduling includes most of the boundary walls and gates surrounding the park, excluding only: the above-ground elements of the walls and gates that adjoin the palace gardens and forecourt, which are listed at Category A; the stone wall N of the Innocent Railway that forms part of the S boundary of the scheduled area; and the sections of modern boundary wall near the S end of Dumbiedykes Road and SE of Holyrood Court. All occupied buildings and buildings in use within the park are excluded from this scheduling, specifically, Holyrood Park Education Centre and all of the park lodges: St Leonard's Lodge, Duddingston Lodge, Dumbiedykes Lodge, Wells o' Wearie Cottage, Holyrood Lodge and Meadowbank Lodge, and the top 30cm of the ground surface within all of their garden grounds. The top 50cm of all roads, pavements and car parks are excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling excludes all structures, fences, fittings and street furniture built after 1950, all flights of steps built after 1950 and the top 30cm of the ground beneath such steps.

The area to be scheduled also excludes the top 60cm of the ground surface of the playing fields to the E of the palace gardens (in the area known as the 'Parade Ground'). This exclusion applies to a roughly rectangular area measuring approximately 350m WSW-ENE (measuring from the palace garden wall across the playing fields) by about 260m transversely (between the park boundary wall and the Queen's Drive), as shown hatched in blue on the accompanying map. This exclusion is to permit the erection of marquees and other temporary structures for events and functions, on condition that their supporting stakes or posts do not penetrate the ground to a depth greater than 60cm.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The earliest evidence for a human presence in the park comes from the discovery of Mesolithic and Neolithic flint and stone tools, indicating that the area was exploited from at least the 5th millennium BC. The most spectacular finds date to the Late Bronze Age (around 1000-750 BC) and comprise a hoard of bronze objects that had been ritually deposited in Duddingston Loch. Other Late Bronze Age swords and socketed axes were discovered during the construction of the Queen's Drive in 1846, and three Early Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC) flat axeheads have been found on Dunsapie Crag more recently. The discovery of two cinerary urns demonstrates that Bronze Age people also buried their dead in the park.

The four prehistoric or early historic forts (on Salisbury Crags, Samson's Ribs, Arthur's Seat and Dunsapie Crag) together demonstrate that the area was a major centre in the final centuries of the first millennium BC and the early centuries AD. The best preserved of the forts are the two largest, on Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, at 8.4ha and 9.4ha respectively, and that on Dunsapie Crag; the fort on Samson's Ribs is less visible. None of these forts has been closely dated, but a Roman intaglio of the 1st century BC has been found in the fort above Samson's Ribs. The two smaller enclosed settlements (on the eastern flank of Dunsapie Crag, and a short distance to the SW of Windy Gowl) are characterised by scooped yards containing platforms for timber roundhouses. Examination of the associated buried deposits can give us detailed information about the form and construction of houses and can contribute to our understanding of how structures were used and how this changed over time. Buried artefacts and ecofacts and buried soils can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy.

By the 12th century, the park was divided between Kelso Abbey, the Scottish royal family and the Augustinian abbey of Holyrood founded by David I. Buried archaeological deposits can reveal much about monastic activity in the park during the medieval period. The timber building remains and probable outer precinct boundary to the E of Holyrood Abbey can increase our understanding of the ancillary structures that serviced the main abbey buildings and can contribute especially to knowledge of the monastic economy. Elsewhere, buried remains of a dam, sluices and corn mill near Hunter's Bog can show how the wider landscape was exploited. The park was known for its rich hunting grounds, and there is potential to discover buried features such as banks, ditches and fences that were used in the management and corralling of deer. However, it is clear that agriculture was also important and the cultivation terraces and furlongs of rig-and-furrow cultivation can contribute to our knowledge of agricultural practices. These landscape features show evidence of a complex development sequence and associated organic remains may allow their dating to be better understood and may provide information on the crops that were grown at different times. In addition, the remains of St Anthony's Chapel, the associated priest's accommodation and the holy wells can also tell us about another important aspect of late medieval life: religious and devotional practice and pilgrimage.

One result of the ecclesiastical connections of the park was its position as a place of sanctuary from at least the 16th century. Holyrood was one of the largest known sanctuaries, its boundary taking in Arthur's Seat and stretching to the edge of Duddingston Loch. By 1686 there were 75 people living in the sanctuary, and by 1816, 116 people. A township of tenements sprang up in the area around the present palace, then known as St Anne's Yards. Archaeological evaluation demonstrates that boundary walls and demolition deposits survive below ground. These and related deposits can increase understanding of this aspect of the park's history, revealing how people lived after they had claimed sanctuary.

The park also has potential to enhance our understanding of industrial activity between the 16th and 19th centuries. The first major quarries coincide with mid 16th-century construction work at Holyrood Palace and the erection of the park wall. Quarrying reached a peak in the first decades of the 19th century and was eventually stopped as a result of considerable public concern. The quarries can therefore contribute to our understanding of the palace, but are also part of the story of the building of Edinburgh. The 'Innocent Railway' can add to understanding of how coal was delivered to the 19th-century city and contributes to knowledge of the engineering of early railway tunnels.

Contextual characteristics

The finds of Bronze Age objects, including swords and socketed axes, demonstrate that Holyrood Park was an important focus for high status activity from a very early date. In this respect, the park can be compared with Traprain Law in East Lothian, from where a hoard of Bronze Age axes has been recovered. The deposition of fine bronze artefacts in water is a phenomenon known over a wide area, notably along the River Thames near London and at Flag Fen in East Anglia. The prehistoric forts can be compared to several other important enclosed sites in Edinburgh and the Lothians. These include Traprain Law, which is intervisible with the fort on Arthur's Seat and continued to be an important focus. The smaller enclosed settlements are typical of the later prehistoric farmsteads that once populated the Lothian plain. They can be compared with the approximately contemporary settlement excavated at Phantassie Farm near East Linton, and with other settlements investigated as part of the Traprain Law Environs Project.

Holyrood Park is directly comparable with the royal park at Linlithgow, associated with another palace built by the Stewart Kings. Of the two, Holyrood Park is the larger, especially given that a significant part of the park at Linlithgow is occupied by Linlithgow Loch. Few early boundary features survive at Linlithgow, but Holyrood Park can also be compared with Kincardine Deer Park, created by William the Lion (1165-1214) and extended by Alexander III in 1266. The park at Kincardine is larger than that at Holyrood, measuring some 3.1km by 2.8km, and preserves several interesting features including an outer bank that averages 4.5m wide and up to 1.5m high, with an internal ditch some 2m to 3.5m in width and 0.6m deep. This helps to give an appreciation of some of the deer management features that may have existed at Holyrood. Kincardine, like Holyrood, contains areas of rig and furrow, which at Kincardine was probably the product of leasing of the park during the 14th century.

At Holyrood, the E part of the abbey precinct extends into the royal park. The precinct can be compared with those of several other religious houses founded at the instigation of David I, among them Melrose, Dunfermline and Kelso Abbeys.

Associative characteristics

Legend has it that, in 1128, while hunting in the park on a holy day, David I was attacked by a stag which then vanished leaving behind a crucifix formed from a branch of its antlers. That night the king dreamed he had been called to found an abbey, and so the Abbey of the 'Holy Rood' (crucifix) came into being. The park continued to be used by Scottish royalty throughout the medieval period and beyond. In 1562 Mary Queen of Scots arranged elaborate festivities involving the flooding of Hunter's Bog to create a miniature naval pageant based on the 1560 siege of Leith. The park also provided Bonnie Prince Charlie with suitable terrain to station his troops on their brief encampments in the area in 1745. A century later, Queen Victoria and, especially, Prince Albert were to have a major impact on the landscape of the park. The 19th-century works included the insertion of the Queen's Drive (first called the Victoria Road), the creation of both St Margaret's Loch and Dunsapie Loch, and the draining of the marshes. The 19th-century improvements also took in the flat ground between the palace and Meadowbank, which was converted from gardens and orchards into an area known as the 'Parade Ground'. In 1860 this area was used for a review of the troops, a spectacle attended by over 100,000 people. Indeed, during the 19th century the role of the park changed generally to one of recreation and enjoyment for the wider population. For example, the 'Radical Road', which takes its name from the politics of the unemployed weavers who built it in the 1820s, soon became a popular walk. Duddingston Loch became an important venue for curling in the late 18th century following the draining of the Nor' Loch. The Duddingston Curling Society set down its 'Rules in Curling' in 1804 and these influenced the development of the modern game.

National Importance

Holyrood Park is of national importance as a unique historic landscape within the heart of the city, embracing a wide range of archaeological and historic sites and monuments. Many of these are of national importance in their own right (for example, the prehistoric fort on Arthur's Seat, the enclosed settlement at Dunsapie, and St Anthony's Chapel and well), but together they have added value as part of an intact archaeological landscape, in which is preserved many different types of evidence of human development and changing land use through several millennia.

The park is also of national importance because of its ecclesiastical and royal associations, particularly with David I, James IV, James V, Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It has a wide range of other cultural associations with important historical personages and events, writers, scholars, artists and scientists. From the 18th-century geologist, James Hutton, who gave his name to 'Hutton's Section' at Salisbury Crags, through to artists and writers, such as Hugh William Williams and Sir Walter Scott, through to innumerable visitors and ordinary townsfolk over the centuries, Holyrood Park has always had, and continues to have, an iconic status in the life of Scotland's capital city, as well as a dramatic impact on Edinburgh's famous skyline.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records the park as NT27SE 197.

Further references can be found in Historic Scotland's Bibliography of Properties in Care 2003 (revised edition), vol 1.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Holyrood Park
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Related Designations

Designation TypeListed Building (B)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (B)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeGarden & Designed LandscapeStatusDesignated

Designation TypeGarden & Designed LandscapeStatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (B)StatusRemoved

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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