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The covers come off the historic Abbey Strand buildings at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Release date: Friday, 31 May 2019

Abbey Strand buildings


The newly restored exterior of the Abbey Strand buildings in the Canongate at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh will soon be unveiled to reveal a new pale-pink facade. The restoration work was undertaken as part of Future Programme, a major programme of investment by The Royal Collection Trust to improve the visitor experience at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  The colour of the buildings, which was produced using traditional methods, was chosen by The Duke of Rothesay (The Prince of Wales’s title when in Scotland).  His Royal Highness  is known for his interest in heritage buildings and, as Chairman of The Royal Collection Trust, is closely involved with the project. 

For the past year, the Abbey Strand buildings had been covered with a nine-metre-high scaffold wrap, behind which the specialist restoration work was carried out.  The ground and first floors will house a new Learning Centre, opening in late 2019. The buildings’ new pink lime-mortar coating is a rough-cast finish that has been used in Scottish construction for hundreds of years.  The pink colour was produced using mineral pigment from the red sandstones of Dumfries, which yield a red-ochre tone.

Adjacent to the buildings, a new public garden is being created, inspired by some of the earliest recorded gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Within the garden, a flowering meadow of medicinal plants will evoke the monastic gardens of Holyrood Abbey. A formal arrangement of raised flowerbeds will be planted to reflect the design of the royal gardens, as documented in a 1647 map of Edinburgh by James Gordon of Rothiemay.  In addition, a physic garden will reimagine the lost 17th-century garden originally established at the Palace of Holyroodhouse by Sir Robert Sibbald and Dr Andrew Balfour, two of the founding members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Over their 500-year history, the Abbey Strand buildings have served many purposes.  In 1541 they were used as a weapon store for James V of Scotland during his campaign against the English and in the 18th century they were reputedly home to Lucky Spence, the brothel keeper immortalised by the Edinburgh poet Allan Ramsay in his ballad Lucky Spence's Last Advice.

Tim Knox, Director of the Royal Collection, said: ‘The unveiling of the restored exterior of the Abbey Strand buildings is a significant stage in our Future Programme project. The next milestone will be the opening of the Learning Centre as a place for schoolchildren, adults and the local community to engage with the Royal Collection and the 900-year history of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.’