The Canongate

©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland


Forming a westerly extension of the High Street in the Old Town of Edinburgh, The Canongate comprises the lower part of the Royal Mile linking Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It stretches towards the palace from the junction of St. Mary's Street with the High Street, the site of the Netherbow Port or eastern entry through the mediaeval city walls. It was through this entrance that the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey entered and left the city. The Canongate was created a Burgh of Regality by King David I in 1128 and was administered quite separately from Edinburgh, initially by the Abbot of Holyrood Abbey but after the Reformation it came under secular control. Lying outwith the city walls, the more spacious Canongate was favoured by the nobility who set up residence there. A number of fine mansions built by the families survive today, including Huntly House (c.1570), now the Museum of Edinburgh, Moray House (1625), Acheson House (1633) and Queensberry House (1681), which now forms part of the Scottish Parliament complex. Built in 1591, the Canongate Tolbooth, now also a museum, became the administrative centre of the burgh until it became prt of Edinburgh following the Municipal Extension Act of 1856. As the New Town gained in popularity as a residential area, so the Canongate declined. Many of the buildings that exist today are 20th Century reconstructions, the result of restoration schemes initially prompted by John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute (1881 - 1947).

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