Moray House is in Edinburgh’s Old Town and is one of its most historic buildings however it is one of its most invisible, hidden from plain view on the Canongate. The history of Moray House stretches back to 1625 when it was built as an aristocratic townhouse.
It was bought in 1643 by the Countess of Moray who it is now named after and thanks to the improvements that she had done to the house, it was called the “handsomest house in Edinburgh”. The building remains one of the finest stone buildings in Edinburgh and the quality of the stonemasonry can be seen on inspection of the fantastic stonework.
The whole of the Moray House building is a sight to behold but externally there are two features that are worthy of particular attention, both due to their fantastic stonework and their place in history.
The entrance to Moray House is one of its finest features. The attractive metal gate is hung on two huge rounded pillars surmounted by triangular stone obelisks.
As the gate is normally open, you can walk through look at the southern side of the building. If you look carefully, you can see the initials of the Countess above one of the upstairs windows.
Hanging over Canongate is a huge stone balcony that is held up by elegantly carved corbels. This fantastic piece of stonework was the scene of one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Edinburgh.
It was here that the Marquess of Montrose, captured by the Marquess of Argyll was spat on by guests of Lord Lorne and Lady Mary Stuart’s wedding on the way to his execution during the Civil War.
Moray House wasn’t only just known for the beauty of its building but for its garden too. Once upon a time it had extensive landscaped gardens but today all that remains of these is a beautiful decorative stone arch which remains in what is left of the garden.
Also, in a small side lane you can also see the old garden pavilion. A plain building, its unassuming nature defies the fact that it was at the centre of one of the UK’s biggest political dramas.
It was here that the Earl of Seafield, who was involved with the Act of Union used to meet his supporters away from the prying eyes of those opposed to it.
Moray House Today
In 1848, Moray House became a teacher training college and it remains that to this day, now part of the University of Edinburgh. Thankfully however you don’t have to be a trainee teacher to see inside this wonderful Edinburgh stone building as it is regularly part of Doors Open Day where you can look inside some of the finest Edinburgh buildings. As well as the fine stonework laid by the finest Edinburgh stonemasons, some of the rooms are beautifully decorated with ornate plasterwork ceilings.
The next time you are in Edinburgh and there is a Doors Open Day, a visit to Moray House is well worth your time.