Scottish Historic Buildings Trust CEO Una Richards. Photo: Angus Blackburn
Scottish Historic Buildings Trust CEO Una Richards. Photo: Angus Blackburn

This restoration project is fit for a king

A sympathetic restoration project has brought a hidden historical gem back to life and offers guests a unique place to stay in the capital.

You’d be forgiven for being completely unaware that this unique building even exists.

Located through a wee close right in the middle of the Royal Mile, you’ll find Riddle’s Court. It was in this medieval merchants tenement – built in 1598 – that King James VI twice dined on sumptuous banquets.

In order to restore the building and highlight its unique historical value, the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust took out a 99 year lease on the whole building in 2011. The Category A-listed building’s historic rooms now offer various spaces for meetings, events and weddings.

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust CEO Una Richards. Photo: Angus Blackburn

However the real jewel in its crown is the flat and the King’s Chamber within it, duly named after its royal visitors.
SHBT CEO Una Richards and her team were determined to create a space that celebrated its medieval royal roots while offering a comfortable place for guests.

Una said: ‘The flat here had a 1970s alteration so the character of some rooms had gone so we’ve really tried to reinstate it. We knew the beamed ceiling was there in the King’s Chamber but it needed some conservation.

‘Medieval ceilings were done with fresco in paint on the timber and on the plasterwork there were little friezes in between each beam. We were able to copy that from the original examples that came out.’

Photo: Angus Blackburn

While the team knew the ceiling in the King’s Chamber was a prominent feature, they were surprised to find that decorated beams were not only confined to the bedroom.

‘The ceiling in the living room was a discovery. It’s been conserved but not restored and it actually shows a glimpse of what was there before,’ added Una.

Photo: Angus Blackburn

The balance of old and new was a pivotal factor in the brief of the project, according to Una: ‘Where it’s modern it’s modern and where it’s historic it’s historic. We’ve got ceilings that are genuine and authentic, we’ve got a modern bathroom. We’ve got a fireplace and reinstated a grate that would have been there when the banquet happened, but for present day we’ve put a gas fire in.

‘The rest of the interior has been a mix of old and new fittings, like our dining table which is a feast table made in the 1830s. With the modern furniture, we’ve tried to pick it so it respects the character of the building.’

Photo: Angus Blackburn

This is balanced with a modern kitchen that can be tucked away behind sliding wooden doors.

Riddle’s Court offers 400 years of history in the centre of the capital. It’s a home away from home with a special twist and there’s nothing else quite like it in Edinburgh.

Photo: Angus Blackburn