History in Structure

James IV's Tower, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 55.9529 / 55°57'10"N

Longitude: -3.1726 / 3°10'21"W

OS Eastings: 326876

OS Northings: 673941

OS Grid: NT268739

Mapcode National: GBR 8SF.VJ

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.7MHS

Plus Code: 9C7RXR3G+5X

Entry Name: James IV's Tower, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Holyroodhouse, Palace of Holyroodhouse Including Gates, Gatepiers, Boundary Walls and Railings

Listing Date: 14 December 1970

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 365441

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB28022

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200365441

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

Tagged with: Architectural structure

Find accommodation in


Sir William Bruce (Architect) and Robert Mylne (Master-Mason) for Charles II, 1671-8. Later alterations by Robert Reid, William Nixon, Robert Matheson, John Fowler (see Notes). Exceptional, 3-storey and attic, quadrangular palace combining Baroque and Rennaissance influences and incorporating earlier 1532 tower (for James V) at NW angle. Sandstone ashlar with moulded dressings and roll-moulded margins.

PRINCIPAL (W) ELEVATION: tower at SW with pair of circular angle-turrets mirroring James V's at NW; both with string courses between floors; dentiled corbel at attic level with castellated parapet above. Corner towers have cap-houses with ball-finialled, conical bell-cast roofs. Towers are linked by recessed 2-storey flat-roofed range with deep mutuled cornice and balustraded parapet. Massive coupled Roman Doric columned gateway to centre with large carved Royal Arms of Scotland above and crowned octagonal cupola with clock-face. Symmetrical facades of 3-storey swept-roof inner court rise behind to far left and right of 2-storey range. Regular arrangement of bays to N and S elevations. E elevation with 17 pilastered bays with delicately superimposed Classical orders at each floor. Remains of earlier Abbey Church adjoins palace to NE angle.

QUADRANGLE: formal Classical articulation of superimposed Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pilasters in ascending order at each floor respectively. Colonaded piazza of nine arches to N, S and E. Pedimented to centre 3-bay W elevation. Elaborate double-headed lantern standard with stepped octagonal base to courtyard centre.

INTERIOR: Entrance to left of central quadrangle leads to Great Stair with cantilevered broad stone flights, stone balusters and richly decorative Baroque plasterwork ceiling by renowned English plasterers John Hulbert and George Dunsterfield.

Processional arrangement of sumptuously decorated and furnished state rooms at first floor of national importance including the royal dining room, throne room, the morning and evening drawing rooms and the great portrait gallery. Most rooms with highly elaborate plaster ceilings, tapestries and ornate chimney-pieces. Within the first floor of the 16th century NW tower are the Queen's ante-chamber and bed-chamber rising to Mary Queen of Scots' timber panelled and ceilinged outer chamber, bed chamber and supper room (former Kings apartments) at second floor level. Fine collection of Baroque furniture. Royal apartments at second floor. Attic level altered to provide smaller apartments. Predominantly services and former servants quarters to ground floor.

Graded grey Scottish slate. Splayed piended roofs with piended-roofed dormers rising to leaded flat-roof with broadly regular arrangement of axial stacks. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

GATES, GATEPIERS AND BOUNDARY WALLS INCLUDING MEMORIAL TO KING EDWARD VII: Monumental decorative wrought-iron entrance gates to N, W and S of Palace forecourt. N and S entrances with tall ashlar gatepiers surmounted by lion and unicorn statuettes; pedestrian gates flanking with moulded crown-capped piers. Curved ashlar wall with dentiled cornice to NW corner provides backdrop to bronze statue of King Edward VII. Rubble wall to E (adjoins boundary wall of Croft-an-righ House to NE - see separate listing).

Statement of Interest

The ground beneath the Palace of Holyroodhouse and nearby structures (including Croft-an-Righ House, the buildings on the N side of Abbey Strand and the buildings around Mews Court) is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 for its archaeological importance. The upstanding remains of Holyrood Abbey and Queen Mary's Bath are also scheduled monuments. Significant upstanding and below-ground archaeological remains may survive as part of and in addition to the structures and features described above.

Of exceptional national and international architectural and historical significance, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is a key example of 17th century Scottish architecture. Situated in an outstanding setting beneath the crags of Arthurs Seat at the foot of the Canongate, it is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh.

The origins of the Palace of Holyroodhouse can be traced back to the foundation of an Augustinian monastery on the site by King David I in 1128. In the 16th century, it became the premier Royal Palace of the Kingdom, the abbey becoming Chapel Royal. James IV commenced work on the palace around 1503, although the tower has been attributed solely to James V and dated to1532. It is the most substantial 16th century element to retain its essential form and which later, provided the cornerstone for Sir William Bruce's designs for the rebuilding of the palace in quadrangle form in 1671 including the duplication of the tower at the SW corner for symmetry. For the internal facades around the quadrangle, Bruce superimposed three of the classical orders to indicate the importance of the three main floors. The plain Doric order is used for the services at ground floor, the Ionic order is used for the state apartments on the first floor while the elaborate Corinthian order is used for the royal apartments on the second floor. Bruce's work, which has been described as 'the apotheosis of the Scots/Continental tradition' (McKean 1993) was directed by Charles II's Secretary of State for Scotland, James Maitland, whose luxurious tastes in internal decoration can also be seen at Thirlestane Castle (see separate listing).

General repairs and redecoration were undertaken by the architect Robert Reid between 1824-34. These included the partial rebuilding of the SW corner tower and refacing of the entire S front in ashlar. The NW angle was re-roofed, and the Duke of Hamilton's wing removed with considerable replacement of wood and plaster work. References to work by William Adam and Thomas Clayton for the Hamilton wing appear in 'Robert Adam and his Circle' by John Fleming (1962). This work however, appears to have largely disappeared during Reid's repair with only fragments of Adams work remaining. Further internal alterations were carried out by William Nixon in 1842. Between 1856 and 1880, Robert Matheson, the Office of Works' Scottish architect, carried out works to the throne room including the addition of an heraldic plasterwork ceiling, 2nd floor and attic within the S wing and extensive roof repairs and external alterations including the design of the fountain in the forecourt (see separate listing).

Part of A-group comprising: Palace of Holyroodhouse; 28 and 30 Croft-An-Righ (Croft-An-Righ House); Abbey Strand Eastern Building; Abbey Strand Western Building; Queen Mary's Bath House; North Garden Sundial; Palace Forecourt Fountain; Abbey Court House; Gatehouse and Former Guard Rooms; Palace Coach House; Stables; Queen's Gallery (see separate listings).

List description revised as part of the Edinburgh Holyrood Ward resurvey (2007/08). List description updated 2013.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.