History


The opportunity to stay in an historic Scottish townhouse, built in 1638. Pilrig House was home of Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather and uncle, and the famous author visited and played here as a child. He mentions Pilrig House in his novels Kidnapped and Catriona.


Formerly known as Peilrig and Pellryge, Pilrig House was named after the ridge (rig) where in the 15th century a Peel Tower stood (stonework in the basement walls suggest the remains of a peel tower).

Pilrig House is said to have been the country house of Mary of Gueldres (c.1434–1463) - the Queen Consort of Scotland, as wife of King James II of Scotland (married at Holyrood Abbey and made Queen of Scotland in 1449). Mary served as Regent of Scotland from 1460 to 1463. James's nickname, Fiery Face, referred to a conspicuous vermilion birthmark on his face, which appears to have been deemed by contemporaries an outward sign of a fiery temper, and may explain the Queen's need for a country house.

Pilrig House was owned in 1506 by Sir Patrick Monypenny, Baron of Brochton (now ‘Broughton’), and by 1560 the now derelict tower was used as a field gun battery during the Siege of Leith.

So long as houses like Pilrig survive, the past can never be forgotten or erased.

Sunday Times

In 1638, the house was rebuilt for Gilbert Kirkwood, goldsmith. After his death, and several owners later, it was sold in 1718 to James Balfour, with compensation money he received from his father's part in the disastrous Darien Company.

Incredibly, the house remained in the ownership of the Balfour family for several hundred years, into the 20th century, right up to just before the outbreak of World War II.

The Full History of Pilrig House

Fortunes lost, made and lost again. Literary intrigue. Powerful people and turbulent times. The history of Pilrig is a microcosm of Scotland's past – and a fascinating backdrop to your stay in Edinburgh.

Download the full historical background (PDF, 195kb)

All in all, Pilrig House is a place to enjoy and explore, and a far cry from typical city centre accommodation.

Many sources of further reading and literature are readily available on the internet – about Pilrig House, its owners, Gilbert Kirkwood, the area, the Siege of Leith, The Darien Company, the Balfour family, and, of course, Robert Louis Stevenson – too many to include here!

To the North of the House the water of Leith lies between it and the Port of Leith and the Firth of Forth; and across those waters are the hills of Fife. A beautiful and dignified little home, this Pilrig, and, like the quiet lifes of the family who lived in it, unpretentious in its absolute simplicity of refinement and tradition. A hospitable home, too, with a heart bigger than its circumference, truly Scottish in its wide-open-door tradition.

Anon