A visit to the Old Royal High School site on the 24th of April 2024.

Your correspondent took a walk along Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place to see what progress has been made with the redevelopment of the Old Royal High School into the National Centre for Music. A plaque by the front gate announces the building as ‘New Parliament House 5&7 Regent Road’.  This name was chosen for a proposed devolved legislature for Scotland which, sadly, did not come to pass.

Taking the path to the left of the gatehouse I walked up Calton Hill with Thomas Hamilton’s 1827 neo-classical building stretched out below me.  Every window of the building is boarded up, presumably this was to guard against vandalism when the building stood empty for many years.

The other more recent school buildings: the modern languages block, the gymnasium block, the swimming block and the dining hall known as ‘the Grubby’ have all been demolished.  All that remains of these ancillary buildings are piles of crushed stone and some shaped stone blocks which look like they could be recycled.  Some of the equipment from this demolition phase is still on-site: a huge yellow excavator and a large, deep skip.  It looks like unwanted internal fittings from the buildings on site will end up in this skip.

I took some photos looking down on the site and we can see that a lot of space is available for the new add-on buildings which will be part of the National Centre for Music.  It will obviously be a challenge to design any new structures in keeping with the original Thomas Hamilton building.  In the most easterly corner of the site, hidden by trees, is an intriguing square tower.  Will it be given a new lease of life in the National Centre for Music?

I finished my walk on top of Calton Hill, a wonderful vantage point from which to see the City of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and the Fife coast.  Throngs of visitors from all over the world were sharing the experience with me.

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