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On 9 January 1998, four months after the referendum on the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood was announced as the site for the new Scottish Parliament.

In this section you can find out about Holyrood's location, history and archaeological investigations.

Geographical Location

The site is located 1 km to the east of Edinburgh city centre, within the UNESCO World Heritage site ‘Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’. Its extent is some 4 acres, with a perimeter of approximately 480m. The site formerly  contained  the corporate headquarters of Scottish & Newcastle plc and Queensberry House. The site is in an extremely prominent position within the historic Old Town, adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and with an outlook on to Salisbury Crags.

The boundary of the site is Canongate (to the north), Reid's Close (to the west), Holyrood Road (to the south) and Horse Wynd (to the east). The area to the northwest has also been extensively redeveloped, primarily for residential use, with retail, hotel and office developments. To the south is Our Dynamic Earth, which opened to the public in July 1999.

History of the Holyrood Site

There is evidence of occupation in this area since medieval times. In 1128 an ecclesiastical settlement formed in the Canongate around an Abbey founded by King David I.

Several royal visitors lodged at the Abbey's guesthouse. In 1501 it was James IV who extended the guesthouse into a palace, which is known today as the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The palace is still used as a royal residence.  By the 16th century the Canongate area was enjoying an affluent period in which a number of prestigious dwellings were located.

Following the Treaty of Union in 1707 and the development of the New Town to the north of the city the Canongate area fell into decline.

In the early 18th century the site was used for tenement housing along the Canongate and Horse Wynd. The only exception was Lothian House (formerly Lothian Hutt) which was a prestigious town house with gardens. Dugald Stewart, the philosopher and political economist, was one of its residents.

In 1781 William Younger built a brewery on the site and, over the years, he purchased surrounding property.  During the 19th and 20th centuries a radical change took place in the area, which saw the brewery become the prominent land user. Beer production in the area at one time accounted for 25% of all beer brewed in Scotland.

Production on the site ceased during the 1950s, but Scottish and Newcastle continued to use the buildings as their headquarters. 

Archaeology at the Holyrood Site

An archaeology project to explore the site before its development began in September 1998 and “investigations confirmed the survival of deep soils of medieval date on part of the site”. Further work offered an exciting opportunity to study an area that reflected many changes in the fortunes and history of Edinburgh and Scotland. The archaeological team, consisting of a consortium of Headland Archaeology and SUAT Ltd (SUAT/Headland), were on site for just under a year. This was the largest urban archaeological excavation in Scotland's history. Archaeological investigations were also carried out within Queensberry House.

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