Skip to main content

New architectural designs by Hoskins Architects for the proposed world-class hotel at Edinburgh’s former Royal High School have been revealed and the operator partner confirmed within a planning application submitted to City of Edinburgh Council today.

Gareth Hoskins, the architect for the project, says the new designs respond to the comments made by heritage organisations and the public during the comprehensive consultation process earlier in the year. “We’ve listened and taken on board views from a wide range of organisations and individuals through the pre-planning process to develop a fundamentally different design for the site. The design focuses around an informed restoration of the central Hamilton-designed building, repairing its decaying fabric and maintaining the strong sculptural presence of its frontage without intervention. The existing building will be entirely given over to the public areas of the new hotel allowing its spaces to be fully accessible for the first time in the building’s history.

“Set away from the original building are two new wings containing the hotel’s bedrooms. Their organic shape with landscaped terraces and undulating copper façade, inspired by the layered volcanic landscape of both Calton Hill and nearby Salisbury Crags, allow the new wings to blend with the surrounding hill. The contrast of the form and colour of the new elements, together with the considered approach to the landscaping of not just the site but the streetscape around the former high school, allow this hugely important building to retain and reinforce its prominence as a key Edinburgh landmark. The proposed design will create not only a setting appropriate to the stature of the building but, along with other initiatives such as Collective Gallery within the observatory, it should also bring about a level of change that allows Calton Hill to once again become an active and vibrant destination and place within Scotland’s capital city.”

One of the world’s most respected hotel brands, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts®, has been selected to manage the Calton Hill property. The company currently manages 18 properties in 11 countries including historic hotels such as The Carlyle in New York and Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany as well as contemporary classics such as the award-winning Rosewood London. Rosewood has extensive experience of restoring and transforming historic buildings, many of which are listed or are located inside World Heritage Sites. In Paris, Rosewood is overseeing the complete restoration of Hôtel de Crillon, one of the world’s most iconic hotels. Situated overlooking Place de la Concorde in the centre of Paris, the eighteenth century building is a Parisian landmark which embodies the poise, elegance and spirit of Paris.

The fully-funded plan to invest more than £75m to restore and convert Thomas Hamilton’s masterpiece into a hotel of international standing is led by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels. David Orr, co-founder and chairman of Urbanist Hotels says that attracting a brand of Rosewood’s stature is a major coup for Edinburgh and Scotland. “Rosewood is a truly world-class hotel operator combining their ethos of local engagement with their hotels of international standing, a commitment to excellence and a proactive approach to building skills and professional careers. By bringing Rosewood to Edinburgh we will be able to showcase our beautiful capital city and Scotland’s creative and cultural talents to a new global audience. The full restoration of Thomas Hamilton’s masterpiece will create a new accessible destination for the Edinburgh locals and visitors alike.”

“Rosewood Edinburgh will be a prime example of Rosewood’s philosophy of A Sense of Place,” says Radha Arora, president, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. “The former Royal High School is one of Edinburgh’s most important landmarks and we will be drawing on our experience with historic properties such as The Carlyle, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco and Hôtel de Crillon, to ensure the heritage and history of this building is preserved and celebrated.”

The economic impact of the new hotel would be significant for Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland. The project is expected to create up to 260 jobs in the hotel while supporting a further 310 roles in the supply chain and 270 in the tourism industry over the next ten years. Independent research has estimated the hotel could contribute £31.5m to Edinburgh’s GDP and £36.7m to Scotland’s economy on an annual basis.1

Graeme White, head of tourism at Scottish Development International, adds that the hotel sector in Edinburgh is a key aspect of the city’s economic infrastructure and therefore critical to the success of the tourism economy. “Research into the tourism market suggests that a luxury hospitality brand such as Rosewood, could stimulate interest in Edinburgh to increase development opportunities and create economic value. Therefore we are happy to support this development as part of the city’s aspirations to be an international gateway city that can attract luxury global operators as per the city’s, and the country’s, tourism strategies. We look forward to seeing this project come to fruition.”

Gordon Dewar, chief executive at Edinburgh Airport and board member of VisitScotland, believes that having a new world-class hotel in Edinburgh would be a game-changer for Scotland’s tourism market. “A Rosewood hotel in Edinburgh will allow us to market Edinburgh around the globe. We are constantly competing with many other European airports to attract investment into Edinburgh as both a market and a destination. A world-class hotel will attract a new level of interest and economic activity that will benefit everyone with a stake in the visitor economy.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, says that establishing an international hotel in Edinburgh at the very top end of the market is imperative if the capital is to meet forecasted visitor demand. “The Tourism Development Framework for Scotland reveals that there is a need to provide more five-star accommodation in Edinburgh. In the ten years to 2023, the number of visitors to the city are predicted to grow by 4.4% to 1.6m which would rank Edinburgh first equal among UK cities in terms of growth. Therefore projects such as the former Royal High School development not only have the potential to help fulfil the capital’s requirement for more luxury accommodation, but are vital for the continued growth of Scotland’s tourism industry which is worth an annual £11bn to the country’s economy.”

Edinburgh is also a major destination for international conferences and Marshall Dallas, chief executive of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) points out that global visitors to the city now demand the quality accommodation a Rosewood Hotel would offer. “Scotland’s capital is a magnet for many international business tourists and we are always looking at ways to build on this expanding marketplace. Being able to offer further luxury accommodation at the top end of the hotel market will make Edinburgh an even more attractive proposition for many global companies and organisations.”

1 Oxford Economics – the economic impact of a new five-star hotel of international standing on the Edinburgh and Scottish economies


Notes to Editors

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts ®
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts® manages 18 one-of-a-kind luxury properties in 11 countries, with 14 new hotels under development. Each Rosewood hotel embraces the brand’s A Sense of Place® philosophy to reflect the individual location’s history, culture and sensibilities. The Rosewood collection includes some of the world’s most legendary hotels and resorts, including The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel in New York, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, as well as new classics such as Rosewood Beijing. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts targets 50 hotels in operation by 2020.

Hoskins Associates 

Award-winning architect Gareth Hoskins OBE heads the project team. He trained at the Glasgow School of Art and at Florence University and set up Hoskins Architects in 1998. Through a series of major competition wins, Gareth has built up one of the foremost design practices in the UK with a reputation for producing creative and innovative buildings and environments. The practice works internationally from studios in Glasgow and Berlin. He was responsible for the redevelopment of the Grade A listed National Museum of Scotland and is currently working on projects for the expansion of the National Gallery of Scotland on The Mound in Edinburgh and the World Museum in the centre of Vienna.

Former Royal High School Project
The proposal to turn the former Royal High School into a world-class hotel is led by local partners Duddingston House Properties (DHP) and Urbanist Hotels. They lead an institutional group of investors and funding has been in place since early 2014.

This is an exemplar restoration project to restore Hamilton’s A-listed building and provide a long-term sustainable future for this architectural masterpiece which has had no continuous occupation for 47 years and is in a challenging state. Although private money is behind the restoration project, the building will remain in public ownership on a long-term lease with the council. The development will also provide public access to the former boys’ school for the first time.

Award-winning architect Gareth Hoskins OBE heads the project team. Gareth was responsible for the redevelopment of the Grade A listed National Museum of Scotland and is about to embark on a project to extend the National Galleries of Scotland. Andrew PK Wright OBE, one of Scotland’s foremost conservation architects, is a key advisor to the project and has prepared the Heritage Report for the application.

The proposals include substantial improvements to the public areas along Regent Road/Waterloo Place with the new hotel acting as a catalyst for improvements to Calton Hill through a new management plan.

The city’s hotels will benefit from the raising of the Average Daily Rate (ADR), currently one of the lowest in Europe for a capital city. A world-class hotel in Edinburgh would attract tourists from the top end of the market as well as boost the numbers of visitors staying in the city’s hotels during the off-peak months.

The new hotel would showcase the very best-in-class of Scottish food and drink, goods and services and design and artistic creativity. It would also offer unrivalled panoramas of the city.

Duddingston House Properties was formed by Bruce Hare in 2000 following over 20 years as Principal of PJM Architects. Bruce has over 30 years’ experience in how best a vision for a project can be established and delivered. David Orr of Urbanist Hotels, a specialist hotel investment and development company, is one of the UK’s leading hotel developers and was the co-founder and CEO of City Inn Hotels, later renamed Mint Hotels. He was also instrumental in the introduction of Harvey Nichols to Edinburgh.

The former Royal High School history

The former Royal High School on Regent Road was designed by architect Thomas Hamilton, as a new school to the east of Calton Jail, and was completed in 1829. Hamilton’s building is one of the best examples of Greek revival architecture and the building was used as a school until 1968 when the Royal High relocated to Barnton and the Scottish Office bought the building with a view to it becoming a home for the Scottish Parliament.

The City of Edinburgh Council reacquired the buildings from the Scottish Office in 1994 and despite various other suggestions for cultural uses, such as a photography or military museum, the A-listed building has lain empty for 46 years. In 2010 Duddingston House Properties won the City of Edinburgh Council competition for long-term lease on the buildings which it plans to restore as a world-class hotel.

Oxford Economics
Oxford Economics is a world leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis. Headquartered in Oxford with offices around the world, the company employ more than 150 people, including over 130 economist, industry, experts and business editors and benefit from a network of 500 contributing researchers.

Join the discussion 105 Comments