Historic landmark to be used as holiday let after £400,000 facelift

The three-storey, eight-bedroom building - dating from 1776 - has now been refurbished as a hilltop retreat.

Historic landmark to be used as holiday let after £400,000 facelift Matthew Newby via SWNS
Historic: Landmark will be used as a holiday let.

Historic 18th century landmark Old Observatory House has been given a £400,000 facelift – and will used as a holiday let.

Sitting on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, it was once home to prominent astronomers and is one of the best surviving examples of New Town architecture.

But the three-storey, eight-bedroom building – dating from 1776 – has now been refurbished as a hilltop retreat.

It was on the Historic Scotland’s Buildings at-risk register before there were renovations between 2007 and 2010.

The building has been in the city’s ownership since the late 19th century but is now available for short-term holiday stays through Collective, a centre for contemporary art.

Its historic architecture has been complemented by contemporary styling and new artworks commissioned from top Scottish artists.

Old Observatory House: Historic 18th century landmark has been given a £400,000 facelift.Matthew Newby via SWNS
Old Observatory House: Historic 18th century landmark has been given a £400,000 facelift.

A fully equipped kitchen is inspired by the iconic silhouette of the National Monument of Scotland.

New textile and lighting works have been created for the master bedroom, as well as wallpaper based on the history of stargazing linked to the Calton Hill site.

Collective Architecture led the restoration of the building using Harris Tweed accessories, Lusso stone, sandstone, wool, leather, and rich walnut and brass.

The house boasts views of Arthur’s Seat, the medieval Old Town and castle, the Georgian New Town, the Port of Leith and the Firth of Forth.

Siobhan Carroll, interim director of Collective, said: “We are delighted to launch Observatory House, and look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy this historic space with its stunningly refurbished spaces and newly-revealed artist commissions.

“Observatory House is one of the very few extant buildings designed by James Craig and is a spectacular site for artists to engage with.

“A well-known landmark in Edinburgh, it is the oldest building in the Observatory walled complex on Calton Hill – it is both architecturally and culturally significant in the history of the city and the nation.

“The renovation of Observatory House is the final part of the site to be fully developed and will support Collective’s charitable vision.

“The notion of art and artists being the lens through which we view the city and understand ourselves to be in it has a long history on Calton Hill.

“We are working towards a thriving creative society, where artists inspire new ways of looking, questioning and thinking through art.

“Part of this is a commitment to bring art into everything we do, to demonstrate how artists and their work can engage with and transform everyday life.”

Although originally built as a family house, the building was used by astronomers for a short period of time as the Old Observatory, until William Playfair built the City Observatory building nearby in 1818.

It was previously renovated and offered as a holiday let by the Vivat Trust, which had rescued other neglected and dilapidated listed buildings.

But it went bust in 2015, leading to fears the Old Observatory was at risk.

Collective, which runs other heritage buildings, agreed to take on the lease of the Old Observatory House until 2044.

All profits generated from the holiday let will go directly to support the charitable organisation’s mission to promote contemporary art.

Emma Fairhurst of Collective Architecture said: “Observatory House is full of character and history, the first of the collection of extraordinary buildings on Calton Hill.

“Our work has been focused on making the interiors feel calm and understated, to allow the breathtaking views and integrated contemporary art to take centre stage.

“We look forward to seeing guests enjoying the unique qualities of this very special part of Edinburgh’s history.”