A Self-Guided Tour of Edinburgh’s Historic York Place

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There’s so much history to Edinburgh that it would be impossible to get around even half the city in a day, so we’ve broken it down into one manageable chunk. One of the city’s most remarkable streets, architecturally at least, is York Place. This street has seen many changes in its time, but still boasts some absolutely beautiful 18th-century buildings. If you find yourself with a gap in the rain and an hour to spare, then take yourself out on a tour of the fascinating York Place.

St Paul’s and St George’s Church 

Your walk begins with a Grade A listed building on the corner of Broughton Street and York Place. Fondly known by locals as ‘Ps and Gs’, St Paul’s and St George’s Church is an evangelical church with a fascinating history. You’ll be seeing its forebearer next, but for now, we’ll focus on the history of this building from its creation in 1816. The building was designed by Archibald Elliot and built over a period of two years. The design of the building was based on that of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, a building that Elliot adored. He used similar pinnacles and buttresses throughout the building, but took inspiration from Saint Mary’s Church in Yorkshire, with the unusual octagonal towers to each of the four corners. 

Beyond the buttresses though, what is most striking about this building is the beautiful decoration. The sandstone is intricately carved across the whole building, creating a real sense of drama to this unusual church. For those with a keen interest in architecture, it will be clear that this building differs from many of the others around it. Elliot built the church in a Gothic Revival style despite the prevailing Georgian Neoclassical architecture of the area. 

Saint George’s Chapel

The next place on your walking tour is just a little further down the road, Saint George’s Chapel. This Chapel was built all the way back in 1794 by James Adam and was the only Episcopalian chapel to serve the area. Though the original bones of the building still stand today, many of the original features have been modified. The large windows are one of the most striking features to the front, and were added in 1934, to coincide with the chapel being converted into a commercial property. The chapel was converted because it and Saint Paul’s, a little further away, would come together in their congregations from now on in the building we just visited Saint George’s and Saint Paul’s.

Following the change of use, this building has seen many reinventions of itself. The most recent has been as a Genting Casino, which has allowed the building to gain some of its previous glamour back. As it stands the casino isn’t open to visitors, but if you are looking to revel in some of the fun and bask in the surroundings then it’s quite simple to play online. It’s recommended to read through a guide to online gambling first, to make sure you understand the deals on offer, as well as the rules of the game you choose to play. Roulette would certainly have been the game of choice of the time, but nowadays slot machines are more en vogue!

1 to 3 York Place

This corner block is one of the prettiest in town and was designed by a truly remarkable architect, David Paton. Although the block is relatively modest in design, this 1824 building was a forerunner to one of Paton’s most remarkable designs, the State Capitol. You’d be right in thinking that we don’t really have those in the UK, indeed we don’t. After completing work on 1-3 York Place, Paton made the trip to North Carolina, where he worked under the instruction of Sir John Soane in designing the Raleigh State Capitol building. 

Nowadays these shops, like Saint George’s Chapel, have had their purpose changed in order to fit the changing needs of the city that they’re in. Today the ground floor of the building is still commercial, but has had a bold and modern makeover to include large glass windows. If you’re a little parched from your work then you can revel in the best of Edinburgh’s newly reopened hospitality sector and grab yourself a coffee at one of these glass-fronted units, Fortitude Coffee. If you fancy something a little stronger though, then pop down to 72 York Place. Now known as the Conan Doyle public house, this pub is about 50 metres from the birthplace of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So, whether you celebrate the end of the walk with a coffee or a pint is up to you, but both buildings will allow you to look out on a truly special part of Edinburgh.

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