Pilrig House

Hello, my friends. A very happy new year to you. I hope your 2019 has gotten off to a jolly good start!

Today I would like to take you to a place in Scotland that is extra special to me. I know, I know…you think that I feel that way about every place in Scotland! Haha, you know me too well, dear reader. And ’tis true, I suppose. But this place really does put a skip in my plaid heart.

Isn’t is lovely? This is Pilrig House, a historic Scottish townhouse located in Edinburgh, next to the burgh of Leith. It is theorized that the name ‘Pilrig’ may have derived from the former ‘Peilrig’ and ‘Pellryge’ (rig=ridge), where a peel tower stood in the 15thcentury. According to pilrighouse.com, “stonework in the basement walls suggests the remains of a peel tower”. For a newby history geek like me, that is fascinating.

Pilrig House is situated on the edge of Pilrig Park.

Though it lies in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, you would never believe it. With the home’s immaculate gardens and the expanse of the park, you feel as if you could be lodging in the quiet of the Scottish countryside. Mr. C and I have had the pleasure of staying at Pilrig House twice (more on that in a bit).

It is thought that Pilrig House was once the country home of Mary of Gueldres (c.1434-1463), the Queen Consort of Scotland as wife of King James II. How posh! In the 16thcentury, Pilrig House was owned by the fabulously named Sir Patrick Monypenny, Baron of Brochton. By 1560, the tower was being used as a field gun battery during the Seige of Leith. (Oh don’t you worry, my friend. This nerd has already jotted that down as a future topic – ha.)

In 1638, a gentleman by the name of Gilbert Kirkwood purchased the estate and rebuilt the house as a gift to his bride, Margaret Foulis. The house as it looks today is the product of his vision.

But perhaps the most compelling facet in the history of Pilrig House is its connection to one of Scotland’s great literary sons. In 1718, Pilrig House was purchased by the ancestors of Margaret Isabella Balfour, mother of the one and only Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson – a.k.a., Robert Louis Stevenson!

Photo of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such works as Treasure Island and Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Photo: Public Domain

Margaret grew up at Pilrig House and the esteemed RLS actually played there as a child. In fact, he referred to the house in his novel Catriona, and according to pilrighouse.com, the house “may also have been the inspiration for the ‘House of Shaws’ in Kidnapped”. The home remained with the Balfour family until around the time of WWII, at which time it fell into the care of the Edinburgh Council.

“I came in view of Pilrig, a pleasant gabled house set by the walkside among some brave young woods.” -from Catriona, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Sadly, a fire destroyed the home’s interior in the early 1970’s, but thanks to an extensive restoration project in the early 1980’s, the interior was rebuilt into a six-apartment configuration. Today, two of those apartments are available as vacation rentals (the remaining four contain permanent residents). The flats are managed by Scottish owners, Philip and Debbie Martin, two of the kindest and most interesting souls you will ever meet. They actually live in one of the apartments. Philip, an enthusiastic amateur historian and gardener, loves interacting with his guests. Debbie has a background in publishing and now does a tremendous job of running their self-catering flats.

Pilrig House is an excellent home-base for a trip to Edinburgh. It sits within walking distance of Edinburgh City Center as well as Leith. If one would rather take public transportation, a city bus can be caught just outside of the park. 

Mr. C and I have spent a combined total of thirty nights at Pilrig House. I would be lying if I said it didn’t set the bar for every other place we will ever stay! Sparkling clean, quiet, cozy, and set up with every single amenity you could possibly think of, Pilrig House is a gem among gems. I feel so thankful for the time we have spent there.

I don’t know what the future holds for Pilrig House as a self-catering rental, as I imagine one day Philip and Debbie will be looking toward retirement. But if you get the chance to visit Edinburgh, consider Pilrig House as your home away from home. Don’t pass up a chance to experience a remarkable piece of Scottish history before the opportunity is potentially gone. Trust me, friend. You will not be sorry you did.

Have a terrific week. See ya again soon!


11 thoughts on “Pilrig House

    • Yes, we were last there in March, 2017. The first time we stayed at PH, we stayed in the Balfour Apt. It’s gorgeous. Then in 2017, we stayed in the Park Apt. Unfortunately, that one is no longer available as a self-catering. The other apartment is the Garden. We haven’t tried that one yet but the pictures online look lovely. Where are you guys going to stay when you visit in Jan?

  • Beautiful! I could do that as a home away from home.
    But tell me, Wendy…thirty days!…are you and Mr. C never home? I’m curious, if you care to share, how much time do you spend in Scotland? Is it vacation, business, study? A nosy reader wouldn’t mind knowing…but I respect privacy. 😉

    • Lol, it’s okay, I don’t mind answering. We travel there for pleasure. We’re just extremely blessed that when we do go, that we are able to stay for a full two weeks + at a time. That gives us lots of time to fully immerse ourselves. We’ll be heading back this Spring for another two weeks and will be staying outside of Inverness. Not having children definitely gives us more flexibility to travel. 🙂

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