National Gallery of Scotland

5 places to see and do within 5 minutes of the Gardens

By | General

National Gallery of ScotlandFor citizens of Edinburgh and visitors alike, the Gardens provide a place to relax, unwind, have a wander and take in the views.  Sometimes, if the weather is inclement for example, you might want to take advantage of the many places to go, things to see, and places to eat and drink that Edinburgh has to offer.  Here’s 5 suggestions within 5 minutes of the Gardens to help you choose.


Edinburgh Castle (

This might seem an obvious choice but when you have sat on the grassy slopes in the Gardens and gazed up at the iconic castle rock, it can be difficult to tear yourself away to take a look around and see the view in reverse but you’d be missing out finding out all about Edinburgh’s most iconic monument.  Be sure to see the firing of the One O’Clock Gun.


Scottish National Gallery (

Located on the Mound, the Scottish National Gallery is another building that adds grandeur to Edinburgh’s architectural heritage and is the place to go to see works from masters like Vermeer, Van Gogh and Monet amongst many.  From West Princes Street Gardens, take the exit by the floral clock and simply cross the road.


Museum on the Mound (

In what was once the headquarters of Bank of Scotland, the magnificent building just a short stroll up the Mound from the Gardens is now home to Museum on the Mound.  With fascinating exhibitions around money and how it has been shaped and evolved over time, the history


Edinburgh Farmer’s Market (

Located on the upper floor of the NCP Car Park in the shadow of the Castle Rock, this weekly market showcases the very best of local produce.  Have a wander round and fill up your picnic basket before taking your goodies down to the Gardens to enjoy.


The Ivy on the Square (

It may only be a recent addition to Edinburgh’s dining scene but being open for breakfast right the way through until late means no matter whether you’ve had a big breakfast or a decadent lunch, you can take a short stroll down into and around  the Gardens to help digest!

Wojtek the Bear

By | General

West Princes Street Gardens is home to many memorials of various sizes, styles, causes, and generations.  However, arguably none are more popular than the Gardens’ most recent addition, Wotjek the Soldier Bear, made possible by the Wojtek Memorial Trust.

Wojtek was rescued as a cub in 1943 by Polish soldiers in the Middle East who trained him to help carry munitions, as well as smoke and drink beer.  Much more than a mascot, he quite literally became a part of the ranks when he was enlisted by the Polish army, a necessary process in order for him to be deployed with them to Europe.

So, how did this brown bear end up in Scotland?  Well, after the war was over he was stationed with his fellow soldiers in the Borders and then, when the troops returned to Poland, he was transferred to Edinburgh Zoo where he remained until his death in 1963.

The next time you are in West Princes Street Gardens, pay Wojtek a visit and read more not only about him, but also the heroic Polish veterans he served with during one of history’s darkest times.

There are many ways you can support the Ross Development Trust’s undertaking to improve and reimagine Edinburgh’s much-loved West Princes Street Gardens; from donating to volunteering and from fundraising to sponsoring – find out how.



Ross Fountain restoration update

By | General, Ross Pavilion

The Ross Fountain is without question one of the most iconic landmarks in Edinburgh’s rich landscape and has stood proudly for 145 years  It had however been without water for a number of years and urgently required restoration.  As part of our renewal of West Princes Street Gardens we have commissioned a heritage conservation specialist to manage the restoration process and return the Fountain to it’s former glory.   The process of removing the Fountain began on 6th July and is all but complete.  But what next?  Well, as you can see, the Ross Fountain is made up of many pieces.  122 to be exact.

The restoration process involved dismantling all 122 pieces of the fountain before transporting them to Wigan where each individual piece will be expertly them repaired, restored and repainted each piece.

As you can see, that is no mean feat, with each piece being amazingly heavy due to the solid cast iron casing that makes each one.

We’ll be keeping you up to date with the renovation over the coming weeks and months so you can keep up to date with your Ross Fountain.

Winning concept for Edinburgh’s new Ross Pavilion revealed

By | Design Competition, General, Ross Pavilion

An international collaboration led by US-based design practice wHY and including Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, has won the competition to revitalise West Princes Street Gardens.   

The announcement was made today (1st August, 2017) by the Ross Development Trust.  The £25M project, in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council, will include a new Ross Pavilion, set to become one of the most exciting performance spaces in the World.

The five-month search for an outstanding team for the £25m Ross Pavilion and West Princes Street Gardens project attracted first-stage submissions from 125 teams (made up of 400 firms) from 22 different countries. 

At the competition’s second stage, seven shortlisted teams produced concept designs for a new landmark Pavilion; a visitor centre with café; and improvements to the surrounding Gardens. The new Pavilion will provide a flexible platform for the imaginative arts and cultural programming that Edinburgh excels in, and allow visitors and residents to engage with a variety of events all year round.

Norman Springford, competition Jury Chair, was delighted with the whole process.  He said: ‘As is always the case with initiatives of this size and stature, the jury had a hard job!  We are confident however that we have a winning concept that embodies an imaginative ensemble landscape approach, creating a wonderful stage for our iconic Edinburgh Castle.  In addition, the design concept offers a creative energy and a series of unique elements which will all combine to create a new and contemporary landscape.

‘We thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the shortlisted teams and understanding each approach.  However with wHY, they demonstrated an impressive collaboration which respects and enhances the historical context and backdrop of the Castle and the City, whilst creating new heritage and increasing the green space within the Gardens.  All of which were key aspects for us all and respected the importance of the space within a World Heritage Site.’ 

Gardens view of wHY's winning design for new Ross Pavilion

The competition jury met on July 11 to interview the seven teams shortlisted for this initiative, and unanimously selected wHY as the winner. Their team includes Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth.

Andy Neal, Trustee, The Ross Development Trust was delighted with the Jury’s decision.  He said: ‘It is always a tough job to select a winner when you have such a strong shortlist of entries.  The Trust is grateful to the Jury for their time and consideration in reaching a decision and selecting a winning design concept.

‘We are looking forward to working with wHY to develop our vision for West Princes Street Gardens.  Over the next few months, we will work with the design team and the people of Edinburgh to develop the brief for the Gardens.  It’s an exciting time for the City.’

The competition winners proposed an organic landscape-focused scheme that respects the historic setting but also animates the Gardens through the introduction of a new undulating promenade, transformed access from Princes Street, sculptural seating and dynamic open views.

 View of wHY model concept for new Ross Pavilion


Kulapat Yantrasast, Founder and Creative Director of wHY, said:

“wHY is built around an ecology of disciplines, the convergence of ideas, experience, nature and people. The Ross Pavilion and West Princes Street Gardens represent this convergence and this was the perfect ground to further our approach to design. To be selected from so many extraordinary thinkers is an honour. We felt a personal connection to the Gardens and believe our design embodies how important collaboration and people are to making a place remarkable.”

Mark Thomann, wHY’s Landscape Design Director, added:

“This is a special opportunity for a special place, not just for Edinburgh but the world. The new Ross Pavilion and Gardens draw from the rich natural history, heritage and creative spirit of Scotland, embodying a model approach for integrating public architecture and urban space in a top global city. Our team looks forward to realising this vision with the Ross Development Trust and the people of Edinburgh.”


A key local partner in the winning collaboration was Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, known for its exploratory, interdisciplinary approach and an eclectic portfolio of arts, cultural and community-based projects. 

Gunnar Groves-Raines, Director of GRAS, said:

“It is a true honour to be selected to deliver a project of this significance in the heart of our home town and to work as a central part of such a diverse and talented international design team.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Convener, said:

“We have seen some of the most influential architects and landscapers join forces to compete to design the new Ross Pavilion. The huge international interest in the competition is testament to Edinburgh’s standing as one of the world’s most beautiful and creative settings for live performance.

“All of the shortlisted teams put forward fantastic ideas but wHY’s Butterfly concept received the jury’s collective support. The chosen design makes the most of the natural surroundings of Princes St Gardens and focuses on connecting people to the city, the stage and the view of Edinburgh Castle.

“It is hugely exciting to reach this stage of the project. Our thanks go to the Ross Development Trust for their vision and support and our congratulations to wHY on their winning design.”


Inspired by the Gardens’ geology and history – from the volcanic forces to the man-made energy of the Victorian pleasure garden – the design subtly positions the new visitor centre and the ‘butterfly’ Pavilion into the folds of the landscape, enabling the Castle to remain the main visual event. The scheme increases the amount of green space relative to hard surfaces with the Gardens and is, in the team’s words, ‘human scale with moments of drama… activating four layers of meaning within the Gardens: botanical, civic, commemorative and cultural.’

Norman Springford added that the Jury had praised the winning team’s concept design as ‘a beautiful and intensely appealing proposal that complemented, but did not compete with, the skyline of the City and the Castle.’

‘They liked the concept of the activated community space with a democratic spirit, potentially creating a new and welcoming focus for the City’s festivals while appreciating that the team’s design balanced this with a strong approach to the smaller, intimate spaces within the wider Gardens.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said: 

“wHY is a creative force that has the rare skill of being able to produce design that is exciting yet also sensitive and humane – it is a delight to see them win so exuberantly.

“Their proposal is a landscape scheme that is really more like an energy-field: using animation and drama as well as open vistas, they transform the Gardens and create an experience that is much freer and organic. As is their style, they conscientiously sampled local opinion, and have come up with a design proposal that is engaging and refreshing.

“We would like to thank all the finalists for their hard work and enthusiasm – we were in no doubt over their connection to this wonderful project, and they produced diverse and well-reasoned concept designs.’


wHY, a collective of architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers with offices in Los Angeles and New York recently came to global attention with the opening of Los Angeles’ newest museum, the Marciano Art Foundation, which involved a sensitive and restrained redesign of the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple.

According to the Los Angeles Times, wHY’s founder Kulapat Yantrasast, who is Thai-born and was educated in Japan, ‘is increasingly sought after in the cultural sphere for his ability to skilfully conjure environments that suit the needs of art’. wHY has worked on gallery design at the Art Institute of Chicago, helped overhaul the interior spaces at the Harvard Art Museums, and collaborated with Yoko Ono on her Skylanding project in the historic Olmsted-designed Jackson Park in Chicago.

The jury praised all the finalists for their hard work and commitment and awarded a special commendation to the team led by William Matthews Associates and Sou Fujimoto Architects for ‘a memorable and delicate design that opened up unexpected views, particularly those to the Castle’.

The other five teams were led by Adjaye Associates; Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Flanagan Lawrence; Page \ Park Architects, West 8 Landscape Architects and BuroHappold Engineering; and Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.

wHY will now work with the Ross Development Trust, the City of Edinburgh Council and other stakeholders, and consult with the public, to take forward the project to revitalise this space, positioned just below Edinburgh Castle and adjoining Princes’ Street. Currently occupied by the Ross Bandstand, and described as a true ‘place for people’, it is both a refuge from daily city life and the focus for exhilarating celebrations, such as Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Festival’s closing fireworks concert.

The competition was run according to EU procurement guidelines and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015.

Ten Fascinating Facts about Princes Street Gardens

By | General

West Princes Street Gardens is not just a beautiful, peaceful place to sit and enjoy the scenery or simply contemplate life, it’s also rich in history.  Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Gardens for you to think about next time you come for a visit:

  1. The depression in the rock that forms the Princes Street Gardens is a result of glacial erosion during the last Ice Age more than 11,000 years ago
  2. This area became a marsh until 1460 when, after repeated invasions by the English army over centuries, King James III ordered that it be flooded to form a man-made lake as a defensive reinforcement to the castle
  3. This became known as the Nor’ Loch and where the east end of Waverley Station now sits was the site where the dam was built that helped to create it
  4. As well as being a defensive reinforcement, the Nor’ Loch was used for less noble deeds such as alleged “witch-ducking”, horrendous punishments for crime and was also notorious suicide spot
  5. It also became a dumping ground which caused an unbearable smell across the city and was one of the main reasons why Edinburgh became known as Auld Reekie
  6. The Nor Loch was eventually drained, with the process being largely complete by the 1760s however some of the West Princes Street Gardens wasn’t fully drained until the early 1820s
  7. The architect of the New Town, James Craig, actually intended to link the Old and New Town with a canal, however the Mound was accidentally created in it’s place; it was created by all the building and excavation debris from the New Town building work – more than 1.5 million tons of it!
  8. The Gardens were originally private, with access only allowed to residents of Princes Street and, only on special occasions, was it opened to the public
  9. Everyone knows the Scott Monument but the Gardens are actually home to many memorials and statues such as the Scots American War Memorial, the Royal Scots Memorial and a statue in memory of Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. The West Princes Street Gardens is also home to the world’s first ever floral clock, which was commissioned in 1903 and designed by John McHattie, the City’s park superintendent at the time, and Edinburgh clockmakers James Ritchie and Son

Short film launched

By | General

Our new film about the project was shot last week and you can view it below.  We think this encapsulates exactly what the Gardens mean to people, and what our aim is to revitalise them.

We would like to say a big thank you to the City of Edinburgh Council for giving us permission to film and to the many residents and visitors who agreed to feature in our film talking about what the Gardens mean to them.


Design Competition

By | Design Competition, General

The Ross Development Trust has commissioned Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), the leading European specialist in design competitions, to devise and run a two-stage international design competition.

MRC is known for its ability to crystallise design briefs and inspire architects and other designers. It has a global following and is highly experienced in generating media interest. The consultancy’s recent successes include competitions for the Royal College of Art; the Illuminated River; the Museum of London; the gold medal-winning UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art, and New College, Oxford.

The first stage of the competition will be an international search for a multi-disciplinary design team, based on relevant skills, past experience and an understanding of the project brief.

A selection panel will review these first stage submissions and shortlist five practices, who will be given a further briefing and asked to produce concept designs for the Bandstand. As part of a wide-ranging consultation process, the Trust will hold a public exhibition of the schemes and ask the public for their views.

An expert jury will be assembled to assess concept designs, conduct interviews and select a winner.

Design Competition
Malcolm Reading Consultants MRC

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