A long list of famous travelers
Formerly named Roslin Inn, its name refers to the fact that was built as a collegiate chapel whose inhabitants prayed for the soul of its founder. Work on the chapel started in 1446 and for much of its life during the 16th and 17th century it was a picturesque ruin. Despite the chapel being desecrated during the English Reformation and a general rise of antipathy towards Catholics, the Roslin Glen took on a new significance as a picturesque destination for tourists. Roslin Inn's datestone of 1660 is a reminder of its rich history and it has welcomed illustrious travelers such as Robert Burns, a son of Queen Victoria, James Boswell and JMW Turner to name but a few. By the time The Landmark Trust acquired the property with the help of the foundation of the Chapel Trust, serious structural problems, probably due to an earth tremor, blighted the building. After structural and restorative work were carried out, Roslin Chapel has has a new global significance after it featured in the climax of the Da Vinci Code.
On the outskirts of Edinburgh, this former Inn sits at the top of the picturesque Roslin glen. The views from Colleghill House are stunning and make it unique; the large first floor sitting room has views of Rosslyn Chapel. From the garden you can study its elaborate stonework from a deckchair, whilst its position at the top of the Roslin valley means it has fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
Edinburgh is just 7 miles away so you can enjoy the landscape and beauty of the chapel or explore the many delights Edinburgh has to offer.
See all our Landmarks at Roslin
‘A marvellous base for the Edinburgh Festival.’
‘A wild and spectacular setting - it's easy to see why Turner wanted to paint it.’
From the logbook
An inn next to Rosslyn Chapel
Many famous travellers have found rest at Collegehill House, formerly Roslin Inn. The name ‘Collegehill’ refers to the fact that the chapel was built as a collegiate chapel whose priests were to pray for the soul of its founder. Thanks to this position hard by Rosslyn Chapel, the keepers of the inn were through the centuries de facto curators of the chapel, which represents one of the finest expositions of the work of Renaissance stonemasons in Europe.
Begun in 1446 the chapel was a picturesque ruin for much of its life. It was desecrated during the Reformation, Cromwellians stabled their horses there in 1650 and it was again attacked by a mob in an upsurge of antipathy towards Catholics in 1688. None of this prevented the Roslin glen and its surrounds from gaining a reputation as a romantic and picturesque destination for tourists and the Roslin Inn seems to have been built expressly as an inn, in 1660 according to its datestone. While not a grand building, it is well-built to a standard that might be expected of a minor laird’s house and in keeping with the pedigree of the St Clair estate on which it stood. Its walls include carefully dressed sandstone blocks which may well have come from Rosslyn Castle, sleighted by the Parliamentarians in 1650.
Visitors to Collegehill House and Rosslyn Chapel today have some eminent predecessors. Ben Johnson visited the chapel on foot in 1618, to find William Drummond of Hawthornden resting under a tree: ‘Welcome, welcome, ye royal Ben’, said Drummond, to which Johnson replied with quicker wit than style, ‘Thank ye, thank ye, Hawthornden.’ After an all-night session in Edinburgh in 1787, Robbie Burns walked out to watch the dawn at Rosslyn with his friend James Nasmyth and then found a welcome breakfast at the Inn. He left his thanks in the form of a ditty scratched on a pewter plate. When Queen Victoria visited with her seventeen year old son in 1859, he left his mark on the Inn by scratching his name on a window pane – his writing was verified by his son, George V, who visited ninety years later. And James Boswell and Dr. Johnson lingered so long that they were late for their next appointment when they visited the inn during their Tour of Scotland in 1773. Francis Grose, J M W Turner and the Wordsworths all came to pay homage to this romantic spot.
The innkeepers who also acted as gatekeepers and curators of the Chapel were in some instances hardly less colourful than their visitors. Annie Wilson holds a particular place, having kept house at the inn first with her husband and then as a widow for some forty years. She had a set patter that she never varied, as she showed visitors around the chapel, pointing out features of interest with a long stick. A reporter from The Gentleman’s Magazine immortalised her nutcracker profile and purposeful demeanour in a sketch published in 1817.
The building ceased to be an inn in 1863 when the name Roslin Inn passed to an establishment in the village. It became known instead by the grander name of Collegehill House, in keeping with its new role as home for the Earl of Rosslyn’s factor, John Thomson. He was a Freemason and during his tenure and beyond, the Roslin Lodge met in the first floor sitting room at Collegehill. In the twentieth century the Taylor family took over as chapel custodians for three generations. In the 1940s and 50s, Collegehill House again opened its doors to guests, becoming a tearoom famed for its cakes under Dorothy Taylor, helped by her daughters Evelyn and Dorothy. The last curator, Judith Fiskin, left the house after fifteen years there in 1996. When the Rosslyn Chapel Trust was founded in 1997, the position of curator was largely superseded by the Visitor Centre there, and the appointment ceased.
The structure of Collegehill House evolved through three main phases. The original T-plan is probably contemporary with the 1660 datestone above the front door. After minor modifications in the early eighteenth century, major remodelling then followed c.1760-70 when a new rear wing was constructed and the interiors reorganised. This perhaps reflects increased trade as tourist interest heightened in such picturesque sites. Then sometime between 1790–1810 the east wing was added. Minor works seem to have taken place when it became the factor’s house, with the front entrance remodelled and some windows replaced.
In a state of collapse
In 1986 the south wall of the room at the east end of the house (now the Landmark kitchen) collapsed, probably due to a local earth tremor, and the north wall also had to be shored up. Repairs were undertaken then by the architects Simpson & Brown of Edinburgh, who have also had a long involvement with the chapel.
With the foundation of the Chapel Trust the estate was keen to ensure that Collegehill House not only had assured maintenance for the future, but also that its very special setting should be enjoyed by as many as possible. To this end Landmark agreed to take the building on, and its conversion and refurbishment were once more handled on the Rosslyns’ behalf by Simpson and Brown.
Throughout its history Collegehill House has been owned by the Earls of Rosslyn on whose behalf the Landmark Trust also lets Rosslyn Castle. It seems fitting that this honest, welcoming building is once more offering hospitality to visitors. Since its appropriation for the fictitious climax of the Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel’s fame has increased still further and it has become a thriving tourist attraction. In the lovely first floor sitting room at the rear of Collegehill House, however, you can enjoy a private grandstand view of this glorious flowering of the mason’s craft over the garden wall.
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