New College, the spikey looking building overlooking Princes Street is often photographed by tourists but I’m not sure how many know what it’s used for. Even most locals only enter the building in August when it’s used as venues for the Festivals. However, I spent four years in the building while I studied at the University of Edinburgh.
Designed by William Henry Playfair, one of Edinburgh’s most famous architects, the building was opened in 1846 as the college for the Free Church of Scotland. Since the 1930s it has been home to the School of Divinity for the University of Edinburgh.
As well as the University the building also houses the General Assembly (the highest council) of the Church of Scotland (the national presbyterian church).
It was also home to the Scottish Parliament when it reopened in 1999. The Parliament moved out to its new home at the bottom of the Royal Mile in 2004.
As well as academic, religious and political uses the building has also been a location for many movies. The most famous is probably Chariots of Fire, the 1981 film about Olympian Eric Liddell, himself a graduate of the University.
While you are at New College keep an eye out for the plaque commemorating John Witherspoon, another Edinburgh graduate. He studied Divinity at the University (although not in New College) before emigrating to the USA where he became the president of Princeton University and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.