Abbey Strand, Edinburgh-often overlooked by tourists

Abbey Strand and Sanctuary, , Edinburgh, Scotland

This evening, I am posting information on the Abbey Strand and Sanctuary which are close to the Palace of Holyroodhouse at foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Abbey Strand has just received media attention as a function of a report that the premises will open at luxury apartments from end of February 2020.

The 16th century Abbey Sanctuary buildings are often overlooked by the many thousands of visitors who are focused on the nearby Royal Palace and Scottish Parliament. The buildings formed part of a residence for aristocratic and other privileged debtors from the late 17th century up until 1880 when imprisonment for unpaid debt was abolished.

The occupants were known as ‘Abbey Lairds’ and were able to live under effective house arrest within the confines of a designated sanctuary area which included Holyrood Park, a few minutes away, and Arthur’s Seat, also close by. The occupants were safe from arrest provided they stayed within the designated sanctuary area. However, they were at liberty to stray outside the designated sanctuary area on Sundays only.

The western section of the buildings has been renovated to accommodate palace and court officials.

Other historical information 

  • Oldest part of the building dates from 1490 when connected to (the now ruined) Holyrood Abbey.
  • In the 16th century King James V made alterations to accommodate his weaponry in anticipation of a conflict with the English.
  • Abbey Strand was badly damaged during Henry VIII's 'rough wooing' (1543- 1551).
  • Premises used by Mary, Queen of Scots to accommodate her retinue 
  • During the 'sanctuary' period adverted to above, the accommodation degenerated into a damp and poorly lit slum.
The term ‘Strand’ is derived from a small stream which once crossed the street at this site.


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