The rich history of the Scott Hotel

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Bulletin speaks to Lyndsay Wilkie, Director of Business Development at the University, about the history and refurbishment of the Scott Hotel.

Gavin Hill

The University’s boutique hotel, dating back to the 18th century, was renovated and became The Scott Hotel in 2022, boasting 36 uniquely decorated bedrooms with restored period features.

Lyndsay Wilkie, Director, Business Development at the University, says: “The building was originally built by Alexander Scott, but it was called Salisbury Green. Two years ago, we renamed it the The Scott Hotel.”

Salisbury Green, a three-storey baronial house now known as The Scott Hotel, was the first house on the site of Pollock Halls (as we know it now) built in 1750 by Alexander Scott, an Edinburgh Merchant. When Salisbury Green was built, it was a remote place in rustic surroundings with the road to Peffermill passing close to the house and continuing through the estate now owned by Prestonfield House and Golf Club.

In 1770, it was purchased by the Dicks’ of Prestonfield and later by Agnes Stark of Hall Teasses who sold it to William Nelson of Nelsons the printers/ publishers in 1860. The Nelsons owned the printer/publishers, Parkside Publishing Works, which was on the site of the old glass hexagon Scottish Widows building on Dalkeith Road. The Nelsons were a family of Edinburgh entrepreneurs who rose to become the most successful publishing company in the world at that time.

The Nelsons were a philanthropic family and used their vast wealth to build Nelson Hall in 1913.

Lyndsay says: “The Nelson Hall was situated in Spittalfield Crescent and was intended to be used as a place where ‘persons of the working class and others can go to sit, read, write, converse and otherwise occupy themselves’.”

Further Nelson Halls were established in Fountainbridge, Stockbridge and McDonald Road libraries.

Gerry O'Leary

A change in design

In 1860, the house was described as a plain old-fashioned house, but during their period of residence, which continued for about 30 years, the Nelson family commissioned architect John Lessels to make alterations to it.

In 1869 William Nelson’s brother, Thomas, built the adjacent property of St Leonard’s. The combined estate of the two mansions occupied the area currently occupied by Pollock Halls, The Royal Commonwealth Pool and the bowling club. The site of the Commonwealth Pool and the Bowling Club were used as a recreation ground and Bowling Club for staff who worked at Nelsons Publishers on the old Scottish Widows site.

During World War One, St Leonard’s was a Red Cross Hospital. Later, it became a Girl’s School named St. Trinian’s. Ronald Searle, the cartoonist, had a niece who attended this school, and it is said that visits to see her gave him the inspiration for his St Trinian’s cartoons.

It is estimated that between 1942 and 1948 Sir Donald Pollock bought the part of the estate now owned by the University from the Nelson family. Sir John Donald Pollock, 1st Baronet FRSE LLD was a Scottish physician, industrialist and philanthropist who served as Rector of the University of Edinburgh from 1939 to 1945 and gave land to the University to build a hall of residence. Pollock Halls of Residence were built on the site and were named after him.

Salisbury Green opened as a residence for male students and was run by Sir Donald Pollock. In the 1960s it became a residence for female students and in the 1970s a two-storey extension was added to the rear of the building.

The velvet lounge Gerry O'Leary

Retaining period features

In 2006 the building was first converted into a hotel with conference/meeting rooms – retaining its name, Salisbury Green. It closed its doors during Covid, and was re-opened as The Scott Hotel in July 2022.

“The best thing about The Scott is that all the rooms have different styles and quirky features, from fireplaces and beamed ceilings to turrets and rooms where you can have a bath looking over the Edinburgh landscape,” Lyndsay says.

“We’ve worked hard to retain the original spectacular features of the building, retaining the grand dining room which will soon become Bonnar’s Restaurant (named after Thomas Bonnar who painted the ornate ceiling) and the Velvet Lounge with its red velvet walls and grand fireplace.”

Lyndsay says a modern approach to interior design has also been used in the space, using local artists and suppliers including art from Art Pistol and material from design and textiles supplier Timorous Beasties.

Bonnar’s Restaurant Gerry O'Leary

Find out more

The Scott Hotel and Bonnar’s restaurant are available for staff events and stays, and this has now become a venue that the University can truly be proud of. Any surplus generated from the hotel, and any other University of Edinburgh Hospitality Collection activities, is reinvested back into the University, yet another reason to book.

The Scott Hotel Edinburgh