The Edinburgh Festival Centre

(The Hub)

The Edinburgh Festival Centre (previously the Highland Tolbooth Kirk)
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Edinburgh Festival Centre (previously the Highland Tolbooth Kirk)

Situated on the sharp corner between Castlehill and Johnston Terrace is the Edinburgh Festival Centre, opened in 1999. Its octagonal spire, some 73m (241 feet) in height, has long been a notable landmark on Edinburgh's skyline. Following a number of years of disuse, the building has been restored as a year round focus for the festival, including a festival club, conference venue, exhibitions, a shop and box office.

Built originally as Victoria Hall, to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it became the St. John's Tolbooth or, more popularly, the Highland Tolbooth Kirk. The work of James Gillespie Graham (1766 - 1855), with Augustus Pugin, its foundation stone was laid in 1842 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and it was completed two years later.

On the upper level is the dramatic Main Hall, which formed the heart of the former church but now providing a venue for conferences, corporate events and weddings, with space for up to 400 people. The hall features original wood-panelling and pulpit, together with a brightly-painted ceiling and gallery. Subsidiary rooms include the Dunard Library with its high ceiling, stained glass windows and bar hidden behind a rising panelled wall.

The building remains the property of the Church of Scotland having been leased to support its new use.

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