Inverleith House – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
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Edinburgh, Scotland

Inverleith House

Once home to a Scottish baronet, this 18th-century historic house doubles as a legendary art space. 

When architect David Henderson built Inverleith House for Sir James Rocheid of Inverleith and his family in 1774, the building crowned Rocheid’s sprawling estate for only £4,109.

Circa 1820, a portion of Rocheid’s land became the formative grounds of the eminent Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). The Garden expanded in 1877 to envelope the entire estate, and today, RBGE stands as an internationally respected institution for horticultural conservation—not to mention a tranquil escape from its urban surroundings.

After serving as the official living quarters of the RBGE director, Inverleith House became the site of the first Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1960. The museum eventually outgrew Inverleith House (named a historic building in 1970), and moved in 1984 to the significantly larger estate comprising John Watson’s Institution—a former school dating back to the 1760s—in the western region of Edinburgh. Two years later, Inverleith House was integrated back into RBGE as a garden-owned exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art.

In the 30-plus years that Inverleith House has operated through RBGE, the gallery has hosted a rotating program of landmark shows by some of the modern and contemporary art world’s leading figures; including German mixed-media artist Isa Genzken, American sculptor John Chamberlain, the irreverent American painter and sculptor Dan Colen, and Swiss painter and sculptor Nicolas Party.

In 2016, the Garden’s attempts to shutter Inverleith House were met with vehement public opposition and a petition bearing more than 10,000 signatures calling for its continuation. The building remains in operation, now with a focus on horticultural specimens and historic botanical artworks.

Know Before You Go

Inverleith House is open six days a week from 10 am through 5:30 pm, closed Tuesdays. The building is currently under construction, so call ahead before visiting. RBGE is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm.