The Royal Observatory

Built in 1893, the historic Royal Observatory continues to be at the forefront of astronomical research.

The Royal Observatory sits at the top of Blackford Hill, about two miles south of Edinburgh city centre and a few minutes walk from the King's Buildings campus.

It houses the Institute for Astronomy as well as the UK Astronomy Technology Centre and a visitor centre.

The Institute for Astronomy is a research and teaching group within the School of Physics and Astronomy.

One of the UK's major centres of astronomical research, the Institute specialises in survey astronomy, cosmology, active galaxies and the formation of stars and planets.


Astronomy has been taught in Edinburgh since 1583.

The first observatory was built on Calton Hill in 1822, but by the late 19th century the building and site had become outmoded and unsuitable for further research.

In 1888, the 26th Earl of Crawford donated his internationally outstanding collection of astronomical books and instruments under the condition that the government build and maintain a new observatory on Blackford Hill.

The Royal Observatory was completed in 1896. The Crawford Collection is still housed in the Observatory and continues to be one of the greatest collections of astronomical books in the world.

Architecture and telescopes

The Royal Observatory is a notable feature of Edinburgh's southern skyline.

A sizeable 180 feet long, the building is oriented east to west with octagonal towers at each end. Cylindrical telescope housings sit atop each tower.

The East Tower includes a revolving dome with a retracting section. Its 36-inch telescope was the largest telescope in Britain when it was installed in 1930.

The West Tower houses the Schmidt Telescope, completed in 1969.

These telescopes have been instrumental to two of the Observatory's main areas of work - spectroscopy and wide-field astronomy.

Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
Blackford Hill Edinburgh EH9 3HJ
Work: +44 (0)131 668 8100
Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8264
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