History of High Street Hostel and the Building

pic_hsh_extHigh Street Hostel first opened its doors in 1985 and was, originally, the first independent youth hostel in Edinburgh. Since that time it has been home to thousands of guests from all over the world.

The building is more traditionally known as Morton House. According to the framed piece of masonry in the main reception area, 1564 is the likely date of original construction, but considerable rebuilding seems to have been undertaken c. 1600. Until the 19th century, projecting timber galleries overhung the street and the tower above the doorway outside used to be the stairway.

Blackfriars Street outside, would have been considerably narrower and was known as Blackfriars Wynd, after the Dominican Monastery that once stood at the foot of the slope. In 1520 Blackfriars Wynd witnessed a vicious ‘tulzie’ or steet fight between the warring Douglas and Hamilton, involving over a thousand spearmen. The incident is remember by tradition as ‘Cleanse-The-Causeway’, because of the bloody mess that had to be mopped up afterwards.

History of the original owner

pic_earlmortonThe building that High Street Hostel is located in is a very famous building and was first built by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton who lived from 1525 – 1581. He acted as Regent of Scotland, becoming Lord Chancellor of Scotland in 1563.

He, allegedly, led the armed force that assassainated Rizzio (the private secretary) in front of a heavily pregnant Mary, Queen of Scots, who, herself, is alleged to have been having an adulterous affair with him. This frightening incident in Holyrood Palace is considered to be a major factor in her nervous breakdown the following year.

James Douglas is also famous for having introduced the Maiden, a primitive, yet efficient, guillotene to Scotland, having been “impressed by its clean work” (it can be seen in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh – not far from the Hostel in Chambers Street) and used to lease it to neighbouring towns for £1.50 a day, so they could execute their own criminals.

pic_maidenIn due course he was also accused of being involved in the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots, husband Lord Darnley (their son, James VI of Scotland, would one day rule England as James I – who Guy Fawkes tried to blow up in the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605). His luck was up and he was condemned to death by ‘hanging, drawing & quartering’, but this was commuted to decapitation by King James.

Finally, on 2nd of June 1581, he was executed on the ‘maiden’ that he himself had brought from Halifax.

  • Facilities

    • Open 24/7 all year
    • Dorms, deluxe quads, or twin rooms
    • Vibrant dining-party lounge
    • Self-catering kitchen
    • Quiet lounge, internet + wifi
    • Historic – dating from 1564!
    • UNIQUE DEEP-CLEANING REGIME! The only hostel co in the world that can put the mattress through the laundry machine!
    • Perfect security with unique bedside safes and lockers