The Playfair at Donaldson's, Edinburgh



The Playfair at Donaldson’s is an outstanding building of palatial elegance. With its majestic character and architectural heritage, located on the western boundary of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, it is recognised as one of the most important landmark buildings in the city.

Each apartment in The Playfair has been designed to optimise natural light, making the most of the period windows and impressive proportions of the historic building. The contemporary design of the apartments provides a striking contrast to the building's exterior. The living spaces have been stylishly designed to be practical and functional for modern life.

Ideally located just west of Edinburgh City Centre, the Category A listed Playfair building includes a collection of apartments designed to provide fantastic panoramic views across Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills, on to an attractive internal courtyard, and sweeping lawns leading to period gate lodges.

Viewings are taking place by appointment only, please contact us to book your viewing of the new Show Homes and Sales Suite. 



West Coates , Edinburgh , EH12 5JQ

Get driving directions


  • Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh 1882-83
  • Donaldson's Postcard late 19th Century

Donaldson’s was designed by the eminent Edinburgh architect William Henry Playfair and was built between 1842-51. It was built as a Hospital for the instruction of children in accordance with the terms laid out in the will of James Donaldson.

James Donaldson died in 1830 and in his will bequeathed “all his property, heritable and personal … to build and found a Hospital for Boys and Girls, to be called Donaldson’s Hospital…” The will also listed the trustees named to carry out his bequest.

In 1833 about 17 acres of the Lands of Coates, was acquired from the Governors of Heriot’s, as a site for Donaldson’s Hospital.

In 1833, Donaldson’s trustees invited plans for the design of the Hospital, however it was not until 1838 that William Henry Playfair was appointed as architect having produced four schemes for the trust. Playfair’s first design for the hospital was a two storey and attic, H-plan building, with symmetrically planned back and front courts. Variants of this twin cloistered approach were developed in the second and third schemes, however by the time the successful fourth scheme was submitted, Playfair had abandoned this approach in favour of a two storey, quadrangular palace block with double ranges of dormitories. The plans underwent further revision at the request of the trustees and the sixth scheme, in which the ranges were reduced to a single width, was finally approved in 1841.

The building is planned around a central quadrangle, with single width ranges surrounding it, and is of two storeys with attic rather than the originally proposed three. At ground floor, projecting from the North, is the chapel. As with all previous designs, girls and boys were segregated, with boys inhabiting the West of the building, and girls the East. Whilst the exterior of the building is palatial in style, the interior was designed in a much more austere way. Playfair undertook specific interior schemes only for the key public areas such as the entrance hall, dining room and council room.

Playfair was also responsible for the design of the setting for the building. The original intention was for a central avenue focused on the southern elevation, and the provision of two pavilion buildings to the east and west. However this was altered under the direction of the trustees and the present arrangement of an east and west entrance was adopted.