Zoological Roundels – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Zoological Roundels

Ashworth Laboratories

These sculptures of various animals adorn the building that houses one of the capital's least known museums. 


Scotland’s capital boasts a vast array of museums for visitors to see, from artistic institutions to halls of scientific discovery. The city is also home to six world-class universities and colleges. The most prestigious of which is Edinburgh University.

The university has three separate institutions of learning, covering 21 campuses. The King’s Buildings, located just a few miles to the south of the town center, is where one will find the Natural History Collection of Edinburgh University.

Though the building itself dates to the 1920s, the collection of zoological specimens inside are well over 300 years old, with many artifacts dating back as early as 1692. The accumulation of both vertebrate and invertebrate collections began at the Old College, closer to the city center, but quickly outgrew its surroundings. The collection is now divided into two locations. Some can be found at the National Museum of Scotland and the rest are here, where students are currently studying the diversity of the animal kingdom.

The building’s facade is embellished with over a dozen roundels of animals and invertebrates that depict the principal zoogeographical regions of the world in Africa, India, Australia, and the Americas. One can spot a variety of mammals, reptiles, and other species across the building. These artistic interpretations are the work of Phyllis Mary Bone (1894-1972), who later became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Scottish Academy.

Know Before You Go

The exterior of the building can be viewed at any time. Access to the museum itself is by appointment only and you should email one of the curators directly.

The Ashworth Laboratory is located on the grounds of Edinburgh University and is known as the King's Buildings. The entrance is at the intersection of West Mains Road, Esselmont Road, and Mayfield Road.

The Campus is served by buses 41, 42, and 24 from the city center.

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April 9, 2020

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