Virtual Doors Open Day

Every year, buildings across Scotland open their doors to the public for Doors Open Days. The event gives people the chance to peek inside some of historic and some newer buildings, explore their history and take part in activities.

In 2021 when court buildings were not able to open to the public on Doors Open Day as normal we  created some exciting online activities and resources for everyone to enjoy.

Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway

What's it like to work in Parliament House? The most senior member of the Scottish judiciary, Lord Carloway reflects on his experience of Parliament House as a workplace for all sectors of the Scottish legal profession.

Transcript: talk by Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway

Statue of blindfolded Justice, holding scales and the sword of truth.Historic crime and punishment quiz

What unexpected activities were regarded as criminal acts in 1895? Could putting beans in your bread have gotten you in hot water? Was fortune-telling and reading palms a risky business? Would you have been charged with a crime for doing something that seems absolutely ordinary today? And what would have been the penalty for these crimes?  

We have created a 10-question quiz on the legal penalties for crimes that year. We’ve also provided a little bit of background information to help explain why certain activities, which we regard as completely normal now, were regarded as criminal actions back then.

Parliament House architecture - Professor Johnny Rodger

Professor Johnny Rodger is a writer, critic, and Professor of Urban Literature at the Glasgow School of Art. He is the co-author of The Spaces of Justice: The Architecture of the Scottish Court and has kindly provided a brief talk exploring the architectural history of Parliament House.

Transcript: Professor Johnny Rodger - Parliament House architecture


Scottish Sentencing Council crest in white on claret background.Scottish Sentencing Council

The Scottish Sentencing Council helps to develop policy on sentencing in Scotland and consistency on sentencing, and promote greater awareness and understanding of sentencing. 

You can  Test your knowledge and learn more about sentences and sentencing by taking this KAHOOT QUIZ (10 questions)

Learn more about how judges decide criminal court sentences in Scotland.

Use the Scottish Sentencing Council's interactive scenarios to follow the court cases of Gillian and Paul. As you go through the cases, you decide what happens next, and then you choose what sentence you would give if you were the Sheriff.  

Every day in courtrooms across Scotland, people are sentenced for crimes they've committed. This short video helps to explain how judges decide what these sentences should be.

Make your own mace

Polished silver mace with fleur-de-lis and crosses decoration lying on blue material surface.Maces are the symbol of the authority of the Crown in the courtroom, carried into the room in front of the judiciary by Macers or Court Officers, and placed in a special display place while the court is sitting.

We’ve put together printable kit to construct a paper-craft mace, as well as instructions on how to make one yourself if you don’t have access to a printer.

Enjoy decorating and building your own mace!

Make your own mace: instructions if you have a printer (PDF)

Make your own mace: templates for printable instructions (PDF)

Make your own mace: instructions of you don't have a printer (PDF)



A staircase spiralling down through multiple floors, with upright rods supporting a curving handrail.Escape room

Test your mettle in our online escape room. After joining one of the librarians for a behind-the-scenes tour of the historic Parliament House building, things start going wrong. Somehow, your tour guide and you end up slipping back through time.

You’ll experience famous legal events of the past firsthand, and see up close some of the unusual spaces and items that can be found behind the doors of the almost 400-year-old building.

Use your logic and observation skills to unlock the puzzles and, if you’re lucky, escape from Parliament House!


Laws, legends and myths

A staircase spiralling down through multiple floors, with upright rods supporting a curving handrail.There are lots of 'facts' about odd laws in circulation, but how many of them are actually true? We take a look at some of the stranger ones to find out if they were true, if they're still true, and if any of them applied here in Scotland, which has its own legal system, distinct from the rest of the UK.

Discover what it was like to engage with the legal system in Scotland in years gone by, investigating things like where courts sat, what it was like to be a member of a jury, and when people used to celebrate the start of the new year.

Find out what is true and what are merely myths.



Scottish legal terms word search

Seven by seven grid extract of word search, showing random letters.Scots law uses many unique terms, and it also shares many words with other judicial systems.

We’ve pulled together these terms and descriptions which are in daily use in Parliament House and created a word search for you to download and print, or view on your screen.

(We’ve included an answer sheet too, in case you get stuck!)





Women in the Court of Session - Dr Rebecca Mason

Dr Rebecca Mason is a historian of early modern Scotland, with expertise in gender and legal history. She has kindly provided a brief talk titled Women and Law in Early Modern Scotland: The Court of Session, which explores historic Scottish women’s property rights, with a focus on cases heard in the Court of Session in Parliament Hall.

Transcript: Dr Rebecca Mason - Women in the Court of Session Transcript



Angled view along shelf of leatherbound Scottish criminal law books.Choose-your-own adventure

We have created two different stories which work like the old ‘choose your own adventure’ books: 'Library Murder Mystery' and 'The Mystery of the Beast' (links below).

As you journey through the stories, you'll face a range of options and what you choose will determine what happens next!

You can travel back and forth along the different paths, figuring out the clues until you solve the mystery.

View along a library corridor, with wooden shelves and floors and books on shelves on either side.

Library Murder Mystery

The Supreme Courts Library seems like a nice place...

...well, apart from the fact the librarian’s dead body is lying in the office upstairs! What happened? How did they die? Why?

And, of course, who committed this terrible crime? 

There are strange clues scattered around the library. It’s up to you to question the suspects and try and catch the culprit before they escape!

Two quill pen feathers sitting in a tin inkwell, the inkwell placed on a surface with books behind.The Mystery of The Beast

Based on a real and rather unusual case from Inverness in the 1950s, you play the role of Detective Brown, tasked with investigating a chaotic scene in a shop in the heart of Inverness. 

In this exciting interactive mystery, you must explore the scene, question the parties involved to examine what they think happened, solve the mystery, then explore some legal questions raised in the courts by the subsequent legal case.  

Behind the case

Old paper tag with twine and red wax seal attached, lying on leather surfaceIt is often wondered what circumstances caused a person to end up before the court, and what happened to them after their case was concluded?

Delve into historic newspapers and public records to explore what happened before and after the time that the servant Ann Tinman appeared in the High Court of Justiciary in 1874, charged with concealment of pregnancy and child murder.




The Dunecht Murder - Jennifer Findlay

Jennifer is the Library Services Manager for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. She has researched the background to an unusual case heard in the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh in 1882, which left behind some unexpected traces in the Parliament House building.

Transcript: Jennifer Findlay - The Dunecht Mystery


Partially completed online jigsaw, with outline completed and jigsaw pieces scattered around.Jigsaws

We have taken photos of some of the items or locations you would normally be able to see on Doors Open Day tours, such as Burke’s Cell, Parliament Hall’s Great South Window and our very own coffin (which is a left-over evidence item from a famous legal case 200 years ago) and turned them into jigsaws.

We’ve also shared some images of things you might not normally see if you came to visit us, such as our library cows…

You can change the cut style and difficulty level on the site if they’re proving to be just a bit too tricky, or if you’d like to make them a little bit more challenging.

Judicial work quiz

Royal coat of arms used in courtrooms, featuring a unicorn on the left and a lion on the right.What’s involved in the daily work of a Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, Senator or Tribunals President? Where do they work, what legal activities are they involved in, and what are the limits of their powers? Find out more about the work of all levels of the Scottish judiciary.
Play the online quiz.




Parliament House factsheet

View along length of Parliament Hall, showing the dark oak timbers of the roof with their gilded points, and the stained glass window at the far end, illuminated by the sun.A historic building right in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Parliament House is well known for the grand space of Parliament Hall, and its imposing stained glass windows and graceful statutes.

However, Parliament house also has many lesser-known elements.

We have put together some snippets of information about Parliament House for you in a factsheet. 

Download Parliament House factsheet (PDF)