Committee of Scottish Bankers

Banknote Design Features : The Royal Bank of Scotland

Lord IlayThe most distinguishing feature of the front of Royal Bank notes is the inclusion of The Royal Bank of Scotland's first Governor, Lord Ilay (1682-1761).  Lord Ilay was the right-hand man in Scotland for Britain's first and longest running Prime Minister, Robert Walpole.  He played an important part in establishing Scottish banking, being closely involved in the foundation of The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1727 (acting as its first governor for the next ten years) and also setting up the British Linen Company in 1746.  He was noted for his support of the Scottish Universities and in particular for the encouragement he gave to the development of the Medical Schools in Edinburgh.  The engraving of Lord Ilay used on the banknotes is based on the painting of him by Allan Ramsay which is in the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  Lord Ilay's portrait also features as the watermark on the notes.

Royal Bank of Scotland banking hall ceiling and corporate logoOther features include an original engraving used on earlier Royal Bank of Scotland banknotes, the facade of the Bank's Registered office at 36 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, a representation of the ceiling of the banking hall there, the coat-of-arms of the Bank and the logo created for the Bank in 1969.

The individual Royal Bank notes incorporate (on the reverse) the following designs:

Edinburgh Castle

£1 note - Edinburgh Castle
The castle rock, rising 200 feet above Princes Street, has been a fortification since prehistoric times.  The castle itself is steeped in antiquity and since the 11th Century has been closely linked with the history of Scotland.  It was home to several Scottish monarchs and was the birthplace of King James VI (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) who became the first monarch of the United Kingdom in 1603.

The Royal Bank of Scotland have also issued special commemorative £1 notes (the European Summit in Edinburgh, December 1992; the centenary of the death of Robert Louis Stevenson in 1994; the 150th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Graham Bell in 1997; first meeting of the new Scottish Parliament in 1999). 

Culzean Castle

£5 note - Culzean Castle
Situated on a cliff on the Ayrshire coast some eleven miles south of Ayr, it was formerly the seat of the Marquis of Ailsa.  It is now one of the properties of the National Trust for Scotland and a well-known tourist attraction.  The Eisenhower Suite was presented to Dwight D Eisenhower in recognition of his role as supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II.

Commemorative £5 notes were issued to mark: the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002; the 250th Anniversary of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in 2004; the quincentenary of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2005; the golf career of three-times Open winner Jack Nicklaus 2005.

Glamis Castle £10 note - Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle was reputedly the scene of Macbeth's murder of King Malcolm II in 1031.  It is the seat of the Earl of Strathmore, whose ancestors were Deputy Governors of The Royal Bank of Scotland in its early days.  Her Majesty the Queen Mother spent her early years there and Princess Margaret was born in the castle, the last member of the Royal Family to be born in Scotland.

Brodick Castle£20 note - Brodick Castle
The only castle in the series not on the mainland of Scotland, Brodick Castle was the home from which the Dukes of Montrose held the Isle of Arran.  Today the castle is administered by the Queen Elizabeth the Queen MotherNational Trust for Scotland.


On 5th August 2000 the bank issued a commemorative £20 note to mark the 100th birthday of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.


Inverness Castle £50 note - Inverness Castle
This note, issued on 14 September 2005, was added to the Ilay series exactly eighteen years after its launch in 1987.  It is the first £50 note to be introduced by The Royal Bank of Scotland since 1727 and features an image of Inverness Castle on the reverse.  This castle was chosen in recognition of Inverness becoming Scotland's fifth city in 2001.  The bank's links with Inverness can be traced back to the 1820s when two of the Royal Bank's past constituents opened branches there.


Balmoral Castle£100 note - Balmoral Castle
A royal residence in Deeside, Balmoral was built in 1853 to replace an existing building.  It was a great favourite of Queen Victoria and has provided successive Royal Families with a suitable location in which to enjoy periods of rest, relaxation and, above all, privacy.



The text above is reproduced by courtesy of The Royal Bank of Scotland. Further information about The Royal Bank's banknotes past and present is available on the Our Heritage pages of The Royal Bank's website.

Information on the Banknote Design features of Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank appears elsewhere on this site.