Sketches of the original Rob Roy Hotel date back to 1850. It was first licensed by Robert Peter ten years earlier in 1840, making it second only to the Queen’s Head in North Adelaide as the longest continuously operating hotel in Adelaide. The hotel is named for the famous Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. This 18th Century Robin Hood was immortalised in Sir Walter Scott’s biography (1817) and more recently in the 1995 film Rob Roy, starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange.
Adelaide’s Rob Roy Hotel was built in stages that provides a clue to its longevity. It is one of the oldest hotel buildings in the city. It ranks in importance with the Queens Head in Kermode Street, North Adelaide, the Prince Albert in Wright Street and the former Beresford Arms in Gilles Street.
The western side of the Rob Roy is the oldest, probably built before 1850. It has had a number of major renovations since, although it maintains this hybrid appearance.
Architects Thomas English and George Klewitz Soward added the eastern section with its Italianate cantilevered balcony in 1881. The western and earliest part of the building were largely original until 1926. It was refaced and rendered, but retains its traditional openings.
The interior of the hotel was upgraded during 1985-1986 preserving evidence of the original room layout. Later in 1986 a sympathetic new dining room extension was added to the east.
The survival of the contrasting earlier and later sections of the hotel is a rarity. In the boom period of the 1880s it was more common for older hotels to be completely redeveloped.