Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland watched over by a castle, the symbol of the city. Edinburgh combines medieval relics, Georgian grandeur and a powerful layer of modern life with contemporary avant-garde.
Medieval palaces rub shoulders with modern architecture, Gothic churches with amazing museums and galleries. Edinburgh, "the Athens of the North", has great restaurants, shops and city festivals throughout the year.
Edinburgh is a compact city - most of the sights and major tourist attractions are within the?Old Town?and?New Town?and are no further than a 15 minute walk apart. There are a number of hills to be navigated, for example from Princes Street, up?The Mound?towards?Edinburgh Castle?requires some significant legwork, but it's worth it for the views en route.
Edinburgh's Old Town is the medieval heart along the Royal Mile, which runs from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. Most of the really famous sites are in this area. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1995. The historic centre of Edinburgh is divided into two by Princes Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, perched atop the extinct volcanic crag, and the long sweep of the Old Town trailing after it along the ridge, following the Royal Mile along the ridge to the east. To the north lies Princes Street - Edinburgh's main shopping boulevard - and the Georgian period?New Town, built after 1766 on a regular grid plan. To the immediate west of the castle lies the financial district, housing insurance and banking buildings.
Scots are well known for fried food as deep fried pizza, deep fried hamburgers, deep fried Black Pudding (a type of blood sausage), deep fried haggis and deep fried Mars bars Drop by a?chippy?(fish and chip shop) and experience these Scottish delights. Edinburgh chippys are unique in the UK for offering?salt'n'sauce?as standard in place of the?salt'n'vinegar?usually provided elsewhere in the country. The sauce is a kind of runny, vinegary version of?HP?orDaddys?style brown sauce. Most chippys will provide vinegar on request if you prefer.
Video of Edinburgh Scotland 2012 © Joe Mendonca
Edinburgh Castle,?Old Town, home to the Edinburgh Tattoo, is a royal fortress located on one of the highest points in the city. The castle has been continuously in use for 1000 years and is in excellent condition.??
Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse, Old Town? The Palace is a royal residence, and hosts the Queen's Gallery containing a collection of art from the Royal Collection.
St Giles' Cathedral, Old Town ? The historic City Church of Edinburgh is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and takes its name from the city's patron saint.
Mary King's Close, Old Town ? Warriston's Close (opposite St Giles' Cathedral) - a slice of Edinburgh's medieval history, preserved since being closed over in the 18th century - watch out for the haunting.
Gladstone's Land, Old Town ? In the Lawnmarket at the top of the Royal Mile. It is a 17th century Old Town tenement (known as a 'Land') decorated with period furniture. It has an impressive painted ceiling.
Greyfriars Kirkyard, Old Town. A very old graveyard in Old Town off the Southwest corner of George IV Bridge, made famous by Disney as the home of?Greyfriars Bobby.
Camera Obscura, Old Town ? Castle Hill. Over 150 years old, the Camera Obscura focuses light from the top of the tower onto a large dish in a dark room below, allowing a 360-degree view of all of Edinburgh!
The?Scottish Parliament, Old Town (eastern end of the Royal Mile, opposite the Palace of Holyrood House)? A unique building designed by the Spanish (Catalan) architect Enric Miralles. It is necessary to get (free) tickets to watch the Parliament in session from the Public Gallery.
Scott Monument,?E Princes Street Gardens, New Town.?Built in 1846 to commemorate the life of Sir Walter Scott after his death in 1832, the Gothic spire monument allows you to climb 200 ft above the city centre for great views.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal - decommissioned from royal use in recent years and voted one of Edinburgh's best new attractions, Britannia offers visitors the chance to tour the royal apartments and view a selection of the many gifts offered to the royals by dignitaries worldwide.
Rosslyn Chapel?, South, Take bus number 15 to see this chapel, featured in “The Da Vinci Code” novel and film.
Museum and galleries
Museum of Scotland and?Royal Museum, mixes innovative modern architecture with the best of Scotland's heritage. The Royal Museum has a magnificent airy Victorian atrium now with the?Millennium Clock?at one end - arrange to be there when it is chiming. Exhibits in the Museum of Scotland include Scottish pottery and weapons from the Roman era and the Renaissance.
The?National Gallery of Scotland, holds much of Scotland's fine artwork and carries exhibitions that change seasonally. The new Western Link was opened in 2004 with an entrance from Princes Street Gardens. It joins The National Gallery with the neighbouring Scottish Academy gallery and gives Scotland it's first world class art space.
The?Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, contains a fine selection of modern art from Scotland and other countries.
Hogmanay Edinburgh is a winter festive with various concerts and other activities taking place starting a couple of weeks before Christmas and running up to a week into January. Princes Street Gardens play host to a Big Wheel,w outdoor ice rink and various festive markets. As in most of the rest of Scotland, Hogmanay, the New Year celebrations, are the main focus of the festive season rather than Christmas. On the night itself whole sections of central Edinburgh are roped off and accessible only by ticket for the Hogmanay street party, which takes place across several stages and is easily the largest in Scotland.
The city hosts the annual Edinburgh Festival, a group of official and independent festivals held annually over about four weeks beginning in early August. The number of visitors attracted to Edinburgh for the Festival is roughly equal to the settled population of the city. The best-known of these events are the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest performing-arts festival in the world; the Edinburgh International Festival; the Edinburgh Military Tattoo; and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
The longest established festival is the Edinburgh International Festival, which first ran in 1947. The International Festival centres on a programme of high-profile theatre productions and classical music performances, featuring international directors, conductors, theatre companies and orchestras. The International Festival has since been overtaken in both size and popularity by the Edinburgh Fringe. What began as a programme of marginal acts has become the largest arts festival in the world. Comedy is now one of the mainstays of the Fringe, with numerous notable comedians getting their 'break' here. In 2008 the largest comedy venues on the Edinburgh Fringe launched as a festival within a festival, labelled the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, at its inception it was the largest comedy festival in the world.
On the night of 30 April, the Beltane Fire Festival takes place on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. The festival involves a procession followed by the re-enactment of scenes inspired by pagan spring fertility celebrations.
Edinburgh has been the royal capital of Scotland since 1437.
Humans have settled the Edinburgh area from at least the Bronze Age. Local culture was influenced through the Iron Age by Hallstatt and La Tene Celtic cultures from central Europe. By the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, they discovered a Celtic Brythonic tribe whose name they recorded as Votadini, likely to be a Latin version of the name they called themselves. The Angles of Northumbria had a significant influence in what was to become South-East Scotland, notably from AD 638 when it appears the Gododdin stronghold was besieged. It was not until c. AD 950 when, during the reign of Indulf, son of Constantine II, the city fell to the Scots and finally remained under their jurisdiction. During this period of Germanic influence in south east Scotland, when the city's name gained its Germanic suffix, ‘burgh’, the seeds for the language we know today as Scots were sown.
By the 12th century Edinburgh, founded upon the famous castle rock, the volcanic crag and tail geological feature shaped by 2 million years of glacial activity, was well established becoming one of the earliest Scottish Royal Burghs. Founded in the mid 12th century, a separate Burgh of regality, known as the Canongate and held by the Abbey of Holyrood, developed to the East. Through the late medieval period Edinburgh grew quickly and continued to flourish economically and culturally through the Renaissance period. It was at the centre of the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Covenant a hundred years later.
In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne, uniting the two kingdoms in a personal union known as the Union of the Crowns. Scotland remained a sovereign kingdom with the Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh. King James VI progressed to London where he established his court, maintaining his rule in Scotland through his Privy Council which merely received his written instructions and executed his will. Despite promising to return every three years, he returned to Edinburgh only once, in 1617.
Disputes between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the Anglican Church in 1639 led to the Bishops' Wars, the initial conflict of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. During the Third English Civil War Edinburgh was taken by the Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell prior to Charles II's eventual defeat at the Battle of Worcester.
In 17th century Edinburgh a defensive wall, built in the 16th century largely as protection against English invasion following James IV's defeat at the Battle of Flodden and hence named the Flodden Wall, still defined the boundaries of the city. Due to the restricted land area available for development, houses increased in height instead. Buildings of 11 storeys were common and there are records of buildings as high as 14 or even 15 storeys. Many of the stone-built structures can still be seen today in the Old Town.
In 1706 and 1707 the Acts of Union were passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland uniting the two Kingdoms into the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, the Parliament of Scotland merged with the Parliament of England to form the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London.
The union was opposed by many Scots at the time and this led to riots within the city. From early times, and certainly from the 14th century, Edinburgh used armorial devices in many ways, including on seals. In 1732, the 'achievement' or 'coat of arms' was formally granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. These arms were used by Edinburgh Town Council until the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in May 1975, when it was succeeded by the City of Edinburgh District Council and a new coat of arms, based on the earlier one, was granted. In 1996, further local government reorganisation resulted in the formation of the City of Edinburgh Council, and again the coat of arms was updated.
During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Edinburgh was briefly occupied by Jacobite forces before their march into England. Following their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, there was a period of reprisals and pacification, largely directed at the Catholic Highlanders. In Edinburgh the Hanoverian monarch attempted to gain favour by supporting new developments to the north of the castle, naming streets in honour of the King and his family; George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street and Princes Street, named in honour of George III's two sons.
The city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment. Celebrities from across the continent would be seen in the city streets, among them famous Scots such as David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Adam, David Wilkie, Robert Burns, James Hutton and Adam Smith. Edinburgh became a major cultural centre, earning it the nickname Athens of the North because of the Greco-Roman style of the New Town's architecture, as well as the rise of the Scottish intellectual elite who were increasingly leading both Scottish and European intellectual thought.
In the 19th century, Edinburgh, like many cities, industrialised, but did not grow as fast as Scotland's second city, Glasgow, which replaced it as the largest city in the country, benefiting greatly at the height of the British Empire. The Scotland Act 1998 which came into force in 1999 established a devolved Scottish parliament and Scottish Executive, both based in Edinburgh responsible for governing Scotland, with reserved matters such as defence, taxation and foreign affairs remaining the responsibility of Westminster.