History of Edinburgh, Scotland - World Heritage Site

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and Scotland's second-largest city (Glasgow being larger). The 2001 census puts Edinburgh at a population of 448,624. The city is nicknamed "Auld Reekie", Lowland Scots for "Old Smoky". This is because when the only fuel available was coal or wood all the chimneys would spew lots of smoke into the air. Edinburgh has also been known as "Dunedin", deriving from the Scottish Gaelic, Dùn Èideann. Dunedin, New Zealand, was originally called "New Edinburgh".

320 million years ago tough basalt volcanic plugs were formed, then during the last ice age glaciers eroded the area, exposing the plug as a rocky crag to the west. The glacier gouged out the ground to either side of the granite crag, leaving the ravine of the Grassmarket and Cowgate to the south, and the swampy valley of the Nor' Loch to the north. The crag now forms the Castle Rock, and the narrow steep sided ridge which the Royal Mile follows. The ridge declines in height over a mile, eventually getting down to ground level at Holyrood.

It has been the capital of Scotland since 1437 and is the seat of the country's devolved parliament. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Edinburgh is one of the world's major tourist destinations, attracting around 13 million visitors a year, and is the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom, after London. Edinburgh is known for the annual Festival and for the Hogmanay street party. At the time of the art festivals the population of the city doubles.
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The city name came from the Brythonic language "Din Eidyn (Fort of Eidyn") when it was a Gododdin hillfort. In the 1st century the Romans noted that the Votadini were a British tribe in the area. After it was besieged by the Bernician Angles the name changed to Edin-burh. The burgh part of the name means "fortress" or "group of buildings", i.e. a town or city.

The first evidence of the existence of the town as distinct from the fort is in an 12th century charter of 1124, by King David I granting land to the Church of the Holy Rood of Edinburgh. by the 1170s King William the Lion was using the name "Edenesburch" in a charter confirming the 1124 grant of David I.

Documents from the 14th century show the name to have settled into its present spelling; although other spellings ("Edynburgh" and "Edynburghe") did still sometimes appear.

Edinburgh has been called the "Athens of the North". The 18th century intellectual life, sometimes referred to as the Scottish Enlightenment, produced David Hume and Adam Smith. Neoclassical architecture abounds as in that of William Henry Playfair, and the National Monument.

The Scots poets Robert Burns and Robert Fergusson sometimes referred to the city as "Edina" in their work. Ben Johnson described it as "Britaine's other eye", and Sir Walter Scott referred to the City as "yon Empress of the North".

The centre of Edinburgh is divided into two by Princes Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by Edinburgh Castle and the long sweep of the Old Town. To the north lies Princes Street and the New Town. The gardens were begun in 1816 on marshland which had once been the Nor' Loch.

The Old Town has preserved its medieval plan and many Reformation-era buildings. The street layout is typical of the old quarters of many northern European cities. The castle is at one end of the Old Town and the Royal Mile, leads away from it; smaller streets drop downhill on either side of hill in a herringbone pattern. Large squares mark the location of markets or surround major public buildings such as St Giles Cathedral and the Law Courts. Other notable buildings include the Festival Theatre, Royal Museum of Scotland, Surgeons' Hall, and the University of Edinburgh.

The hilltop crag was the earliest part inhabited, eventually becoming Edinburgh Castle. The rest of the city grew slowly down the tail of land from the Castle Rock. This was an easily defended position with marsh on the south and a loch, the Nor Loch, on the north. Access to the settlement therefore was restricted by a City Wall (now mostly gone but there are markings on the cobbles on the Royal Mile to show where it once was).

Due to the space restrictions imposed by the narrowness of the "tail" the Old Town developed multi-story houses from the 1500s onwards. During the 1700s the Old Town had a population of about 80,000 residents (today there are 20,000 residents in the Old Town). Many of these buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1824. They were then rebuilt on the original foundations.

New Town. The New Town was an 18th century solution to the problem of overcrowding in the Old Town. In 1766 a competition to design the New Town was won by James Craig, a 22-year-old architect. His plan was to build an ordered grid of streets. The main street was George Street, which follows the natural ridge to the north of the Old Town. Either side of it are the other main streets of Princes Street and Queen Street. Princes Street has since become the main shopping street in Edinburgh. At the west end is Charlotte Square, designed by Robert Adam and is considered one of the finest Georgian squares in Britain.

The New Town was so successful that it was extended, however the grid pattern was not maintained. Today the New Town is considered by many to be the finest example of Georgian architecture and planning in the world.

Leith is the port of Edinburgh. It still retains a separate identity from Edinburgh.

Arthur's Seat, overlooking Holyrood House, to the southeast of central Edinburgh, is a crag that grew out of side vents of the main volcano. The volcano slipped sideways, leaving these vents as the highest points for miles around. Arthur's Seat is now part of Holyrood Park.

Calton Hill is to the northeast, overlooking the New Town . On top of it are two observatories, Nelson's Monument, the old Royal High School, and the unfinished National Monument, which is modeled on the Parthenon from the Athenian Acropolis.

Edinburgh has two professional football clubs: Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian. Scotland's national rugby team's base is Murrayfield Stadium. For the Commonwealth Games in 1970 the city built major Olympic standard venues and facilities including the Royal Commonwealth pool and the Meadowbank Stadium.

The economy of Edinburgh is largely based around the service sector, with tourism and financial services. Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in the United Kingdom after the City of London and the fifth largest in Europe. The Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in 1747 by Royal Charter and is now the fifth largest bank in the world by market capitalisation. Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist destination in the UK after London, with numbers growing substantially each year. The annual Edinburgh Festival attracts large numbers of people, as does the Hogmanay street party each New Year.

The University of Edinburgh was founded by Royal Charter in 1583. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh were also established by Royal Charter, in 1506 and 1681 respectively. In the 1960s Heriot-Watt University and Napier Technical College were established.

Schools in Edinburgh include the Royal High School, the oldest in Scotland. Independent schools include Edinburgh Academy, Fettes College, George Heriot's (founded 1628), George Watson's College and Merchiston Castle School.

Edinburgh, World Heritage City