Edinburgh’s nickname has been the “Athens of the North” since the 18th and 19th centuries when many men of letters had their home there, such as Sir Walter Scott and James Boswell. The city gets its name from Edwin, King of Northumbria in the 6th century, who built the first fortress here – “Edwin’s Burgh”.
There is the old and new city to explore with contrasts between the two. The old city has narrow, erratic and winding streets whereas the new city has a regular Georgian layout. The streets are wide and there are gardens, crescents and squares.The main thoroughfare in the old city is the Royal Mile, going from Castle Hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. In the new city the main thoroughfare is Princes Street which was named after George III’s sons. Going from east to west, it has buildings on one side and is open on the south side with the Princes Street Gardens which have a floral clock which was installed in 1903.
Sights to see
Edinburgh Castle is a magnificent sight built up on a volcanic rock in the old city. The oldest part dates back to the beginning of the 12th century and is St Margaret’s Chapel. The Great Hall, with its armory collection, dates back to James IV”s time. The Scottish crown jewels are housed in the castle.
St Giles Cathedral has a beautiful 15th century steeple. The Old Tolbooth prison site is marked by the Heart of Midlothian near the west door.
Greyfriars Church was built in the 17th century and has Covenanter memorials. A statue of Greyfriars Bobby is nearby. Bobby was a dog who stayed by his master’s grave for fourteen years.
Lady Stair’s House, dating back to 1662, has exhibitions about Stevenson, Burns and Scott.
Outlook Tower has great views and there is a camera obscura to enjoy.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse has Mary Queen of Scots’ apartments, but it was mostly built in Charles II’s reign. The Abbey of Holyrood stands in ruins next to the Palace.
Arthur’s seat is the highest hill in Holyrood Park. At 822′ (250.5 m) it allows you panoramic views of the city. If you like hillwalking, there is a popular grass-covered slope going from the east above Dunsapie Loch.
Other sites in the old city include John Knox’s House, the Museum of Childhood, a reconstructed 16th century townhouse – Huntly House and Canongate Tolbooth, a prison now exhibiting Highland dress.
In the new city you find various art galleries – the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art which is situated at the Royal Botanic Garden. Other sites worth visiting are:
The zoo is one of Europe’s best zoos and covers 80 acres.
7 Charlotte Square is a Georgian house designed by Robert Adam. The house includes an exhibition on the building of the new town.
The Scott Memorial was erected in 1844 by George Kemp and has all the characters from Scott’s works.
The city’s cultural life
People come from all over the world for the city’s festivals. There’s something for everyone among the International Film Festival, Art Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, International Book and Storytelling Festivals and more.
The Edinburgh International Festival has been held in August every year since 1947. There are various concerts, operas, exhibitions, dance and theatrical productions along with a great number of fringe events.
The festival includes the Military Tattoo on Castle Esplanade. Fireworks, pyrotechnics and sound and light performances are now part of the spectacle.