|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
The Old Town seen from Princes Street
|Location||Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom|
|Part of||Old and New Towns of Edinburgh|
|Inscription||1995 (19th Session)|
The Old Town (Scots : Auld Toun) is the name popularly given to the oldest part of Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era buildings. Together with the 18th/19th-century New Town, it forms part of a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster in Ireland. It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language which was historically restricted to most of the Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the 16th century. The Scots language developed during the Middle English period as a distinct entity.
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and the North Channel to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.
The "Royal Mile" is a name coined in the early 20th century for the main street of the Old Town which runs on a downwards slope from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and the ruined Holyrood Abbey. Narrow closes (alleyways), often no more than a few feet wide, lead steeply downhill to both north and south of the main spine which runs west to east.
The Royal Mile is a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. The term was first used descriptively in W M Gilbert's Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century (1901), "...with its Castle and Palace and the royal mile between", and was further popularised as the title of a guidebook, published in 1920.
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age, although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised increasingly from the early 19th century onwards, and various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745. Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history, giving it a claim to having been "the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world".
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.
Significant buildings in the Old Town include St. Giles' Cathedral, the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, the Old College of the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament Building. The area contains underground vaults and hidden passages that are relics of previous phases of construction.
The Assembly Hall is located between the Lawnmarket and The Mound in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is the meeting place of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the adjacent Royal Museum, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The two connected buildings stand beside each other on Chambers Street, by the intersection with the George IV Bridge, in central Edinburgh. The museum is part of National Museums Scotland. Admission is free.
Old College is a building of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located on South Bridge, and presently houses parts of the University's administration, the University of Edinburgh School of Law, and the Talbot Rice Gallery. Originally called the "New College", it was designed by Robert Adam to replace a number of older buildings.
No part of the street is officially called The Royal Mile in terms of legal addresses. The actual street names (running west to east) are Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate and Abbey Strand.
The street layout, typical of the old quarters of many northern European cities, is made especially picturesque in Edinburgh, where the castle perches on top of a rocky crag, the remnants of an extinct volcano, and the main street runs down the crest of a ridge from it. This "crag and tail" landform was created during the last ice age when receding glaciers scoured across the land pushing soft soil aside but being split by harder crags of volcanic rock. The hilltop crag was the earliest part of the city to develop, becoming fortified and eventually developing into the current Edinburgh Castle. The rest of the city grew slowly down the tail of land from the Castle Rock. This was an easily defended spot with marshland on the south and a man-made loch, the Nor Loch, on the north. Access to the town was restricted by means of various gates (called ports) in the city walls, of which only fragmentary sections remain.
Castle Rock is a volcanic plug in the middle of Edinburgh upon which Edinburgh Castle sits. The rock is estimated to have formed some 350 million years ago during the early Carboniferous period. It is the remains of a volcanic pipe which cut through the surrounding sedimentary rock, before cooling to form very hard dolerite, a coarser-grained equivalent of basalt. Subsequent glacial erosion was resisted more by the dolerite, which protected the softer rock to the east, leaving a crag and tail formation.
A crag is a rocky hill or mountain, generally isolated from other high ground. Crags are formed when a glacier or ice sheet passes over an area that contains a particularly resistant rock formation. The force of the glacier erodes the surrounding softer material, leaving the rocky block protruding from the surrounding terrain. Frequently the crag serves as a partial shelter to softer material in the wake of the glacier, which remains as a gradual fan or ridge forming a tapered ramp up the leeward side of the crag.
A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses, seracs, and other distinguishing features. They also abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.
The original strong linear spine of the Royal Mile only had narrow closes and wynds leading off its sides. These began to be supplemented from the late 18th century with wide new north–south routes, beginning with the North Bridge/South Bridge route, and then George IV Bridge. These rectilinear forms were complemented from the mid-19th century with more serpentine forms, starting with Cockburn Street, laid out by Peddie and Kinnear in 1856, which specifically improved access between the Royal Mile and the newly rebuilt Waverley Station.
North Bridge is a road bridge and street in Edinburgh linking the High Street with Princes Street, and the Old Town with the New Town. The current bridge was built between 1894 and 1897. A previous North Bridge, built between 1763 and 1772, stood until 1896.
South Bridge is a road bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland, starting at the High Street and finishing at Chambers Street/Infirmary Street. The bridge is constructed of nineteen arches, but is almost entirely enclosed by buildings on both sides, exposing only the largest arch where the street crosses the Cowgate. Below deck level are many buildings and vaults, the latter now something of a tourist attraction. Most of the buildings on the deck level have separate entrances at the level of the street passing below or parallel to the bridge.
George IV Bridge is an elevated street in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is home to a number of the city's important public buildings. Measuring 300 metres (330 yd) in length, the bridge was constructed between 1829 and 1832 as part of the Improvement Act of 1827. Named after King George IV, it was designed by architect Thomas Hamilton to connect the South Side district of Edinburgh to the New Town. Two of Edinburgh Old Town's traditional streets, Old Bank Close and Liberton's Wynd, had to be demolished for the construction of the bridge.
The Edinburgh City Improvement Act of 1866 further added to the north south routes. This was devised by the architects David Cousin and John Lessels.It had quite radical effects:
In addition to the Royal Mile, the Old Town may be divided into various areas, namely from west to east:
Due to the space restrictions imposed by the narrowness of the "tail", and the advantages of living within the defensive wall, the Old Town became home to some of the world's earliest "high rise" residential buildings. Multi-storey dwellings became the norm from the 16th century onwards. Many of these buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824; the rebuilding of these on the original foundations led to changes in the ground level and the creation of numerous passages and vaults under the Old Town. The construction of new streets including North Bridge and South Bridge in the 18th century also created underground spaces, such as the Edinburgh Vaults below the latter.
Traditionally buildings were less dense in the eastern, Canongate, section. This area underwent major slum clearance and reconstruction in the 1950s, thereafter becoming an area largely of Council housing. From 1990 to 2010, major new housing schemes appeared throughout the Canongate. These were built to a much higher scale than the older buildings and have greatly increased the population of the area.
In 1824 a major fire, the Great Fire of Edinburgh, destroyed most of the buildings on the south side of the High Street section between St. Giles Cathedral and the Tron Kirk.
During the Edinburgh International Festival the High Street and Hunter Square become gathering points where performers in the Fringe advertise their shows, often through street performances.
On 7 December 2002, the Cowgate fire destroyed a small but dense group of old buildings on the Cowgate and South Bridge. It destroyed the famous comedy club, The Gilded Balloon, and much of the Informatics Department of the University of Edinburgh, including the comprehensive artificial intelligence library.The site was redeveloped 2013-2014 with a single new building, largely in hotel use.
In the 1990s the Old Town Renewal Trust in conjunction with the City of Edinburgh developed an action plan for renewal
An area directly to the north of the Canongate has been earmarked for a large redevelopment project named Caltongate. The scheme involves building of a mix of residential, hotel, retail and office buildings on the site of the former SMT bus depot in New Street, developing the arches under Jeffrey Street, redeveloping other surrounding sites and creating a pedestrian link from the Royal Mile to Calton Hill.The proposals have been criticised by commentators including the author Alexander McCall Smith and Sheila Gilmore MP who regard the modern design as incompatible with the existing older architectural styles of the Old Town and inappropriate for a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Caltongate development has also been opposed by the Cockburn Association and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland. The site developers Artisan Real Estate Investors have stated that the completed development will be a "vibrant, exciting" place. The plans were approved by the City of Edinburgh Council in January 2014 and construction was due to begin later in 2014.
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Holyrood Park is a royal park in central Edinburgh, Scotland about 1 mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle. It is open to the public. It has an array of hills, lochs, glens, ridges, basalt cliffs, and patches of gorse, providing a remarkably wild piece of highland landscape within its 650-acre (260 ha) area. The park is associated with the royal palace of Holyroodhouse and was formerly a 12th-century royal hunting estate. The park was created in 1541 when James V had the ground "circulit about Arthurs Sett, Salisborie and Duddingston craggis" enclosed by a stone wall.
Thomas Hamilton was a Scottish architect, based in Edinburgh where he designed many of that city's prominent buildings. Born in Glasgow, his works include: the Burns Monument in Alloway; the Royal High School on the south side of Calton Hill ; the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; the George IV Bridge, which spans the Cowgate; the Dean Orphan Hospital, now the Dean Gallery; the New North Road Free Church, now the Bedlam Theatre; Cumstoun, a private house in Dumfries and Galloway; and the Scottish Political Martyrs' Monument in Old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh.
Calton Hill is a hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland, situated beyond the east end of Princes Street and included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Views of, and from, the hill are often used in photographs and paintings of the city.
The Cowgate is a street in Edinburgh, Scotland, located about 550 yards (500 m) southeast of Edinburgh Castle, within the city's World Heritage Site. The street is part of the lower level of Edinburgh's Old Town, which lies below the elevated streets of South Bridge and George IV Bridge. Consequently, the Cowgate can be quite gloomy and dark in sections. It meets the Grassmarket at its west end and Holyrood Road to the east.
This article is a timeline of the history of Edinburgh, Scotland, up to the present day. It traces its rise from an early hill fort and later royal residence to the bustling city and capital of Scotland that it is today.
The New Town is a central area of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. A masterpiece of city planning, it was built in stages between 1767 and around 1850, and retains much of its original neo-classical and Georgian period architecture. Its best known street is Princes Street, facing Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town across the geographical depression of the former Nor Loch. Together with the Old Town, the New Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
The Pleasance is a street just outside the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, a remnant of the Flodden Wall flanking the west side of the street between Drummond Street and the Cowgate. Historically, the street was one of the main routes into Edinburgh from the south, meeting St Mary's Wynd at St Mary's Wynd Port, one of the gateways of the town walls. The name derives from the Scots plesance, meaning a park or garden. It first appears in 1507 as the name of a nearby house, and was later transferred to the street and then the suburb which was part of the regality of the Canongate. The derivation of the name from a nunnery of St Mary of Placentia, often mentioned in histories of Edinburgh, is an invention by William Maitland in his 1753 History of Edinburgh.
The Canongate is a district of central Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. It forms the eastern section of Edinburgh's Old Town. It began as a separate burgh, founded by David I of Scotland around 1143. It was absorbed by the adjacent city of Edinburgh in 1636 but it remained a semi-autonomous burgh under its own administration of bailies chosen by Edinburgh magistrates, until its formal incorporation into the city in 1856.
Canonmills is a district of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. It lies to the south east of the Royal Botanic Garden at Inverleith, east of Stockbridge and west of Bellevue, in a low hollow north of Edinburgh's New Town. The area was formerly a loch which was drained in three phases in the 18th and 19th centuries, disappearing finally in 1865.
Gladstone's Land is a surviving 17th-century high-tenement house situated in the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It has been restored and furnished by the National Trust for Scotland, and is operated as a popular tourist attraction.
The Old Royal High School, also known as New Parliament House, is a 19th-century neoclassical building on Calton Hill in the city of Edinburgh. The building was constructed for the use of the city's Royal High School, and gained its alternative name as a result of a proposal in the 1970s for it to house a devolved Scottish Assembly.
Younger's Brewery was a brewery in Edinburgh which grew from humble beginnings in 1778 to become one of the city’s main commercial enterprises, supplying domestic and foreign markets. It should not be confused with another, less renowned Edinburgh brewery, that of Robert Younger, who also brewed in Holyrood at the St. Ann's Brewery or that of George Younger, who brewed in Alloa.
There have been several town walls around Edinburgh, Scotland, since the 12th century. Some form of wall probably existed from the foundation of the royal burgh in around 1125, though the first building is recorded in the mid-15th century, when the King's Wall was constructed. In the 16th century the more extensive Flodden Wall was erected, following the Scots' defeat at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. This was extended by the Telfer Wall in the early 17th century. The walls had a number of gates, known as ports, the most important being the Netherbow Port, which stood halfway down the Royal Mile. This gave access from the Canongate which was, at that time, a separate burgh.
St Cecilia's Hall is a small concert hall in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the United Kingdom. It is on the corner of Niddry Street and the Cowgate, about 168 metres (551 ft) south of the Royal Mile. The hall dates from 1763 and was the first purpose-built concert hall in Scotland. It is a Category A listed building.
The Writers’ Museum, housed in Lady Stair’s House at the Lawnmarket, on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, presents the lives of three of the foremost Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Edinburgh: