Capital and administrative centre of Scotland and Edinburgh City unitary authority, near the southern shores of the Firth of Forth, 67 km/42 mi east of Glasgow; population (2001) 452,200. Since devolution in 1998, Edinburgh has been the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The city is a cultural centre and hosts the annual Edinburgh Festival (1947), an international arts festival, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The city was made a World Heritage City in 1995. Industries include brewing, whisky distilling, electronics, printing and publishing, and banking and finance.
History There is evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements, and in Roman times the site was occupied by Celts. In 617 the site was captured by Edwin, King of Northumbria, and the city took its name from the fortress of Din Eidin that he built there. King Malcolm Canmore built Edinburgh Castle in the 11th century, his son David I built Holyrood Abbey (1128), and the town grew between the two sites. Robert the Bruce made Edinburgh the Scottish capital in 1325, and held a parliament at Holyrood in 1327. Two years later he made the city a burgh and established a port at Leith. The English held Edinburgh for several years and it was only the outbreak of war between England and France in 1337 that allowed the Scots to regain their lost territory. It did not become a walled city until 1437. In 1544 and 1547 the city was destroyed by the English. It adopted the Protestant faith early in the Reformation, and Calvinism thrived there in the 16th century under the teaching of John Knox. After the union with England in 1707, Edinburgh lost political importance, but remained culturally dominant – during the 18th century the city was known as the ‘Athens of the North’ due to its concentration of intellectual talent. Jacobites – supporters of the Stuart dynasty – made attempts to take Edinburgh in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, but were unable to take the castle, despite ruling the city September–October 1745. In 1822, George IV became the first sovereign to visit the city since 1650, and won popularity by wearing a kilt, at the suggestion of Walter Scott. After World War II, new housing estates were established on the fringes of the city, rehousing the occupants of the derelict housing in the centre, and industrial estates were established. The Old Town was designated a conservation area and underwent a long-term restoration programme.
Edinburgh Festival The annual event, which includes music, drama, opera, and art exhibitions, was founded by Rudolf Bing in 1947 and has an international reputation. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, held alongside the main festival from August to September, is a showcase for amateur groups and new talent. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place a few days before the Festival on the Esplanade in front of the castle.
Universities and Schools The city has three universities: the University of Edinburgh (1583), which has a famous medical school and the Koestler chair of parapsychology (instituted 1985), the only such professorship in the UK; Heriot-Watt University (1885, university status 1966), which has premises both within the city and at Riccarton; and Napier University (1992). Schools include the Royal High School, Edinburgh Academy (1824), Fettes College (1870), Stewart's Melville College, George Watson's College, and Merchiston Castle School.
Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House The oldest part of Edinburgh Castle, and the oldest building in Edinburgh, is the 12th-century St Margaret's chapel, which stands on the highest point of castle rock; nearby is a cannon called ‘Mons Meg’ which was forged in Belgium in 1448. The castle's Great Hall was first built at the beginning of the 16th century and was restored in 1892. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future James VI in the palace in 1566.
The Palace of Holyrood House stands at the lower
end of the Royal Mile; it was begun by James IV but the greater portion was built during the reign of Charles II. The apartments of Mary Queen of Scots are in the northwest angle of the building and it was here that David Rizzio, Mary's Italian favourite, was murdered in 1566. The palace itself is situated on the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, and was granted as a residence to the exiled French king Charles X in 1830. It is now used as the British sovereign's official residence in Edinburgh.
Monuments The monument to Scottish novelist and poet Walter Scott, an elaborate Gothic spire 197 ft/60 m high, is situated on the south side of Princes Street. Other monuments to be found in the city are to poets Robert Burns and Allan Ramsey, philosophers David Hume and Dugald Stewart, engineer James Watt, and explorer David Livingstone.
Location Three eminences, which run from east to west, form the site of the city, which is surrounded by hills on all sides except the north. The steep ridge descending from the castle rock to the Netherbow Port (an old city gateway) constituted the ancient city. To the north of this ridge, the New Town stretches down towards the Firth of Forth. A central valley, now occupied by Princes Street Gardens and the railway lines, separates the New Town from the Old Town. Calton Hill is a rocky area studded with monuments, including the unfinished National Monument (1822). Salisbury Crags, a huge belt of precipitous rock nearly 177 m/581 ft high, rises beyond the eastern edge of the city centre. Behind this is Arthur's Seat, a conical hill 251 m/824 ft high with a narrow rocky summit.
Old Town The principal street of the Old Town is built on the steep ridge that extends from castle rock to Holyrood Palace. This street is more than 1.5 km/1 mi long and although its name changes at different points – Abbey Strand, Cannongate, High Street, Lawnmarket, Castle Hill – it is known as a whole as the Royal Mile. Other historic sites along the Royal Mile include the old Cannongate Tollbooth (1591), and Cannongate Kirk (1688). Narrow lanes descend laterally in regular rows from the main street, and in most cases they are no more than 2 m/7 ft wide at the entrance. Those that were large enough to admit the passage of a carriage were called ‘Wynds’. The Cowgate runs to the south of and parallel with the high street, and contains a number of mansions, such as the 16th-century Huntly House, Moray House (1625), and Queensbury House (1681). The George IV and South bridges cross the Cowgate, and both are several storeys high. The old College of the University is to be found on South Bridge and the National Library of Scotland and the Edinburgh Public Library stand on the George IV Bridge. Parliament Square contains the old Parliament House (1632–40) and St Giles Cathedral (1243; cathedral 1633).
New Town The streets and squares of the New Town were planned by James Craig in the 18th century, and most of the buildings are built of calciferous sandstone that was quarried locally. The principal commercial streets in the New Town are Princes Street (1.5 km/1 mi long), George Street, and Queen Street, which all run from east to west and parallel to each other. On Calton Hill are the buildings of the former Royal High School and St Andrew's House, the headquarters of the Scottish Executive (1930s). George Street is the city's chief financial district, and Queen Street contains the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland (1882), and the Museum of Antiquities. The Water of Leith at Canonmills and Stockbridge forms the boundary of the New Town. Buildings situated in this neighbourhood include the Edinburgh Academy and Fettes College. Architect Robert Adam worked on many of the New Town's buildings, including a large part of the Old College of Edinburgh University, the north side of Charlotte Square, the tomb of David Hume, and the Register House (1774).
Other features Among other noteworthy public buildings in Edinburgh are the Royal Scottish Academy (1823–26) and the National Gallery of Scotland (1850; designed in neoclassical style by architect William Henry Playfair), the Royal Scottish Museum, the Surgeons Hall, and the Bank of Scotland. The Episcopal Cathedral of St Mary opened in 1879. The Royal Observatory has been at Blackford Hill since 1896. Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish rugby, is also situated here. The Scottish National War Memorial (1927) is situated on the apex of the castle rock on the site of the old barracks, and contains the names of over 100,000 Scots who died in the two World Wars.
The National Centre for Dance (2001) can give performances to up to 200,000 people each year. The Conference Centre (1995), designed by Terry Farrell, hosted the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in 2000. The Edinburgh Festival Theatre opened in 1995. A geological visitor centre, Our Dynamic Earth, was created in the Old Town to mark the millennium. The Ocean Terminal, a £50 million, state-of-the-art leisure and retail complex in Leith, and the permanent home of HMS Britannia, opened in 2001.
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