Scotland's capital is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A burgh is said to have stood on Castle Rock – which offers the best view of the city – since the 7th century. Walls were erected around the town in the shadow of the fortress following bloody and disastrous clashes with England. The medieval plan and narrow winding streets of the Old Town once protected by those walls have been preserved. The area called New Town was created in the 18th century to relieve crowding in the rapidly growing city. With its rigidly ordered grid New Town was considered the epitome of rational urban development during the period of Enlightenment. The main shopping street today is Princess Street, which is lined with shops, galleries and museums. The cultural capital of Scotland is often referred to as the Athens of the North. The city's political history was defined by the rivalry with England. Edinburgh is now once again the seat of the Scottish Parliament.
Great Britain's leading cities: From London to Edinburgh
Romantic mill village near Edinburgh
The small village in a deep gorge was the granary of Edinburgh. No fewer than eleven grain mills were in operation at the best times of the 19th century. The river Water of Leith, which had a steep gradient here, provided the necessary driving power. In 1833 a spectacular bridge over the valley was built, but then the decline began. Electric and steam mills replaced the water mills. Poverty and unemployment moved into Dean. In the 1970s, Edinburgh city dwellers discovered cheap housing in the tranquil surroundings. Today Dean is a hip suburb of the Scottish capital.
A castle built over an extinct volcano
This fortress towers high over Edinburgh from its perch on Castle Rock, an extinct volcano. A previous fortification probably stood here as early as the 7th century. The current royal castle was first mentioned in 1093 in reference to the sieges and havoc wreaked by the English. Mary Stuart, who lived here until she was imprisoned and beheaded, was the castle's most famous resident. The area in front of the castle, known as the “esplanade,” provides the best view over the rooftops of Edinburgh's Old Town. The esplanade is also where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held every year.
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From the cultivation of medicinal plants to a refuge for stressed city dwellers
The Edinburgh Botanical Garden was founded in 1670, making it the second oldest botanical garden in the United Kingdom after Oxford. Originally it was used to cultivate medicinal plants and was located at St. Anne's Yard. However, when the air became so bad in the middle of the 18th century due to coal firing that the plants died, the plant was moved to its present location in 1763. Today the garden serves as a park for the townspeople and has several themes, including forest, heath, rocks, China and Alps.
Heart of the Old Town between High Street and Castlehill
The heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, known as the Royal Mile, is situated between Canongate, High Street and Castlehill. It really does measure a Scottish mile in length (1.8 kilometers). Here you will find the Highland Tolbooth Church, the People's Story Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh, the John Knox House and the Scottish Parliament building. Small, steep alleyways known as “closes,” “courts,” or “wynds” run perpendicular to the Royal Mile in a herringbone pattern. The Old Town also features several large market squares.
Contemplative promenade through Edinburgh
The small river Water of Leith flows through a valley, across Edinburgh and into the North Sea near Leith. On its bank there is a hiking trail, which starts at the school of Balerno and partly leads over disused tracks. Although you walk through the middle of the city, you hardly ever walk over tar and still pass some important sights, for example the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art or the Dean Gallery. The trail ends at the mouth of the river Leith. (One way: 20 kilometers, 5 hours, up: 60 meters, down: 210 meters)