Venerable, dramatic EDINBURGH
, the showcase capital of Scotland, is a historic, cosmopolitan and
cultured city. The setting is wonderfully striking; the city
is perched on a series of extinct volcanoes and rocky crags which
rise from the generally flat landscape of the Lothians, with
the sheltered shoreline of the Firth of Forth to the north. "My
own Romantic town", Sir Walter Scott called it, although
it was another native author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who perhaps
best captured the feel of his "precipitous city", declaring
that "No situation could be more commanding for the head
of a kingdom; none better chosen for noble prospects."
The centre has two distinct
parts, divided by Princes Street Gardens , which run roughly
east-west under the shadow of Castle Rock . To the north, the
dignified, Grecian-style New Town was immaculately laid out during
the Age of Reason, after the announcement of a plan to improve
conditions in the city. The Old Town , on the other hand, with
its tortuous alleys and tightly packed closes, is unrelentingly
medieval, associated in popular imagination with the underworld
lore of schizophrenic Deacon Brodie, inspiration for Stevenson's
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde , and the bodysnatchers Burke and Hare.
Edinburgh earned its nickname of "Auld Reekie" for
the smog and smell generated by the Old Town, which for centuries
swam in sewage tipped out of the windows of cramped tenements.
Set on the crag which sweeps
down from the towering fairytale castle to the royal Palace of
Holyroodhouse , the Old Town preserves all the key reminders
of its role as a capital, plus a brand new parliament building
rising up opposite the palace. A few hundred yards away a tantalizing
glimpse of the wild beauty of Scotland's scenery can be had immediately
beyond the palace in Holyrood Park , an extensive area of open
countryside dominated by Arthur's Seat , the largest and most
impressive of the volcanoes.
In August and early September,
around a million visitors flock to the city for the Edinburgh Festival , in fact a series of separate
festivals that make up the largest arts extravaganza in the world.
Among the many museums, the exciting new National Museum of Scotland houses ten thousand of Scotland's
most precious artefacts, while the National Gallery of Scotland
and its offshoot, the Scottish
National Gallery of Modern Art , have two of Britain's finest collections of
On a less elevated theme,
the city's distinctive howffs (pubs), allied to its brewing and
distilling traditions, make Edinburgh a great drinking city.
The presence of three universities , plus several colleges, means
that there is a youthful presence for most of the year - a welcome
corrective to the stuffiness which is often regarded as Edinburgh's
Beyond the city centre,
the most lively area is Leith , the city's medieval port, whose
seedy edge is softened by a series of great bars and upmarket
seafood restaurants, along with the presence of the former royal
yacht Britannia , now open to visitors.
OTHER POPULAR DESTINATIONS IN SCOTLAND