An Introduction to Edinburgh

The Scottish National Galleries, Edinburgh Castle & Princes Street, Edinburgh.

The Scottish National Galleries, Edinburgh Castle & Princes Street, Edinburgh.

by David Wheater

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is located in the south east of Scotland on the Firth of Forth estuary.

It’s the second largest Scottish city, after Glasgow, with a population of 476,600 and is home to the Scottish Parliament.

Edinburgh has some outstanding medieval and Georgian architecture, found in a juxtaposed New Town and Old Town, which are UNESCO World Heritage protected. At the heart of the city is Edinburgh Castle, which is built on an extinct volcano shaped during the last ice age.

The world-famous and atmospheric Royal Mile leads down from the Castle to the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is visited for a fortnight every summer by the Queen.

Edinburgh is the second-most-visited city in the UK, thanks to its world-famous Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe Festival, held every August. Edinburgh was recently voted in a YouGov poll as the most desirable city to live in the UK and the fourth most beautiful in the world.

It is one of the UK’s largest financial centres, with several large employers, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Tesco Bank, Standard Life and Scottish Widows, and consequently has some of the highest property prices in Scotland.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city to visit and walk around by yourself, but if you really want to uncover its amazing past and see all its hidden treasures, you really need to dig a little deeper and employ an experienced tour guide (shameless plug - me! me! me! :-) ) They can help uncover all the city’s historical layers and make the city come alive.

Learning about Edinburgh’s past and its renowned citizens is both fascinating and immensely rewarding. Edinburgh will surprise and intrigue you - did you know that it’s built around two volcanoes and that it has a secret underground city? Check out Mary King’s Close at

Wherever you go in Edinburgh’s Old Town, whether that’s The Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard or the Royal Mile, there’s not a square inch of it that doesn’t resonate with the spirits of Edinburgh’s past. If you wander down one of the closes (traditionally the entrance way to a tenement house) in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, it’s not uncommon to feel a presence, or even have a shiver go down your spine that you can’t quite explain! A good tour will unlock Edinburgh’s many hidden doors, nooks and crannies, helping you tap in to the city’s rich cultural vein and distil in you the very essence of one of the most enchanting and mysterious cities in the world.

Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town is atmospheric, exciting and steeped in history, with a story to be told at every corner. Without a knowledgeable tour guide it’s almost impossible to imagine the Edinburgh of old, understand its incredible history and appreciate the huge contribution its citizens, past and present, have made to medicine, philosophy, science, literature and the arts down the ages. Did you know that steam engines, television, the telephone, penicillin, the pedal bicycle, the pneumatic tyre, radar, insulin, savings banks and logarithms, to name but a few, were all invented by Scottish inventors?

Edinburgh has for centuries been prolifically punching far above its weight in producing entertainers, authors, sportsmen, inventors and scientists of great stature. Whether that be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Raeburn, Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Louis Stevenson or, more recently, Peter Higgs, Sir Chris Hoy, Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh, Alexander McCall Smith or J.K. Rowling, the city continues to cultivate, inspire, stimulate and motivate its citizens to achieve true greatness.

This year (2018) is the year of Scotland's young people with hundreds of events taking place up and down the country to celebrate. Last year saw the opening of one of the biggest civil engineering projects in Scottish history - the new Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth. The bridge is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed, road bridge in the world and looks spectacular next to the already impressive road and rail bridges.

If you throw yourself into everything this great city has to offer, it will steal your heart and, wherever you go next, you’ll always take a little bit of Edinburgh with you.

This article is one of a series on Edinburgh by David. For more articles on Edinburgh, please click on the ‘Edinburgh tab’ below