Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city, and its second largest, after Glasgow. The city lies on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, and its population in 2001 was approximately 448,620. It is home to the Scottish Parliament. Two of the main streets are Princes Street and the Royal Mile. Princes Street lies below Edinburgh Castle, and is bordered on one side by the Princes Street Gardens and on the other by shops. The Royal Mile runs from the castle down the opposite side of the hill the castle stands on, until it reaches the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the foot.
Edinburgh's buildings and monuments
Apart from the castle and palace mentioned above, Edinburgh has many other notable buildings and monuments. The city has two cathedrals - the episcopalian St Mary's Cathedral and the presbyterian St Giles' Cathedral of the Church of Scotland. The Scott Monument commemorates the author Sir Walter Scott, and stands on Princes Street beside the gardens. The National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy are also close to Princes Street, and house large collections of works by artists from Scotland and Europe. The Royal Observatory stands on Blackford Hill, and the unfinished National Monument, based on the Parthenon, is on Calton Hill. The Parliament House, begun in 1632, now houses the supreme Scottish courts, including the Court of Session.
Edinburgh is also a city noted for its summer festivals and other events. The Edinburgh Festival is a celebration of music and the arts, and is parallelled by the Fringe Festival of comedy, culminating in the Perrier Awards. A book and a film festival also take place around this time, and accommodation in the city is almost impossible to find unless booked well in advance. A military tattoo takes place in the dramatic setting of the castle esplanade.
Edinburgh also has spectacular Hogmanay celebrations at New Year, where it attempts to outdo its rival, Glasgow, in fireworks and outdoor performances.
A brief history of Edinburgh
Celtic peoples first set up fortifications on Edinburgh's rocky hills about 3,000 years ago. The town was defeated by forces from Northumberland around 620. The early town grew up around Castle Rock, with another settlement near Holyrood Abbey known as the Canongate. The abbey was founded in 1128 by David I. Robert the Bruce made Edinburgh a burgh in 1329, and founded the port of Leith. English forces led by the Earl of Hertford burned the city in 1544. Following the Act of Union in 1707, Edinburgh lost its importance as the home of the Scots parliament, but was to become known as the "Athens of the North" because of intellectual talents like economist Adam Smith, philosopher David Hume, and chemist Joseph Black. Edinburgh's New Town began its development in 1767.
Edinburgh University was established in 1583, and the city's Heriot-Watt University and Napier University are more modern. The latter two are named after George Heriot, a wealthy philanthropist, James Watt, the steam engine pioneer, and John Napier, the mathematician who invented logarithms.
Edinburgh's two major football teams are Hearts and Hibernian ("Hibs"). The city's Murrayfield stadium is home to the Scottish rugby team, and the Scottish Claymores, who play American football. The city has hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and 1986.
Scotland's capital city, then, has a long history, and is home to many festivals and sporting events. Its buildings and monuments also make it a magnet for tourists and visitors.
Chronicle of Britain, Chronicle Communications
Hutcheson's Encyclopedia, 1997 ed., Book Club Associates
Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Oxford University Press