Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. It is the second-largest Scottish city, after Glasgow. Edinburgh stands on hills south of the Firth of Forth, an estuary on the North Sea. Since 1999 it has been the home of the Scottish Parliament, whose elected members look after the interests of Scotland. The city has a population of 449,000.
ON CASTLE ROCK
Edinburgh is dominated by its castle, parts of which date from the 11th century. It stands on top of Castle Rock, which is part of an ancient extinct volcano. There is evidence that people were living there 3,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age.
The area around Castle Rock has probably been inhabited ever since. By the 11th century it was the site of the king of Scotland’s castle. During the Middle Ages a market town grew around the castle. In 1437 Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland.
OLD AND NEW TOWNS
A series of roads lead through the Old Town of Edinburgh to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a royal residence that was founded around 1500. The roads from the castle to the palace make up a route known as the Royal Mile.
One of the most important buildings on the Royal Mile is the High Kirk (a Scottish word for “Church”) of St Giles. This cathedral was built in the 15th century.
Edinburgh’s New Town district, to the north of the Royal Mile, was developed over 200 years ago. Full of Georgian architecture, it contains the city’s main and most famous road, called Princes Street.
Before Scotland became a part of the United Kingdom, the country’s Parliament House was based in Edinburgh. In 1707 the Scottish and English parliaments passed the Act of Union, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. Following this, the Scots closed their Parliament and began sending representatives to the British Parliament in London.
At the end of the 20th century the Scottish Parliament returned to Edinburgh. The aim of this was to give the Scottish people more say in their own affairs. By 2004 the Parliament will have its own new building at Holyrood.
For many years Edinburgh has been an important cultural centre. The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1583, and today there are two further universities in the city. Edinburgh is also the home of the National Gallery, National Library and Museum of Scotland, as well as the Festival Theatre and City Art Centre.
Several festivals are held in the city each year, including the famous Edinburgh International Festival. This attracts many thousands of visitors from all over the world to see performances of new plays and films, as well as dance performances and art exhibitions. There is also a Science Festival, which is devoted to new technology.
The city’s interesting buildings and cultural events help to make it a major tourist attraction. More than 2 million people visit Edinburgh every year, and almost half are from overseas. This makes the city Britain’s most popular tourist destination after London.