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Heritage of Edinburgh

Edinburgh has been inhabited since the Bronze Age; its first settlement can be traced to a hillfort established in the area, most likely on the castle rock. Here are just a few areas that form part of Edinburgh’s rich heritage…

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is at the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town and is one Scots Mile long (around 225 yards longer than a ‘standard’ mile). With Edinburgh Castle at its head and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its foot, The Royal Mile features many historic buildings; Gladstone’s Land, The Real Mary King’s Close and John Knox House to name but a few. It is also home to St Giles’ Cathedral, established during the reign of King David in the 1120’s. As the epicentre for tourists in Edinburgh, the Royal Mile has also seen prestigious new additions in recent history, most notably the Scottish Parliament.

New Town

Designed in 1767, the New Town’s mixture of classical architecture, squares and terraces, gardens and lanes are a prime example of town planning from the Georgian period. Charlotte Square, designed by architect Robert Adam in 1791, is where you can visit the Georgian House and experience the high society lifestyle from over 200 years ago. Princes Street Gardens, once the location of the Nor’Loch, is now a serene garden space dividing the Old and New Towns. For a better view, climb the 287 steps to the top of the Scott Monument.

Dean Village

In the past Dean Village was known as the ‘Water of Leith Village’; a successful grain milling hamlet for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, and the remnants of the industry can still be seen today. Tucked away, this is an area that feels – and looks – very different to the city centre, but is only moments away

Charlotte Square to Stockbridge

A walk from Charlotte Square to Stockbridge incorporates some of the most impressive parts of the Georgian New Town and streets which haven’t changed much since the early 1800s. The Earl of Moray owned the area and in 1833 appointed James Gillespie Graham to design an extension of the New Town which can be seen when walking between destinations.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle dominates the Edinburgh city skyline and has housed many Scottish monarchs including Queen Margaret and Mary Queen of Scots. The Castle is still a functioning barracks, as well as the focal point of spectacular fireworks displays at Hogmanay and during August’s festivals. With its rich history and stunning views across Edinburgh and beyond from within the city centre, it’s a must-see when in the capital. The one o’clock gun is fired at exactly 1pm six days a week, drawing large crowds to watch.

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Calton Hill

Home to some of Edinburgh’s most iconic monuments and one of the city’s most picturesque locations, Calton Hill helped the city earn the nickname ‘Athens of the North’. The twelve columns of the National Monument, built to commemorate Scottish service men who died during Napoleonic Wars but never finished, towers majestically over the city. Calton Hill is also home to the Nelson Monument, built in 1816. The Time Ball on the Monument, added in 1853 to enable ships anchored in the Firth or Forth to set their time-pieces accurately, still drops at one o’clock, six days a week. This is also where The City Observatory is situated – soon to re-open as a gallery.

Arthur’s Seat

Set within Holyrood Park, a short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the heart of the city, Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano, which sits 251m above sea level and gives excellent views of the city. Within the park you’ll also find St Anthony’s Chapel – a 15th century medieval chapel, Salisbury Crags – a series of 150 foot cliff faces dominating Edinburgh’s skyline, as well as Duddingston Loch – a fresh water loch rich in birdlife.


Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, the Grassmarket is one of the most vibrant, picturesque and convivial areas of the city. A paradise of independent merchants, designers and artisans, it’s home to some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh as well as some of the most animated and eclectic bars

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