History of Edinburgh
view from Edinburgh Castle - image courtesy of Historic Scotland
Bute House in Charlotte Square, part of Edinburgh's New Town
the Bank of Scotland headquarters on Bank Street
the Old Town and Pentland Hills from Calton Hill
Scotland’s capital grew around its Old Town until the late 18th century and this area of the city still has a distinct character from the iconic castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket below, where public hangings formerly took place. The Nor Loch acted as a natural defence for the city at this time before it was drained and converted into the beautiful Princes Street Gardens in later years.
During the Victorian era, Edinburgh earned itself a nickname as ‘Auld Reekie’ due to the smoke from the steam engines and the pollution of the industrial revolution.
After 1583, the city was also a hub for educational and professional development since the world-famous university was founded. The University of Edinburgh still stands today as a symbol of the knowledge and intellectual talent to be found in the city. Many new ventures occurred including the founding of the Bank of Scotland in 1695, marking Edinburgh as a financial capital by the end of the 20th century.
1707 saw the Act of Union, which joined Scotland and England together politically, and moved power from Edinburgh's old parliament to London's Westminster. Tenements were an identifying feature of the city by the late 18th century, when the population was expanding rapidly to around 35,000. The rich lived on the desirable upper and middle floors of these buildings while the poor were relegated to the lower levels.
Living conditions were not good at this time and many wealthy residents moved to London. Eventually a competition to design a new part of the city was put in place to try to attract the wealthy back to Edinburgh. James Craig won this contest and his ideas and influences are still visible in the grid pattern of the streets of the Georgian New Town.
King George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822 and by then it was Europe’s most influential financial city outside of London with neoclassical architecture giving it a name as the Athens of the North.
Today, Edinburgh combines both modernity and tradition. Modern architecture such as the Scottish Parliament sits alongside wonderful baroque buildings including the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Each community is individual, giving you a unique sense of the past and present as you explore.
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Edinburgh and the Lothians sits on the eastern side of Scotland's central belt, in the heart of the country.