|| Much of the attention
of the the city of Edinburgh has received historically
revolves around its strong, silent guardian - Edinburgh
Castle [map] and the excellent strategic positioning of the area with
its natural defences.
Over time many have sought refuge there using the location
as a fort. But archaeological digs have found evidence
that even as far back as Bronze Age and Iron Age man,
the qualities of this extinct volcano position
made it a great location to settle.
The city’s name is believed to have originated from
its roots as a fort. When King Edwin leader of
the Northumbrian Angles rebuilt the fort in the
7th century AD - its name became Edwin’s burh (burh was the old name for fort) from which we get Edinburgh.
In the 11th century the city began to grow with markets
being established at the base of the fortress but it was
not until the 12th century that the city’s potential
as a capital was acted upon. In 1124 King David I relocated his court from Dunfermline to the growing town
of Edinburgh. From then it began to establish itself as
the permanent capital of Scotland.
As the town grew around what we know today as the Grassmarket
area, it became more and more crowded with 12 storey
tenements being constructed in an attempt to hold all
the inhabitants. It was this that led to Edinburgh’s
nickname of Auld Reekie due to the smells emanating
from the unsanitary conditions.
But despite this, under King James IV the site
thrived and during this golden age the Royal College
of Surgeons was established in 1506 and in 1508 the first printing press came to Scotland.
This period of prosperity was not to last though, and
in 1513 it came to an abrupt end when the English won
at the Battle of Flodden throwing the town into
over a century of decline.
During this time James VI of Scotland became James
I of England and undermined Edinburgh by moving his
court to London. The Act of the Union 1707 which
aimed to unite England and Scotland despite fierce opposition
from the people, caused Edinburgh’s prestige to
fall even further as political control was given to parliament
In the late 18th century the city’s fortunes began
to change. An architectural competition led to the creation
of the New Town and Edinburgh flourished in the
arts and sciences.
Over the 18th and 19th centuries the city spread northwards
and its population quadrupled in size to 400,000. This
coincided with Edinburgh gaining increased respect, establishing
itself as a cultural and intellectual centre.
Today the Scottish capital is retaining its cultural and
intellectual spirit as home of Scotland’s largest
library, host to the largest arts festival in the world, Fringe Festival and designated UNESCO
World Heritage sites (both the Old and the New Town
have this honour). The city is also beginning to claim
back its political status with Labour’s devolution
plans allowing Scotland to re-establish its own parliament
in the capital.