Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and its second-largest city. It is situated on the east coast of the central lowlands, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, on the North sea. It forms the City of Edinburgh council area; the city council area includes urban Edinburgh and a small rural area. It has been the capital of Scotland since 1437.
The city was one of the major centres of the enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Edinburgh is well-known for the annual Edinburgh Festival, a collection of official and independent festivals held annually over about four weeks from early August. During this time. The most famous of these events are the Edinburgh Fringe (the largest performing arts festival in the world), the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The city is one of Europe's major tourist destinations, attracting roughly 13 million visitors a year, and is the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom
, after London.
Some 320 million years ago, the cores of several volcanic vents in the area cooled and solidified to form tough basalt volcanic plugs, then, during the last ice age, glaciers eroded the area, exposing the plug as a rocky crag to the west, and leaving a tail of material swept to the east. At the same time, the glacier gouged out ground to each side, leaving the ravine of the Grassmarket and Cowgate to the south, and the swampy valley of the Nor Loch to the north. The resulting crag and tail landform now forms the Castle Rock, and the narrow steep sided ridge which the Royal Mile follows. The ridge declines in height over a mile, meeting general ground level at Holyrood.
This formed a natural fortress, and recent excavations at the castle found material dating back to the Late Bronze Age, as long ago as 850 BCE.
Parts of the city
Areas of the centre:The historic centre of Edinburgh is divided into two by the broad green swath of Princes Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, perched atop the extinct volcanic crag, and the long sweep of the Old Town trailing after it along the ridge. To the north lies Princes Street and the New Town. To the immediate west of the castle lies the financial district, housing insurance and banking buildings.
Old Town: The Old Town has preserved its medieval plan and many Reformation-era buildings. One end is closed by the castle and the main artery, the Royal Mile, leads away from it; minor streets lead downhill on either side of the main spine in a herringbone pattern. Only 10 minutes' walking from the Royal Mile, visitors to Edinburgh can find one of the most elegant and appreciated hotels of the city: it is the Crowne Plaza at 18 Royal Terrace, today part of an old Georgian building. Other notable places of interest nearby include the Royal Museum of Scotland, Surgeons' Hall and the University of Edinburgh.
New TownThe New Town was an 18th century solution to the problem of overcrowding in the Old Town. The city of Edinburgh had remained incredibly compact, confined to the ridge running down from the castle. In 1766 a competition to design the New Town was won by James Craig. The plan that was built created a rigid, ordered grid, which fitted well with enlightenment ideas of rationality. The principal street was to be George Street, which follows the natural ridge to the north of the Old Town. Either side of it are the other main streets of Princes Street and Queen Street. Princes Street has since become the main shopping street in Edinburgh.
Like much of the rest of Scotland, Edinburgh has a temperate maritime climate, which is relatively mild despite its northerly latitude. Winters are especially mild given that Moscow and Labrador in Newfoundland lie on the same latitude, with daytime temperatures rarely falling below freezing, or 0C (32F). Summer temperatures are comparatively cool, with daily upper maxima rarely exceeding 23C (73F).
Festivals: Edinburgh is best known for the Edinburgh Festival, which run from the end of July until early September each year.
Alongside these major festivals, there is also the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. T on the Fringe, a popular music offshoot of the Fringe, began in 2000.
Celebrations: Equally famous is the annual Hogmanay celebration. Originally simply a street party held on Princes Street and the Royal Mile, the Hogmanay event has been officially organised since 1993. Hogmanay now covers four days of processions, concerts and fireworks, and the event regularly attracts thousands of people.
On the night of 30 April, the Beltane Fire Festival takes place on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. The festival involves a procession followed by the re-enactment of scenes inspired by pagan spring fertility celebrations.