Edinburgh Castle

Exploring Edinburgh

Castle Rock in Edinburgh has been occupied since around 1,000 BC in the Bronze Age, which is no surprise given its strategic views over the Firth of Forth. The Castle itself houses the city's oldest building, St Margaret's Chapel, dating from the 11th century. A few years later, Margaret's son, King David I, founded Holyrood Abbey a mile to the east. The town that grew along the route between these buildings, the "Royal Mile", became a popular residence of kings, although not until the reign of James IV (1488-1513) did Edinburgh gain the status of Scotland's capital.

James built The Palace of Holyroodhouse as a royal residence in 1498 and made the city an administrative centre.

Overcrowding made the Old Town a dirty and difficult place to live, and threw rich and poor together. The construction of a Georgian New Town to the north in the late 1700s gave the wealthy an escape route, but even today Edinburgh has a reputation for social extremes. It has major law courts, is second only to London as a financial centre in the British Isles and houses the new Scottish parliament.

Bankers and lawyers form the city's establishment, and the most ambitious architectural developments of recent years have been for financial sector companies.

Yet outlying housing estates, built in the years following World War II, still have echoes of the Old Town poverty.

Edinburgh is best known today for being a major tourist centre. There are wonderful museums and galleries to visit, and the city enjoys a widely renowned nightlife. At the height of the International Festival, in August, it is estimated that the population actually doubles from 400,000 to 800,000.