OLD AND NEW TOWNS
Explore the city centre on foot. Walk down the Royal Mile and check out the many closes, wynds and courts that descend from this world famous street. Visit the Grasmarket under the shadow of the Castle and see old buildings and inns and also one of the places where the city used to hang its criminals. Walk down the adjoining Cowgate, Edinburgh's well to do suburb in the middle ages, and see the two 18th century bridges tower overhead. Wander around Greyfriars graveyard where the dead were buried during plague epidemics in the middle ages, later burial ground for the city's more distinguished citizens including the Greyfriars Bobby grave (his master John Gray's). See the "hidden" South Bridge built in the 1780s with 19 arches but only one visible (over the Cowgate), connecting the city to the south. Walk over the North Bridge opposite, built for access to the New Town.
Walk along picturesque Princes street with its Old Town views and gardens on one side, it's architecture a mish mash of over 200 years of building then explore the streets behind. The pedestrianised Rose Street is famous for its bars and George Street behind was Edinburgh's financial centre until the 1980s, now replaced by expensive shops, bars and night clubs. Walk down the streets that intersect this grid such as Hanover, Frederick and Castle streets. See Charlotte and Andrew squares at either end of this first phase of the Newtown - one of the largest Georgian areas in the UK. Continuing down to Queen street leads you to part of the second phase.
PRINCES ST GARDENS
Situated between the Old and New towns the gardens were once a loch called the Nor Loch. It was man made around 1400 as part of the city's defences by damming the Craig burn (a tributary of the river Tummel). As well as defense the loch was used for industry, leisure and witch trials. If someone was accused of being a witch they had their hands and feet bound together and were thrown in the water. If they drowned they were innocent but if they survived they were burnt at the Castle stake as a witch. The waters were topped up by several springs in the area but from time to time the water level dropped dramatically. By the 18th century it was decided to drain the increasingly silted up loch which in parts resembled a marsh and build gardens for the residents of the newly constructed New Town.The gardens are split into 2 parts by The Mound, a road constructed out of the earth excavated by building the New Town. The eastern section has the Scott Monument and a deep grassy area which is transformed into a winter wonderland every christmas. The western section is the largest and has the outdoor theatre and the Ross fountain. A railway line runs through the gardens and on the south part across bridges is the bottom of the Castle rock. Pathways run up its height to the esplanade. In a somewhat quiet corner towards the west directly under the Castle lies a ruin and an old well. The ruin called Wellhouse Tower was built in 1362 to protect the well as it was an important source of water for people living in the castle. It was partially destroyed during the great seige of 1573 but is one of the castle's oldest and least known buildings.
At the east end of Princes street lies Calton Hill the smallest of Edinburgh's 7 hills (Arthurs Seat, Corstorphine, Castle, Craiglockhart, Braid and Blackford) but at 328ft the views of the city centre and beyond are stunning. The hill is accessible to traffic and contains an array of building and monuments dating between 1776 and 1830. The Nelson Monument is here as well as the National Monument which was built in 1822 to commemorate Scottish soldiers and sailors who died in the Napoleonic wars. But the money ran out and only the base and 12 columns costing £1000 each were built. It was supposed to be an exact reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens and helped to give the city the title of Athens of the North but it is known to locals even to this day as Edinburgh's Disgrace.
There is also an Old Observatory designed by James Craig, architect of the New Town which was built in 1792 and a New Observatory designed by William Playfair completed in 1818. He also designed the near by monument to philosopher Dugald Stewart in 1822. Today the still functioning observatories are owned by the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh and visits can be made by arrangement.
At 823ft Arthur's Seat is the highest of Edinburgh's 7 hills. An extinct volcano, it lies within the Queens park next to Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the Royal Mile and offers panoramic views around the area. It is possible to drive up to the car park near the summit. There are 3 lochs in and around the hill: Duddingston the largest is now a bird sanctuary, St Margarets is at the bottom and Dusapie near the summit - the latter 2 being man made. Beside the hill is Salisbury Crags which are the remains of glaciated rock and in between is a valley named Hunter's Bog. It has been called Arthur's Seat since the 1400s but no one knows exactly why. Popular legend has it named after King Arthur of legend but it is possible that it was named after a local hero. Above St Margaret's Loch is the ruin of St Anthony's Chapel. Mystery surrounds this ruin as no one knows when it was built or what it was used for. It is first recorded in 1544 and as it has a clear view of the sea at Leith, it could have been used for hanging lights to guide ships. St Anthony was born in 250AD and founded the world's first monastery. He was associated with cures for the skin disease known as St Anthony's fire which was common in the 1400s. There could be a connection with the well below the chapel and perhaps cures for skin disease.
Situated south of the Old Town, The Meadows today is a large grassy park area where people walk, play football and tennis and cycle but it hasn't always been this way. From prehistoric times until the early 1800s the area was covered by water known as the Burgh Loch. It was used as drinking water, for washing clothes and by breweries but the water dried up and by 1871 the loch bed was used as a rubbish dump with refuse piled 7 feet high. Soon after it was transformed into the park we have today, a park which holds the annual Meadows festival in June - with stalls and fun fair. It also stages some events during the Festival and has in the past played host to Gay Pride
Lying in a valley at the west end of the city centre, Dean Village is an attractive residential area on the banks of the Water of Leith, Edinburgh's main river. Originally called Water of Leith Village it has a history of milling going back to the 1100s. You can stroll for miles along the river bank and also see the Telford bridge built in 1833.
Four miles to the north west of the city centre lies the suburb of Cramond. It is bordered to the west by the River Almond and by the sea to the north. White cottages lie in the heart of the old village and there is a pub and tea rooms. You can stroll by the river or visit the beach and if the tide is out you can walk across the causeway to explore Cramond Island (once inhabited) with its WW2 shelters on its north side. The Romans had a camp here and some remains are left but they are not easy to find. It used to be possible to get across the river by rowing boat ferry but unfortunately that has now stopped. Bus 41 or there are 2 car parks in the area
600ft above sea level at the base of the Pentland Hills to the south of the city lies Swanston. It is not easy to get to without a car but is worth a visit to see the thatched roofed white cottages which are unusual in Scotland. The village grew up around the farm in the early 1700s and were renovated in the 1960s when it became a conservation area. Robert Louis Stevenson lived here in the 1870s staying at Swanston Cottage. On a clear day the views are fantastic but the roar of the city bypass can be heard for miles around. No direct bus but 27 or 16 to Hunters Tryst then walk along Swanston Road over the bypass. There is a car park at the base of the village.
CONTINUED IN PART 2 OR CLICK HERE