Edinburgh is one of the most classically beautiful cities in the world, with a vigorous and distinctive cultural tradition and outstanding quality of life. There is no city sprawl — just a few minutes walk from the city centre are small village communities that have existed in Edinburgh for centuries.
Edinburgh's turbulent history began as far back as 5000 years ago, and continued with the Romans who came north in 78 CE. When they left in the second century, the people faced repeated invasions by Angles, Britons, Vikings and eventually the Scots from Western Ireland.
In the 11th century, the Scots took possession of the Castle Rock in Edinburgh. By 1483, Edinburgh was the undisputed capital of Scotland.
Edinburgh developed into a unique mediaeval city, crowded on a hill within a defensive wall, its winding alleys and dark lanes witness to so much of Scotland's history. The Old Town stretches along a ridge from the Castle to the Palace of Holyrood down the Royal Mile. In the late seventeen hundreds it burst free, expanding to the north in the extensive Georgian New Town, with its series of fine neo-classical streets and squares. Both Old Town and New Town have remained fashionable places to live. This has helped to make Edinburgh a civilised city, for its centre is not merely a business area that closes along with its offices, but also contains thriving residential communities in an urban landscape.
Development continued through the Victorian and Edwardian era until today Edinburgh has a population of 500,000. It is bounded by the sea in the North and by the foothills of the Pentlands to the South.
The city's numerous places of interest and historical heritage include the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden, the National Library of Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and St. Giles Cathedral.
Edinburgh boasts over 50 venues which regularly hold exhibitions of arts and crafts. The permanent collection of the Gallery of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy are balanced by temporary exhibitions and privately run galleries.
Within the city itself there are over 25 golf courses, 10 swim centres and 6 sports centres including the Meadowbank and Murrayfield Stadia. Approximately 50 per cent of the city is open space, including Holyrood Park — with the twin peaks of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags — being one of the largest natural city-centre parks in Europe. Edinburgh's relatively small overall size permits ready access to the surrounding countryside. It is a short journey to Leith and Newhaven harbour, to riverside walks by the Water of Leith and to the top of one of the seven hills on which Edinburgh stands.
Using Edinburgh as a base, you can easily take day trips to see the historic monuments of Dirleton, Tantallon, Haddington, Abbotsford, Dunfermline and Loch Leven. It takes a little over an hour to reach the spectacular Scottish Highlands.
Edinburgh has excellent communications: it has, of course, its own busy airport, a fast rail service to major cities and good road services to all parts of Britain.
Edinburgh is well known as Britain's Festival City, with the International Arts, "Fringe", Film, Science, Children's, Book, Jazz and Folk Festivals, drawing considerable numbers of people, as participants or observers, from all over the world at various times in the year. In the summer, the main International Festival presents over 200 events; the Festival Fringe plays host to nearly 2000 productions and the Military Tattoo provides an unforgettable spectacle on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh boasts 9 major theatres and concert halls, and 6 cinema complexes.
Education in Edinburgh
Scotland has one of the finest educational systems in the world. Edinburgh has both state and private schools offering quality and choice. Edinburgh's schools strive for high academic attainment and the nurturing of character. Edinburgh University, Heriot-Watt University and Napier University are the distinguished triumvirate of Edinburgh's educational establishment, each with its particular strengths, and each welcoming overseas students.
Edinburgh University, which was founded in 1583, has more than 250 degree courses. Over one quarter of its 12,000 students are engaged in post graduate work, participating in a range of comprehensive research programmes. Its main strength is its investment in the new technology growth industries. The University has many outstanding facilities. Its reputation in the fields of medicine and science remain pre-eminent. As a pioneering university of the 1990s it established the United Kingdom's first Chair and Department of Artificial Intelligence. It has active undergraduate and postgraduate Jewish societies. Former students of the University are James Boswell, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, James Simpson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Heriot-Watt University's science and engineering faculties are especially strong in the fields of offshore and petroleum engineering, physics and information technology.
The newest on the scene, Napier University, offers courses in business information technology, industrial design and engineering and computer-aided engineering.
Health and Medicine
Since the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine at Edinburgh University in 1726, Edinburgh has been an internationally recognised centre for health care and medical research.
Today, Edinburgh is considered to have some of the finest general and specialist health care facilities available.
The Local Economy
Edinburgh is a leading European financial and commercial centre. Its prosperity is sustained by the energy and diversity of its businesses.
Edinburgh's reputation as the UK's second financial centre, after London, has been achieved through innovative thinking, scientific advance, market performance and professional dedication.
A high proportion of corporate and public sector headquarters are based in Edinburgh. Of the top 25 companies in Scotland, 14 have their headquarters in Edinburgh, producing a demand for high calibre management and a battery of support services.
The industries of brewing, printing and pharmaceuticals are Edinburgh's traditional hallmarks, and these stand beside a dynamic growth in the tourist industry and its newer technologies of computing, medical lasers and semiconductors. Edinburgh is an ideal place to establish a business. Advice is readily available from the Councils, local Enterprise Boards, the Chamber of Commerce and a number of trusts.
Edinburgh's reputation as a commercial capital was consolidated by the opening of the International Conference Centre in 1995.
A distinctive feature of much of Edinburgh's city centre is the presence of a high level of private properties. This co-existence of residential communities with the varied activities of the centre has a civilising influence that can be felt immediately.
There is a wide variety of housing available in Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Each area of the city tends to have its own style and character. There are also significant numbers of rented accommodation available, through the private sector, housing associations and the local authority. Indeed, City of Edinburgh Council has a key housing objective to retain choice and diversity and to protect residential amenity.
The Thursday edition of The Scotsman newspaper contains a pull-out section on housing in Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular. The Edinburgh Solicitor's Property Centre (ESPC) also has a weekly listing of houses for sale, as do the estate agents.
Child Friendly Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a child friendly city, with a wealth of child-oriented attractions, sporting activities, entertainment, restaurants and shops. There is a host of galleries, museums and historic places suitable for young children. These include the Royal Scottish Museum, the Museum of Childhood and the People's Story, a museum tracing the lives, work and pastimes of the city's ordinary people from the late 1700s to the present.
Those interested in animals can visit the Edinburgh Zoo (which has a dynamic Education Centre), Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World, Gorgie City Farm or the nearby Deep Sea World.
Enthusiasts of boats, planes or trains may wish to visit the Edinburgh Canal Centre with its cruising canal boats, Newhaven Harbour or the special viewing gallery at Edinburgh Airport. You may wish to take a ride on an open top bus touring the central area or participate in a tour of Waverley Station (which occasionally provides steam train excursions!).
Sporting facilities include football and rugby pitches, swimming pools, play centres, riding stables, skating rinks and one of the pre-eminent dry ski slopes in Europe. Gymnastics, music, drama and dance classes are just a handful of other possible activities.
Edinburgh and its environs have a wealth of green and open places, from parks to wild hillsides and streams. Parks and adventure playgrounds are plentiful and are maintained to a high standard. The city's 30 parks come in all shapes and sizes, from fenced-in areas to sites of over 60 acres. Natural areas range from the Pentland Hills, consisting of country parks and nature reserves, to Cramond, with a causeway across the tidal mud flats, and the Hermitage of Braid, a prime area for bird and wild life.
For working parents who need child care facilities, these range from registered childminders, crèches, private nurseries, after school clubs, school holiday play schemes to an agency which specialises in finding suitable nannies and emergency help.
If you would like further information, the National Childbirth Trust have produced a booklet entitled "Edinburgh For the Under Five's".
Edinburgh's compact city centre boasts a large choice of department stores including Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and Jenners (the Scottish Harrods). All are picturesquely set on one side of Princes Street, facing Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle.
The St. James Centre and Princes Mall house several retailers under one roof. The newly extended John Lewis dominates the St. James Centre, offering an excellent range of household goods. Princes Mall, with its spectacular atrium, has specialist craft and clothing shops, small stalls and a large choice of eating places.
Outside the city centre are other shopping centres, such as Cameron Toll (south of Edinburgh) with Sainsbury's, Fort Kinnaird at Newcraighall in east Edinburgh, is a complex of large stores such as Argos, Next and Toys 'R' Us. The Gyle, located in west Edinburgh, features Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, 63 other retailers, a food court and bistro. Of course, daily shopping needs can also be met in every local area.
A host of specialist shops cater for those who prefer personal choice and finding unique treasures.