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A snapshot guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Recognised as the capital of Scotland since the 15th century, Edinburgh is a city steeped in history – its historical and cultural attractions draw in over one million overseas visitors each year. The National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo and the Scottish National Gallery are among some of the city’s most popular stops on the tourist trail, but the Edinburgh visitor is really spoilt for choice! The city comprises a network of distinct areas that retain much of their original character – from Princes Street, with its mix of traditional souvenir shops and modern chain stores, overlooked by the magnificent Edinburgh Castle sitting proudly on Castle Rock, to the famous Royal Mile, home to St Giles’ Cathedral, the City Chambers, Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Grassmarket. Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has been managed by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999.   

When you first think of Edinburgh, tartan, battered mars bars, bagpipes and the Edinburgh Festival might spring to mind. Edinburgh Festival runs between the end of July and early September each year, and perhaps the most well-known of the events is the Fringe, which started life as a performing arts festival, but comedy has since become its mainstay, with numerous well-known comedians getting their first break on stage here. And the Scottish also know how to celebrate the New Year! The annual Edinburgh Hogmanay is a huge party over four days involving processions, concerts, fireworks, street entertainment and a traditional Scottish ceilidh… It is the hottest ticket in town!

Outside the festival season, Edinburgh supports several theatres and production companies, as well as boasting a healthy cinema and music scene. The Royal Yacht Britannia is also based in the city. Decommissioned in 1997, it is now a five-star visitor attraction and evening events venue, permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal. Travel in Edinburgh is undertaken predominantly by bus, with most routes running via Princes Street, while Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station and Haymarket Station take passengers further afield. To tackle traffic congestion, the city is now served by six park and ride sites, and Edinburgh Trams became operational in May 2014.

Edinburgh has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, the sciences and education. The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is now one of four in the city. Originally centred on Old College, it has expanded to premises on the Mound, the Royal Mile and George Square. The King’s Buildings contain most of the schools within the College of Science and Engineering, and the medical school has purpose-built accommodation adjacent to the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France. There are 18 nursery, 94 primary and 23 secondary schools administered by the City of Edinburgh Council, and The Royal High School is one of the oldest schools in the world! Independent schools include Edinburgh Academy, Fettes College, George Heriot’s School, George Watson’s College, Merchiston Castle School, Stewart’s Melville College and The Mary Erskine School.

The second largest financial centre in the UK (after London), Edinburgh has a strong economy and a high percentage of professionals. Banking has been an important industry for over 300 years, since the Bank of Scotland was first established in 1695. Historically, the city was also known for publishing and brewing. Today, its main focuses are financial services, scientific research, higher education and tourism. Edinburgh-based firms, Scottish Widows and Standard Life, have their roots in the city, while Edinburgh is also home to the headquarters of Sainsbury’s Bank, Tesco Bank, TSB Bank and Virgin Money. As the centre of Scotland’s government and legal system, the public sector plays a central role in Edinburgh’s economy, and many departments of the Scottish Government are in the city.

In the past year, house prices in Edinburgh were up 8 per cent on the previous year, with an overall average price of £274,364. A hugely sought-after place to live, the people of Edinburgh are some of the most welcoming and hospitable you will care to meet.