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Edinburgh: Athens of the North

Discover some of the architectural jewels that make up UNESCO's World Heritage Site of Edinburgh's Old and New Towns
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.9 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview :  “And then, upon all sides, what a clashing of Architecture! In this one valley, where the life of the town goes most busily forward,... more »

Tips:  Tips: Be sure to carry a waterproof or windcheater - even on the sunniest day, sudden downpours are frequent, and hailstones can... more »

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Points of Interest

The construction of the New Town, one of the world's most successful grid-planned city neighbourhoods, began in 1767 and continued in stages until 1860. Its broad streets and clean lines seem the perfect corollary to the intellectual outpouring in philosophy, economics and the humanities that became known as the Scottish Enlightenment and which... More

When you leave Charlotte Square, take the George Street option to enjoy the wide boulevard lined with bars, restaurants, and upscale shopping. Many of the buildings take their cue from the Georgian and neo-classical, so you’ll find Corinthian porticoes, Italianate banking palaces, and domed insurance company buildings.

It was all too much for... More

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Turn left when you leave the museum, then left again, and walk along North St David Street. After you pass St Andrew Square, you will see the towering form of the Scott Monument. Built in the 1840s, and inaugurated in 1846, it commemorates Sir Walter Scott, author of 'Ivanhoe' and 'Rob Roy.'

At 200 feet high, it is the world's largest monument to... More

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After the Gothic eruptions of the Portrait Gallery and the Monument, the serenity of the neo-classical reasserts itself at The Mound where The Royal Scottish Academy, a quietly authoritative Doric temple, is a calming Grecian building with a profusion of columns, an ornately carved frieze and pediment and enigmatic sphinxes.

Built in 1822-26, the... More

5. Cockburn Street

From the galleries, head back past the Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens to Waverley Bridge. Stay on the right side of the road, with the vehicle entrance to the station on your left, and walk to the end. When you cross Market Street you will be at the foot of Cockburn (pronounced Coburn) Street.

The first building on the left gives a... More

The crown spire of the High Kirk of St Giles makes it one of the city's most distinctive landmarks, visible throughout the Old Town, and when viewed from Princes Street, soaring above the city like a guiding star. Parts are of medieval vintage, with the choir added in 1460, and the crown tower 40 years later.

The interior is notable for its... More

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7. West Bow/Victoria Street

Turn left when you leave St Giles, and continue to walk uphill in the direction of the Castle, turning left again at the Upper Bow and walk until you reach the railing and arcading that denotes Victoria Terrace, the upper level of the curious, curving and picturesque two-tier street that snakes up from the Grassmarket to George IV Bridge. Steps... More

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As you make your way down the Royal Mile you'll encounter a number of examples of the medieval and Scots baronial styles, with crow-stepped gables and witch hat turrets much in evidence. You'll find genuine antiquity at John Knox's House, the oldest surviving mansion on the Royal Mile. Contrasting dark ashlar and projecting stuccoed timber... More

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9. Canongate Tolbooth

In past times the Canongate was a separate burgh from Edinburgh, with its own council and tax regime. The legacy is evidence in the rather angular 16th-century Canongate Tolbooth, with its fairy-tale witches hat turrets (and decidedly iconic projecting clock, added in 1820). 'Gait' in old Scots means 'walk,' and the name derives from the monks or ... More

10. Canongate Kirk

Canongate Kirk was completed in 1691 in a distinctive Dutch gable style, boasting a curvilinear facade that’s quite different from its neighbours. The interior is simple, almost spartan, in accordance with the values of its presbyterian allegiance.

Apart from its architectural distinctiveness, the kirk is famous for its graveyard which provides... More

At the end of the Royal Mile you’ll find Edinburgh’s most controversial building: the hugely over-budget Scottish Parliament building. It was designed by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles as a campus of strikingly-modern buildings that resemble upturned boats, while incorporating the 17th century Queensberry House within the complex.

The... More

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