“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 » there may be seen, shown one above and behind another by the accidents of the ground, buildings in almost every style upon the globe. Egyptian and Greek temples, Venetian palaces and Gothic spires, are huddled one over another in a most admired disorder; while, above all, the brute mass of the Castle and the summit of Arthur's Seat look down upon these imitations with a becoming dignity, as the works of Nature may look down the monuments of Art.”
In his 'Edinburgh Picturesque Notes,' city native Robert Louis Stevenson sets out the challenge that faces any architect applying his skill in Edinburgh - the fact that the natural architecture of the landscape sets the bar very high.
Overcrowding and squalid conditions in the Old Town that straddled the hillsides south of the Nor'Loch, the polluted body of water that lay where Princes Street Gardens now stands, led to an expansion of the city to the north and a decision to abandon the maze-like conditions - the 'antique wilderness' of the Old Town - and adopt a rigorous, planned townscape. The competition to design the 'New Town' was won by the young architect James Craig, and his vision of elegant terraces, and sweeping circuses endures to this day.
The legacy is that Edinburgh retains both a substantial medieval core, and a contrasting planned district of considerable distinction. This touring route explores aspects of both while finding room for some works of Gothic exuberance. It is designed to begin outside the Georgian sophistication of Bute House, residence of the head of Scotland's government, and to end at the nation's most exciting building of the new millennium, the extraordinary - and controversial complex of buildings that house the Scottish Parliament. less «