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Bradwell’s Eclectica Edinburgh features a plethora of facts and information about the people and events that have helped to make the city so interesting. The title brings together dialect, humour, recipes, murder stories, local names, walks and maps, ghost stories, local customs, local sports, local history and famous locals in one 80 page softback publication.
The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular attraction in the United Kingdom outside London,
and Edinburgh Castle, with well over a million visitors a year, is Scotland’s most popular paid-for visitor attraction. The Royal International Tattoo, with its massed pipes and drums, is held on Edinburgh Castle’s floodlight esplanade and is a stunning spectacle. The Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe attract over two and a half million visitors every year and over 300,000 come especially for the Edinburgh Book Festival. Always a place for a good shindig, Edinburgh excels in its celebrations of Hogmanay and Ne’erday.
You might say that arriving at Edinburgh’s main railway station is a novel experience as it is named after Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley series of novels. There are two main exits from the station and they take you to what may seem like two different cities. The Market Street exit immediately confronts you with hills and stairs – lots of stairs and narrow passageways called closes that run between the buildings as you walk through the Old Town. The Princes Street exit takes you onto a wide, airy street and turning left you will see the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens and the iconic Jenners department store building on the corner of St David Street. This is the New Town with its Georgian architecture, but the character of the Old Town is forever present as it rises high above the far side of Princes Street Gardens. Edinburgh Castle, sitting proud on Castle Rock, somehow connects the Old with the New. It is a castle that is not only seen but heard, as each day, except Sundays, the One O’Clock Gun is fired and its roar reverberates around the city.
The Old Town is steeped in history with the Royal Mile running from the Castle, where there has been a stronghold since the time of Edwin of Deira, who died in 633, all the way to the modern Scottish Parliament building designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles (1955–2000). Edwin’s Fort became known as Din-Eidyn and later as Edwinesburch and it is easy to see how it changed to the more easily pronounced Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is really four streets – Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate – and was described by Daniel Defoe in 1723 as ‘the largest, longest and finest street for Buildings and Number of Inhabitants, not only in Britain, but in the World…’ Victoria Street curves down from the George IV Bridge to the Grassmarket and is a reminder of times past. Cowgate runs under the George IV Bridge and South Bridge to St Mary’s Street. Robert Louis Stevenson said, in 1878, ‘To look over the South Bridge and see the Cowgate below full of crying hawkers, is to view one rank of society from the other in the twinkling of an eye.’ There is a plaque with Stevenson’s observations on a building in Cowgate that also has the hind end of a cow sticking out of the wall with a caption ‘The TOON COOcillor’! This medieval Old Town is certainly full of character and history, a place of closes and courts, nooks and crannies – and perhaps even ghosts.
The New Town, on the other hand, has wider streets set out in an organised grid system, Georgian architecture, and large private gardens owned by groups of residents. Charlotte Square, designed by Robert Adam, has been described as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Number 7, the Georgian House, is owned by the National Trust for Scotland so you can visit and explore the joys of living in these grand houses. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh used to be where Waverely Station now stands but has been at Inverleith since 1820. This is the area where the wealthy New Town Georgians built their summer villas, and in the Botanic Gardens stands Inverleith House, built for James Rocheid in 1774, a good example of the grandeur of these residences.
Eclectica is just a flavour of Edinburgh, perhaps the beginnings of a love affair with this international city or a reminder of well-worn streets and halfforgotten memories. Whether you are an Edinburgh resident or a visitor there is always something new to see, a bit more history to investigate, festivals, celebrations and just the enjoyment of walking round this city of contrasts.
Released: June 2014
Publisher: Bradwell Books
Size: 160 x 160mm
Author: Fiona Dalhousie