Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
Old And New Towns Of Edinburgh
Cultural United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland Europe And North America Lothian Region, Scotland

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a remarkable blend of the urban phenomena of organic medieval growth and 18th- and 19th-century town planning. The successive planned extensions of the New Town and the high quality of the architecture set standards for Scotland and beyond.

Edinburgh has been the Scottish capital since the 15th century, and it has two distinct areas: the Old Town, dominated by a medieval fortress built by King David I in the 12th century, and the neoclassical New Town, whose development from the 18th century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning.

During wars against the English in the 14th century, just one building was spared from destruction: the Chapel of St Margaret, built by King Malcolm III, within the destroyed medieval military fortress. The Castle Rock bore the core of the town, with the neo-Gothic tower of the Tolbooth Church of St John and the tower of the Church of St Giles. In the palace King James VI of Scotland and James I of England, son of Mary Stuart, was born in 1556.

Work on the New Town began in 1752 with the project of the architects John Adam and James Craig, consisting of a rectangular plan with a residential function and a commercial zone in Prince's Street. In 1789, Robert Adam planned the Old College, the University of Edinburgh, which was completed by William Playfair, and extended to an enlarged profile by Sir Rowand Anderson, in 1879. The town was subsequently expanded to the north, when in 1822 Gillespie Graham harmonized the two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, to give the city its unique character.

Holyrood House, the scene of many important events of Scottish history, was originally the guest-house of Holyrood Abbey. It was transformed into a royal residence by James IV, and is at present the official residence of the queen in Scotland. Canongate Tolbooth is a very interesting 16th-century building, the former seat of justice of the Burgh of Canongate;it is easily identified by its imposing turreted steeple and clock.

Edinburgh has many museums and galleries, including the Royal Museum, an impressive early Italian Renaissance palazzo facade containing a great hall of wooden ribbed construction designed on Crystal Palace principles, together with smaller halls of similar design. Scotland's two major museums, situated in the heart of Edinburgh, house rich international collections. The National Gallery of Scotland and the neoclassical Art Gallery, with blind walls with shallow pilasters punctuated by Ionic porticoes, was originally designed as two buildings to house the Academy as well as the National Gallery.