Wander the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to the Scottish Parliament Building
Compare and contrast the architectural styles of the Old and the New Towns
Climb Calton Hill for the monuments and the views across the city
There can be few better cities in the world for architecture lovers than Edinburgh. With everything from the medieval lanes of the Old Town to hyper-modern structures reflecting the city’s growing confidence as the capital of Scotland, you can experience hundreds of years of architectural history and developments, all within a short walk of each other. Here are the places you really shouldn’t miss.
Along the Royal Mile
Standing atop a volcanic outcrop at the western end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle presents a mix of architectural styles, thanks to the many additions and renovations over the centuries. The oldest part of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel from the 12th century, and one of the highlights of any visit is the spectacular 16th century Grand Hall. Following the Royal Mile down into Edinburgh’s Old Town, you can explore any number of mediaeval lanes and alleyways, of which Tweeddale Court is one of the best preserved. Don’t miss the 15th century ‘John Knox’s House’, now administered as part of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and the dramatic St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, the oldest parts of which date back to 1124.
A Royal Palace and the Scottish Parliament
At the bottom of the Royal Mile, and at the opposite end from Edinburgh Castle, you’ll find a number of iconic buildings that reflect the shifting nature of power in this corner of the world. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she is in the Scottish capital. Visitors can explore the State Apartments, the ruins of Holyrood Abbey and the extensive Palace Gardens. Across the street from the Palace you will find a much more modern construction: the Scottish Parliament Building. Opinion is divided on the architectural merits of Enric Miralles’ design, inspired by the Scottish landscape, but it is well worth a look – both inside and out – so you can decide for yourself what you think. Another striking example of modern architecture is Dynamic Earth at the foot of Salisbury Crags, an earth science visitors centre that opened in 1999 as part of the Millennium celebrations.
Around the university
To the south of Edinburgh’s Old Town is the area around the University of Edinburgh, home to a number of excellent buildings that are well worth your time. The Old College of the University is a great place to start, designed by Robert Adam at the end of the 18th century and, to this day, one of the standout buildings on the Edinburgh skyline. A nice contrast with the Old College can be found across the road, with the modernist Museum of Scotland building. Not only is the building worth checking out, but the roof terrace of the museum offers up fantastic panoramic views across the rooftops of the city. Also worth a look while you are in the area is the modern neoclassical Adam House, part of the University and built by the renowned Scottish architect William Kininmonth in the 1950s.
Athens of the North – New Town
Separated from the Old Town by the geographical depression that contains Waverley station, Edinburgh’s New Town was planned and built between 1767 and the 1850s. A wonderful example of urban planning when taken as a whole, it is home to row after row of original Georgian buildings, as well as neoclassical structures – such as the Scottish National Gallery – that gave Edinburgh the nickname of the ‘Athens of the North’. One of the first buildings built in Edinburgh’s New Town was the General Register House, which stands on Princes Street to this day. Other fine examples of the typical New Town architecture include the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Dundas House on St Andrew Square. Nip inside to see the magnificent dome of the banking hall from the inside. Nearby, you can also spend a moment or two marvelling at the garish Victorian Gothic stylings of the Scott Monument, overlooking Princes Street Gardens and the station.
On Calton Hill
Any architectural exploration of Edinburgh should end with a climb up Calton Hill. Not only will you have some great views of both the New and Old Towns, and the Scottish Parliament building at the foot of the hill, but there are a number of monuments up there to check out. The most famous is the Nelson Monument, built between 1807 and 1815. Also on the hill is the Parthenon-inspired National Monument of Scotland, which was supposed to bring the whole ‘Athens of the North’ ideas to its natural conclusion. A lack of funds meant it was never finished, and won it the nickname of ‘Edinburgh’s Folly’.
Source: Daily Mail