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The City of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland

[Saturday - 10/22/94] The city of Edinburgh is renowned world-wide for its history, architecture, scenery and cultural attractions. Built on a set of hills, it is situated between the Firth of Forth to the north, the Pentland Hills to the south, and the council areas of East Lothian and West Lothian to the east and west. The population today is estimated at over 450,000 and is growing rapidly predominantly through migration. The economy is oriented to services, particularly in the areas of finance, science and the professions.

There are signs of human activity in the area from at least c.5000 BC with fortifications evident from c.1000 BC. Celtic and Roman occupants were followed by Northumbrians and Scots. In the 15th century it was made Scotland's capital, but its importance as the political centre of Scotland was later diminished by the Union of 1707 with England. Later cultural and architectural achievements in the 18th and 19th centuries earned it the title 'Athens of the North'. Today, Edinburgh is known world-wide as a tourist mecca, as a major financial centre, and as the site of one of the world's largest international arts festivals, held annually since 1947. In addition, the city's importance as a political centre was re-established with the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Edinburgh's central dominating landmark is Edinburgh Castle, rising on sheer cliffs above the city. Located here is the 11th-century Chapel of Saint Margaret, the city's oldest structure. The Castle Rock is connected to the 16th-century royal Scottish residence of Holyrood Palace by a road known as the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the Old Town district of the city. Other notable buildings in Old Town include Saint Giles, the National Church of Scotland (largely 15th century); the Parliament House, seat of the Scottish Parliament from its completion in 1639 until 1707; and the house of the 16th-century Protestant reformer John Knox. To the north of this district is New Town, which was developed in the late 18th century and contains many fine buildings designed by the Scottish architect Robert Adam. Separating the two districts is Princes Street Gardens, occupying the bed of a loch that was drained in 1816.

Among Edinburgh's cultural institutions are the National Gallery of Scotland (1859), the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (1882), the Royal Scottish Museum (1854), and museums of modern art and Scottish history. The Edinburgh International Festival, held here annually since 1947, is a world-renowned arts festival. The University of Edinburgh (1583) is especially noted for its schools of medicine and law. Other educational institutions include Heriot-Watt University (1821), Edinburgh College of Art (1907), and colleges of architecture, technology, education, and theology.

Castle Rock was occupied by the Picts about the 6th century AD. In the 11th century Malcolm III, king of Scotland, had his castle here, and his wife, Saint Margaret, built a small church. King Robert Bruce granted Edinburgh a charter in 1329. In 1437 the town became the national capital following the murder of King James I at Perth, the former capital. Edinburgh lost much of its commercial and administrative importance in 1603 when James VI became James I, king of England, and departed for London. By the Act of Union with England in 1707, the Scottish Parliament was dissolved and Scotland was governed by the British Parliament.

Edinburgh's expansion beyond its medieval boundaries to New Town was planned by the town council in 1767. During the 18th and 19th centuries the city flourished as a cultural center. It was the home of writers Robert Burns, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott and the philosophers Adam Smith and David Hume. The city's boundaries were expanded considerably in 1856 (when New Town was absorbed), 1900, and 1920. Before 1975 Edinburgh was the county town of the former county of Midlothian. In the 1996 reorganization of local government, the City of Edinburgh became a unitary authority.

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