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A Brief History of Edinburgh

Edinburgh history begins with dinosaurs

Edinburgh is a magnificent city, packed with culture, architecture and festivals. How did such a city come about? Why does it exist like it does today? To answer these questions about Edinburgh’s history, we have to go all the way back 350 million years ago to when dinosaurs roamed the landscape… 

Sitting just outside Edinburgh city centre is Arthur’s Seat, an extinct (we promise!) volcano that for hundreds of millions of years has dominated the landscape. It’s a great place to spend the day walking, and above all, taking in the magnificent city views. It’s always been a popular area, as Bronze Age weapons and Iron Age forts have all been discovered in the area. 

Fast forward a few thousand years of war, invasion and growth, and we land in 1130. This was the year that Saint Margaret’s Chapel was built inside Edinburgh Castle. Recognised as Edinburgh’s oldest building, this is a very special church.

Wallace, Bruce and a right royal mess

Edinburgh Castle

In the thirteenth century, England’s King Edward I captured Edinburgh Castle. You might recognise this chap from watching Braveheart – he was the man you booed after William “Mel Gibson” Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered.

The castle stayed in English hands for 18 years until the Scots recaptured it in 1314, but under orders from Robert the Bruce, they subsequently left it in a state of disrepair so the English wouldn’t want it back. 

After some more back and forths as to the ownership of the castle and city, Edinburgh became the official capital of Scotland in 1437, replacing Scone (which gave its name to the famous Stone of Scone). By the end of the 1600s, Edinburgh’s population stood at around 50,000. 

Edinburgh Old Town history

The Old Town in Edinburgh is what sits south of the castle. It includes the Royal Mile, North Bridge and down to Edinburgh University’s Old College. It’s the oldest part of the city, and has a medieval layout. It’s a great place to surround yourself in history. From St Giles’ Cathedral which was founded in 1124, to the Grassmarket area which is lined with pubs now, it’s old Edinburgh distilled in one walkable area.

Edinburgh New Town history

Edinburgh's Princes Street in the New Town

Between 1767 until around 1850, Edinburgh planned a new area to live and work north of the castle – the New Town. Full of Georgian architecture, it’s just as beautiful as the older parts of the city. Princes Street, for example, is part of the New Town. As Edinburgh’s main shopping area, there’s always a bargain to be found and new fashions to discover. In addition to Jenners, there are plenty of luxury shops to find in the area.

To sum up, there’s history in Edinburgh everywhere you turn.

Enjoy Edinburgh’s History with Parliament House Hotel

We love Edinburgh history – and we’re a part of it too! Some of our buildings date back to 1760! You can read more about the quirks of our historic building, and even better, come see them for yourself. Book your stay with us now and you’ll find yourself perfectly centred in the city for a stroll through time.


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