Overview of Edinburgh

Geography of Edinburgh

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Scotland is an ancient, mystic land of the common man, and the original intellectuals; lush green valleys and rolling hills; the intimidating dish of haggis, legendary whiskey, and fried Mars bars. As identifiable as Scottish brogue, family tartans and bagpipes appear all over the world as reminders of the great, little land so many people come from. The gregarious people have a reputation as storytellers with many legendary writers like Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Irvine Welsh, and JK Rowling all leaving a mark upon the world. Scotland has also produced the inventors of the television, telephone and penicillin, and the cloned sheep Dolly. It is part of the United Kingdom, and yet, it's own separate jewel.


The country lies on the northern third of the island of Great Britain in north-western Europe. The south is made up of 60 mile (96 km)of English border, with the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. Extending into the water, Scotland's territory includes over 790 islands. The islands are divided into four main groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides.


The geography of the land itself has the Highlands and Islands to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs from Arran to Stonehaven. Encompasses the Great Glen and Loch Ness and John o'Groats. This area is defined by ancient rocks which form mountain like the Cairngorms and Skye Cuillins.
Along the Moray Firth coast, there are fossil-bearing beds of Old Red Sandstones.
The central lowlands is a rift valley formed from Paleozoic formations. This area has also experienced intense volcanism. Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is the remnant of an ancient volcano.
The southern uplands are a range of hills lying to the south of a second fault line (the Southern Uplands fault) that runs from Girvan to Dunbar. This area is home to the UK's highest village, Wanlockhead at 430 meters or 1,411 feet above sea level.
Borders makes up the eastern two-thirds of the districts north of the border with England. Ruined ruined abbeys and battlefields make up the landscape.
South West is known as "Scotland's Riviera".
The Central Belt is Scotland's most urbanized region around and between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.


There are six cities.

  • Glasgow (Gaelic: Glaschu) is the largest with a population of approximately 620,000 people (more than two million in the metropolitan area).
  • Edinburgh (Gaelic: Dun Eideann) is the capital with around 450,000 people. It is home to the World's largest Arts Festival every August and is the First European City of Literature. Most of the city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Aberdeen (Gaelic: Obar Dheathain) is the third largest city with 220,000 inhabitants. It is the Oil & Gas Capital of Europe and home to two universities.
  • Dumfries (Gaelic: Dun Phris) is the main town in the southern Scotland/Borders area.
  • Dundee (Gaelic: Dun De) High student population and home to one of the most difficult to decipher accents.
  • Inverness (Gaelic: Inbhir Nis) a fast growing capital in the Highlands.
  • Stirling (Gaelic: Sruighlea) place of a royal fortress city with a vibrant modern outlook.


Edinburgh's climate can be described as dreary by the uninitiated. Categorized as temperate and oceanic, the weather is constantly changing. It can change from sunshine to rain in minutes. It can be quite windy while it rains as well, adding to the unpleasantness. Watch your umbrella!

The best time to visit is from May to September. Summer is the main festival season with long daylight hours that stretch into the evening. it is usually not too hot, and can be a bit wet. Winter can be very cold with daylight hours cut down to a few central hours of the day.

Temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK. The coldest temperature in the UK was recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains at -27.2 degrees Celsius (-16.96 degree Fahrenheit) on February 11th, 1895. Average winter temperatures are around 6 degrees Celsius, with summer temperatures of about 18 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature recorded was 32.9 degrees Celsius (91.22 degrees Fahrenheit) at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on August 9th, 2003.

In general, the west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east because of the influence of the Atlantic ocean currents and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is one of the sunniest places in the country with 300 days of sunshine in 1975. The western highlands are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm (118.1 in). The lowlands receive less than 800 mm (31.5 in) annually. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude.


The capital city is located in the Central Belt region of the country, which is the eastern portion of the Central Lowlands of Scotland. Occasionally called "Auld Reekie", the city is bounded by the Firth of Forth to the north and the Pentland Hills. The river, Water of Leith, runs for 29 kilometres (18 miles) through the south and west of the city. A trail, the Water of Leith Walkway, is a mixed use trail that follows the river for 19.6 kilometres (12.2 mi) from Balerno to Leith.

The city's landscape sprawls over the products of early volcanic activity. Castle Rock is an example of these forces, as well as the Castle crag and Arthur's Seat which are eroded peaks of volcanoes. A green belt designated in 1957 rings the city with an average width of 3.2 kilometres (2 miles). The belt clearly defines the city limits and is strictly controlled by city developers. In the north of the city, Princes Street is one of the main shopping boulevard. Edinburgh's historic centre is bisected just south of there by Princes Street Gardens. This stretch of parkland beautifies the centre of the city. South of the garden, is the castle perched above the city on an extinct volcanic crag. The Old Town follows the Royal Mile along the ridge to the east.


Edinburgh is divided into areas that generally encompass a park (sometimes known as "links"), a main local street (i.e. street of local retail shops), a high street (historic main street, might not be the same as the main local street) and residential buildings.

Old Town: Medieval heart along the Royal Mile, much of this section is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a preserved medieval plan and many Reformation-era buildings. Many of the city's landmarks are in this district, including: castle, the Royal Mile, Royal Museum of Scotland, Surgeons' Hall and McEwan Hall, etc. Space restrictions have forced the city to grow upwards and it features some of the earliest "high rise" residential buildings. There are even vaults below street level which accommodated the influx of immigrants during the Industrial Revolution.

New Town: On the opposite side of the gardens, New Town is very compact. It was designed in 1766 by a young James Craig. He made George Street the principal street with a rigid, ordered grid radiating out. Two other main streets, Princes and Queen Street, borer the area. At the east and west ends are St. Andrew Square and Charlotte Square respectively. The grid pattern has not been maintained, but the area has grown immensity into a picturesque section of town.

Stockbridge and Canonmills: Exclusive neighbourhood to the north of the New Town. Independent shops and the Royal Botanic Garden are here.

Leith: This independent-minded port area retains a separate identity from the rest of Edinburgh. The parliamentary seat is still known as "Edinburgh North and Leith".

Edinburgh East: The beach district of Portobello and the historic village of Duddingston both lie in the east of the city.

Edinburgh South: Popular part of town frequented by students. Lots of places to eat and drink. Home to the Roslin Chapel. The south section is a popular residential area. The central University of Edinburgh campus is based around George Square just north of Marchmont and the Meadows.

Edinburgh West: Edinburgh's zoo is here, as well as the Murrayfield rugby stadium.

Update 8/04/2011

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