Edinburgh – an ancient and proud city – presents many different faces to residents and visitors alike. As a local (of seven years) and coming from Fife, I have a completely different view of the city than you do I am sure! The sights of the Royal Mile, the feel of the cold Easterly Wind in winter, the sweet smell of the maltings of the North British Distillery, and the sound of the One O’Clock Gun are all familiar, but what of the whereabouts of the Royal Patent Gymnasium? The first botanical gardens? the first zoo? The voices of the weavers of cambric from Picardy who settled Broughton Loan? The use of the Blue Blanket? The work of Patrick Geddes? or the haunts of James Hutton or Hugh Miller? Even for locals, Edinburgh is a box of delights, some unwrapped and some still tightly under wraps and waiting to be discovered.
Medieval Edinburgh or Old Town was a place of power, safety and trade, all made secure by its walls. New Town Edinburgh was a Georgian project, built for the gentry to rival its European competitors and subsuming a series of villages, with various expansions. Leith, the port of Edinburgh - against its wishes I may add - merged with Edinburgh in 1920. So Greater Edinburgh grew and continues to grow.
Old Town Edinburgh mixes medieval streets with Victorian Medievalism reinvention (creating some very rare gems if you know where to look) coupled with the élan of the arts and crafts movement as well. New Town Edinburgh started as a fairly uniform, almost barracks-like residential area but evolved an eclectic array of frontages and uses (particularly the service streets, Rose, Thistle etc.) Each stone and slate of Edinburgh has its precise origin, opening up both geological and history perspectives to those who choose to explore more closely. Each street has a name that introduces us to the characters and stories of the city. Intellectually, Edinburgh has had so many perennial blooms, that only a library would suffice to document its world class efflorescence.
A working and lunching city of burgesses, merchants, distillers, publishers, housewives and husbands and so many more, Edinburgh has always been a place of opportunity for people from Scotland, from Europe and now the world. At times it seems impossible to find someone actually from Edinburgh. The city may appear a ‘mini-London’ to some (albeit more open, airy, and more eminently accessible by foot, bus, tram or taxi), and certainly Edinburgh is a city of cultural delights. To others Edinburgh is the proud Capital City though it has always also had a facet of a small bohemian city where new ideas are embraced, and rites of passage accomplished. What unites the majority of us who live here, however, is that Edinburgh is a visually and historically distinctive place, it is our home. We identify with it, as ‘our room on this earth’*, and proudly so.
*to paraphrase the Proclaimers in their song ‘Sunshine on Leith’