With its stunning, coastal setting, dramatic hills and impressive neo-classical architecture, Edinburgh is every bit the breathtaking capital city. Dubbed ‘the Athens of the North’ in 1822 by George IV the city has a compact centre making it possible to explore the streets on fooat whilst enjoying dynamic views out over the Pentland hills and the Firth of Forth.

Until the late 18th century, Edinburgh consisted, almost exclusively, of what is now known as the Old Town with the imposing castle, Royal Mile and Grassmarket. The rich lived right on top of the poor, often quite literally, as housing was in the form of tenements which were several storeys high, with the poor living on the lower floors and the rich on the more desirable upper and middle floors.

Edinburgh’s world famous University was founded in 1583, setting in motion the city’s educational and professional development and in 1695 The Bank of Scotland was founded, the first of many new ventures that would see Edinburgh established as a leading financial capital by the end of the 20th century.

But in 1707 the Act of Union joined Scotland and England together politically, and moved Scotland’s power from Edinburgh’s old parliament to London’s Westminster. Political union with England did nothing to stop the rapid expansion of Scotland’s capital. By the late 18th century, Edinburgh was home to a population of 35,000. But living conditions led to many rich people leaving the city for London. In 1752 a leaflet was printed to try to encourage the wealthy to stay in the city. Over ten years later the competition to design a New Town, to attract the wealthy back to Edinburgh, was launched.

The winner was James Craig, whose design inspired the New Town’s grid like system of streets (including Princes Street and Queen Street, named to celebrate the Act of Union). Building began in 1767 and, what was then the world’s largest planned city development, was completed in 1810.

Getting there and away

Edinburgh airport is only 8 miles (12 km) from the city centre and offers a wide range of national and international flights.

Journey time from Edinburgh Waveley to London Kings Cross is approximately five hours and to Glasgow Central 59 minutes.

Schools

Edinburgh is a centre of excellence for industry and research sectors including medicine, and benefits from many excellent schools and a prestigious university.

The Edinburgh Academy 42 Henderson Row Edinburgh, Fettes College Carrington Road, Edinburgh, St Margret’s School East Suffolk Road, Edinburgh, Belhaven Hill School, Belhaven Road, Dunbar East Lothian, Kilgraston Kilgraston House Bridge of Earn Perthshire, Gordonstoun Elgin Moray, Loretto School Musselburgh, Midlothian, Edinburgh University, George Square, Edinburgh.

What to see and do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh takes its role of Europe’s festival capital very seriously and there are over 60 art galleries and museums, 5 major performing arts theatres and numerous visitor attractions. For additional information on what to see or where to stay, visit www.edinburgh.org or visitscotland.com/citybreaks or call +44 (0) 1506 832 121.

Scott Monument, Carlton Hill and Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh is not all about entrance tickets and guided tours; a few of the best places are free for all and can only be reached on foot. Great views over the city can be experienced from the top of the Scott Monument on Prince’s St and the Neo Classical observatory and arches on top of Carlton Hill are best visited in the early evening when the panoramic city views are most stunning. A walk up Arthur’s Seat definitely warrants a hearty lunch on your return to the bottom, The Sheep’s Heid +44(0)131 656 6951 in Duddingston is always a good option.

Royal Botanical Gardens

Founded in the 17th century as a ‘Physic Garden’ for growing medicinal plants, the Botanical Gardens are home to the second richest collection of plant species in the world. Entrance is free and in the summer the gardens are an excellent place to walk in the afternoon or stop off on your way to The Dean Gallery and the National Modern Art Museum.

Royal Lyceum Theatre

See the best in Scottish drama at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, home of Edinburgh’s busiest repertory theatre company. Grindlay Street, Off Lothian Road, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH3 9AX. Tel: 0131 248 4848 Fax: 0131 228 3955

Musselburgh Race Course

Recently refurbished, the racecourse provides attractive facilities for both corporate and public entertainment in an extensive programme of racing throughout the year.

Linkfield Road, Musselburgh, East Lothian, EH21 7RG. Tel: 0131 665 2859

National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland have preserved and displayed Scotland’s national collection of art since 1859. The magnificent collections of art are based in five Edinburgh-based galleries which include the National Portrait Gallery, National Modern Art Museum and Royal Scottish Academy.

National Galleries of Scotland. For more information Telephone: +44 (0)131 624 6200.

Weather

Although the wind whistles down Edinburgh’s cobbled streets and in the winter it can be icy cold, the city’s weather is fairly temperate, tending to be cold but dry with annual rainfall the same as Rome, Frankfurt or New York.

Property for sale around Edinburgh

The way in which prices in and around Edinburgh spiralled after the Parliament was built has been extremely well-documented, and prices are still easily higher here than anywhere else in Scotland. However, as with prices in the south east of England, the faster they rise the more likely they are to fall, and the stratospheric increases we were seeing last year no longer apply.

One of the reasons why property is so popular in the area is also because there is a large number of beautifully built small country houses in the area which are constantly in demand.

Country houses are currently selling well around Edinburgh, according to property expert Bobby Heanie: ‘Edinburgh is a centre of wealth and interest, and areas such as East Lothian are well served by transport and have pretty countryside between the sea and the hills,’ he explains. If a property is well located, it will attract a lot of interest: demand is strong but supply is often patchy.’

Mr Heanie estimates that a pretty country house within easy reach of Edinburgh, with 6 bedrooms, outbuildings and 20 acres currently sells for around £1.5 million. A town house in the centre of Edinburgh with a similar number of bedrooms will go for the same price than those further out of town.

A whole house on a prestigious street such as Heriot Row, Moray Place or India St will now command the same price as an idyllic small country estate. According to Mr Heany ‘The increasing prosperity and the attractiveness of Edinburgh for students and young professionals increases the pressure on the market.’