Edinburgh, the ‘miracle in stone’, summed up in 10 perfect pictures and quotes

The Edinburgh New Town celebrates its 250th anniversary this year. Here are some stunning shots of this sublime example of civic planning.

Edinburgh New Town

Aerial view across the capital city, showing Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat

‘Edinburgh is a miracle in stone as it is, at once, Classical and Romantic, a product of both wild landscape and great minds.’

Gavin Stamp, architectural historian

Edinburgh New Town

Moray Place in the New Town of Edinburgh, designed as a harmonious layout by James Gillespie Graham in 1822.

‘If you believe in the inherent rightness of the Phi ratio in architecture, then you will be immediately comfortable in this beguiling part of Edinburgh, with its acre after acre of harmonious, civil and humanely proportioned buildings. This is reason expressed in stone. This is the Scottish Enlightenment given physical form.’

Alexander McCall Smith, author

Edinburgh New Town

Grand neoclassical town houses at Drummond Place in the New Town, Edinburgh.

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‘For all its elegant uniformity, the real delight of the New Town lies in its completely unregulated and charming eccentricity.’

– Magnus Linklater, columnist for The Times in Scotland and the former editor of The Scotsman

edinburgh new town

King George IV statue.

‘The New Town of Edinburgh has always appealed to me as a sculptor in its core feature of George Street – perhaps the greatest monumental urban axis in existence.’

– Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty The Queen in Scotland. His statue of James Clerk Maxwell sits before St Andrew’s Square

Edinburgh New Town

The City Observatory, Edinburgh, during Doors Open Day.

‘It is said of us Scots that we make and enact various states of doubleness, expressed in our literature and in our conduct. The city of Edinburgh famously embodies this rich declivity; the high-heaped, improvised, intimate Old Town lies across from the considered, choreographed, commodious (although nothing like smooth) New Town.’

Candia McWilliam, novelist and writer

Edinburgh New Town

‘The ornament of the New Town is not solely decoration – it means something. The columns, the wreaths, the railings, the fanlights: all dignify the citizen. They are the poetry of the nation. They tell us who we are and where we come from and that we, too, have the potential to achieve as much as the Ancient Romans.’

– Hugh Buchanan, watercolour painter

Edinburgh New Town

DED1KM Edinburgh National Galleries with multicoloured columns.

‘I identify Edinburgh with the German word Gesamtkunstwerk because its New Town encompasses the reality of a gigantic total work of art.’

Richard Demarco, artist and promoter of the visual and performing arts

Edinburgh New Town

Classical monument on Regent Bridge, Edinburgh.

‘As an architect, I cannot but be impressed, both by the planning and by the architecture of the New Town. It is manifestly beautiful, but, as Vitruvius wrote 1,000 years ago, the precepts of architecture encompass ‘Firmness and Commodity’ as well as ‘Delight’. Edinburgh’s New Town excels in all three, with the creative ambition of the Enlightenment at its heart.’

– James Simpson, architect

Edinburgh New Town

The south side of Regent Bridge in Edinburgh, at the east end of the New Town, near Princes Street. Completed 1819 Greek Revival.

‘It is a statement of values rooted in a Classical heritage; it is, in its rhythms and flow, a statement about connectedness; in its scale, a grandeur of vision, yet not so grand that intimacy is lost; and it is a statement about craftsmanship and quality.’

– Hugh Andrew, owner and managing director of the Scottish publishing house Birlinn

Edinburgh New Town

Melville Street, Edinburgh

‘There are few street corners in Edinburgh’s New Town where you cannot see either to the hills of Fife and the countryside beyond the city or glimpse the trees of one of the communal gardens that punctuate the Euclidean geometry of its streets. Thus, the New Town represents not simply the human order of an ideal city, but that human order set within the wider order
of Nature.’

 – Duncan Macmillan, Professor Emeritus of the History of Scottish Art

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