Camera Obscura and the World of Illusion
Formerly known as the Outlook Tower, the Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions sits on...Camera Obscura and the World of Illusion
History, comedy, literature – Edinburgh is all of these things and more. An insane Gothic masterpiece and one of the most pleasant cities in the UK, Edinburgh effortlessly combines the old and the new in a package that pleases everyone. From sandal-wearing American tourists come to pay homage to kilts and whisky to up and coming comedians looking to make their mark on the Festival circuit, this is a town that knows how to have fun. But it’s also a town of two characters.
On the one hand, Edinburgh is a quietly respectable metropolis filled with neoclassical architecture and sober Georgian streets. On the other, it’s a big laughing jester of a city, crammed with heaving pubs and extraordinary restaurants. You’ll find 24 hour party people, disreputable poets and inspired drunks reeling through the same streets as suited and booted city folk. These aren’t contradictions, though – just natural halves of the “Athens of the North”.Read more
by Chris Yunker
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History, comedy, literature – Edinburgh is all of these things and more.
The Old Town
Edinburgh’s Old Town is home to the “wynds”, a network of mysterious alleyways that have inspired crime writers from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (whose mentor Dr Joseph Bell lived there) to Ian Rankin. It’s also home to a good three quarters of the tourist attractions for which the city is famous, including Edinburgh Castle; Holyrood Palace; and the famous Royal Mile with all its touristy whisky shops. You’ll pay a pretty penny for a dram in any of them, or the pubs that butt up against them – but it’s worth it for the atmosphere (note to determined whisky enthusiasts – you’ll find more reasonably priced tipple if you head to specialist stores around the city).
The New Town
The New Town is hardly newer – it was built in the 1800s, and consists of street after meticulous street of lovely Georgian architecture, much of which is now split up into trendy flats. Public gardens abound, original and replica gas lamps (now housing energy saving light bulbs) are not uncommon. All in all, the experience of being in Edinburgh gives you a “best of both worlds” feeling. Take a walk down Princes’ Street or wander from the New Town into the old and it’s irresistibly like wandering back in time, only without the smog and sinister Victorian murderers!
Edinburgh is a city of landmarks, many of which can be seen for miles around. The Castle, perching atop its rock like a stone eagle; the huge Princes Street Gardens, which pound to the sounds of hippy drums in the summer; and the High Kirk (St Giles’ Cathedral), whose crownlike dome smiles over the Old Town. Highly recommended as visitor’s attractions, Edinburgh’s landmarks also include the Gothic Scott Monument, whose soot-blackened hide conceals a 200ft ascent to one of the best views of the city: and the ancient Camera Obscura, which gives an eye-popping 360 degree vista of the entire town.
Culture vultures flock to Edinburgh every year for its legendary Festival and Fringe, the comedian’s equivalent of Glastonbury. The Festival proper is devoted to mainstream arts and culture, and retains reasonable ticket prices – the Fringe has gained huge popularity as a venue for both new and established comedians, and can command large face values for tickets.
There are buses and trains in the city – the bus networks are operated by Lothian and First. While fares are cheap, routes are thin on the ground. Major Lothian bus routes can be distinguished by the colour of the front/roof of the vehicle. Both companies use shared bus stops, but you can’t ride one company’s bus with the other company’s ticket. Suburban trains are good to the southwest and southeast of town. The routes all run from Waverley station.
Edinburgh International Airport serves both Edinburgh city and Scotland as a whole – there are other airports in the country, but this one is by the far the busiest. It’s 10 miles away from the city centre, and is directly connected to Newark, NJ, as well as a number of other international and European destinations.
Trains arrive at Edinburgh Waverley, which is one of the few train stations in the UK that can be seen as a visitor attraction in its own right. Take the time to wander and wonder before you head out into the city! Ideally located right next to Princes Street, the station’s extraordinary ceiling must be seen.
By bus and coach
The A1 connects Edinburgh to London: the M8 and M9 connect it to the rest of Scotland. National bus and coach services arrive and depart from St Andrew Square. Cruise liners and ferries also include Edinburgh on their itineraries.
The best way to travel around Edinburgh once you’re there is on foot. The city centre is compact and rewarding, with beautiful walks through the Old Town and along Princes Street. Public transport is not as good as it could be for a town of such significance – but the sights you’d miss if you were stuck inside a bus or taxi usually make up for the extra effort.
Traffic in the middle of Edinburgh can be appalling – making taxis an unfortunate option at busier times of day and night.
Edinburgh’s history is built upon its architecture. It’s Gothic and neoclassical buildings, its castles, its Georgian streets, all conspire to give the visitor a sense of time travel. And that’s not all. Behind the visible history, Edinburgh is even more ancient than it looks.
Bronze and Iron Age
Arthur’ Seat, Castle Rock and Craiglockhart Hill have all revealed evidence of Bronze and Iron Age habitation. Arthur’s Seat is thought to be one of the oldest inhabited areas in the country – along with Cramond in suburban Edinburgh, which contains the remains of a Mesolithic camping area.
The Royal Town
Edinburgh’s status as a royal town began in the 12th century: by the 15th century, the “burgh” (borough or charter town) was being referred to as the “principal...in our kingdom" by King James III.
During the 18th century, the Acts of Union joined English and Scottish Parliaments. A period of unrest followed, which culminated in the Jacobite rebellion of the 1740s. After the rebellion was quelled, Edinburgh’s town council reinforced its support of the unified Parliaments by naming some of the city’s streets after George III and his family: George Street, Hanover Street, Queen Street, Princes Street and Frederick Street.
The New Town
Edinburgh became a prosperous banking centre, and was the focus of the Scottish Enlightenment – home of legendary thinkers Adam Smith and David Hume. Its philosophical and scientific importance led to the nickname “Athens of the North”. Uniquely, its prosperity and fame failed to result in social segregation: during the first half of the 18th century rich and poor alike occupied the same buildings. After the New Town was completed, a migration of prosperous citizens to the new suburbs changed the face of the city forever. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that the slums of the Old Town were cleared, and Edinburgh’s modern status as a lively tourist town began to evolve.
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