Edinburgh from Calton Hill
View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, in the foreground the Dugald Stewart Monument. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user Ad Meskens.

The ‘bonny wee’ capital of Scotland is one of the most picturesque cities in the world, with sprawling fairytale-like streets and a royal castle set upon a hill, but did you know that Edinburgh has a few secrets up its sleeve?

Edinburgh wasn’t always Scottish!

Despite being the beating heart of Scotland nowadays, once upon a time Edinburgh wasn’t the capital city – it wasn’t even a part of Scotland. In 731 AD, Bede completed his ‘History’ in which he noted down that Edinburgh was definitively a part of Northumbria – an English county. It’s not until around 960 AD under the reign of Indulf, that Edinburgh came under Scottish rule. Who knew?

It is home to the biggest annual international arts festival in the world

The Edinburgh Fringe festival takes over the city every August, showcasing comedians, poets, singers, actors, dancers, circus-performers and more in an array of performances that take place anywhere from pubs, street corners and theatres to restaurants and old abandoned buildings. Many of these shows are free entry and the buzz around the city during this time of year is tangible.

It is a UNESCO City of Literature

In fact, Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004 for its incredible literary heritage. Every year there are festival events honouring literature and books, but visitors can also visit the cafe where J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. Did you also know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories lived in Edinburgh and studied at the city’s principal University?

Edinburgh Castle is the only fortification in Europe never to be taken by force

Edinburgh Castle sees over one million people walk through its historically beautiful gates every year and is home to the stunning Scottish Crown Jewels, yet this royal abode has never been invaded and is the only European castle able to claim this! The castle watches over the rest of the city perched high up on its hill and even lets off a cannon at 1pm every day, following on from tradition when timepieces were unreliable and so every day the city’s people would check their clocks were correctly set to 1pm.

Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano

The highest of Edinburgh’s seven hills at 822 feet, Arthur’s seat is a popular walking spot from which to oversee the entirety of the capital city, yet many have no idea they actually stand upon an extinct volcano! The hill gives stunning panoramic views and is intensely popular with hill-walkers from both near and far.

Edinburgh hosts the largest street party in the world

Every New Year, over 100,000 people pour into the streets of Edinburgh for its annual ‘Hogmanay’ celebrations. On the 29th December is the majestic torchlight procession where you can join with thousands of others in carrying torches through the city – in front and behind you is a sea of lights, following which you are then greeted at the end by celebratory fireworks. Then comes New Year’s Eve where all the main roads are closed and people pile into the streets for merriment, music, céilidhs (traditional Gaelic social gatherings) and fireworks in one of the most exceptional street parties known to man.

So, there you have it. Edinburgh has a few little surprises up its beautifully intriguing sleeve.

Bethan Newman is an English girl trundling through life and jaunting to places the world over.

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