Unfolding across a cluster of extinct volcanoes, the Edinburgh's Old Town lets you play a starring role in your medieval fantasy thanks to its shadowy closes, 12th-century fortresses and labyrinth of cobblestoned streets. However, Edinburgh’s arresting architecture is only one part of the equation. The Scottish capital also features an 18th-century New Town and is home to underground whisky bars, literary icons and an arts festival known for launching the comic world’s leading lights – proof of an historic city intent on taking modern sensibilities to new heights. Here are five little-known facts about this compelling metropolis.
Edinburgh’s population more than doubles every August
Established in 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival sees the city’s headcount escalate from 400,000 to a million, courtesy of overseas actors, performers and musicians who take to the streets to make their mark, and the comedy lovers that come to see them. The world’s largest arts festival also serves as an incubator for global comic greats – previous editions have hosted the likes of Jimeoin, Louis C.K and New Zealand folk maestros Flight of the Conchords.
Edinburgh Castle sits on a 340-million-year-old volcano
Edinburgh’s most iconic structure is perched on Castle Rock, a dormant volcano that erupted over 340 million years ago and sits 130 metres above sea level. However, the site’s history is as appealing to history buffs as it is to geography enthusiasts – it served as the residence of Scotland’s 12th century monarch King David and an arsenal during the Napoleonic War before housing prisoners during World War I.
Forty bottles of Scotch whisky are shipped abroad every second
Contributing £3 billion to the country’s economy, whisky is Scotland’s biggest export and Edinburgh is its reigning capital. Hunt down the city’s most sparkling single malt at venues such as The Queens Arms, a New Town basement bar featuring a 52-year-old Macallan Single Highland; The Mercat, a subterranean lair that pours hard-to-find drops from around the country; and The Scotch Whisky Experience, a fabled distillery at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.
Harry Potter cites Edinburgh as his birthplace
If you’re obsessed with literatures most-loved child wizard, you’re in luck – J.K. Rowling drafted much of her early material in the back room of The Elephant House, an unassuming cafe located a few minutes away from the Royal Mile. However, the eatery’s literary pedigree isn’t limited to Potter fans – it also served as a second lounge room for mystery writer Ian Rankin and much-loved novelist Alexander McCall Smith.
Edinburgh is a noted visual art capital
Edinburgh may have been named UNESCO’s first-ever City of Literature, courtesy of its high quota of writers and knack for spawning literary greats such as Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, but it’s equally inspiring for art lovers. For instance, the National Gallery of Scotland features a collection that’s heavy on European masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Gauguin, while the Edinburgh College of Art regularly hosts exhibitions by the likes of Anish Kapoor and Sam Taylor-Wood.
This article was written by Neha Kale.