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Edinburgh

Rugged, intense and eye-catching, Edinburgh is one of Europe's most striking capital cities. Gathered around its craggy central castle, the medieval core is a breathtaking warren of cobbled streets, towering spires, turbulent history and one or two striking modern buildings. Only barely less central are museums and galleries of international importance, wild grassy moorland, dramatic viewpoints, huge Grecian edifices and effortlessly elegant Georgian streets. It’s a handsome, memorable city, despite being home to less than half-a-million people, with a cultured, contemporary vibe that peaks during August's annual Festival. Since the Scottish Parliament returned to Edinburgh in 1999 the city has also boasted a renewed sense of confidence that is palpable in the city's increasingly cosmopolitan streets, which finally have trams running on them again in 2014.

History

An obvious natural fortress, Edinburgh has been an important settlement since before Roman times, first staking its claim as a capital not long after Scotland's formation as a unified nation in the eleventh century. It was central to many of the epic tales of Scottish history, from the tragic Stuart kings and Mary, Queen of Scots, to the tumultuous Reformation that was followed within a century by Edinburgh's Enlightenment when figures such as David Hume and Adam Smith made the city what one observer described as a 'hotbed of genius'. Literary figures such as Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson followed, recording the city's expansion from medieval slum to classical architectural masterpiece, and cementing Edinburgh's reputation as a cultural beacon.

Though often regarded as somewhat conservative by other (perhaps envious) parts of Scotland, twentieth century Edinburgh had an uncanny knack of bolstering its status as the nation's capital, from the arrival and blossoming of the Festival in the years following the Second World War to the establishment of Scotland's devolved Parliament in the final years of the millennium. As a result it remains a busy, important city where politicians, bankers, artists, chefs, tourists and citizens mix daily in an inspiring setting of beautiful buildings, dramatic views and rich history. This sense of importance, of being at the vanguard of the nation and Scottishness, has only been heightened by the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum in September 2014. Edinburgh is, of course, a popular tourist destination, but that translates into a slick visitor experience. Of course duality has always been an integral part of the city's character and enough of dynamic Edinburgh and its rougher edges remains to appeal to those looking for something more than just one of the world's most visually stunning cities.

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