The Old Town is the name popularly given to the oldest part of Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era buildings. From the stunning Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile down to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament at the bottom, the entire area is a World Heritage Site.
During the Edinburgh Festival, the High Street and Hunter Square become gathering points where performers “on the Fringe” advertise their shows, often through street performances.
It was from the 1500s that the town became established as the capital of Scotland, as the inhabitants, choosing to stay in proximity to the protection of the castle, built tall narrow buildings along a stretch known as Castlehill.
By the time of the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542, the pattern of narrow wynds and closes between high tenements was well established. When James VI took the throne England in 1603, Edinburgh lost its status as the principal site of the royal court, although it continued to have its own Parliament.
The Parliament then also ceased in 1707 following the Act of Union, but the town prospered despite this, in a period of the energetic building during the “Enlightenment”. The Nor Loch was drained and filled and thousands of new houses built in an elegant layout of Georgian squares and courts. On 7 December 2002, a large fire destroyed a small but dense group of old buildings on the Cowgate and South Bridge. It destroyed the famous comedy club, The Gilded Balloon, and much of the Informatics Department of the University of Edinburgh, including the comprehensive artificial intelligence library.