Edinburgh has a proud heritage of being divided. All across the city, in a variety of contexts, you can find splits and contrasts - from the physical heights of the Castle, to the valley depths of Stockbridge and the Dean Village, or from the regal New Town crescents to the medieval Old Town lanes, with aspects of the city's physical profile shaped separately by both fire and ice, to give just a few examples.
This experience of division and separation combined within one city boundary famously gave rise to one of the greatest creations of the horror genre, in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Whereas Stevenson set the scene for paranoid multiple personalities, however, in the real world of Edinburgh the contrasting characters and styles of city make for a rich and vibrant cultural experience.
Since being designated dual World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1995, the Old and New Town areas of Edinburgh have required a careful approach to restoration and development. Protecting the historic environment of Edinburgh whilst maintaining modern standards of safety and access has been a challenge for developers, and hasn't always been handled entirely successfully. Yet when it is managed well, as in the recent case of the restored Advocates Close off the Royal Mile, the effect can be world-class.
The development of Advocates Close has recently been awarded the prize of Best Building in Scotland, for its efficient and authentic restoration of what was a rather dilapidated segment of the city. The nine buildings in the complex date back over 500 years, and were carefully restored at a cost of £45m to create a series of modern, accessible and functional spaces that integrate well with the surrounding environs, and preserves the feel of Edinburgh's Old Town charm.
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...