Visitors arriving into Edinburgh generally do so via one of two routes - fly into the city's airport, with the opportunity to peruse the city from the air as the planes come in to land, or disembark from a train at Waverley Station, the largest and most central of the city's two major stations. Waverley offers by far the most dramatic welcome into the city, with visitors emerging right into the heart of Edinburgh, with the castle ahead of you, the Old Town to the left, and the Scott Monument and New Town along to the right:
Taking advantage of the decidedly tenuous link offered by the opening today of T2 Trainspotting, the long-awaited sequel to 1996's iconic vision of Edinburgh's drug culture, here's a few things worth knowing about Waverley Station!
First of all, it's the world's only railway station named after a work of literature. Waverley was the first prose novel published by Walter Scott, who followed it up with a series of similar stories which became, collectively, the Waverley Novels. Scott originally published the story anonymously, and later went on to give the world titles like Rob Roy, The Heart of Midlothian, and Ivanhoe. Waverley himself is a character in the stories, a English soldier named Edward Waverley.
It may seem remarkable that Scotland's capital city has a station named for an Englishman, but prior to the station being named Waverley, it was formerly the North British Railway Station - run by the North British Railway company. There was a time when Scotland was referred to as 'north Britain', which may shed light on some of the country's identity issues!
In 1901, the North British Railway company built a grand hotel to serve customers and staff arriving into the city off its trains. This was the North British Railway Hotel, which today is the iconic Balmoral Hotel. When the hotel passed from being under the ownership of the railway company, the hotel was named the New Balmoral Residence - carved into its stonework around the building are the letter NBR, initials of both its prior incarnations before it became known simply as the Balmoral.
And back in the days of individual railway companies, the site of today's Waverley Station was the meeting point of three separate railway lines, each with their own stations - the North British Railway was the terminus for trains from London, Canal Street station served a subterranean line connecting north to Leith, Newhaven and Granton, whilst the Edinburgh and Glasgow General line connected through to Glasgow. All three stations on this site were later amalgamated into Edinburgh Waverley in 1866.
Prior to the development of this major transport hub, the valley in which it sits was occupied by a historic settlement which originally had been outside of the city of Edinburgh. Calton sat in the shadow of Calton Hill, and was on the main entry route into the city for travellers arriving through the port at Leith.
In the 1840s, the North British Railway wanted to expand their operations, and Edinburgh Council granted permission for the demolition of Calton to create space for the new station. Today almost nothing survives of the former settlement of Calton - it has been lost to history, save for a reconstruction of its historic church, the former Trinity College Church, which can be found on a lane between Jeffrey Street and the Royal Mile.
So, this is where you may wish to spend your afternoons doing actual trainspotting - perched on the grass adjacent to the Mound, watching the locomotives pulling into and out of the station. On a lucky day you may catch a glimpse of the Flying Scotsman! More likely you'll just witness the regular Scotrail services running between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Explore Edinburgh with my private walking tours of the city - featuring locations used in the Trainspotting films!
Edinburgh Expert is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh with 18 years of experience living and working in the city.