EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
Part two of my Edinburgh by Numbers series brings you digits 4, 5 and 6! You can catch up on the numbers 1-3 here.
The Number 4: Edinburgh's Universities
Although the University of Edinburgh is the largest of the city's academic institutions, there are a total of four universities within Edinburgh.
The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582, and is one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world (although there are older institutions even within Scotland - the University of St Andrews was founded in the early fifteenth century). There are several collections of university buildings around the city, most centrally around Bristo Square, but with major campus collections elsewhere too.
Napier University was formerly a technical college founded in the 1960s. Named for mathematician John Napier, the university has one of its campuses in the old Napier family home at Merchiston Castle in the Bruntsfield area of the city.
Queen Margaret University was named for the wife of King Malcolm III of Scotland (known as 'Malcolm Big Head') and has its campus just outside the city centre at Musselburgh.
Heriot-Watt University is another former mechanical and engineering college, named for two major figures: goldsmith George Heriot, and inventor of the steam engine, James Watt. Heriot-Watt has campus far beyond Scotland, in Malaysia and the UAE, and was named International University of the year in 2018.
These four institutions attract students from all around the globe, resulting in about 12% of Edinburgh's population being students.
The Number 5: The Royal Mile
Although the whole backbone of Edinburgh's Old Town is collectively known as the Royal Mile - linking the two royal residences of the castle and the palace of Holyroodhouse - in fact the route is made up of five separate streets. The use of the name 'Royal Mile' only dates back to around 1901, and so addresses for properties along the route are still given by the individual street name:
The Number 6: Number 6 Charlotte Square
At the west end of George Street is still one of the grandest addresses in the city centre. Built as the grand finale to the first phase of New Town development, Charlotte Square is totally almost exclusively commercially owned, with the exception of number 6 Charlotte Square.
This is Bute House, designed by Robert Adam (along with the rest of the square) and today serves as the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland. The First Minister is head of the Scottish Government, following the establishment of a devolved parliament system in the late 1990s. This unassuming building has little security at the front of the building, as the main entrance is around at the back - the front generally is only used for VIP guests and public occasions.
The building has been home to other notable residents, too. Catherine Sinclair, who was a friend of Walter Scott and a children's novelist and is commemorated with a monument nearby, lived in the property with her family, and Queen Victoria would stay at Bute House during her visits to Edinburgh, as an alternative to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which she found rather cold and damp
To find out what life would have been like for the grand families who originally lived in properties like Bute House, pop next door to number 7 Charlotte Square, the Georgian House, which has been fully restored by the National Trust for Scotland, to give a sense of high society living around the end of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth century.
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