The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, creating a requirement for the structures of the city - the built heritage of Edinburgh - to be carefully monitored and maintained to protect their cultural and historical significance.
Although most visitors think naturally of the Old Town as a heritage site, the bulk of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Edinburgh covers the city's New Town, built from the 1760s as an expansion to the original medieval settlement. Together the two halves of Edinburgh create a historical record of around 3,500 years of human occupation, and I always say that if visitors only explore the Old Town they're only getting half of Edinburgh's story.
But Edinburgh is just one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland, with another three of these culturally protected spaces easily accessible from the city itself.
Here's my introduction to all six sites...
EDINBURGH, OLD AND NEW
Both sides of the city centre are scheduled within the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, showcasing the two distinct characters of Edinburgh's built heritage.
The Old Town grew up largely organically, filling the space between the two royal residences - hence the Royal Mile between the castle and the palace - with narrow streets growing down from the spine of the rock into the valleys to both the north and the south. It was unplanned, chaotic, evolving to meet the needs of the city as it grew from a humble market town to an urban capital.
Edinburgh's Georgian-era New Town, by contrast, represents the finest example of early coordinated town planning in the UK.
Laid out in 1767 to a plan by James Craig, the city expanded in a series of phases that filled the space to the north of the Old Town with grand residential properties, planned parks and gardens, and geometric streets.
The two sides of the city continue to contrast and complement each other, and even today visitors can still experience the difference in the two halves of Edinburgh.
THE ANONTINE WALL
Once the north-western limit of the Roman Empire, the Antonine Wall is often overshadowed by its earlier (and more substantial) cousin, Hadrian's Wall.
Whilst the latter - itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site - ran for nearly 100 miles across northern England and was built from stone, the Antonine Wall was constructed a generation later, and ran for 39 miles across the central belt of Scotland. The camp at Cramond, outside Edinburgh, was the Romans' largest settlement during the brief time they occupied Scotland.
Construction on the Antonine Wall started around 142 CE, and took approximately 12 years. From surviving earthworks archaeologists can tell that the wall comprised an elevated road with a wide rampart about 4m in height, and then a deep ditch, studded along its length with 16 forts to provide an armed force to protect the boundary.
The wall was abandoned less than a decade after its construction when the Romans retreated from Scotland in 162 CE. They destroyed all the wall's defensive structures, dismantling or burning the forts - only the physical rampart of the wall itself was left intact.
Much of the line of the Antonine Wall can still be traced across the central belt of Scotland today, with its ditch and earthwork mound running from Bo'ness on the Forth in the east to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde in the west.
The Anontine Wall was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
These neolithic features are some of the most intensely studied archaeological sites in the UK, and some of the most important historic sites in the whole of Europe. They offer an insight into the lives (and deaths) of the people living around 5,000 years ago, and include a burial mound, a village, and remnants of two impressive stone circles which are among the oldest such sites in the whole of Britain.
Despite its relative inaccessibility Orkney is a popular destination for visitors, and shows another element of Scotland's diverse natural and cultural heritage.
A good reminder that not all World Heritage Sites have to be ancient monuments or structures, New Lanark, about 35 miles south west of Edinburgh, is a mill town established in 1785, during the early years of what became the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
Established as a cotton mill, producing cloth that could then be exported around the UK and turned into a variety of clothing, New Lanark also provided accommodation for the up to 2,500 people who worked there. The care given to the workers meant the town developed as a new kind of philanthropic industrialism, where children were given an education and families were could access innovative social and welfare programs.
The mill's later owner, Robert Owen, met opposition from investors and business partners who didn't care for the reforming principles he espoused.
But Owen was able to demonstrate that it wasn't necessary for industry to exploit its workers in order to be commercially viable and successful. Discipline was maintained without using punishments, and a portion of the mill workers' wages was put into a fund for supporting those who fell sick or needed medical treatment.
By the 1800s New Lanark was the largest mill in Scotland, and one of the largest factory operations in the whole world. The mill evolved and changed over the generations, until it finally closed as an industrial operation in 1968, nearly 200 years after it was first established.
New Lanark was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, in recognition of the integration of Owen's philanthropy, reform, planning and industrial principles, and now operates as a charity as well as functioning as an active mill with a thriving local village community.
Surrounded by the north Atlantic Ocean, just over 40 miles north-west from the island of Uist in the Outer Hebrides - and 110 miles from the nearest point of the Scottish mainland - this island community was likely occupied as far back at 2,000 years ago, but with a population that never exceeded 70 people. The island was finally evacuated of its final 36 (human) residents in 1930.
St Kilda is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the globe which is listed for both its natural and cultural qualities.
THE FORTH BRIDGE
The most recent addition to Scotland's UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Forth Bridge, once nicknamed the eighth wonder of the world, which was inscribed in 2015.
Opened in 1890, the bridge continues to provide a rail link to the north of Edinburgh, over the Firth of Forth. Its distinctive cantilevered structure, painted in an eye-catching red colour, was deliberately over-engineered following the collapse of the Tay Bridge, a railway crossing outside of Dundee, which resulted in at least 59 deaths of passengers on a train which fell into the water as the bridge collapsed during a winter storm in 1879.
The Forth Bridge bridge connects the towns of North and South Queensferry, and was the first major project in the UK to be built from steel. It has since become an iconic feature that has entered popular culture in a variety of ways.
Like the ancient tale of Sisyphus, eternally pushing his boulder up a mountain, an unending or protracted task is often described as being 'like painting the Forth Bridge' - because by the time they had finished painting the bridge, they immediately needed to start all over again!
Today the Forth Bridge continues to provide a vital transport link into and out of Edinburgh, and can be viewed from either of the towns at its ends, or from a rail journey across its length.
So visitors to Edinburgh can easily tick off another UNESCO World Heritage Site or two during their visit - though St Kilda and Orkney require rather more of an effort to access...
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