Like Rome, Edinburgh's city centre is traditionally said to have been built on seven hills - many of them having been lost or disguised by building and development in the past 300 years (Moultray's Hill, for example, was approximately under where Multrees Walk in the New Town is today).
These hills were specifically in the area covered by the centre of the city - outlying hills, such as Blackford and Corstorphine, were not counted in the original seven.
Between these hills, or peaks of higher ground, the landscape ran in deep ravines, the most obvious ones the two valleys carved out by glacial action during the last Ice Age. The valley where Princes Street Gardens are today, and the parallel valley south of the Royal Mile, where the Cowgate runs, still divide the city into a series of peaks and troughs, and it was in order to make these troughs easier to navigate that six bridges were built.
Again, these bridges are only the ones immediately within the city centre - the likes of Stockbridge and the Dean Bridge are further out, and weren't integral to navigating the heart of the city.
Here are the six bridges which connect Edinburgh's city centre - how many of them will you cross (perhaps unknowingly!) during your visit?
Probably the most obvious one, North Bridge runs over the top of Waverley Station, and was originally the main access road between the Old and the New Towns. The current bridge is the third to have been built on this site after previous versions either collapsed or were in need of improvement.
A continuation of North Bridge to the other side of the Royal Mile, South Bridge crosses the Cowgate, and has only one of its original 21 arches visible today. The others were concealed by the buildings which were put up alongside the bridge after it was built in the 1760s.
Beneath Edinburgh Castle, at the base of the rock, is the curiously low, wide span of the King's Bridge, running over the top of King's Stables Road. Opened in 1831, this bridge was integral to the construction of Johnston Terrace, providing an accessible route to the top of the Royal Mile for the first time in Edinburgh's history.
GEORGE IV BRIDGE
Another elevated roadway, designed by Thomas Hamilton, also crossing the Cowgate, but from the Lawnmarket section of the Royal Mile. Two arches of the bridge remain externally visible, and during the summer the big Underbelly festival venue takes audiences into the underside of the arches for its performance spaces.
Crossing the ravine where Calton Road used to run through the valley where Waverley Station is today, the Regent Bridge connected Princes Street to the newly developed areas of Regent Road and (today) St Andrew's House. The single span is high and narrow, with commemorative columns at the top, and was opened in 1819.
Finally, Waverley Bridge, connecting the bottom of Cockburn Street to Princes Street, provides access to the railway station, and forms the second access bridge across the northern glacial valley.
Explore Edinburgh's hills and valleys with a private walking tour of the city!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
© COPYRIGHT GARETH DAVIES 2014-20