5 Facts You Didn`t Know About Edinburgh

Like A Local Guide • 13 Jan, 2020

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is well known for its castle, university and Fringe Festival, however this historical city has much more to it than first meets the eye. Ildiko, our local ambassador for Edinburgh, shares some lesser-known facts about her hometown. There must be at least one thing on the list that you didn’t already know!

1. The Balmoral Clock

Hotel Balmoral is situated in the very heart of Edinburgh at the east end of Princes Street, next to Waverley Station. Its majestic Edwardian-style clock tower is considered a major landmark of the city, so you’ll certainly see it at some point during your stay. When checking the time on the clock you mightn’t notice the trick: since 1902 it has been set three minutes fast so travellers don’t miss their trains at Waverley. The only exception to this rule is New Year’s Eve (in Scottish: Hogmanay), when the clock shows the proper time.

Photo credit: Ildiko Rusvai

2. Tram(s)

Oh, the tram – a sensitive topic for locals! In fact Edinburgh had an extensive tramway system with cute double-decker trams between 1871 and 1956, starting off with horse-drawn ones until electric trams appeared in the early 1900s. The last double-decker electric trams ran in 1956, then sadly the tram tracks were removed and the trams destroyed. Luckily three old trams have been preserved, but only one of them is displayed at the National Tramway Museum – far away from Scotland, in Derbyshire. 58 years later, after huge delays, a funding crisis and massive scandals, you can take the new tram from the airport to the city centre.

15207626827_6284348174_kPhoto credit: Elliott Brown

3. Seven hills

Did you know that Edinburgh was built on seven hills, just like Rome? Locals tend to debate over which hills are included in the seven, as there are quite a few peaks in and around the city. The traditional seven hills are Calton Hill, Castle Rock, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill and Arthur’s Seat. Two of these, Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat, are extinct volcanoes. If you feel fit and like a challenge, you can enter the Seven Hills of Edinburgh Race, which has been held every year since 1980.

Photo credit: Ildiko Rusvai

4. Athens of the North and Edinburgh’s Disgrace

Edinburgh is often called the Athens of the North – the 18th-century neoclassical buildings of the New Town reflect the Georgian love of antiquity. In particular, on the top of Calton Hill you’ll find the National Monument very much reminding you of Athens’ Parthenon, except for the fact that the Scottish Parthenon has stayed half-finished since 1829 due to lack of funds. All subsequent attempts to complete “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” failed in the early stages. The monument was originally erected to commemorate the fallen in the Napoleonic Wars.

Photo credit: Ildiko Rusvai

5. Waverley

Waverley is the main railway station of Edinburgh, located at the east end of Princes Street between the North and Waverley bridges that connect the Old Town to the New Town. It’s probably not widely known among visitors to the Scottish capital that the station got the name “Waverley” from the Waverley Novels by Sir Walter Scott. The station isn’t the only place to take its name from the novels – several towns in the US and Canada are named Waverly/Waverley. If the name Sir Walter Scott doesn’t ring a bell, he was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet in the 18th century. The Victorian Gothic spire (the Scott Monument) opposite Waverley on Princes Street is also dedicated to him.

Photo credit: fkwiatkowski

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Edinburgh
Where locals like to eat in Edinburgh
Where locals like to party in Edinburgh

Special tip:
For a more authentic Edinburgh experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

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    You can still see a small section of the old cable tram lines preserved at Waterloo Place at the east end of Princes Street. https://canmore.org.uk/site/313453/edinburgh-waterloo-place-tram-rail-cable-track
    Bill Gallacher • Mar 01, 2020 • Reply