Edinburgh is the jewel in Scotland's crown. The jewel has many facets: classical architecture piled on hills, tree-filled valleys, sweeping Georgian crescents, medieval closes, graceful bridges soaring across chasms, green parks, sudden views of the sea from street corners. And then, there's the castle!
That supreme castle, which looks so right that it might have grown out of the rock by some natural process. The castle, older than Edinburgh itself,occupies a special corner of the Scottish folk memory. The fortress on the rock, the palladium of the city, remains a compelling symbol. It is a perpetual, very public reminder to Scots of their roots.
It has been said that Edinburgh often looks less like a modern city than a theatrical backdrop. This is true. On the visual level, Edinburgh is pure theatre. The basic reason, of course, is that Scotland's capital has the good fortune to be built upon hills.
The local topography is the result of the fact that Arthur's Seat was the principal volcano in this region millions of years ago. Much later, glacial action gouged a number of dramatic valleys in the landscape and shaped the high ridge on which the Old Town stands today.
The pedestrian in Edinburgh seldom walks on level ground: his day, like life itself, is a series of ups and downs. The gradients, however, are seldom steep, and the ideal way to see Edinburgh is on foot.
Few cities offer more to those with a discerning eye. (For photographers it is a paradise.) Edinburgh's other great blessing is its architecture, whether Georgian, Victorian, Scots Baronial, medieval or whatever. Edinburgh has several thousand buildings that are officially protected because of their architectural or historic importance -- more than any other city out with London. A quarter of Scotland's A-listed buildings are in Edinburgh.
The eighteenth-century New Town is the largest area of Georgian architecture in Europe, and probably in the world: it has been officially recognised by the European Community as a valuable part of the European heritage. Edinburgh's blessing, then, has been the manner in which distinguished architects, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, endowed Edinburgh with a wealth of meritorious buildings - both public and private - and skilfully used Edinburgh's hills and valleys as a dramatic setting. Sir Walter Scott caught Edinburgh's magic on paper when he wrote:
Where the huge Castle holds its state,
And all the steep slope down,
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town!
Edinburgh people are very proud of their city and take the closest interest in their local environment. That is why so much that is worth while has survived, while other cities have bulldozed much of their heritage in pursuit of elusive improvement.
Much of Edinburgh's charm stems from the way in which past and present live easily side by side. Diverted by the city's physical beauty, it is easy for the visitor to overlook the fact that Edinburgh is also a busy, thriving, modern community, providing a working and living environment for 440,000 people.
Less than one-fifth of the working population are employed in manufacturing industry. The rest are in a variety of service industries, so plainly the service sector is fundamental to the economic well-being of Edinburgh.
However, though manufacturing has declined in size in recent years, it remains important. The manufacturing sector in Edinburgh is dominated by three industrial groups, namely: electrical and electronics engineering; paper, printing and publishing; and food and drink. These three account for more than 75 per cent of all manufacturing employment.
The City of Edinburgh District Council's economic strategy includes support for the development of new technologies and their application. Edinburgh University, Heriot-Watt University and Napier University are all at the forefront of a number of leading-edge technologies, and the Technology Transfer Centre at Edinburgh University, conducting research which can be developed for commercial application, provides an example of a beneficial joint venture between city and university.
Edinburgh's economic strengths are in electronics, information technology, tourism and financial services. The importance of financial services, which has always been considerable in Edinburgh, continues to grow. Indeed, financial services now take up about a third of all commercial office space in the city.
New West Edinburgh (four miles from the city centre, and just two miles from Edinburgh International Airport) has everything from sites to purpose-built office developments. The development includes Scotland's largest and most ambitious commercial development, the 138-acre Edinburgh Park - a joint venture between the Miller Group and Edinburgh Development and Investment (a City of Edinburgh District Council subsidiary). The park offers high technology and financial services headquarter buildings, with landscaping that includes a central water feature. The park has its own access to the M8 extension and to the Edinburgh City Bypass, which provides a gateway to the entire UK motorway network.
Good restaurants abound, many of them being featured in national good food guides. The cuisine available is international: ethnic restaurants include French, Italian, Swiss, Spanish, Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese. There are also excellent fish restaurants, particularly in Leith. Edinburgh is also noted for its pubs, a number of which are celebrated for their elegant Victorian and Edwardian interiors.
There are many attractive shops in Edinburgh. These range from the spacious and well-ordered department stores of Princes Street, George Street and the West End, to the informality of the antique shop. These antique shops are encountered throughout Edinburgh, but they will be found in concentration in the New Town around Stockbridge, Thistle Street and North West Circus Place; and in the Old Town in Causewayside, Victoria Street and the Grassmarket. Who can resist the appeal, the inherent mystery of the antique shop? To enter a department store may be interesting, but to enter an antique shop is an adventure
Edinburgh is known far and wide as 'the Festival City'. During the International Festival period there has been since the very first a concurrent International Film Festival. There is also in the course of the year an International TV Festival, an Edinburgh International Jazz Festival, and an Edinburgh International Folk Festival. Now there is an Edinburgh International Science Festival. The festivals proliferate, as more and more people discover that Edinburgh's pleasant environment is an ideal backcloth for any cultural event. Edinburgh is the city that likes to be visited.