The Old Town of Edinburgh has been at the heart of Scottish history for centuries. There was a fort on the Castle Rock in Iron Age times and by the 12th century Edinburgh had become a town and royal burgh. After David I founded the Abbey of the Holy Rude in the royal park Edinburgh developed down the long road between the Castle and Holyrood.
By the 16th century James IV had created the beginnings of a royal palace at Holyrood and had made Edinburgh known throughout Europe. By the time James V's daughter, Mary Queen of Scots was born in 1542 the pattern of the Old Town with its high "lands" (many storeyed tenements), narrow wynds and closes was well established. By this time too the town had been enclosed by walls. The King's Wall c1450 - 1475; the Flodden Wall 1514 - 1560; the Telfer Wall 1628 - 1636 which stretched down to the Grassmarket and south just beyond Greyfriars.
The main thoroughfare, the Royal Mile, consisted of several streets - Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street down to the Netherbow Port. The Canongate was actually outside the city walls and was a burgh in its own right until 1856. It had more of a country atmosphere too.
In the tightly-packed lands higher up the Royal Mile all levels of society met. Judges and dukes rubbed shoulders with merchants and commons. The Old Town was the home of the Scottish parliament until the Union with the English of 1707; the home of the law courts, of learning and of commerce. All classes lived and worked there together. Following its 16th Century suspension the Scottish Parliament re-convened in the Old Town in 1999, at the Mound close by its earlier home. A permananet parliament building is now being built at the other end of the Old Town in Holyrood.
After 1767 the development of the New Town led to 'The Great Flitting' across the valley Mound to its classical elegance. The Old Town was left with the ghosts of the past and an ever-increasing population of the poor. Disease and decay endured where once the men of learning and genius had stood.
Today life is being breathed back into the Old Town. It has been declared a conservation area; the Old Town Renewal Trust has been formed to care for it and old buildings are being restored. People are returning to live and work at the heart of one of Europe's most historic cities.
In 1995 both the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were declared to be a World Heritage Site.
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