Art & Literature
Edinburgh is a magnificent city in almost every way imaginable.It’s home to the world’s biggest arts festival. It’s built in the wreckage of several ancient volcanoes. It’s played host to some of the greatest characters, both historical and fictional.It’s also a city built on breweries, in many senses. While the latter half of the 20th Century saw a decline in brewery numbers, that trend is being reversed from the ground up in the form of smaller, local craft breweries.
For well over two thousand years there’s always been somebody, somewhere in Edinburgh making a beer.
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The city of Edinburgh is built on the remains of an ancient system of (now extinct!) volcanoes. During the last ice age glaciers swept across the Lothians, scouring away the topsoil and softer rocks and leaving the harder, volcanic rocks exposed, forming what are now known as the seven hills of Edinburgh, including Castle Rock, the imposing bulk of Arthurs Seat and our own beloved Calton Hill. Given this fascinating and rather overt display of natural processes, it’s unsurprising that modern geological science also came into being in the city, with Hutton’s work in the latter half of the 1700’s marking the founding of a scientific field.
Mining, mainly for coal and shale, was a major industry in the Lothians until the postwar period and the worldwide boom in oil production saw a decline, with the last Lothian mine, Polkemmet, finally closing in 1985. Large bings remain in the area, clearly visible from approaching aircraft, and some are being landscaped as permanant features.
Edinburgh was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, and ever since has been a crucible of art and literature. From Walter Scott who popularised the historic novel and prose in place of poetry, through the gothic works of Stevenson, Shelly and Conan Doyle, and to modern day literary superstars such as Irvine Welsh, Iain Rankin and Ian Banks.
Edinburgh has always inspired great, often darkly humorous writing, with high bodycounts and looming architecture. Neither Stevenson or J.K. Rowling were afraid to pitch a leading character from a tower on a dark and stormy night.
Edinburgh is a living piece of art in its own right, with a mish-mash of architectural style across the city, the labyrinthine Old Town contrasting sharply with mathematical exactness of the New Town, the famous vista of Edinburgh Castle standing between them. Monuments and observatories mark the surrounding hills, bordered by the Firth of Forth and the engineering magnificence of the Forth Bridges.
The Burry Man
(pictured) The Burry Man is a South Queensferry tradition in which a man, covered in burrs, walks the streets for the day. It’s good luck to give the Burry Man money or a drink, which might seem like a good deal until you find out he can’t talk, sit down, has to drink everything he’s given through a straw, and can’t go to the toilet.
The One O’Clock Gun
Every day at 1pm we fire a massive cannon on the side of the castle. If you spot anybody flinching then they are traditionally obliged to buy you a pint.
Edinburgh had the first official fire brigade in the world, for good reason. Candlemaker Row is just outside the city walls, where the candlemakers were banished after one-too-many city threatening fire was blamed on them.
Pictured, of course, is local lad Sir Chris Hoy, multiple Olympic Gold winner and of the fastest humans on a bike, ever. Edinburgh’s a hilly place, we doubt this is any coincidence.
We at Calton Gold Towers are pretty evenly split on the Hearts / Hibs thing, so we’re taking no sides. For outsiders, Heart of Midlothian (aka Hearts, The Jambos) and Hibernian (aka the Hibs, Hibees, sometimes Cabbages) are the main two local teams, regularly battling for the top few places in the SPL over many years. It’s a pretty friendly rivalry these days.
Edinburgh also boasts Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish rugby, the Edinburgh Rugby team and many club level teams. Motocross racing is a local favourite, as is horseracing, Musselburgh being a particularly pretty course.
The Forth provides excellent coastal sailing, and the beaches at Gullane and Dunbar are popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers.
The Edinburgh pub scene is a fine one for following your favourites – many bars feature multiple screens allowing two or more sport to be shown, and big screens are fairly ubiquitous. We don’t need to mention Calton Gold being a particularly fine half-time pint do we? No, thought not.
Edinburgh was at the center of the Scottish Enlightenment, and ever since the city has punched well above its weight in scientific circles. Major areas of physics have been opened up from James Clark Maxwell’s electromagnetism to Peter Higgs and his boson.
Great leaps have been made in medicine, if based in some rather gruesome implications of bodysnatching and murder back in the early days. Hutton founded geology here, Darwin built his theory of evolution around an Edinburgh education, and Thomas Young appears in so many scientific discoveries it’s almost suspicious.
Monuments to science crop up everywhere: Maxwell’s statue in St Andrew Square, two observatories on Calton Hill and Blackford Hill, trig points from the first official survey of Britain, and of course the halls of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities and a host of colleges, all home to many great scientific careers and some of the biggest research centers in the UK. We’re particularly lucky to have Heriot Watt’s world leading International Centre for Brewing and Distilling on our doorstep!
You may think there’s simply “The Edinburgh Festival” but there’s probably well over a hundred festivals over the year. The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe happen during August and are by far the largest, seeing the population of the city double for a few weeks. Various satellite organisations orbit this system from the Harp Festival and Mela to the increasingly popular Free Fringes, where you can dip in and out of shows and just pay a tip if you like them.Hogmanay sees a traditional Scottish celebration of the New Year, and one of the biggest and best street parties in the world.
The Science Festival in April attracts some big names from the world of science and engineering, including Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, Professor Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins. Their timetable of events is always well spread from activities for very small children to a full range of talks, demonstrations and workshops for all ages.