“What’s so great about living in Edinburgh?”
Good question. Luckily, Tristan [MA (Hons) Ancient and Medieval History] can help answer that.
In the 18th Century Edinburgh designated itself the ‘Athens of the North’, and wandering through the city centre it’s not hard to see why. Okay, after twenty-something years in the Scottish capital I’m admittedly a little biased. But what isn’t to love about studying a history degree in a city with a beautiful medieval Old Town, gardens set in an old loch and a castle built upon an extinct volcano?
A city that blends its rich history with its position as home of the largest arts festival in the world (yes, the world!) is something quite unique – there’s nothing like wandering down the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. In fact, Edinburgh hosts a huge programme of events throughout the year: from the Book, Jazz and Blues, and Science Festivals, to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. If live arts aren’t your thing – although there’s plenty to indulge in across the city’s many theatre venues – you’ll certainly find something to pique your interest.
One of my favourite aspects of the city is its fantastic selection of museums and galleries, the largest of which is the National Museum of Scotland located just minutes from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Its collections include the recently opened Ancient Egyptian and East Asian galleries as well as an extensive wing dedicated to Scotland’s past. However, because the city itself is so rich with history, just wandering down the Royal Mile is an adventure in itself. Each ‘close’ – the Scots word for an alleyway – tells a story, of its former occupants or use, the most infamous being the underground Mary King’s Close (definitely worth a visit!). A former lecturer once told me to always look up at buildings when wandering through the Old Town as you’ll be amazed at what you learn from inscriptions and plaques.
What I particularly love about the city is the amount of green space. The public Princes Street gardens, situated between the New and Old towns, are always bustling, as are the gorgeous Royal Botanical Gardens. However, you’ll find some more secluded spaces if you know where to look, including a hidden gem at the bottom of Dunbar’s Close – I’ll let you discover that one for yourself! You’re also never too far from the countryside and there are lots of scenic walks a short bus or train journey away.
Between its incredible art and literary festivals, heritage sites and beautiful parks – and that’s before we discuss everything that the university itself has to offer – Edinburgh is a pretty fantastic city. To be a history student here is something really special, and whilst it might not boast the monumental buildings of the Athenian acropolis, the ‘Athens of the North’ isn’t short of wonder.
Find more walks around Edinburgh at the Visit Scotland site.
You can see a map of green spaces within Edinburgh on the Edinburgh Outdoors website.