Edinburgh began as a fort. The area around Edinburgh has been inhabited for thousands of years. Its origins as a settlement can be traced to a hillfort that was established in the area, most likely on the Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an easily defended position so from the earliest times it made sense to be logical the site for a fort. The name Edinburgh comes from the ancient Gaelic "Dun Eidyn" which means 'hill fort on the sloping ridge'. A street called the "Royal Mile" runs down the East shoulder of this once active volcano and this is what gives the Royal mile its distinguishable geographical feature.
In the 7th century, the English captured this part of Scotland and they called this place Eiden's burgh (burgh is an old word for fort). From the seventh to the tenth centuries it was part of the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. In the 10th century, the Scots re-captured the area. Late into the 11th century, King Malcolm III built a castle upon Castle Rock and a small town grew up nearby. By the early 12th century Edinburgh was a flourishing community. In 1124, King David I saw the hill fort on the crag and the village which supplied goods to the noblemen, soldiers, and monks in the fort and was inspired to remodel what had become by 1128 the 'Burgh of Eiden'. He granted trading rights to the township and the Lawnmarket became an open air trading market. He then went about the commercial planning of High Street which even then was referred to as Via Regis which means the Way of the King. This is where the name Royal Mile originates.
Castle overlooks the city from the summit of Castle Rock, and has rocky cliffs on three of its sides and the fort is only accessible by climbing the slopes of the steep Castle hill.
The CANNONGATE TOLLBOOTH
The Canongate of old, the Court-end of Edinburgh, takes its name from the Augustine monks of Holyrood, who were permitted to build it by the charter of David I. in 1128, and to rule it as a burgh of regality. The canons, were empowered to settle here a village, and from them the street of this settlement was called the Canongate, from the Saxon gaet or street, according to the practice of the twelfth and thir-teenth centuries in Scotland and England. The immunities which the canons and their villagers enjoyed from David's grant, soon raised up a town, which extended from the Abbey to the Nether Port of Edinburgh and the townsmen performed their usual devotions in the church of the Abbey till the Reformation, after which it continued to retain its distinct dignity as a burgh of regality. In its arms it bears the white hart's (stags)head, with the cross-crosslet of the miraculous legend between the horns, and the significant motto " SIC ITUR AD ASTRA." Cannongate was originally independent of the capital, adhering naturally to the monastery, whose vassals and dependents were its earliest builders, and retaining to the last legible marks of a different parentage from the city. Its magistrates claimed a feudal lordship over the property of the regality as the successors of its spiritual superiors ; hence many of the title-deeds therein ran thus :-"To be holden of the Magistrates of the Canongate, as come in place of the Monastery of the Holy Cross." Unlike Edinburgh the Canongate had no walls for defense - its gates and enclosures being for- civic purposes only. If it relied on the sanctity of its monastic superiors as a protection, it did so in vain, when, in 1380, Richard II. of England gave it to the flames, and the Earl of Hertford in 1544 ; and in the civil wars, the Journal of Antiquities tells us that "the Canon-gate suffered severely from the barbarity of the English so much so that scarcely a house was left standing." As the main avenue from the palace to the city, so a later writer tells us, it has borne upon its pavement the burden of all that was beautiful and gallant, and all that has become historically interesting in Scotland for the last seven hundred years and though many of its houses have been modernized, it still preserves its aspect of great quaintness and vast antiquity.
In 1128 King David I founded Holyrood Abbey. The Abbey was manned by Augustinian canons who gave their name to Canongate. (Gate does not mean a gate in a wall it is from the old word 'gait' meaning road). The Augustinian Holyrood Abbey, built during the twelfth century, is situated adjacent to the palace. In the Middle Ages there were friars in Edinburgh. Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world, they went out to preach. In Edinburgh, there were Dominican friars (called black friars because of their black costumes) and Augustinian friars (known as grey friars). Both orders lived in friaries on the southern edge of Edinburgh. Medieval Edinburgh was famous for making wool cloth. Nearby was the settlement of Leith which acted as Edinburgh's port. The main export was hides. Cattle and sheep were sold at a market in Cowgate. They were then butchered in the town. After 1477 grain and hay were sold in the Grassmarket. The Canongate would appear to have been paved in 1535 when James V. granted to the Abbot of Holyrood a duty of one penny upon -every loaded cart, and of a halfpenny upon every empty one, to repair and maintain the causeway. By 1561 the monastic superiority over the community had been swept away by the Reformation ; and by the king's grant a commendator succeeded the last abbot, enjoying the privileges of the latter, According to the record books of the Canongate, it was governed by four old bailies, three deacons, two treasurers, and four councillors -, "chosen and elected;" and, as enacted in 1567, the council 'met every eighth day, on fuirsdaye .' The Tolbooth was then, as till a late period, the ,council-room, court-house, and place of punishment.
By 1500 Edinburgh probably had a population of 12,000. It rose to about 15,000 by 1550. To us, it may seem small, but villages were tiny in those days, and by the standards of the time, Edinburgh was a large town. As it grew a suburb was built around Canongate. Between 1513 and 1560 a wall was built south of Edinburgh to keep out the English.
The ROYAL MILE - East to West from Edinburgh's castle to Holyrood Abbey
The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s most famous street. It connects Edinburgh Castle (to the west) with the Palace of Holyroodhouse (to the east). Peculiarly, its length which measures 1.81 km is approximately one Scots mile long, which is longer than an English mile but hasn’t been used since the eighteenth century. The streets which make up the Royal Mile are (west to east) Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand. The Royal Mile is divided into six areas, each very different from the other: Castlehill and Castle Esplanade are located closest to Edinburgh Castle and are the oldest part of the Royal Mile, being where the city was originally founded. The main entrance of the Castle is found in the Castle Esplanade, a large open space which was used to burn the witches at the stake, and where currently the Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every summer. Lawnmarket was a market-place selling yarn, and used to be part of the High Street. It is 330 feet long and connects The Hub, a Gothic style church now used as a venue hall for the Edinburgh International Festival. Until 1856 Canongate was an independent burgh, separated from the city and outside the walls. The wall that divided the burghs between Edinburgh and Canongate. Grand timber buildings were constructed and named after the landowners. The gaps between the buildings are called closes after the 'dividing enclosures'. The enclosures had large gardens which housed livestock. This medieval garden city was destroyed, its houses burned in 1544 by the English, during the period called the Rough Wooing. Henry VIII of England ordered its destruction because he was trying to force the Scots to allow his son to marry the infant Mary (Queen of Scots). By 1591 the houses were mostly made of stone but the overcrowding conditions were becoming increasingly unsanitary, although within the Cannongate the nobility were living in grand mansions with lovely gardens.
The Ruins of Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey was, the scene of many brilliant gatherings, many a solemn and sad events. The original Abbey is said by tradition to have been founded by King David I in 1128. When hunting in this district, a stag is said to have charged him causing him to fall from his horse. With arms outstretched in defence, it is said he opened his eyes to find the beast gone and in his hand a fragment of the True Cross. Over the process of time, "in the hollow between two hillswhere King David was saved from the white hart", there rose the great abbey house, Holyrood, with its stately cruciform church, having three towers, of which but a fragment now remains a melancholy ruin. Till its completion the canons were housed in the Castle, where they resided till about 1176, occupying an edifice which had previously been a nunnery. In the abbey was preserved, enshrined in silver, the alleged miraculous cross which was placed in King David's hand when his horse fell before the white stag. This in turn was replaced by a far more imposing building, commissioned in 1190. A rival to many a cathedral for scale and grandeur, it was for over 450 years site to a variety of major royal events.. It remained on the high altar till the fatal battle of Durham in 1346, whither it was taken by David II, and where all virtue seemed to have deserted it (mirabile dictu!) - it fell into the hands of the enemy by whom it was long preserved with zealous veneration. The texture of this remarkable cross was said to have been of such a nature that no mortal artificer could tell whether it was of wood, horn, or metal. Following the Reformation, the abbey was suppressed and its monastic buildings deserted. All but the nave was spared when the church came to be destroyed, since this served as the parish church of the Canongate Burgh. The last significant historical event to take place here was the Scottish coronation of Charles I in 1633
The palace of Holyrood House has played a central role in Scotland’s history ever since its foundation as part of the Augustian monastery by King David I. Rebuilt by James V of Scotland to include a large tower and a new west front. The Palace was to become the home of his daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the scene for many of the most dramatic and tragic events of her reign, culminating in the murder in the palace of her secretary, David Rizzio in 1566. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, also known as Holyrood Palace is the Queen and Royal Family’s official residence in Scotland. During the Middle Ages the monarchy left the cold and damp Edinburgh Castle and settled in the comfortable Holyrood Abbey guesthouse. In 1503 James IV constructed the first palace alongside the Abbey. Many years later, James V built a tower where Mary, Queen of Scots lived between 1561 and 1567.
The English attacked in 1547 and they sacked Edinburgh castle. The English returned in 1547. Edinburgh was besieged again in 1571 during their civil war. Edinburgh also suffered from outbreaks of the plague. There were severe attacks in 1585 and 1645. However each time Edinburgh re covered. In the late 16th century an English writer described Edinburgh: 'From the King's Palace in the east the city rises higher and higher to the west and consists mainly of one broad and very fair street. The rest of the side streets and alleys are poorly built and inhabited by very poor people. And its length from east to west is about a mile while the width of the city from north to south is narrow and not more than half a mile’.
St Giles Cathedral is situated between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, built on an ancient sanctuary built during the ninth century. The temple is dedicated to St Giles, patron saint of the lepers. During and shortly after the Scottish Reformation, the cathedral was reformed on numerous occasions to suit the Protestant style of worship. Currently, the temple shows evidence of various periods. The most important restoration took place after the English set the church on fire in 1385. Years later the temple was redesigned in a Gothic style. Although St Giles' Cathedral is the Church of Scotland's principal place of worship, it is not technically a traditoinal cathedral (Catholic or Episcopal) as it does not have a bishop, due to the determination and efforts of Protestant ministers opposing the intrusions of King James VI . It was here at this location that Johne Davidson led the General Assembly meeting on the 24th March in 1596, publicly calling on King James and Queen Anne to repentance of debauchery, excesses and neglecting attending church services. Which they finally agree to do, ... privately.
After 1603, when James VI succeeded to the English throne and left for the south, Edinburgh suffered a decline in political and cultural importance, yet the town continued to grow (from the turn of the 16th century to the end of the 17th century, the population more than quadrupled to some 50,000 people.