Fascinating Facts about Edinburgh

Apr 5, 2018

Edinburgh is awash with fascinating facts and hypnotising history. Scotland’s capital is built on a vivid past that has made it one of the UK’s finest cities.

Whether tourist or local, dive into these fascinating facts about Edinburgh and discover a side to Auld Reekie you never knew:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

It’s no secret that Edinburgh is a pretty sight, but did you know the impressive architecture is something every local should be proud of? The Scottish capital has over 4,500 listed buildings, which is the most in the UK outside of London.

A fiery history

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Edinburgh is surrounded by extinct volcanoes. The mighty peak of Arthur’s Seat rises above the skyline, whilst the iconic Edinburgh Castle is built atop another former volcano.

Don’t worry though, there hasn’t been an eruption in over 350 million years!

A Christmas Carol

Festive miser Ebenezer Scrooge is said to have had his origins in the city of Edinburgh. Author Charles Dickens gained inspiration for the fabled character whilst on a walk in the city’s Canongate Kirkyard.

He misread Ebenezer Scroggie’s gravestone as “meanman”, when the actual engraving read “mealman”, another phrase for a corn seller.

What’s in a name?

Everyone know’s Edinburgh’s nickname of “Auld Reekie”, but not so many know the origins of this famous moniker.

Auld Reekie means “Old Smoky”, and was given to areas of the city that were plagued with thick smog from the coal and wood fires of the capital’s industrial era.

A Penguin Knight

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Edinburgh is home to the world’s only royally knighted penguin. Sir Nils Olav, a King Penguin, Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard kicks back at Edinburgh Zoo.

Knighted in 2008, the brave penguin inspects his troops when the Royal Guard arrive for the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo.


Auld Reekie was the first city in the world to have its own fire service, way back in 1703. However, being a volunteer brigade, it often took a while to get the crew together when they were needed across the city.

Edinburgh is green

Edinburgh is the greenest city in the UK, with over 130 parks and National Heritage sites across the city. Over 50% of the capital green space and there is actually more trees than residents – no wonder the place is so beautiful!

Stone of Scone

The Stone of Scone, also known as the Coronation Stone, and used in the crowning of British monarchs, resides in Edinburgh Castle alongside the Scottish Crown jewels.

The Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 having been taken to Westminster Abbey in the 13th century.

“The royal mile between”

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The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s most famous and busy street. The term was first used in W.M. Gilbert’s Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century as “with its Castle and Palace and the royal mile between”.

However, the Royal Mile isn’t even a mile; the road actually stretches to a little over a mile, a distance more commonly known as a Scots Mile.

Home of the skyscraper

Skyscrapers may be a common sight in the skylines of London and New York, but these lofty buildings actually had their origins in sunny Edinburgh.

Buildings along the Royal Mile exceeded 10 storeys during the 18th century as a means of coping with an ever-increasing population. These would-be tower blocks were the first of their kind and a precursor to the common city skyscrapers we see today.

Never miss a train

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The Balmoral Clock on Princes Street is one of the area’s most recognisable landmarks – but since 1902 it hasn’t displayed the correct time.

The Clock is set three minutes fast so that commuters wouldn’t miss their trains from the nearby Waverley station.

The only time the clock is set to the correct time is on Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations (December 31).

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