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Living in Old Edinburgh

The Old and the New Towns of Edinburgh together form one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world. They were inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995. The unique character of the city comes from the striking contrast between the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town. Many of the streets and buildings are so well preserved that a walk through the city feels like stepping back in time.

Linked to this popular Social Studies topic, the following resources provide an insight into how people lived in Old Edinburgh. These include teacher’s resources on the history of food and energy, which provide opportunities for cross-curriculum explorations, plus a link to the award-winning on-line resource Whose Town? The Scottish Enlightenment is also explored through an accessible and engaging graphic novel, which is ideal for upper second and third level learners. There are also maps and associated classroom activities showing how the city has changed over time.


Smoke and smells

Auld Reekie

Old Edinburgh
  • Recommended for second level social studies (SOC 2-01a, 2-03a, 2-04a & 2-06a) and third level social studies (SOC 3-02a & 3-06a)

What did Old Edinburgh look like? What did it smell like? Did people really empty the contents of their toilets out of the window? Click the button below for answers to these and many more questions about what life was really like in Old Edinburgh.


Eat your way through the

Food Heritage Trail

Old Edinburgh
  • Cross-curricular resource: recommended for second level social studies, health and wellbeing and technologies (SOC 2-04a & HWB 1-35a/2-35a)

This resource looks at the changes to our diet throughout history, the links between food and the Old Town’s historic buildings, and poses questions about the food we eat today and its sustainability. It also offers an optional self-guided trail down the Royal Mile, highlighting key locations and suggesting points for discussion and related classroom activities.


Get switched on to

Energy History

Old Edinburgh
  • Cross-curricular resource: second level social studies, sciences and technologies (SOC 2-08a, SCN 2-04b & TCH 2-02a & 2-02b)

For another cross-curricular resource, visit our Sustainable City page and explore how energy usage has changed throughout the history of Edinburgh. The activity also encourages pupils to think about their own energy use.

Edinburgh Maps

Old Edinburgh
  • Recommended for all levels of students studying Old Edinburgh and/or the development of the city

This page provides links to a range of maps of the city from 1575 to the present day. They can be downloaded for free and used as resources for topic work within a range of Curriculum areas, including Social Studies, Sciences and Health & Wellbeing, and Citizenship. To assist with this, some of the maps are accompanied by suggested learning activities that encourage both independent and group learning, through a closer exploration of original source material and the school’s local community.

City of Genius

The Scottish Enlightenment

Old Edinburgh
  • Recommended for second level social studies (SOC 2-03a) and third level social studies (SOC 3-02a & 3-06a)

The Enlightenment was one of the most important events in Scottish history in the last 300 years. It influences everything we do today, it influenced the entire world, and it touches on every area of the Curriculum for Excellence! City of Genius presents an overview of this pivotal period in Scotland’s history and a free downloadable graphic novel-style guide in which ‘cadies’ Jock and Tam take you back to an Enlightened Edinburgh.

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