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World Heritage City

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995, in recognition of the striking quality and contrast in architecture and streetscape between the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town.

Edinburgh is one of six World Heritage sites in Scotland. The other five are St Kilda, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, The Antonine Wall, New Lanark and the Forth Rail Bridge. World Heritage status is like a ‘premier league’ of world attractions. Being included on the list puts the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, and these other sites in Scotland on a par with Machu Picchu in Peru and the Great Wall of China.

Presented in two sections – Outstanding City and Looking After Our Heritage – World Heritage City explores what makes the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh special and investigates why and how we care for our built and natural heritage.

Outstanding City

Every World Heritage Site is required to have a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). This is a list of what is most special about the site and what therefore must be safeguarded. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s OUVs include the city’s iconic skyline, the contrast between the Old Town’s narrow, winding closes and the broad, elegant streets of the Georgian New Town.

Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) was set up in 1999 to promote and manage the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. We do this by telling people about what is special about the city while working to protect these things. For example, we carry out work to repair historic buildings and we speak out if we think proposed new developments may have a negative impact on the city’s OUVs, such as its famous skyline. We also work overseas, sharing our thoughts and ideas on how best to protect, repair and manage historic buildings and World Heritage sites.

Listen to Professor Stovel, who was one of the world’s leading authorities on conservation matters and instrumental in securing Edinburgh’s UNESCO inscription, sharing his experience of Edinburgh and placing it in a world wide context:

Visit the About Us page to read more on Edinburgh World Heritage.

You can find out more about UNESCO and the full list of World Heritage Sites here.

Looking After Our Heritage

Historic buildings need to be looked after in order to survive. Damage caused by wear and tear, environmental effects, such as water ingress or heat damage, or disuse can affect the fabric of the building. Redundant buildings can be repaired or converted and continue to play a part in Edinburgh’s cultural and commercial life. Sometimes these conversions, or new developments can be controversial and appear to threaten the condition and appearance of a building or city. The aim of World Heritage Site status is to prevent this from happening. Edinburgh World Heritage works hard to protect the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site by preserving the city’s historic buildings and advising appropriate and sensitive conversions and developments.

A range of skilled craftspeople including stonemasons, lead workers, blacksmiths, glaziers, plasterers and lime workers are required to protect and repair historic buildings. These skills can be learned through training and apprenticeships and offer rewarding careers that are vital to the future of our built heritage and the Old and New Town of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.

You can find out more about traditional skills and training courses here.

Traditional skills videos

Watch the first episode of our upcoming series exploring the various traditional skills that Edinburgh relies on to ensure the World Heritage Site is kept in good condition.

In this episode we meet Richard Fraser, and learn about working with lime:

As part of our REDIAPRO international project, the following videos were produced, profiling a stonemason, a plasterer and a signwriter:

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