This map clearly shows the contrasting street plans of the Old and New Towns.
By 1836 the New Town was almost complete, and the difference with the Old Town was clear. The medieval pattern of narrow closes and wynds on the Old Town contrasts with the broad, elegant squares and circuses of the classically inspired New Town.
The Nor’ Loch is now drained and in its place you can see Princes Street Gardens, and the Mound formed from the earth removed during the building of the New Town. Just a few years later this area would change again, with the building of the railway and Waverley Station.
This map drawn by architect William Edgar in 1742, shows Edinburgh as it was at the time of the Jacobite risings led by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
It clearly shows the distinctive pattern of closes and wynds, creating what is often described as a herring bone shape. Some key city landmarks are shown which no longer exist, such as the Luckenbooth shops next to St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the Netherbow Gate which marked the entrance to the city.
Compare this map to Kay’s plan dating from 1836 (above). Find and mark Edinburgh Castle on the maps. Can you find the Nor’ Loch on both maps? (If not, what is in its place?) Look at the two maps together and list the similarities and differences. What do you think are the main differences between how the city looked in 1742 and 1863?
To add an additional level to this activity, compare either the 1742 or 1836 map with the map dated 1575 (below), or find a modern day map of Edinburgh and compare one of the historic plans with how the city looks today. List as may similarities and differences as you can find and think about what this tells us about how the city has changed over the years.
This early map of Edinburgh was drawn during the sixteenth century. It shows Edinburgh shortly after the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. The castle and city walls are clearly visible, along with the distinctive crown of St Giles Cathedral. Although the map is not correct in all its details, it does give an overall impression of how the city looked 500 years ago.
This is the final plan for Edinburgh’s New Town.
In 1767 a competition was held to design the planned New Town. The winner was a relatively unknown young architect called James Craig. Craig’s initial plan showed streets in the shape of a Union flag, but this was later changed to a more suitable grid pattern. The patriotic theme continued though, with Queen Street, George Street and Princes Street named in honour of the royal family, and Rose and Thistle Streets after national emblems.
Find a modern day street map of Edinburgh and see how the New Town today compares with James Craig’s plan. Is it similar or different? Why do you think this is? (Clue: The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finding out what this means could help you with your answer.)
Additional group activity: Imagine that somebody wants to build a large swimming pool in the centre of George Street. In groups, come up with a list of reasons why they should and shouldn’t be allowed to do this.
The Old and New Towns were added to the World Heritage list in 1995, because of their striking contrast and quality in architecture and streetscape. For that reason, the boundary of the World Heritage Site was carefully drawn to include the best examples of those contrasting designs.
Discover Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site the green way! Use this map to explore Edinburgh’s historic sites on foot or by bike, and help reduce carbon emissions.
Think about your route to school. Are there ways you could make this a greener journey? Have a go at designing a green map for your route to school, or a place that people might drive to in your community, to encourage people to help reduce carbon emissions. Also visit our Sustainable City page for more activity ideas.
Heritage becomes very personal as people’s stories can be connected to any corner of our city. This project aims to value these stories, and show a different Edinburgh, as perceived by its people.
Take a closer look at the map while thinking about your own community. Have a go at designing your own community map for your local area. Send us your finished work of art at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via Twitter or Facebook to tell us about your place, and put your community in the spotlight. Also visit our Sustainable City page for more activity ideas.
Learn about the people and places that helped to shape the Canongate. Explore our interactive map of the area, and then dive into the Canongate Kirkyard to discover the stories of the people buried there.