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World Class

Introducing UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The world is full of cultural and natural wonders that support life and inspire a sense of awe. From the Pyramids of Giza to the Great Barrier Reef, the vast plains of the Serengeti to the city you are currently standing in. These places have one thing in common. They are all inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Guided by an official Convention adopted in 1972, UNESCO works with countries around the world to identify and protect sites of outstanding cultural or natural value to humanity. As of July 2018, the World Heritage List includes 1,092 properties from 193 countries.

Our World Heritage celebrates Scotland’s World Heritage Sites and takes a closer look at the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh. Whether you’re new to Edinburgh or know it inside out, this exhibition invites you to look again at the city, to learn more about it, explore somewhere new, or consider what it means to you.

National treasures: Scotland’s World Heritage Sites

Scotland has six World Heritage Sites. Together they showcase the nation’s best in natural wonder, phenomenal building and social and industrial genius. Their World Heritage listing celebrates their breath-taking beauty, their remarkable survival, their fascinating stories and their influence in shaping the nation and the
wider world.

Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. They are our touchstones, our points of reference, our identity.


Rocks of ages: The Heart of Neolithic Orkney

World Class

Built around 5,000 years ago, each of the four sites that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a masterpiece of New Stone Age design and construction.

Skara Brae’s stone furnishings and the extraordinary design of the burial chamber at Maeshowe provide a fascinating insight into life and death in Orkney’s ancient communities. The lofty stones that form the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness provide a powerful reminder of the presence of these early people and the remarkable legacy they left behind.

(Skara Brae © Laurence Winram)

On the defensive: The Antonine Wall

World Class

The Antonine Wall was built almost 2,000 years ago. It was the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire and the last to be built by its army.

Built using turf rather than stone, the wall ran for 40 Roman miles (60km) from Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Together with Hadrian’s Wall in England, and the German Limes (Latin for frontier), the Antonine Wall is part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

(Antonine Wall © Crown Copyright HES)

Wild west: St Kilda

World Class

St Kilda rises out of the North Atlantic, 160 km off the west coast of Scotland. Made up of five remote islands, it is one of the few World Heritage Sites to hold mixed status for its cultural and natural qualities.

An important habitat for wildlife, its spectacular cliffs and clear waters support a diverse and stunning range of animals, birds and plants. St Kilda’s story also charts 5,000 years of human occupation in extreme conditions. Its last residents were evacuated in 1930.

(St Kilda © the National Trust for Scotland)

Engineering change: New Lanark

World Class

New Lanark is a model community, built on the banks of the majestic Falls of Clyde, and was once the largest cotton mill in Scotland.

Founded by David Dale in 1785, New Lanark gained recognition under the enlightened management of Robert Owen between 1800 and 1825. Owen revolutionised conditions for workers and their families, providing free education, medical care and introducing an eight-hour working day. His vision for New Lanark influenced change on an international scale.

(Image courtesy of John B McKenna)

Grand designs: The Forth Bridge

World Class

The Forth Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering genius. When completed in 1890, it was both the longest cantilever bridge and the first major mild steel structure in the world.

Stretching 2.5km across the estuary of the River Forth, this iconic landmark is still a major rail crossing, carrying over 200 trains a day. Much of the bridge was constructed by William Arrol & Co. It was a busy time for the Glasgow-based firm, who were re-building the Tay Bridge and Tower Bridge in London at the same time.

(Forth Bridge © Crown Copyright HES)

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