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Edinburgh New Town

Edinburgh's New Town lies to the north of the railway line and Princes Street Gardens. Whereas the Old Town is known for its historic tourist attractions the New Town is home to the city's main shopping district.


Princes Street at the southern end of the New Town provides a wide variety of large shops of the sort found in most High Streets - currently including Primark, Marks and Spencer, Boots etc. George Street which runs parallel to Princes Street hosts a large number of up market clothes stores as well as bars, restaurants etc. Between the two runs little Rose Street, famous for its pubs.


The word 'new' is relative, especially in Edinburgh! The 'New' Town was created in the late 18th century following the draining of the infamous Nor Loch which had previously prevented expansion northwards.

James Craig's Plan

The design of the New Town was the result of a planning competition held in 1767. The winner was a young and virtually unknown architect by the name of James Craig. Craig actually created two different plans: the one built, called the 'adopted plan' and another lesser known alternative called the 'circus plan'. The latter included a large circular area called George's Circus in the middle of George Street. The original plans are currently (April 2015) on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.

The adopted plan, without the circus, is still intact today and based on a grid layout with George Street at its heart. Much of the plan and the naming was intended to celebrate the Union between Scotland and England. For example, George Street (named after the king) is flanked on either side by Rose Street and Thistle Street; the rose is the symbol of England, the thistle the symbol of Scotland. There is also much royal influence in the naming including George Street itself, Hanover Street and Frederick Street. Charlotte Square was named after the king's wife, but was originally to be called St George's Square to match up with St Andrews Square at the other end of George Street, symbolising the way Scotland and England were joined with the king at the centre.

It's worth noting that Craig only designed the street plan, not the buildings. Many of those - especially the magnificent Charlotte Square - were created by Robert Adam who was extremely influential in the final look of the New Town.

This page last updated: 25-09-2016