New Town Travel Guide

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The Princes St. Backpackers, above the Cafe Royal Bar & Restaurant, New Town, Edinburgh

Leilani Kittel

The New Town is a highly planned Georgian-era expansion of Edinburgh as the rich classes finally decided to move across the festering Nor' Loch (now drained and become Princes St. Gardens and the rail yards of Waverly Station) and escape the squalor and over-crowding that characterised the Old Town in those days.

The principle axis is east to west, and the main roads, listed from south to north are:

Princes Street, running from Waterloo place at the foot of historic Calton Hill to Lothian Road and the foot of the Queensferry Road, which leads northwest to the Forth Road Bridge and the Highlands. The north side is lined with shops and hotels. On the south side, there is a graceful drop through Princes Street gardens to Waverly Station and the train lines, running beside the steep cliffs of the Castle Rock. At the east end is the iconic Balmoral hotel, with its great clocktower and intricate balustrades. Midway along, the gothic spired tower of the Scott Monument, yielding excellent views of the surrounding city. And at the western end, the mammoth Caledonian hotel overlooks the old graveyards of St.

George's Church.

Rose Street, running between the southern sides of St. Andrew Square and Charlotte Square is a pedestriansed road, chock full of pubs and shops for just about anything you could need. In the summer, street artists of all kinds gather to entertain the crowds. From painters to poets, ragged guitarists to tuxedoed unicyclists, you could spend all day on Rose Street, and never get bored. Milne's Pub is particularly good, serving good value bar grub and a rotating variety of real ales.

George Street, the central axis of the New Town runs between St. Andrew Square and Charlotte Square. Here you will fine tailors and fashion boutiques, some of Edinburgh's trendiest (read most expensive) bars, and a wealth of other fine establishments. George Street used to be the centre of the Scottish financial scene with the magnificent domed halls of the bank head offices. Although converted to other purposes, you can still see most of these old halls in their old glory. Check out The Dome Bar, The Standing Order Pub, and the still operating Head Office of the Royal Bank of Scotland at 36 St. Andrew Square. If you happen to stay at the George Intercontinental Hotel, check out their Carvery Restaurant ceiling, also a domed former financial office.

Thistle Street/Hill Street/Young Street, the oft-overlooked northern cousin of Rose Street links the north ends of the New Town's main squares and has a couple of trendy shops and bars of its own, and while it hasn't benfited from Rose Street's fit of urban renewal and pedestrianisation, it still has a few little gems, including Henderson's Restaurant, a delicious vegetarian restaurant and sandwhich bar, and the Oxford Bar, favourite hangout of Ian Rankin's fictional police detective, John Rebus.

Queen Street, the northern boundary of the original planned New Town, is lined with fine old buildings on the south side (now mostly businesses, rather than residences), and the extensive, but private Queen Street Gardens on the north side. At the corner of Queen Street and North St. Andrew Street can be found the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, a beautiul old red sandstone building which, like all of Scotland's public museums, is free to enter.

All these streets are crossed by north-south cross streets, namely:

St. Andrew Street, the eastern edge of St. Andrew Square

St. David Street, the western edge of St. Andrew Square, with the Scott Monument at its south end.

Hanover Street, with the the National Gallery of Scotland and Royal Scottish Academy at its foot, and of course The Mound, leading across to the Old Town.

Frederick Street, the east-west centreline of the New Town.

Castle Street, so named for its stunning view up the centre of the street to the majestic Edinburgh Castle, atop its volcanic cliffs.

Charlotte Street and Hope Street/Glenfinlas Street form the sides of Charlotte Square, the western end of the New Town, with West Register House anchoring the west end of the original plan.

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