Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, situated inLothian on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. It is the second most populous city in Scotland and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. The population in 2013 was 487,500. Edinburgh lies at the heart of a larger urban zone with a population of 778,000.
Edinburgh has been recognised as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century (afterScone, Perth, Roxburgh, and Stirling, respectively) but political power moved south to London after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Union of Parliaments in 1707. After nearly three centuries of unitary government, a measure of self-government returned in the shape of the devolvedScottish Parliament, which officially opened in Edinburgh in 1999. The city is also the annual venue of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and home to many national institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. Edinburgh's relatively buoyant economy, traditionally centred on banking and insurance but now encompassing a wide range of businesses, makes it the biggest financial centre in the UK after London. Many Scottish companies have established their head offices in the city.
Edinburgh is rich in associations with the past and has many historic buildings, including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the churches of St. Giles, Greyfriars and the Canongate, and an extensive Georgian New Town built in the 18th century. Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town are jointly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has long been known abroad as a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, the sciences and engineering. The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583 and now one of four in the city, was placed 17th in the QS World University Rankings in 2014. The city is also famous for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the latter being the largest annual international arts festival in the world. In 2004 Edinburgh became the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, an accolade awarded in recognition of its literary heritage and lively literary activities in the present. The city's historical and cultural attractions, together with an annual calendar of events aimed primarily at the tourist market, have made it the second most popular tourist destination in the United Kingdom after London, attracting over one million overseas visitors each year .
The earliest known human habitation in the Edinburgh area is from Cramond where evidence was found of a Mesolithic camp-site dated to c. 8500 BC. Traces of later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found on Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills.
When the Romans arrived in Lothian at the end of the 1st century AD, they discovered a Celtic Britonnictribe whose name they recorded as the Votadini. At some point before the 7th century AD, the Gododdin, who were presumably descendants of the Votadini, built the hill fort of Din Eidyn or Etin. Although its exact location has not been identified, it seems more than likely they would have chosen a commanding position like the Castle Rock or Arthur's Seat or Calton Hill.
In 638 AD the Gododdin stronghold was besieged by forces loyal to King Oswald of Northumbria, and around this time control of Lothian passed to the Angles. Their influence continued for the next three centuries until around 950 AD, when, during the reign of Indulf, son of Constantine II, the "burh" (fortress), named in the 10th-century Pictish Chronicle as "oppidum Eden", fell to the Scots and thenceforth remained under their jurisdiction.
The royal burgh was founded by King David I in the early 12th century on land belonging to the Crown, though the precise date is unknown By the middle of the 14th century, the French chronicler Jean Froissart was describing it as the capital of Scotland (c.1365), and James III (1451–88) referred to it in the 15th century as "the principal burgh of our kingdom". Despite the destruction caused by an English assault in 1544, the town slowly recovered, and was at the centre of events in the 16th-century Scottish Reformation and 17th-century Wars of the Covenant.
Edinburgh is situated in Scotland's Central Belt and lies on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. The city centre is 2 1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) south west of the shoreline of Leith and 26 miles (42 km) inland, as the crow flies, from the east coast of Scotland and the North Sea at Dunbar. While the early burgh grew up in close proximity to the prominent Castle Rock, the modern city is often said to be built on seven hills, namely Calton Hill,Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, Arthur's Seat and the Castle Rock, giving rise to allusions to the seven hills of Rome.
Occupying, in geological terms, a narrow gap between the Firth of Forth to the north and the Pentland Hills and their outrunners to the south, the city sprawls over a landscape which is the product of early volcanic activity and later periods of intensive glaciation. Igneous activity between 350 and 400 million years ago, coupled with faulting, led to the creation of tough basalt volcanic plugs, which predominate over much of the area. One such example is the Castle Rock which forced the advancing icesheet to divide, sheltering the softer rock and forming a 1-mile-long (1.6 km) tail of material to the east, thus creating a distinctive crag and tail formation. Glacial erosion on the north side of the crag gouged a deep valley later filled by the now drained Nor Loch. These features, along with another hollow on the south side of the rock, formed an ideal natural strongpoint upon which Edinburgh Castle was built. Similarly, Arthur's Seat is the remains of a volcano dating from the Carboniferous period, which was eroded by a glacier moving west to east during the ice age. Erosive action such as plucking and abrasion exposed the rocky crags to the west before leaving a tail of deposited glacial material swept to the east. This process formed the distinctive Salisbury Crags, a series ofteschenite cliffs between Arthur's Seat and the location of the early burgh. The residential areas of Marchmont and Bruntsfield are built along a series of drumlin ridges south of the city centre, which were deposited as the glacier receded.
Other prominent landforms such as Calton Hill and Corstorphine Hill are similarly products of glacial erosion. The Braid Hills and Blackford Hill are a series of small summits to the south west of the city commanding expansive views looking northwards over the urban area to the Forth.