Medieval Edinburgh


Map Code: Ax01746

The natural defensive properties of Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano that rises 823 ft (251 m) above the site of Edinburgh have been exploited since antiquity. A Roman, then Celtic, hillfort, it became the northern outpost of the Northumbrian kingdom, before being ceded to Scotland (973). In the 1120s, King David I conferred royal burgh status; nestled beneath the protecting royal castle, merchants were granted narrow strips of land or ‘tofts’ arrayed along Lawnmarket in a distinctive ‘fishbone’ pattern. To the east of the town, lay Holyrood Abbey, which held rights of burgage over Canongate. During the Scottish wars of independence that followed Edward I’s invasion in the 1290s, Edinburgh remained largely under English control. However, English aggrandizement indirectly benefited Edinburgh’s growth: the Scottish loss of Berwick made it the country’s leading commercial centre. Wool and hides were exported through the nearby port of Leith, with Grassmarket hosting a busy livestock fair. In the 1360s, French annalist Froissart termed Edinburgh the ‘Paris of Scotland’.

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