School trips to Edinburgh offer you an ideal opportunity to explore a little of the history of this capital city and Scotland as a whole.
A quick glimpse at the countryside surrounding Edinburgh will show that it must have been particularly attractive to early peoples. Close to a major river (the Forth), the coast and surrounded by fertile lands, it also benefits from having a number of steep, hilly locations that must have been very appealing from the point of view of fortifications and defence.
One of the common misconceptions about early Scottish history is that the Romans never entered the country. In fact, Roman colonisation up to the river Forth was considerable in the earlier periods, and there is archaeological evidence that their influence, and possibly even control, continued after they had notionally withdrawn to Hadrian’s Wall. Occupation on the site of Edinburgh is known to go back to the Bronze Age, and Roman remains have been found in the river locally, as well as in the general area.
The English and Scottish
Originally, for much of the Anglo-Saxon period, the Northumbrian English settled the area of East Lothian and Edinburgh. It was only towards the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon period that Edinburgh was finally taken by the Scots and became, together with the surrounding areas, recognisably Scottish as opposed to English.
During the earlier medieval period, as was the case in England, the Scottish kings and parliaments tended to be fairly nomadic and it is doubtful if the concept of being a capital city was well understood. In fact, the city of Perth to the north was the original crowning place of the kings of Scotland. It was only latterly that Edinburgh’s importance grew, as it became clear that a location for government further south was required in order to offset the threat posed by the medieval English kings.
Edinburgh – the Athens of the North
In 1603 the crowns of England and Scotland were united upon the death of Elizabeth I under James VI of Scotland / James I of England. Although Edinburgh remained capital of an independent Scotland for another 100 years or so until the Act of Union, the removal of much of the friction and rivalry between the two nations lead to an incredible flowering of Scottish intellectual genius. This made it arguably the pre-eminent city in Europe in terms of education and progression of human knowledge. This tradition is maintained to this day. Students on school trips may be able to see evidence of this in the number of fine and imposing schools and educational facilities around the city.
A UNESCO world heritage site
School trips to Edinburgh can help students explore the medieval old town as it runs down from the world-famous castle towards Holyrood Palace (the Palace of the Stuart kings of Scotland). It is also the home of the new Scottish parliament building. Across Princes Street from the Old Town, you can find the New Town. This is an incredible area of the city, containing magnificent buildings that were laid out in planned fashion during the 18th century. This was done both as a practical measure to add space to the growing city, but also as a statement of enlightenment and civilisation, to distinguish it from the unplanned organic nature of the Old Town. In effect, the New Town is a statement of intent and optimism for the future, and today both it and the Old Town are UNESCO world heritage sites.
In terms of getting closer to UK history, school trips to Edinburgh may be hard to beat.