Edinburgh ‘Old Town’ is the oldest part of the City of Edinburgh, and until the late 18th century was the whole city. It extends from the Castle to Holyroodhouse Palace; its boundary on the north side is the railway line and Calton Road and on the south side Lauriston Place and Drummond Street. The ‘Old Town’ also includes Grassmarket and West Port on the west, and Dumbiedykes, Croft-an-Righ and Abbeyhill on the east.


The ‘old town’ of Edinburgh has been many things in its time – for 1500 years or more it, and nothing more beyond its walls, was Edinburgh: government, kings, people rich and poor, clergy, gardens, schools, workshops, factories, shops, inns, markets, gaols. Its structure and social mix defined Scottish life and culture. As the city added streets and houses beyond its walls, old Edinburgh started a different journey - through crowded tenements, ill-health, physical clearance and renewal, loss of work and industry, de-population and renewal again.  But through all of this it kept its palace, its royal mile, its castle, some of its old houses, its civic chambers, its kirk and gained, in 1999 a new Parliament; and now these, and the feeling of an ‘old town’ that this part of Edinburgh can still exude, are the principal magnet for the millions of visitors that the city receives every year.

But there is a sense that in the endless expansion of tourist shops and take-aways, hostels, hotels and party flats, cafes, bars and night-clubs (largely serving the visitor) something of the rich diversity of the old town as a place to live and work is being lost and that, by design or default, Edinburgh’s old town is in danger of turning into a theme park by day and a fun-park by night. The appearance in 2005 of a massive plan for hotel, offices, apartments and shops, proposed by the City Council itself, out of scale with the character and fabric of the old town and involving the demolition of buildings on the Canongate, galvanised people in the old town to say ‘enough is enough’. The Canongate Community Forum (working under the acronym SOOT – Save Our Old Town) campaigned against the scheme and also researched economic and social needs in the old town. Their conclusion (published in 2008 as Report on the Canongate Project) was that to maintain the old town as a place to live, there was a need, amongst other things, for more affordable and family housing, more premises for start-ups and independent businesses, and for more green spaces. In 2009 the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust emerged from this campaign as a community-owned body to work towards some of these developments and to continue to promote the old town as a good place to live.

The Trust needs the input of people who live and work in the Old Town. If you would like to become involved in the Trust, become a member. Membership is free. Download a membership form here.