Are you interested in the fascinating and important scientific and community heritage of the city of Edinburgh? The tours on our website and its accompanying app are developed by the University of Edinburgh will be your guide to the history of ideas in the Athens of the North. We have sought out stories from the history of Edinburgh which will inspire, inform and amuse both visitors and residents of the city. We currently have tours available on the history of science, technology and medicine, as well as community tours, showcasing Edinburgh’s social history and international connections. More tours are currently in development and we welcome your ideas.
These tours are currently available on this website and on our app:
|General Science Tour |
From Charles Darwin to Higgs’ Boson this tour will allow you to explore some of the places associated with major scientific and medical discoveries and personalities of the last five centuries, as well as some that are less famous, but deserve to be more widely known.
| History of Geology|
Edinburgh has a long association with the science of geology. Perhaps the most famous Edinburgh geologist is James Hutton, whose name will forever be associated with the idea of ‘deep time’. However, Edinburgh was also home to many other colourful characters and events in the history of this ‘sublime science’. You can learn about some of them here.
| History of Physics|
Some of the most important figures in the history of physics have called Edinburgh their home, from John Napier in the 16th century to Peter Higgs in the 21st. This tour will guide you through the fascinating stories of their lives and work.
| History of Astronomy|
Edinburgh’s rich history of astronomy has left a lasting legacy across the city. From iconic buildings to notable scientists, this tour visits some of the most significant sites of Edinburgh’s astronomical past.
| History of Medicine|
Edinburgh is well known for its role in the history of medicine, with many notable figures having trained in the city. In this tour you will find out about some of the most important and intriguing of these people and their work.
|History of Edinburgh’s Hospitals|
Edinburgh’s history of medicine is often told with relation to the medical education provided by the University and the Royal College of Physicians. However, Edinburgh’s medical history is not complete without its varying hospitals and medical centres. This tour takes you from the medieval mariners’ hospital in Leith to the ground-breaking psychiatric hospital in Craigleith.
| History of Genetics and Biotechnology|
The most famous product of research in genetics and biotechnology in Edinburgh is Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from a somatic (body) cell in 1996. However, as you will learn in this tour, the history of genetics and biotechnology in Edinburgh has its roots in the early decades of the twentieth century.
| Scottish Enlightenment|
Explore key moments from the Scottish Enlightenment, a period of unprecedented scientific and intellectual creativity in the 18th and early 19th century. Discover some of Edinburgh’s most famous scientific thinkers and philosphers, and how their work intersected and fed into emerging ideas and methods for understanding the world.
| Jewish History|
There has been a Jewish community in Edinburgh for at least 200 years, although mass immigration to Scotland started only in the late nineteenth century as a result of the persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire. In this tour, produced in collaboration with the Research Network in Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, we explore the contribution made to the life of the city by its vibrant Jewish community over the years.
| History of Brewing|
Beer has been brewed in Edinburgh since the Middle Ages and much of the city is scattered with monuments to this important local industry. At one time 20 breweries were to be found along the Cannongate alone. We would like to share with you some of the fascinating stories behind these breweries and the people who owned and worked in them. This tour exploring this fascinating part of the city’s industrial heritage has been developed with the invaluable help and support of John Martin of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association.
| India and Edinburgh: the Old Town |
India and Edinburgh have a long and rich and complex history of connection including trade and cultural heritage. This tour from Professor Roger Jeffery and Hauke Wiebe of the University of Edinburgh explore the stories behind the most notable landmarks marking the links between Edinburgh’s Old Town and India.
| India and Edinburgh: the New Town|
The second of two tours from Professor Roger Jeffery and Hauke Wiebe of the University of Edinburgh, explores the connections between Edinburgh and India, particularly focusing on the New Town, where stops include military landmarks and the first written account of curry being eaten in the city.
| Granton Tour|
From medieval times through the industrial age and into the future, this tour highlights Granton’s heritage. Spanning quarrying to castles and early steel to electric cars, Granton has been at the forefront of bringing innovation and wealth to Edinburgh. While most of its industries have now vanished, we hope to keep its heritage alive in describing what was once a hive of activity.
| History of Charity and Civic Action|
This tour offers an insight into the rich history of the third sector (charity and voluntary action) in Edinburgh, with a focus on the individuals, organisations and events that have shaped Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC). Since 1868, EVOC, originally known as the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, has been at the heart of campaigning for social justice and the improved conditions of Edinburgh’s citizens.
This tour provides a public history of the lives and experiences of students of colour at Edinburgh University throughout its history and is based on UncoverED’s growing database of alumni from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. UncoverED is a student-led, collaborative and decolonial research project which places the ‘global’ status of Edinburgh University in its imperial and colonial context and remembers and celebrates those students in the university’s collective history.
| BLM Mural Trail (Edinburgh)|
In response to a recent international outpouring of support for Black Lives Matter, Scotland’s Black and Asian take in Scotland wide Black Lives Matter Mural Trail
Taking the Tours
You can visit the places in our tours in an order that suits you, although the numbering suggests an order that would be convenient for a visitor to the city on foot or using public transport. We estimate that to see all the places on each of the tours should take approximately three hours, but you may choose to visit only those which are of special interest to you. You can choose from the lists of places to create your own itinerary based on your interests and the amount of time you have available.
The map on the tour page will help you find the places and orientate yourself in the city. Most of the stops on our tour are within walking distance from Waverley station and the city centre, although for a some of the more distant ones some visitors may prefer to use Edinburgh’s excellent bus services. If you do decide to take the bus, you might find Lothian Transport’s route planner helpful.
We would love to hear your comments about our website and app, which we are still developing and trialling over the coming months. To find out more about the team involved, how this project was developed and funded see our acknowledgements page.