The setting of Scotland’s capital city could not be more striking. Located in the Lothians, on the east coast of Scotland, Edinburgh is perched on a number of extinct volcano cones and rocky crags and has a brooding, chilly beauty unequalled anywhere in Britain. The origin of the name Edinburgh is uncertain. Possibly it’s a corruption of Edwin’s Burgh – Edwin being a ninth-century King of Northumbria, whose domain extended to the Firth of Forth. Or it could be derived from Dunedin, or rather ‘din Eidyn’ (meaning ‘Eidyn’s Hill Fort’), the city’s original name, mentioned in a poem composed around 600 AD. What is certain is that Edinburgh has been inhabited since around 1500 BC, making it one of the longest continuously inhabited places in northern Europe. The city grew in importance and – by the end of the 15th century – was established as Scotland’s capital. Scotland’s links with England became closer after 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England, effectively uniting the two crowns. In 1707, the Act of Union (uniting the Scottish and English parliaments) knocked a nail into the coffin of Scotland’s independence, although Scotland retained its own Church and separate legal and educational systems. However, with the re-introduction of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Edinburgh has become a centre of political power once again. The city has successfully established itself as a leading international centre for business, finance and education. Industry in Edinburgh continues to boom, with unemployment running at 2.7% (well below both the Scottish national average of 4.2% and the UK average of 3.2%). After London, it is the most important financial centre in Britain. The city also has four universities. The oldest, the University of Edinburgh, was established in 1583. Although it is more conservative than other Scottish cities, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh is still an exciting, forward-looking capital, full of art, culture, history and beauty. It has manifold art galleries and museums, five major performing-arts theatres and a year-round calendar of international festivals. The city is also a World Heritage Site, thanks to its medieval Old Town, 12th-century castle and 18th-century Georgian New Town. To complete the picture, a large proportion of the city is composed of green areas and parkland. The only dull note is its chilly damp climate, best summed up by the Scottish word ‘dreich’ that translates as ‘grey, damp and drizzly’. For this reason, most tourists descend on Edinburgh in summer (between July and September) and particularly in August, for the world-famous Edinburgh International Festival, when the city is abuzz with cultural activity. There is also a lively Fringe Festival, Military Tattoo and the Book, Film and Jazz Festivals running concurrently with the main event. However, it is also very crowded at this time, with accommodation booked up for months in advance. Another influx of visitors occurs over the New Year period, when the popular Hogmanay Festival takes place. The quietest time to visit, therefore, is either in the spring or late autumn, when the attractions are less overrun with tourists and some hotels offer discounts.