Edinburgh, a city of contrasts: an exploration of the conservation and management issues of its two World Heritage sites

Edinburgh Study Tour
1 and 2 April 2016

Click here to register – space is limited! Read on for further details.

Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland since the fifteenth-century, has two distinct areas: the Old Town, which is dominated by a medieval fortress, and the neoclassical New Town, whose development from the eighteenth-century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning.  The harmonious juxtaposition of these two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, is what gives the city its unique character.  It is these two areas of the city which comprise the first of Edinburgh’s two World Heritage sites, and was inscribe in the UNESCO list in 1995.

Photo - Part of Edinburgh Old Town
Edinburgh Old Town (source)
Photo - Part of Edinburgh New Town
Edinburgh New Town (source)

A third contrast can be found to the north of the city, and it is the Forth Railway Bridge which spans the estuary of the Firth of Forth.  The bridge dates from 1890, designed by the engineer William Arrol, and is the world’s first multi-span cantilever bridge.  Built of steel on granite foundations, it has a span of 2,529 metres and was built at a time when the railways began to dominate long-distance travel.  This bridge, with its unashamed and innovative industrial aesthetic marks an important milestone in bridge design.  It was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2015.

Photo - Forth Railway bridge
Forth Railway Bridge (source)

A final contrast is the now abandoned island of Inchgarvie.  It lies in the shadow of the Forth Rail Bridge, in a strategic position in the Firth of Forth estuary.  A castle was built there in about 1490 by King James IV, and further fortifications were constructed during the Napoleonic wars.  The remains of these early fortifications were subsequently incorporated into the more recent defences constructed during the first and second world wars.  The island was also of strategic significance in the various proposals to bridge the Forth Estuary, and the foundations of the central cantilever of the present bridge are centred immediately to the west of the island, which also provided offices, workshops and accommodation during construction of the bridge.

Photo - Abandoned military defences on Inchgarvie Island
Abandoned military defences on Inchgarvie Island (source)


Outline programme (subject to change without notice):

Thursday 31 March
Evening: travel to Edinburgh, although participants may wish to travel to Edinburgh on Friday morning, to arrive in time for our first appointment at 10.00.

Friday 1 April
 introduction to Edinburgh’s World Heritage sites by a representative of Edinburgh World Heritage, followed by a walking tour of the Old Town.  This will include a visit, hosted by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, to Riddle’s Court, a 16th century mansion just off the Royal Mile. Once the home of the philosopher David Hume, it was in the nineteenth century adapted for Patrick Geddes as an University Hall and is now undergoing a £6 million programme of restoration to continue the legacy of Patrick Geddes.
Afternoon: walking tour of the New Town, including a visit to the Royal High School on Carlton Hill.  Built in 1825, the old Royal High School is one of Edinburgh’s most treasured neo-classical buildings, but recently a proposal was put to the City of Edinburgh Council to demolish part of the site to make way for a luxury hotel.  The application was narrowly defeated, because the proposal would have breached the management guidelines for the World Heritage site.  The fate of the building now remains unclear.
Evening: dinner together at a venue to be decided, at individual’s own expense.

Saturday 2 April
Morning: visit the Forth Railway Bridge to discuss the current management issues, and particularly the proposals for a Visitors’ Centre for this new World Heritage site.
Afternoon: boat trip to Inchgarvie Island to explore the abandoned military defences of the island and see how the island and its structures relates to the Forth Railway Bridge World Heritage site.
Evening:  study tour ends; return to York at participants’ discretion.

This trip is open to current conservation students and members of the York Conservation Alumni Association. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. To book a place click on the link here.

Fee for participants are: £50 for alumni and £20 for students.  The fee will be payable at the time of booking. Travel to and from Edinburgh, and subsistence costs while in Edinburgh, are not included in the booking fee.  Participants will also be required to book and pay for their own accommodation in Edinburgh. There are a very limited number of bursaries available for students, to assist with travel and participation costs (details to be circulated shortly).

Details of recommended hotel and hostel accommodation, along with a more detailed programme will be circulated early in February 2016.

Details correct at 11 January 2015