Edinburgh is one of Europe's most elegant and cosmopolitan cities, the Old Town rebuilt on the medieval street plan after being burned down by the English in 1544, and the eighteenth-century classical New Town more extensive than anything else of its kind in Europe. Edinburgh was the capital of an independent kingdom for more than two hundred and fifty years, and it has the air of a capital, with buildings where kings were born or where some of their more prominent subjects were assassinated, streets once trodden by Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a rich artistic life that comes into exhilarating full flower in August with the Edinburgh Festival. Edinburgh is also the gateway to some of the most spectacularly beautiful country in Britain: lying southward is the romantic landscape of the Borders, where Alexander Youngson is an admirable guide to the ruined abbeys, the castles that have withstood countless sieges, and the great houses still owned by families 'that the Flood could not wash away'. A.J. Youngson is former chairman of the Fine Art Commission for Scotland.
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