Edinburgh History tour in 8 books

Take an Edinburgh history tour on your sofa while you’re dreaming of your next stroll through its atmospheric streets. Whether you are a local, a traveller reminiscing about your last visit, or only just dreaming about your first trip to Edinburgh, we have a list of books to entertain the armchair academic within you!

Edinburgh: A History of the City

Michael Fry, 2009

A good start to understanding any city, is a good history book. Even better if it contains some good humour! We loved Michael Fry’s Edinburgh: A History of the City. It was an easy read, yet made great connections between Edinburgh’s politics, industries, urban development and social history up to the dawn of the 21st century. We could not help but be entertained with Fry’s snarky personal opinions!

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Edinburgh: A History of the City, M.Fry, 2009

Lost Edinburgh: Edinburgh's Lost Architectural Heritage

Hamish Coghill, 2005

Our Edinburgh Old Town tour is very much about what is not there anymore as much as what is still standing. Lost Edinburgh has exactly the same feeling. It talks about the important historic buildings that were demolished or lost for different reasons.

Even if you haven’t been to Edinburgh, this book will provide an insight to the Old Town lifestyle and construction, function of the buildings, some important characters and architectural styles such as Scottish baronial. If you do know Edinburgh, it will be quite a revelation all the same!

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Lost Edinburgh: Edinburgh's Lost Architectural Heritage, H.Coghill, 2005

If you have been on our Edinburgh history tours, you will remember that Edinburgh was the epicentre of the Scottish Enlightenment and produced a largest Georgian planned town development in the world. The New Town is the pride of Edinburgh’s classical past and has been extensively published, with the latest major study coming out just last year.

Here is our pick of favourites:

The Making of Classical Edinburgh

A. J. Youngson, 1966

Youngson’s seminal book is a must read for the understanding of politics and financing behind the development of New Town and is quoted in all other works about New Town. This book had a real influence over conservation of the New Town, which by the 1966 was in very poor condition.

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The Making of Classical Edinburgh​, A. J. Youngson, 1966

Edinburgh New Town: A Model City

Michael Carley, Robert Dalziel, Pat Dargan, Simon Laird, 2015

This book presents Edinburgh New Town as an example of resilient urban typology, variety, scale and density, and is a valuable reference for urban planners and property developers that seek to create new sustainable neibourhoods around the world.

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Edinburgh New Town: A Model City​, M.Carley, R.Dalziel, P.Dargan, S.Laird, 2015

The New Town of Edinburgh: An Architectural Celebration

Clarisse Godard Desmarest, 2019

The most recent book on Edinburgh’s New Town, it is composed of a number of essays written by notable academics from Edinburgh and beyond. The book provides a very reliable, intriguing and varied overview of the New Town. Authors present the New Town in the context of other planned towns, and give a great comparison and causality between Edinburgh Old and New Towns.

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The New Town of Edinburgh: An Architectural Celebration, C.Godard Desmarest, 2019

Once you know the context, complement your armchair Edinburgh history tour with personal accounts by distinguished locals and travellers. Here is our pick of favourites:

First, tickle your appetite for Edinburgh’s “golden age” period drama with Memoirs of a Highland Lady and Lord Cockburn’s Memorial’s of His Time, which also contains a number of portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn.

On the traveller’s side of the spectrum, read the Silent Traveller in Edinburgh. Published as part of a series on multiple cities, this book is an evocative stream of Edinburgh’s impressions through the eyes of a Chinese person travelling in the 1940s.

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady, E.Grant, 1898
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Memorials of his time, H. Cockburn, 1856
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The Silent Traveller In Edinburgh, C.Yee, 1948

To hear about Edinburgh from us, check our Audio Tour selection.

You can choose from multiple itineraries available as an audio tour in Edinburgh.

Audio tours are a perfect way to learn about Edinburgh at your own pace. The tours are location aware, so you will hear directions and stories as you move.


We’ve done architectural tours in a number of cities and this ranks among the top!” 

Lynn, Edinburgh

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