Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh's beautiful Old Town at sunset. Photo Creative Commons License Ocumare.

Edinburgh ("ED-in-bur-ah") is the second largest city in Scotland after Glasgow and is the country's capital. Its name is probably derived from the Gaelic Dun-Edin, meaning "the fort on the slope." The name remains highly appropriate, as the fortified walls of Edinburgh Castle still dominate the skyline of the city. The Old Town grew up around the base of the castle in a maze of tenements that still stand today. The elegant squares and crescents of the New Town were added in the 18th century.

Like many large and important cities, Edinburgh has played a significant role in religious history. The most well-known religious figure associated with Edinburgh is the Calvinist preacher John Knox, who studied in Geneva and then spread the Reformation in Scotland. John Knox preached his first sermon in Edinburgh's St. Giles' Cathedral, a statue of him stands in the courtyard of the University of Edinburgh's Faculty of Divinity, and the "John Knox House" (where he probably never lived) can be toured on the Royal Mile. In the 18th century, Edinburgh was a major center of the Enlightenment, most notably as the home of David Hume.

Today, Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist destination in Great Britain following London, and it's not hard to see why. Compact and tidy, it is more of a big town than a small city. It has a population of about 500,000 residents but receives as many as 13 million visitors each year.

St Giles Cathedral
As the church where John Knox preached the Reformation, St Giles' is the mother church of the Church of Scotland and the birthplace of Presbyterianism.
Holyrood Abbey
Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I for Augustinian monks from St Andrews. Holyrood Palace, home of Scottish royalty, was later built next to the abbey.
St Cuthbert's Church
This historic church in Edinburgh has a friendly congregation that emphasizes Celtic spirituality.