Audio Point Eight – George Street.

A short sample from Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point Eight.

George Street.

In stark contrast to the Old Town, George Street is defined by its grand palatial architecture, generous space, open views, light and order.

This elegant street is named from King George III the ruling monarch of the time. It connects St Andrew Square in the east St George Square (later named Charlotte Square) in the west. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St George is the patron saint of England. George Steet linking the two squares is a symbolic union of the Scotland and England.

The building work in George Street began in the late 1760’s when the street looked just like a country road with fences on either side. It took over two decades before all the elegant neo-classical houses were built and the street became the grandest and the most prestigious thoroughfare in Edinburgh.

In the late 18th century George Street was known for its fashionable assembly rooms attended by the rich and famous residents of Edinburgh. Here Walter Scott revealed that he was the author of the novel Waverley. Charles Dickens read from his novels and a Peers Ball was held when King George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822.

King George IV made his visit to the city during the height of the Edinburgh’s ‘golden age’. He was the first British monarch to visit Scotland in over 150 years.

Sir Walter Scott, the pageant master, persuaded King George IV to wear a highland outfit complete with bright red Royal Tartan kilt and assorted weaponry including dirk, sword and pistols.

To cover his unsightly bloated legs the King decided to wear flesh-coloured pantaloons under the kilt. 

Highland chieftains who knew the harsh realities of Scottish Highlands looked in dismay and bewilderment at a 60-year-old, overweight King dressed in short kilt and pink pantaloons. Some ladies complained that his kilt was too short for modesty.

Although King George IV appeared in public in this outfit only once it was enough to make his visit to Scotland truly unforgettable.

To commemorate the king’s visit to Edinburgh a bronze statue was erected in 1831. It stands at the junction of George Street and Hanover Street. The statue has been described as quote “representing the gracious monarch in a very ‘first-gentleman-of-Europe’ attitude” unquote.


18th century was the age of Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh’s New Town provided a perfect setting in the greatest period of the city’s history.

For several decades it was Europe’s leading centre for philosophical enquiry and debate. It was the time when the city aspired to be “a heavenly city of philosophers” or Athens of the North.

The famous residents of Edinburgh were not just philosophers like, David Hume and Adam Smith but scientists, novelists and lawyers.

Some of the other most prominent residents of the New Town include: novelists Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and the scientist credited with the invention of the telephone – Alexander Graham Bell.


A graceful tower and 50-meter spire closer St Andrew’s Square on the north side of George Steet belongs to St Andrew’s church.

Built in 1784 as the first church in the New Town it is notable for its temple-front portico, magnificent interior-ceiling design, and unusual oval sanctuary with excellent acoustics.

It is a busy working church and visitors are always welcome.


George Street was originally designed as a residential area with elegant townhouses. During the Victorian period the street evolved into commercial area with all the homes replaced by shops, showrooms, banks and hotels.

Today it remains the most prestigious shopping street in the city lined with stylish restaurants, luxury shops and high-end fashion boutiques.