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You may find this relevant information helpful when researching the area prior to your visit

Social circumstances led to the grisly trade of “body snatching” whereby grave robbers would take bodies from fresh graves, selling them for medical research. The lasting legacy of the trade is the numerous watchtowers which were hastily put up in Edinburgh’s churchyards, some of which can still be seen today – for example in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The body-snatching trade was encouraged by the “turn-a-blind-eye” attitude of the hospitals. But it was taken to its extreme by the notorious Burke and Hare, who killed at least 16 people in order to sell the bodies to medical researcher Robert Knox. The duo were eventually captured and tried for murder and, reputation tarnished, Knox’s medical career was ruined – and Edinburgh is still remembered for the gruesome events. The part of Edinburgh where the pair’s terrible crimes were committed is the Grassmarket area of the Old Town.

Aside from its Castle, Edinburgh is most famous for its annual International Festival. The festival was first held in 1947 as a celebration of the end of the Second World War, and over the years it has grown into the biggest arts festival in the world. Each year it attracts around a million visitors to Edinburgh, thus almost doubling the city’s population. The festival is essentially made up of several mini-festivals, the main one being the International Festival which features slick performances of music, dance and drama. But there is also the extremely popular Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the famous Fringe Festival, and the smaller Book, Film and Jazz festivals.

The main Festival was founded in order to “provide the world with a centre where, year after year, all that is best in music, drama and the visual arts can be seen and heard”. As a result the shows that make up this part of the Festival tend to be sophisticated, intellectual and fairly mainstream, and so this part of the festival is most popular with “culture vultures”.

The Fringe Festival tends to be more off beat than the main festival and is made up of all manner of professional and amateur performers. As a result it tends to appeal to a younger audience. The Fringe side of the Edinburgh Festival is now regarded by the stage industry as so cutting edge and innovative that it is viewed by many as a showcase for new talent.

The Film Festival also dates back to 1947 and so is the oldest such festival in the world. It is now an established part of the film industry’s calendar and features both mainstream and independent films. The Book and Jazz Festivals, whilst smaller, also attract big names in their respective fields. These are more recently established off-shoots of the main festival, but nevertheless have become equally popular. And of course, one of the biggest attractions during the festival is the army’s contribution – famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is held on the Esplanade of the Castle.

Held since 1950 this is the single most popular event in Edinburgh’s International Festival, with over 200,000 people watching it each year. One of the International Festival’s highlights is the huge open air concert held in Princes Street Gardens, accompanied by a massive firework display from the castle ramparts. This event takes place on the final day of the Festival and is essentially the closing ceremony – but best of all, it is free.