There are a wide range of useful sites to help you further explore Edinburgh’s rich history and heritage.
Please refer also to our national and local history and heritage societies.
Libraries and archives
Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library – The City’s own local studies library, with extensive holdings of printed books and topographical material. Edinburgh residents can join the Library Service and gain access to online newspapers and other electronic resources. Online resources include Capital Collections, images of Edinburgh from the library’s unique collection of photographs, engravings and drawings; Edinburgh Collected, a community archive of Edinburgh memories; and Our Town Stories, designed to help you explore Edinburgh’s history through stories, images and maps.
Edinburgh City Archives – The City’s own archive, containing the records of the burghs of Edinburgh, the Canongate and Leith, from the Middle Ages to the present. A recent project with the City Libraries and Museums services was Redrawing Edinburgh, which brings to life the expansion of the city 100 years ago, in commemoration of the 1920 Edinburgh Boundaries Extension and Tramways Act. Architectural plans lodged in the Dean of Guild Court 1700-1824 have been catalogued with OEC support.
Edinburgh Planning Portal – This site is useful if you wish to inspect more recent plans and drawings concerning current and archived planning applications.
The National Archives – The official archive of the UK Government, including records relating to Scotland since 1707.
National Records of Scotland – Records of Scotland’s government before and after the Union, legal and court records, church records and much more, including rich Edinburgh holdings. Search the NRS Catalogue to explore these. NRS also maintain the Scottish Handwriting site, invaluable if you need to decipher the script in older records.
National Library of Scotland – Scotland’s copyright library and premier research library, including a remarkable collection of historic maps online and extensive range of digitised historical books. NLS also holds a manuscript collection, complementary to that of NRS; maintains the Moving Image Archive; and provides access for registered users to e-resources, including British Library Newspapers, Find My Past and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. NLS has also digitised Post Office Directories, invaluable for tracking people, businesses and institutions year-to-year.
Canmore – The online catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage, with site-specific content. Maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, the body created by the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. HES has a Library and search room, where original records can be viewed.
Scotland’s Places – Pre-1800 tax records, Ordnance Survey Name Books, plans, Medical Officer of Health reports, etc. Draws on the resources of HES, NLS and NRS. You can search for a place name, click on a map or type in your postcode. Also hosts a digital version of the Atlas of Scottish History.
Scottish Archive Network Catalogue – Online catalogue of Scotland’s local and institutional archives. Similar but complementary to NRS’s catalogue. Search under “GB236” for Edinburgh City Archive; “GB237” for Edinburgh University Special Collections and “GB239” for Lothian Health Services Archive. Resources prepared by the original Scottish Archive Network project are still available.
Statistical Accounts of Scotland – Online access to the classic accounts of Scotland’s parishes, written by local ministers, including descriptions of Edinburgh in 1793 and 1845.
SCRAN – Scran provides educational access to digital materials representing Scotland’s material culture and history. An HES service, it hosts over 400,000 fully-captioned images, sounds and film from more than 300 museums, galleries, and archives.
British Newspapers – Index to digitised content, including Edinburgh newspapers, much of it pay-by-view or available by subscription only. Some can be accessed by members of Edinburgh City Libraries or the National Library of Scotland.
Records of the Parliament of Scotland – Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707.
History of Parliament Online – Includes biographies of all Edinburgh MPs post-1707.
British History Online – Collection of around 1300 volumes of primary and secondary content relating to British history.
Archive.org – Huge repository of old books, including local and family histories. Holds the NLS collection and much more. Use its search function as items tend not to appear prominently in Google searches.
Scotland’s People – Site hosting the National Records of Scotland’s birth, marriage, death and census records, wills and valuation rolls. Free to search with fees for accessing most of the original records other than Kirk Session and Presbytery minutes, some estate maps and the 1881 Census.
Scottish Archive Network catalogue – Catalogue of local and institutional archives. Search under “GB236” for Edinburgh City Archive, “GB237” for Edinburgh University Special Collections and “GB239” for Lothian Health Services Archive.
Scottish Genealogical Society – Membership organisation for anyone interested in Scottish genealogy, and serves as the local genealogy society for Edinburgh. Comprehensive Library and Research Centre located on Victoria Terrace in Edinburgh and staffed by experienced volunteers, it also holds regular winter evening talks.
National Library of Scotland – As above. Resources include family and estate collections of manuscripts and published histories of landed and other notable families.
Scottish National War Memorial – Information on and commemoration of Scottish servicemen.
Visiting Scotland and Edinburgh
VisitScotland – Accommodation and other information for visitors to Edinburgh and beyond from Scotland’s national tourism agency.
The City of Edinburgh Council – Information about Edinburgh and facilities and services offered by the council.
Curious Edinburgh – 18 tours showcasing the history of ideas in Edinburgh. Website and app for self-guiding, featuring Edinburgh’s scientific heritage as well as social and cultural developments which have shaped the city. Developed by the University of Edinburgh.
EdinburghGuide.com – Information on Edinburgh and its facilities, and links to other sites.
Historic Environment Scotland – Access to Edinburgh Castle and other Edinburgh monuments in the care of the national heritage agency.
National Trust for Scotland – Access to the Georgian House, Gladstone’s Land, Newhailes House and other places in and around Edinburgh in the care of the National Trust.
Rampant Scotland links on Architecture and Edinburgh – Includes information about aspects of past and present Edinburgh architecture.
Threadinburgh – A collection of more obscure aspects of Edinburgh and Leith local history and Scottish modern history.
Museums and galleries
City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries – Information on 11 venues, including Museum of Edinburgh (formerly Huntly House), People’s Story, Museum of Childhood and City Art Centre.
National Galleries of Scotland – Information on the galleries, which have rich materials relating to Edinburgh.
National Museums of Scotland – Information on the museums, which contain a wealth of artefacts connected with Edinburgh.