Tens of millions of years of intense volcanic activity followed by several thousand years of glacial erosion in the Lothians carved out a dramatic and picturesque landscape.
These prehistoric peaks and troughs are the very features which lend the city its unique allure. But for every hill in Scotland’s capital - and there are several - there was a loch.
Some of the city’s famous lost lochs include the Nor’ Loch, Canonmills Loch and the Burgh Loch. Others, such as Duddingston Loch and Lochend Loch, survive, but have been greatly reduced in size.
Had all these ancient lochs survived, perhaps it would have been Venice - not Athens - that Edinburgh found her closest civic companion.
For those keen to learn more about Edinburgh’s lost lochs, check out ‘The Nor’ Loch: Scotland’s Lost Loch’ by Malcolm Fife.
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1. Nor' Loch
The most famous of Edinburgh's lost lochs is the Nor' Loch. Situated to the immediate north of the castle, the man-made Nor' Loch survived around 600 years before being drained in the late 18th century. Princes Street Gardens, developed in stages between 1830 and 1876, now occupies the former Nor’ Loch valley.
2. Burgh Loch
The Burgh Loch once occupied almost the entirety of what is now the Meadows parkland. Over the centuries the loch shrank considerably, to the point where the town council agreed to begin draining it in 1657. Hope Park, or the Meadows, which we all know today was created in stages over the next 200 years
Photo: Ian Georgeson
3. Cowgate Loch
There is evidence that a loch, the Cowgate loch, once filled the ravine between the Grassmarket and Holyrood. Its existence was recorded in the 17th century ‘Provinciae Edinburgenae Descriptio’, which states that there was a loch through the Cowgate until it was drained in the early 1400s.
Photo: Photographer: Scott Louden
4. Canonmills Loch
Canonmills Loch once filled the large hollow between the bottom of modern-day Dundas Street and Rodney Street. It is thought the loch was once as large as Duddingston Loch is today. Between 1847 and 1864 Canonmills Loch was drained and the hollow transformed to become what is now King George V Park.
Photo: Ian Georgeson