Princes Street Gardens is a public park in the centre of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The Gardens were created in two phases in the 1770s and 1820s following the long draining of the Nor Loch and building of the New Town, beginning in the 1760s. The loch, situated on the north side of the town, was originally an artificial creation forming part of its medieval defences and made expansion northwards difficult. The water was habitually polluted from sewage draining downhill from the Old Town. In 1846 the railway was built in the valley to connect the Edinburgh-Glasgow line at Haymarket with the new northern terminus of the North British line from Berwick-upon-Tweed at Waverley Station. The gardens run along the south side of Princes Street and are divided by The Mound. East Princes Street Gardens run from The Mound to Waverley Bridge, and cover 8.5 acres (34,000 m2). The larger West Princes Street Gardens cover 29 acres (120,000 m2) and extend to the adjacent churches of St. John's and St. Cuthbert's, near Lothian Road in the west.
The Gardens are the best known park in Edinburgh, having the highest awareness and visitor figures for both residents and visitors to the city. Various concerts and other events are held at the Ross Bandstand including the Festival Fireworks Concert, Men's Health Survival of the Fittest, and during the city's Hogmanay celebrations. East Princes Street Gardens originated after a dispute between Edinburgh Corporation (town council) and the early New Town proprietors, among whom was the philosopher David Hume who resided in St. David Street, a side street off Princes Street. In 1771 the council acquired the land as part of the First New Town development. It began feuing ground on the south side of Princes Street (on the site of the current Balmoral Hotel and Princes Mall Shopping Centre) for the building of houses and workshops for a coach-builder and a furniture-maker.
After a failed petition to the council the proprietors raised two actions in the Court of Session to halt the building and to condemn the Corporation for having contravened their feuing terms by which they had pre-supposed open ground and a vista south of the street. After the Court found in favour of the council on the first point the decision was quickly appealed to the House of Lords and overturned, but when the Court again supported the council on the second point, the matter was submitted to judicial arbitration. This resulted in a judgement that the houses could be completed which later allowed the North British Hotel (Balmoral Hotel) to be built on the site, that the adjacent furniture-maker's premises must not rise above the level of Princes Street (which is the reason the roof of the Princes Mall Shopping Centre is at street level) and that the ground westwards for half the length of Princes Street "shall be kept and preserved in perpetuity as pleasure-grounds to be dressed up at the expense of the town council as soon as may be. East Princes Street Gardens hosts the Big Wheel, the Star Flyer, a stunning ice rink and carousel, and the traditional European market.