The edges of these areas are generally defined by roads, though actual lines on the ground are very difficult to draw as most locals tend to have varying ideas, map makers are in just as little agreement and the post code areas are of no real help at all, being skewed more by number of residents than for utility of naming areas. The names of the areas are mainly named for the major road(s) in the area, however in some cases it is believed that the names of the roads are a reflection of the original name/use of the area.
All distances will be given in the number of minutes walk from Edinburgh castle since this is a nice central and obvious place of reference.
Bruntsfield is about thirty minutes walk south east of Edinburgh castle and is relatively affluent compared to surrounding areas, with more expensive shops, housing and a propensity to attracting higher quality restaurants. There are a couple of bars, but (unusually for Edinburgh) almost no pubs and no clubs at all. Shops tend to sell the more superfluous things in life (a good example being the Pooh bear shop). Bruntsfield adjoins Marchmont to the east, Merchiston to the south and west, Tollcross to the north and the Meadows to the northeast.
Cowgate is about 5 minutes south of Edinburgh castle and comprises of the road down which cows were herded for Edinburgh's market days in previous centuries. This area is nestled below the Royal Mile and has a number of housed bridges crossing it (housed bridges being bridges along which housing has been built, obscuring the fact it is a bridge when walking over it) as such it is quite dark. The preceding as well as the fact that it is one of the centres of the pubbing and clubbing scene in Edinburgh tends to mean that living in the area is not very popular and as such tends to be populated by students. The area is rare in that it does not actually include an high street, however there is a proliferation of pubs, clubs and (very) light industry. This area is part of a larger region known as Old Town; which consists of the oldest extant parts of the city. Cowgate adjoins the Royal Mile to the north, Holyrood to the east, Pleasance to the southeast, South Bridge above it, Forrest Hill to the southwest and Grassmarket to the west. It also contains buildings of the Scottish parliament. It is also known as the Old Town.
Grassmarket is 5 minutes southwest of Edinburgh castle and comprises, for the most part, of what used to be, in centuries past, one of Edinburgh main markets. The old market is surround by a large number of pubs, a couple of clubs, a number of local retail shops and a large hotel. This area is also quite highly populated with students though its openness (due to the large open market area) tends to increase house prices, as well as its proximity to the centre of town. It is here that some of the tallest buildings in the city exist, despite their apparent height being on a few stories, some are eight or nine stories high (and due to the age of the housing a storey is 11 or 12 feet high - just under 4 meters). These heights are not readily apparent due to the depression that the Grassmarket resides in and due to the dominance of castle rock above the area. Grassmarket adjoins Cowgate on the east, the Royal Mile on the north, Princes Street to the northwest, Lothian Road west, Forrest Hill to the southeast, Tollcross to the southwest and a "void" area to the south; this "void" area takes up the area between the Grassmarket and the Meadows, Forrest Hill and Tollcross and consists of a public (ie private) primary/secondary school (George Heriot's), the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Edinburgh College of Art (and a very small number of residential flats.)