TOURISTS can explore the “lost townscape” of 16th- century Edinburgh thanks to a new interactive app. The “virtual time travel” tool promises to take users back to the capital as it was known to locals in 1544, two years after the birth of Mary Queen of Scots and the death of her father James V.

At the time, the city was yet to be targeted by English soldiers in a devastating attack aimed at linking the crowns of Scotland and England.

Edinburgh was sacked and burned by troops led by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, in the “Rough Wooing” as England’s Henry VIII tried to demolish opposition to a marriage between the young Mary and his son, also Edward.

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Dr Bess Rhodes, who worked on the project, said: “For the first time visitors and residents can compare the city they know with the capital of James V and Mary Queen of Scots.

“It has been amazing seeing the recreation of a lost townscape.

“I hope this project makes the public more aware of the layers in the capital’s history, and furthers understanding of the complex way in which Edinburgh evolved.”

Created through a collaboration between experts from St Andrews University and Smart History, a spin-out company from the institution, the app is the first of its kind and will be released in May.

It is based on what is thought to be the earliest accurate depiction of the capital, a drawing by English military engineer Richard Lee, who later designed the massive artillery defences at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Historians and art experts used archaeological evidence, written sources from the time and the geography of the modern city to create the finished version. The reconstruction includes an overview of the entire townscape of the city in the 16th century, as well as a special focus on the Royal Mile, described as “the historic spine of Edinburgh”.

While it will be available for mobile phones, a special 3D virtual version has also been created.

It was unveiled for the first time at an industry showcase in St Andrews on Thursday.

Rhodes says her team’s work will give users the ability to take a close look at the country during a pivotal moment in its history, when Queen Regent Mary of Guise was running the country in her daughter’s stead and trying to defend it from its powerful and determined neighbours.

The academic, who specialises in the social, religious and economic aspects of the late mediaeval and early modern periods, said: “The 1540s were a tumultuous period in Edinburgh’s history.

“In December 1542 King James V of Scotland died, leaving his baby daughter Mary as monarch.

“Not long after the English King Henry VIII ordered an invasion of Scotland, with the aim of forcing the Scots to accept a proposed betrothal between the infant Mary and his young son.

“One of the first major actions in the conflict later known as the ‘Rough Wooing’ was the Earl of Hertford’s attack on Edinburgh in May 1544.

“Hertford’s forces failed to capture Edinburgh Castle, but set fire to the city, destroying much of the medieval townscape, before they retreated.

“Our reconstruction is the first digital representation of Edinburgh at this eventful moment in the capital’s past.”