Your trip to Edinburgh isn’t complete without seeing the Royal Mile, the city’s most famous street, running through the centre of the Old Town.
The Royal Mile is actually made up of five streets; Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, and Abbey Strand, so you may see signs for these as well, but it’s all still the Royal Mile!
You can visit many of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks along The Royal Mile, with plenty to choose from. Start with Edinburgh Castle at the top, and don’t miss the Scotch Whisky Experience and Camera Obscura on Castlehill. Around Lawnmarket and the High Street, you can see St Giles’ Cathedral, the Mercat Cross, City Chambers, and the Tron Kirk.
Continue down to Canongate to see many free museums, including the Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, and the People’s Story. You can also visit the John Knox House, Canongate Kirk, Our Dynamic Earth, and the new Scottish Parliament building, before finishing at Holyrood Palace.
As well as the main street itself, you should explore the many alleys branching off The Royal Mile, known as closes or wynds. These came into existence when Edinburgh was surrounded by a city wall, and living outside it was too dangerous, so the city became increasingly overcrowded, and buildings were constructed closer together. Some of the most interesting closes include Lady Stair’s Close, Advocate’s Close, Brodie’s Close, and Borthwick’s Close, but there are around 80 in total to discover, some leading to hidden courtyards or gardens!
You can also see where the main entrance to the city used to be, a gate called the Netherbow Port, which was located at what is now the intersection of The Royal Mile with St Mary’s Street. You can see golden markings on the ground showing its position. This was also known as the World’s End for the people of Edinburgh, as many would never leave the city during their lives. You can now visit a pub of the same name at this intersection!
On the Edinburgh Free Tour, you will learn about the major events of Edinburgh’s history, and the significant sights of the Old Town. The Free Ghost Tour shows you the darker side of the city, with stories of witchcraft, murders, and torture, exploring sinister alleys and graveyards.
You can also browse dozens of shops along the Royal Mile, offering every sort of souvenir you might want to take back home. There are numerous restaurants and pubs to choose from, many with traditional Scottish dishes on the menu. You can also enjoy simply wandering the picturesque street, and watch some of the street performers entertaining the crowds.
Today the Royal Mile has changed a lot and it’s a beautiful place to meet tourists, street performers, souvenir shops, bagpipers, cafes or pubs, but has preserved the essence of a medieval and chaotic past that you shouldn’t miss.
Find many more curiosities and anecdotes about Edinburgh in our tours around the city.