The Royal Mile Edinburgh

Royal Mile Edinburgh

The Royal Mile

In the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile is the most famous street in the city. Dating back to medieval times, and the street is full of remnants of history from over the centuries.

Where is the Royal Mile and why is it important?

The Royal Mile runs through the centre of Edinburgh, using the land formation as its base. Starting from Castle Rock, an extinct volcano, the street runs downhill along the glacial ridge, finishing at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The Mile is how Edinburgh all began, starting from the fortress that is Edinburgh Castle, and then the city spilling out from this central street to create the rest of the Old Town. Since the earliest construction, it has been the main high street, and where many of the most important historic events took place.

Contrary to the name however, the Royal Mile isn’t actually a mile long: it’s a Scottish Mile, roughly 1.8km, a measurement no longer used. The street is made up of five smaller streets; Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, and Abbey Strand. It intersects with several streets, including North Bridge and The Mound, connecting it to the New Town, and South Bridge and George IV Bridge, to the rest of the Old Town.

What are the top sights and attractions on the Royal Mile?

You can find plenty of historic sights along The Royal Mile, including some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks, starting with Edinburgh Castle at the top. This was built as a defensive fortress for the city, but was also once the home of Scottish royalty, and still houses the Crown Jewels. You’ll get excellent views of the city from the Castle Esplanade as well!

On Castle Hill, you can visit the interactive Scotch Whisky Experience, to sample a dram of Scotland’s national drink; or Camera Obscura, where visitors of all ages will be enthralled by the optical illusions. As you continue down to Lawnmarket, you’ll pass by The Hub, formerly a church, and whose spire is Edinburgh’s highest point.

Continuing to the High Street, you’ll find the iconic St Giles’ Cathedral, the city’s most important church. Nearby you can see the old Scottish Parliament building (now the Supreme Courts), the Mercat Cross, City Chambers, and Tron Kirk. You can also explore a hidden underground street at The Real Mary King’s Close, or join a free walking tour – our orange umbrella will be waiting next to St Giles!

On Canongate, you’ll find several free museums; the People’s Story, Museum of Edinburgh, and Museum of Childhood. You can visit Canongate Kirk and its graveyard, John Knox’s House, and the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which hosts many live events through the year. And at the far end, along Abbey Strand, you’ll see the Scottish Parliament building, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, still the Queen’s official royal residence in Scotland.

Royal Mile Edinburgh

Shopping, Eating & Entertainment

As well as history, the Royal Mile has a wealth of shops to explore. This is a good area to pick up some souvenirs, with a range of items and prices available. 

There are plenty of restaurants and cafés to choose from; for fine dining, try The Witchery or Monteiths; or for something more casual, consider Kilderkin, The Royal McGregor, or the famous pulled pork rolls from Oink. The Orange Food Tour features a few locations along the Mile too, a good way to try out a few different dishes and venues.

The Royal Mile has a few particularly famous pubs; look out for Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, named after one of Edinburgh’s most notorious criminals; or The World’s End, named for its proximity to the old city gates (look for the gold markings in the ground outside, showing their locations) which were the end of the world to Edinburgh residents!

The High Street area is also the stage for many street performers, who have become an important part of the city’s culture over the years. In the course of a day, you might see magicians, escape artists, living statues, musicians, jugglers, and, of course, plenty of bagpipers!

What is a close?

As you wander the Royal Mile, you may notice the numerous narrow side streets branching off it – these are ‘closes’, some of the Old Town’s most unique features! For many centuries, Edinburgh was surrounded by a defensive wall, and most people wanted to live inside, where it was safest. This led to extreme overcrowding, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries, so buildings were constructed very close together, to maximise available space!

It’s well worth spending some time exploring the closes, as they lead to all sorts of different places. Check out Lady Stair’s Close, to visit the Writers’ Museum; Advocate’s Close, for a great view overlooking the New Town; or Dunbar’s Close, to discover a beautiful, secret garden. There are even more restaurants and pubs in many of them too, or just start wandering and see what adventure you find for yourself!

The Royal Mile is one of the most beautiful, iconic areas of Edinburgh, full of history and culture. There’s no shortage of things to see here, and the chaotic spirit of this ancient city lives on!

Top Tip

The Festival Fringe takes place in Edinburgh every year in August, with the Royal Mile acting as centre stage for all the street performers and promoters. For some, it’s the most fun time to visit, with so much going on, but others may feel overwhelmed, as it does get extremely crowded – the choice is yours!

OUR EDINBURGH TOURS

Free Edinburgh tour

  • Daily at 11am
  • 2 hours
  • In English or Spanish

A tour to help you to discover the history and culture of the city, but also provide you with the best insider tips for making the most of your time there.

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Free ghost tour

  • Daily at 6pm
  • 1.5 Hours
  • In English or Spanish

Discover tales of paranormal activity, bodysnatchers, witchcraft, cursed locations, and the many ghost that roam these streets during this adventure! Dare to join us?

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Free Harry Potter Tour

  • Daily at 1.30pm
  • 1.5 Hours
  • In English or Spanish

Come along to our Free Harry Potter Tour and let us show you the real places where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration to write her impressive series!

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edinburgh castle tour

  • 12:30pm Sat & Sun
  • 1.5 Hours
  • English or Spanish

This tour includes skip-the-line tickets & expert local guides, to show you this must-see attraction, with over 3000 years of history inside! Discover it all with us!

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edinburgh food tour

  • Daily at 12:30pm
  • 3.5 Hours
  • English

Discover the secret delights of Scottish cuisine! Join us for The Orange Food Tour of Edinburgh, as we show you some of the best that Scotland’s larder has to offer!

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edinburgh pub crawl

  • Daily at 8pm
  • 6 Bars & Clubs
  • All are welcome (18+ Only)

Our Edinburgh Pub Crawl is the perfect activity to complete your experience! With us, you will discover Edinburgh’s exciting nightlife after dark.

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