The Royal Mile
Threading its way through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile is topped and tailed by Edinburgh Castle at its crest and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its base. Stroll along the Royal Mile and view the many historical sites on your way.
A visit to Gladstone’s Land, takes us into the home of a wealthy merchant where we can step back in time and see what life would have been like in his restored 17th century apartment. Enter into Makars Court, a tranquil courtyard with carved paving stones celebrating writers from the 14th century. It is here you will find the Writers Museum containing the renowned works of some of Scotland’s greatest writers including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Further down the Mile we can visit John Knox House which dates back to 1470. This is the only medieval building remaining in Edinburgh and is associated with The Scottish Reformation and subsequent abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots. As we wander along the mile, take a moment to step off its main thoroughfare and explore the many closes, narrow alleyways and wynds. The Real Mary Kings Close is a warren of dark, underground passageways which winds its way below the city streets. A guided tour will reveal tales of murder, plagues and unsolved mysteries.
St Giles Cathedral rises ahead. Dating back to 1120 it was constructed during the reign of King David I. Admire its architecture and colourful stained glass windows. Outside, see if you can spot the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped mosaic marking the position of the 15th century Old Tolbooth. In addition to being a Tolbooth it also served as a tax office and prison. Such was the distain of the residents at the time to this building of authority that they would spit on it, starting the tradition which can be seen to this day of people spitting on the heart. If you don’t see anybody spitting on it whilst you are there, look out for a wet patch – that’s a sign that visitors before you have paid a visit, albeit today, spitting on the Heart of Midlothian is meant to bring good luck!
The Scottish Parliament sits near the foot of the Royal Mile. Much debated, its contemporary architecture is in stark contrast to the ancient and historical buildings close by. Open to visitors Monday-Saturday, it is well worth a visit.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is an impressive landmark at the foot of the Royal Mile. A Summer home for the Royal Family, it is here where HM The Queen hosts her annual Garden Party during Holyrood week at the end of June/beginning of July. The Palace is open to visitors at various times throughout the year and guided tours through the grounds and Royal Apartments are a superb way to learn about our royal history over the centuries.
Calton Hill sits to the east of Princes Street and in addition to the panoramic views which can be seen from its summit, it also boasts some of the capital’s most magnificent landmarks. These include the National Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Dugald Stewart and Robert Burns Monument.
One of the oldest parts of the capital, this vibrant hub retains its historical character whilst offering a wealth of independent shops, boutiques and eateries for today’s visitor. With lots of events celebrating the city's heritage like the penny farthing experience in the video above, there is always something to see and do for the discerning history buff.
Uncover the secrets of the Grassmarket with the Greater Grassmarket Historic Trail audio guide - all you need is your smartphone with an internet connection. Walk up to one of the many pointers in the Grassmarket and follow the instructions to get started.
Edinburgh’s New Town is a perfect example of Georgian town planning. Designed in 1767, it is the epitome of grandiose elegance with its classic terraces, gardens, squares and quiet lanes. Visitors to the New Town should stroll through the carefully sculpted terraces of Princes Street Gardens and view its impressive monuments and statues. The Scott Monument reaches into the skyline and visitors are invited to climb its 142 steps to take in the magnificent views.
Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square sit at opposite ends of Edinburgh’s popular George Street with its fashionable shops and restaurants. A visit to the Georgian House in Charlotte Square will give you a peak at life over 200 years ago. The Assembly Rooms were originally built as an entertainment venue for Edinburgh residents and is still used today for concerts, dancing and exhibitions. St Andrew Square has recently undergone a transformation and is now a popular spot for visitors and residents to enjoy a stroll or picnic on a Summer’s day.
A short walk from the bustling streets of Edinburgh city centre sits the peaceful and picturesque Dean Village on the Water of Leith. In years gone by this village was a hub of activity renowned for its water mills. Today, you can still see remnants of this period with mill stones and carved plaques. The impressive Dean Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, traverses the water and standing on top of the bridge, you can look over the side and see the backdrop of the high rise Georgian apartments and their substantial back gardens which roll down to the waters edge.
In 1760, the discovery of a natural spring was thought to have healing properties. It is marked by St Bernard’s Well. A visit to Wells Courtyard, a communal yard surrounded by four and five tenement blocks was originally constructed for local workers. Major restoration works began here in 2007 and using traditional materials, the area has been restored to its original state. Well worth a visit.
Nearby sits the Gallery of Modern Art One and Two, with its unique and very contemporary manicured lawn. These are two beautiful classical buildings and open daily to visitors who can view the changing exhibitions inside.