This is where it all started. The Royal Mile - the backbone of the Old Town that leads from Edinburgh Castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament - has seen centuries of Edinburgh life.
An easy walking distance from Edinburgh Waverley Train Station, the area is a must-see for every Edinburgh visitor.
Nestled in between the shops, restaurants, bars and pubs are closes, wynds and pends leading to hidden, tranquil gardens, gorgeous views over the city and pubs and eateries just waiting to be discovered. Filled with remnants and artefacts of the past mixed with the contemporary, this is Old Edinburgh, blending charmingly with the 21st century.
The Castle at the top of the Royal Mile affords panoramic views across the north and south of Edinburgh, while in the summer it's the setting for concerts and music acts, as well as the sepctacular world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place on the Castle Esplanade every night in August.
Every August the Royal Mile is filled with entertainers and comedians as the Edinburgh International Festival - the largest arts festial in the world - and Edinburgh Festival Fringe fill the city with the most exciting and diverse talent from across the planet.
The Royal Mile has also provided the backdrop for big screen adventures, the most recent being Avengers: Infinity War, which saw a fight scene culminate in Edinburgh Waverley train station. If you're an Outlander fan, a quick detour down Bakehouse Close near the old Tolbooth will find you retracing Jamie and Claire's season three footsteps.
North Bridge is well served by Lothian Buses. Buses 1, 8, 19, 35 and 37 are just some of the buses that stop there. Alternatively, buses 23, 27, 41, 42, 45, 67 all stop on George Forth Bridge. All stops are within easy walking distance of the Royal Mile.
One way to get a great view of the castle is on a City Sighseeing Tour. Their Hop-on Hop-off tickets start from £16.00 per person and have 24hr unlimited use. Taking in numerous stops around the city, including all main sights and attractions, and with audio commentaries in 9 languages plus 'Horrible Histories' Kid's Commentary, they're a great way of exploring the city on 4 wheels.
In 2019 Edinburgh made history when it became the first city in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, which has seen cities around the world temporarily opening streets to people by closing them to cars, vans and other motorised vehicles on a regular basis. On the first Sunday of every month a number of streets in the Old Town, including the Canongate, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, are closed to motorised traffic, letting the public enjoy the historic area on foot or by bike.
History of The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile certainly has history: when you walk down the street you start at an extinct volcano and continue down a slope that was formed by the retreat of an ice age over 325 million years ago. By the 12th century, this had become the main street of the adjoining burghs of Edinburgh and Canongate.
The Royal Mile is actually made up of four connecting streets: at the top (west) is Castlehill, then Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate. Dozens of steep pedestrian closes lead off the street, and are worth exploring to find many of the area’s hidden gems. Head down Dunbar’s Close to find a tranquil garden just seconds away from the hustle and bustle of the street.
As well as the Festival and Tattoo, in September you might see the Riding of the Marches,in October, the Samhuinn Fire Festival and on Hogmanay you can join in the Old Town Ceilidh. There is activity all year round and you are sure to find something unique to see whenever you visit!
Alongside many of the historical and current Royal family visits, Edinburgh was famously the initial developing ground of Scottish Enlightenment with some of the more famous figures of the movement based in the Old Town – these include David Hume, Adam Smith and Robert Burns to name a few.
Represented by a statue outside Canongate Kirk, Robert Fergusson, a widely respected local poet, was born in Cap and Feather Close (which no longer exists) just off the Royal Mile. He is buried in Canongate Kirkyard along with Adam Smith and Nancy Craig, an attractive widow who inspired Robert Burn’s famous poem ‘To Clarinda’ and which is now the name of a local cafe with excellent tray bakes.
Although not a resident, JK Rowling wrote much of her first Harry Potter novel nearby in The Elephant House on George IV Bridge and Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels reference the Royal Mile and it’s closes in many books, particularly ‘Fleshmarket Close’ which is set here.
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