The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the main street, and beating heart, of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Partly traffic-free, it runs fairly straight from Edinburgh Castle to the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, although its name changes several times – from west to east Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and finally Canongate.
Walking its full length is a great way to explore the Old Town. Be aware, however, that it slopes – downhill from Castle to Palace. Also, its distance is 10% longer than an English mile; indeed until 1824 this street defined the distance known as a ‘Scots mile’.
It’s also packed with fascinating buildings and vennels (alleys), bars and cafés, shops and museums, so allow plenty of time for your journey – especially when Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe is under way, when this area is jam-packed with street theatre, large crowds and performers giving out handbills.
At its western end, the castle dominates Edinburgh’s skyline and is Scotland’s second most visited attraction. Nearby at 549 Castlehill is the domed Camera Obscura, established in 1853. On a clear day, the city panorama captured by this pinhole camera is impressive. Its World of Illusions, displayed over five storeys, are fascinating in any weather.
Continue down the Lawnmarket to the High Street, passing or visiting St Giles Cathedral, and cross the main road – Waverley Station is to your left. Continue along the High Street past John Knox House – Edinburgh’s only surviving medieval house, dating from 1470.
Continue down the Canongate. Just after the People’ Story (a social history museum located in the 1591 Tolbooth) is the beautiful Canongate Kirk (church). Finally, a full mile from the castle, you pass the Scottish Parliament building on the right. Turn the corner to reach its public entrance. To its south is Our Dynamic Earth, a family-focused science centre and conference venue. Just across the road (Horse Wynd) stands the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which makes this mile truly royal.