The Royal Mile is the main street, and beating heart, of Edinburgh’s Old Town. 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. At about 1.1 miles long its distance is 10% longer than an English mile; indeed until 1824 this street defined the distance known as a ‘Scots mile’.
On a typical tour we will leave the tour van and explore on foot the fascinating buildings, Closes 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 leaflets.
At its western end, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline and is Scotland’s most visited attraction. Nearby is The 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.
Continuing down Lawnmarket to High Stree we pass Gladstone’s Land, a living 17th century townhouse and St Giles Cathedral the 11th century High Kirk of Edinburgh, widely re-modelled in 1500, that dominates this part of the Royal Mile. Continue along the High Street past John Knox House – Edinburgh’s only surviving truly medieval house, dating from 1470.
At the bottom of the Mile is Canongate. Just after the People’ Story (a social history museum located in the 1591 Tolbooth) is the beautiful Canongate Kirk (church). Finally at the bottom of the Royal Mile, you pass the Scottish Parliament building on the right. Turn the corner to reach its public entrance. To its south is Dynamic Earth, a family-focused science centre and conference venue. Just across the road on Horse Wynd stands The Palace of Holyroodhouse, which makes the street truly royal!