Edinburgh / Attractions / Old Town & The Royal Mile

Royal Mile & Edinburgh Old Town

The Edinburgh Royal Mile, the famous street in Old Town

Edinburgh Royal Mile

Old Town is the old center of Edinburgh whose most famous street is The Royal Mile ('Golden Mile'). The main street runs from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Info & Tours Edinburgh Royal Mile

Address The Royal Mile is formed by four connected main streets, which are from the castle: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.

Do you want to visit the Old Town with a guided tour? Then this Old Town History and Tales Walking Tour is a perfect way to explore the historic part of the city.

Book Old Town tours

Another fun way to walk the Royal Mile is with this audioguide hat you can download on your phone. The audioguide you can buy online for a few euros and tell interesting stories during the walk.

Edinburgh's Old Town and Royal Mile

When you hear Edinburgh, you immediately think of the famous Royal Mile. This is a succession of smaller streets, which together form the main street of the Old Town district in Edinburgh. The Royal Mile runs from Castle Rock, on which Edinburgh Castle is located, to the Holyroodhouse Palace. The street gets its name from this walking route, because it refers to the distance between the royal residences at both ends of the street, which is about a Scottish mile.

Royal Mile EdinburghThe start of the Royal Mile at Edinburgh Castle
Royal MileShops and pubs on The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile consists of the smaller streets: Castlehill, Cannongate, Lawnmarket and High Street. It is the main street of the Old Town and as a result you will find a large number of popular tourist destinations around or on the Royal Mile (in order from Edinburgh Castle):

1. The Scotch Whisky Experience

At The Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center you can experience The Scotch Whiskey Experience. It's part museum, highlighting the whiskey distilling process through a ride in a whiskey barrel. After the tour in which a drunken Scottish ghost tells you about whisky, you will enter the tasting area. Your ticket determines how many whiskeys you can taste here. Your tour ends in a shop, where you can buy the best Scotch whisky.

More info Whisky Experience

2. Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

The museums Camera Obscura & World of Illusions can be found in a tower, which was formerly used as an observatory. The museum consists of six floors and you will learn everything about optical illusions here. On the top floor you will find the Camera Obscura, from where you have a beautiful view over the city.

More info Camera Obscura

3. Gladstone’s land

One of the oldest buildings on the Edinburgh Royal Mile is Gladstone's Land. This seventeenth-century house displays beautiful, handmade Renaissance paintings and gilded statues of game birds. The house has been furnished and restored by the National Trust For Scotland. The property was formerly inhabited by affluent residential and commercial residents, whose scandalous lives are known even today.

4. The Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian is a book by the Edinburgh writer Sir Walter Scott. The Scotsman based the title of his novel on a heart-shaped mosaic from his hometown. This granite mosaic was carved into the pavement close to the St. Giles Cathedral and the Scottish House of Parliament. It is tradition to spit on the heart for good luck. People used to do this to express their displeasure with the prison, the entrance of which was directly behind the mosaic.

Cathedral Old Town EdinburghSt. Giles Cathedral at the Royal Mile
The Royal MileRight Canongate Tolbooth with the 'People's Story Museum'

5. St Giles' Cathedral

The construction of the St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile started in 1130, but nothing of its original construction has been preserved over the centuries. The cathedral is best known because John Knox started the Iconoclastic Fury here, which led to the Scottish Reformation. The last major alterations to the cathedral date from the nineteenth century, giving the church as we know it today a Late Gregorian exterior and a Victorian interior.

More about the cathedral

6. Mercat Cross, monument in Old Town

On Parliament Square, next to the St. Giles Cathedral is the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, overlooking the High Street and the Old Town area. The monument has been before in several places in the city. The monument is characterized by octagonal mosaics of vowels in the square. The current Mercat Cross stands close to its original position and is of Victorian origin. Part of the column shows the official family coats of arms of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A unicorn can be seen on top of the column.

7. The Real Mary King’s Close

The Mary King's Close is a gated alleyway at the end of the Royal Mile, named after merchant Mary King. The alley was King's private property and closed to the public. The Close was partly destroyed by the building of the Royal Exchange. Today, the building is known for myths and urban legends, in which ghosts and murders reign supreme. Scientifically, this phenomenon has been explained by the fact that the building was located near a polluted swamp, the fumes of which caused hallucinations. The famous ghost tours of Edinburgh still depart from this place (more info & bookings Mary King's Close Tours).

More about Mary King's Close

8. Museum of Childhood

In the Museum of Childhood you can see everything related to children and childhood. From children's toys through the ages to miniature versions of buildings. The collection consists of eighteenth-century teddy bears and dolls. But also play soldiers, games and toy cars can be found in the museum. The real highlight, however, is the 21-room dollhouse with over 2,000 objects inside. The Museum of Childhood is a wonderful road to memory lane.

9. People’s Story Museum

The People’s Story Museum offers a glimpse into the life of the working class of Edinburgh from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. The collection, which includes images, objects and personal stories, focuses on the history, culture and crafts of Edinburgh's workers. The exhibitions are based on memories of the citizens of Edinburgh. This museum stands out for its authenticity.

Royal Mile EdinburghAt the end the Scottish Parliament
Royal MilePalace of Holyroodhouse, at the end of The Royal Mile

10. Museum of Edinburgh

The Museum of Edinburgh is free and can be visited on the Royal Mile opposite the People's Story Museum. At the museum of Edinburgh you can experience the rich history of the Scottish capital through objects and myths. In addition to the permanent collection, special exhibitions are often shown in the museum.

11. Canongate Kirk

The Kirk of the Canongate is a parish church in Edinburgh's Old Town. The parish church includes the Palace of Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament and even Edinburgh Castle. The church was built between 1688-1691 by James Smith on behalf of King James VII and was founded by the merchant Thomas Moodie. The church spire is built in a Dutch style and contains the Canongate family coat of arms.

12. Scottish Parliament Building

The Scottish parliament building is located in the Holyrood district and was built in 1999. Elizabeth II officially opened the building. A debate was held for the first time in 2004. The architecture of the building was perceived as controversial and Scottish citizens, politicians and the media have criticized it considerably, as the construction budget of forty million was well exceeded.

The other places of interest in Old Town

Although the Royal Mile is the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, there is much more to see in this part of town. For example, you have the Grassmarket, where you can use many pubs and restaurants or visit the well-known Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh also has a notorious past of murder, war and crime, making this tour about this dark history of the city an unforgettable experience.

Old Town EdinburghThe atmospheric Old Town in the evening (Victoria Street)
Old TownOld Town, the old city center of Edinburgh

Victoria Street

Historical Victoria Street should not be missed during your city trip. Not only the history of the street is interesting. It is also a kind of pilgrimage for the worldwide fan base of Harry Potter, as Victoria Street returns as the famous Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. In this article you can read more about the popular Harry Potter Tours. The colorful buildings in Victoria Street also provide a wonderful atmosphere that you must have seen. Also visit the many independent shops, such as the Old Town Bookshop.

More info Harry Potter Tours

Cockburn Street

Cockburn Street is a picturesque street, where you can visit small, specialist shops. The street is named after Lord Henry Cockburn, who was a well-known lawyer and literary figure. His sculpted head still hangs above 1 Cockburn Street. On the north side of Cockburn Street you will find the famous building that is based on the poem The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Its fame owes Greyfriars Kirkyard to the legend of Greyfriar Bobby, the faithful Sky Terrier who continued to guard his owner's grave until are dead. At the entrance of the cemetery, Bobby's tombstone can be seen on the spot where his supposed burial place can be found. The grave of owner John Gray is thirty meters north of the entrance. In addition, Greyfriars graveyard is notorious for the still-roaming Poltergeist.

More info Greyfriars Kirkyard

Video: Old Town in Edinburgh

Where is The Royal Mile?

Royal Mile
Our readers say
4.8 (95.85%) 8 reviews
February 6, 2024 : "We had a fantastic holiday in Scotland thanks to the good tips about activities, sightseeing and places to visit in Edinburgh."