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John Knox House

Rumoured to have been the home of the 16th century Protestant reformer, this historic house tells the story of the Reformation and life in Edinburgh 400 years ago.

TravelCurious Tip

Adjacent is the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which is steeped in Scottish culture and puts on excellent events for all ages

Found on the Royal Mile, John Knox House dates from around 1490, making it the oldest surviving tenement in Edinburgh. It earned its named by virtue of the fact that John Knox, the Protestant reformer, is reputed to have lived there between 1561 and 1572. John Knox House is thus strongly associated with one of the most turbulent moments in Scottish History: The Scottish Reformation.


Now owned by the Church of Scotland, the first two floors are a museum about John Knox, the evolution of the Protestant faith and the conflict between John Knox and the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. If you don’t know the history already, this is a great place to start, along with a trip to St Giles’ Cathedral. But even if you do know the history, the detail here is sure to flesh out your knowledge.


On the second floor is the Oak Room with its hand-carved and painted wood ceiling, depicting some curious scenes (try and find the devil — he’s there somewhere). Soberly decorated, the apartment remains much as John Knox would have known it. You can almost see him scratching away with his quill in the corner, tongue out the side of his mouth, writing his fire and brimstone sermons.


Switching sides

John Knox House has been home to both royalists and reformers. James Mosman, goldsmith to Mary, Queen of Scots, lived in this building during the 1550s. He was devoted to Queen Mary and was one of the “Queen’s Men” who seized Edinburgh castle in a bid to restore her to the throne after her forced abdication. He was hung, drawn and quartered for his troubles.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Princes Street Gardens
The lovely Princes Street Gardens lie in a valley previously occupied by the North Loch, drained during the construction of the New Town of Edinburgh.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.
Calton Hill
Crammed with monuments, Calton Hill is part of Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers splendid views over the city.
Parliament Square
The historic hub of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.

Related Tours

Secrets of the Royal Mile: Two Hour Walking Tour
Explore the cobbled alleyways of Royal Mile, uncovering the culture and history of Edinburgh's Old Town along the way.

  • Meander through the iconic Royal Mile
  • Learn about Scottish history at the Palace of Holyrood House 
  • Hear historic tales at landmark locations such as  St Giles CathedralParliament Square and John Knox House
  • Snap pictures of the looming Edinburgh Castle
  • Explore the vibrant markets of the Old Town 
  • Hear about extraordinary characters, including John Knox and Robert Burns 
Old Town Essentials 

On this walking tour of Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare running through Old Town, from Edinburgh Castle to the  beautiful Palace of Holyrood house, you will feel completely immersed in the rich Scottish history that is ever-present amongst the medieval labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and tenements. Home to the fascinating St Giles Cathedral, Parliament Square and John Knox House, the Royal Mile is a UNESCO World Heritage site full secrets not to be missed.

Whilst exploring Old Town, one cannot help but notice Edinburgh Castle looming over the city. Your expert local guide will tell you about the fascinating history of this enigmatic fortress, including many of the bloody battles that took place here, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century, as well as its present day use as headquarters for the Scottish Division.

Vibrant Edinburgh

Along the way, you will have the pleasure of exploring some key historical and beautiful streets of Old Town, including: Castle Hill and Lawnmarket, originally a vibrant market that traded until the 1700s, Cannongate and Grassmarket, Edinburgh's famous closes and wynds, where you will listen to stories of the extraordinary cast of characters  who were proud to call Edinburgh home. 
A Tale of Edinburgh's Two Cities: Full Day Private Highlights Tour
Discover the history and beauty of Edinburgh's cobbled streets as you explore Medieval Old Town and Neoclassical New Town.

On this tour you will:
  • Walk along the iconic Royal Mile. 
  • Explore the interiors of the imposing St Giles Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle. 
  • Discover the artefacts and artwork of the world-famous National Galleries of Scotland and the Museum of Edinburgh.
  • Step inside the historic John Knox House.
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament. 
  • Enjoy a lunch at your leisure - ask your guide for recommendations on the best local fare!
  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from Calton Hill. 
  • Venture into the beautiful neoclassical New Town. 
  • Stroll through the beautiful Princes Street Gardens.
Medieval Old Town 

Walking along the Royal Mile, a remarkable street housing Europe's original ‘skyscrapers’, discover a maze of streets and concealed courtyards. Learn about the city’s ‘closes,’ cramped alleyways, and ‘wynds’ and hear about many characters who lived and died here, including Deacon Brodie, town councilman by day and master thief by night, who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral - the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century, pay a special visit to the world-famous National Galleries of Scotland, and to the Museum of Edinburgh. Then visit historic 15th century John Knox House, home to an influential church leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. 

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit inside  Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Here you will learn about the fascinating history of this enigmatic castle, including many of the bloody battles, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century. 

Stop to enjoy a lunch at your leisure (price not included). Your guide will be happy to point out the best place whenever you're ready to give your legs a rest and grab a leisurely bite. 

You will have the chance to view the Scottish Parliament, one of the most controversial buildings in Scotland given its construction going 10 times over budget, and to admire the grand Palace of Holyroodhouse, 16th century home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots. The breathtaking view from Calton Hill will make you fall in love with the Scottish capital forever.

Neoclassical New Town

Venturing into the beautiful neoclassical New Town, built in the 18th Century, enjoy a true marvel of urban planning. As you walk through the main streets and squares of  Edinburgh's New Town, you will find yourself impressed by the lavish 18th century neoclassical and Georgian architecture. Enjoy a leisurely stroll in the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, which lies at the centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site. 
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