Royal Mile Closes

The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.

TravelCurious Tip

Fancy a tipple? Head to Semples Close for some Scotch at ‘The Wee Whisky Shop’

Edinburgh’s Old Town was originally made up of the Royal Mile, running between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, and the narrow, winding alleys that branched off it to the north and south. Known as closes, these streets were generally named after a memorable resident, or a trade plied by numerous residents.

The closes are like live-in archeological digs. By contrast, the Royal Mile, with its kilt-clad mannequins, tartan scarves and tinned haggis, is only the surface of Edinburgh’s Old Town. History yet lives in its eerie, cobbled closes, as if memories have been trapped and preserved under subsequent developments. There are many dozens to explore, though some in particular warrant a visit.

Paranormal activity

Mary King’s Close is one of Edinburgh’s most famous closes, and it has a particularly gruesome story. During the 17th century its residents fell victim to the plague. In an attempt to contain the disease, city officials bricked up the close, leaving all those inside to die. The close was never reopened, and has since been built over — but since 2003 it has been open to tours. It is truly spooky, and renowned for its paranormal activity.

Double, double

Brodie’s Close is named after Deacon Brodie, who was a respected citizen by day and burglar by night. He eventually hanged. His double life famously inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

High culture

Lady Stairs Close is beautifully preserved and famous for its literary associations. It contains Makars’ Court, the stones of which are inscribed with the great names of Scottish literature, and also the Writers’ Museum, with memorabilia celebrating three writers who are especially close to Scottish hearts: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.
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.
Parliament Square
The historic hub of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Nicolson's Cafe / Spoon
Claimed to be the birthplace of Harry Potter, Nicolson's Cafe has now been replaced by Spoons.
Elephant House
Go inside and sit at Rowling's favourite table!

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. 
Private Walking Tour of Edinburgh's Highlights
On this four hour walking tour of Edinburgh,  you will discover some of the most important historical sites of Scotland, including the world-famous Royal Mile and a medieval labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and tenements that comprise this UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Walk through the iconic Royal Mile, discuss the history of Edinburgh's Old Town
  • Hear about many famous characters like Deacon Brodie and John Knox
  • Explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral
  • Learn the art history behind the masterpieces at the National Galleries of Scotland
  • Stand in awe of the stunning exteriors of Edinburgh Castle
  • Take a stroll down the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, passing by  George Heriot’s School
The Medieval Labyrinth of Old Town

You will follow your expert guide into Old Town’s maze of streets and concealed courtyards, where you will learn about the city’s ‘closes’- cramped alleyways, and ‘wynds’ - narrow lanes between houses. Hear about the 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.

Edinburgh Castle and Beyond

Explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral - the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century - and the world-famous National Galleries of Scotland, which houses many stunning paintings from the Old Masters including Da Vinci, Titian, and Rembrandt.

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without learning about Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Hear about the fascinating history of this enigmatic castle, including  many of the bloody battles that took place here, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century. You will also have the opportunity to stroll the beautiful Princes Street Gardens and pass the gorgeous George Heriot’s School built in 1628, and now a mecca for Harry Potter fans around the world, as it is believed to have inspired Hogwarts.


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