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Edinburgh’s Old Town was originally made up of the Royal Mile, running between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, and the narrow, winding alleys that branched off it to the north and south.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!

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