St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.

TravelCurious Tip

Every year during the Hogmanay celebrations, there is a candlelit concert in St Giles’. It’s divine, so book your ticket well in advance

St Giles’ Cathedral has been the heart of Christianity in Scotland for nine centuries. Found on the High Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town, it dominates the city’s skyline, with it’s crowned steeple making a distinctive signature. The current building dates from the 15th century, but there has been a church on the site since early in the 12th.


Although called St Giles’ Cathedral, it is, in fact, not strictly a cathedral at all. Formally, a church is only a cathedral if it serves as the seat of a bishop — something St Giles’ has not done for several centuries. So it really ought to be known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. That said, its scale and grandeur undoubtedly befits a cathedral.


Birth-place of Valour, country of Worth

St Giles’ grey, massive bulk looms over the High Street, inspiring awe. The interior is understated but impressive. During the reformation the Mary-Bell and brass candlesticks were melted down to be made into guns, and the relic of the arm of St Giles with its diamond ring, among other treasures, were sold. It traded Catholic pomp for Protestant severity. 


Indeed St Giles’ was the crucible of the Scottish Reformation. John Knox, the Protestant leader and firebrand preacher, served as minister there from 1559 until his death in 1572. As he was buried Regent Morton uttered, “There lies one who neither feared nor flattered any flesh.” His dour, indomitable spirit persists within the grey stone of St Giles: a bronze statue of Knox now stands in the north aisle.


A kingly flower

Among the many chapels of St Giles’ is the Thistle Chapel, built in 1911 to celebrate the Knights of the Most Ancient & Most Noble Order of the Thistle. The Gothic stonework is exquisite, depicting the helms and arms of the 16 knights, along with an angel playing bagpipes.

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.
Greyfriars Kirkyard
For over five centuries, Greyfriars Kirkyard has been home to hauntings and wizards. Look out for McGonagall or something more spine-chilling, like one Tom Riddle.
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.
Elephant House
Go inside and sit at Rowling's favourite table!

Related Tours

Secrets of the Royal Mile: Private 2.5-hour Walking Tour

Explore the cobbled alleyways of the Royal Mile, uncovering the culture and history of Edinburgh's Old Town in the heart of Scotland's historic capital. Take a walk down the mile-long street in the Old Town of Edinburgh, which connects Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The name was given to the location in the 15th century when King James IV began a royal palace at the bottom of Castlehill and undertook large-scale rebuilding along the route.

On your private tour, you will:

  • Enjoy a walking tour of Edinburgh's old town with a private licensed guide;
  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from the Vennel Viewpoint, a great place to snap a picture of Edinburgh Castle;
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament;
  • Pass by the historic John Knox House and hear about its history;
  • Walk along the iconic Royal Mile, and discuss the history of Edinburgh;
  • Walkthrough the City Chambers, place of the City of Edinburgh Council and its predecessors;
  • Walk by Victoria Street and see one of the most photographed locations in the city and hear about Harry Potter stories;
  • Visit St Giles Cathedral, founded in 1124 by King David I with its famed crown spire;
  • End your tour outside the entrance of Calton Hill, which you can climb up to explore at your own leisure.


This tour is the perfect introductory tour for anyone arriving in Edinburgh for the first time. On your tour, you will visit Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare running through Old Town, from Edinburgh Castle to the beautiful Palace of Holyrood House.

Be 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 of 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.

Your tour finishes at Calton Hill, where we recommend you climb to explore the views at your own leisure.

Edinburgh in a Day: Full-Day Private Tour with Edinburgh Castle
With one dormant volcano, seven hills, clusters of cobbled streets and tantalising vistas waiting around every bend, Edinburgh is a fabulous place for a wander - especially with a private tour guide. Discover the history and beauty of Edinburgh's cobbled streets as you explore Medieval Old Town and Neoclassical New Town. Take a stroll down Edinburgh's streets and alleys, discovering its fascinating history and rich culture, with highlights including the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Castle and much more.

On your private, full-day tour you will:

  • Walk the iconic Royal Mile, a remarkable street housing Europe's original ‘skyscrapers’;
  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from Calton Hill;
  • Venture into the beautiful neoclassical New Town;
  • Stroll through the beautiful Princes Street Gardens;
  • Explore Heriot Row, one of Edinburgh's most attractive and fancy streets;
  • Walkthrough Charlotte Square gardens are one of the most pretty squares in Edinburgh and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
  • Visit Edinburgh Castle and learn about the fascinating history of this mysterious castle, including many bloody battles, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century;
  • Stop for a lunch break at the famous Grass Market
  • Walk by Victoria Street and see one of the most photographed locations in the city and hear about Harry Potter stories;
  • Explore the National Museum of Scotland, from artistic explorations by Leonardo da Vinci to the Burke and Hare murders;
  • Walk by the historic 15th-century John Knox House, home to an influential church leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland;
  • See the famous restaurant Dome and explore St Giles Cathedral, the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century;
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse, home of Mary Queen of Scots, and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament.

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Here you will learn about the fascinating history of this mysterious castle. Stop to enjoy 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 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.

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. 
The Best of Edinburgh: Private Walking Tour with Edinburgh Castle
On this half-day walking tour of Edinburgh, you will discover some of the most important historical sites of Scotland, including the world-famous Royal Mile, a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, and a medieval labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and tenements that comprise this UNESCO World Heritage Site

On your private walking tour, you will: 

  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from Calton Hill with your private tour guide;
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament;
  • See the historic John Knox House and hear about its history;
  • Walk along the iconic Royal Mile, and discuss the history of Edinburgh's Old Town;
  • Walk by the City Chambers, the place of the City of Edinburgh Council and its predecessors;
  • Walk by Victoria Street and see one of the most photographed locations in the city and hear about Harry Potter stories;
  • Explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral, known also as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, founded in 1124 by King David I;
  • Enjoy a 30-minute tour of Edinburgh Castle, with a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress;
  • End your tour at Edinburgh Castle, where you can continue to explore at your own leisure. 
On your private tour, your expert guide will take you 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.

You will also have the chance to explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral – the seat of Scottish Christianity for over nine centuries and the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century.  

Found on the High Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town, it dominates the city’s skyline, with its crowned steeple making a distinctive signature. The current building dates from the 15th century, but there has been a church on the site since early in the 12th.

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without learning about Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Your guide will take you on a brief private tour of the castle, before leaving you to explore it at your own pace. 
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