The Royal Mile

The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.

TravelCurious Tip

Buy some knitwear. The cashmere is good, but the lambswool is special: cheap, but dreamily soft

The Royal Mile is a succession of streets that make up the main thoroughfare of the Edinburgh’s Old Town. It includes Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand, which altogether run between two historically significant locations: Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. There’s no better place in Edinburgh for eating, shopping and people-watching.


It is approximately one Scots mile long, which is of course longer than the English mile. It actually varies from place to place but the most accepted equivalencies are 1,976 Imperial yards, or 1,800 metres. It was legally abolished three times, in 1685, 1707 and in 1824, when the Weights and Measures Act finally did away with it.


Bullseye

Parliament Square can be found alongside the High Street. This contains Parliament House and St. Giles’ Cathedral, and next to St Giles’ is the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-sharped pattern built into the cobbled road which marks the former site of a prison called Old Tolbooth. Soon after its demolition the site was marked with the heart mosaic. Ever since, locals have traditionally spat on its centre, either to express disgust or hoping for luck, or perhaps a bit of both.


Last Orders

The castle esplanade is the venue of the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place throughout August as part of the Edinburgh Festival. In this context the word “tattoo” is derived from the Dutch for “closer the [beer] tap” — in other words: last orders. The British adopted the signal and it would be played by a regiment’s Corps of Pipes and Drums to tell tavern owners to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so the soldiers would go to bed at a reasonable hour. It eventually became a ceremonial form of military music as well, and during August you can watch the soldiers parade at night under smokey thistles of fireworks.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in 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.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.
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: Private 2-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 2-hour 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 through 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 minutes 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. 

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. 
Harry Potter in Edinburgh: Private Half-Day Walking Tour
On this fantastic Harry Potter-inspired walking tour of Edinburgh, you will visit some of the haunts where JK Rowling would sip coffee, and put pen to paper writing the first Harry Potter books as her baby daughter slept in her pram. Learn about this extraordinary author, see the places she herself drew inspiration from, and purchase novelties from Potter-themed shops. 

On your private tour you will:

  • Meet your tour guide outside the exclusive Balmoral Hotel where J.K.Rowling finished writing the last book in the series, the Deathly Hallows;
  • Stop by Museum Context, aka Diagon House, a shop selling all things related to Harry Potter from wands to broomsticks to stuffed Hedwigs and Harry Potter T-shirts as well as a variety of other magical goodies;
  • Walk up to Edinburgh City Chambers to see J.K.Rowling’s handprints and signature;
  • Pause at the Heart of Midlothian mosaic where Edinburgh Old Town begins to hear how Edinburgh influenced the author - and the impact JK Rowling has had on the city; 
  • Pass by the Writers' Museum where the first edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone / Philosopher’s Stone that was illustrated by J.K. Rowling went on public display;
  • Explore the narrow curved and cobbled Victoria Street, Candlemaker Row, and West Bow in the central Grassmarket Area - believed by some to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley (a cobblestone shopping street with stores selling wizardly supplies) in the Harry Potter books;
  • Enjoy a famously delicious Langshaw Farmhouse Scottish whisky ice cream on us! Sometimes, when the elves have been busy, they also have a Butterbeer flavour;
  • Visit the Greyfriars Kirkyard after your icecream break, where several of the most prominent names in the series seem to have originated, including Riddle, Moodie and McGonagall;
  • Admire the medieval gothic architecture and house names of Edinburgh’s George Heriot's School, does it remind you of… Hogwarts?;
  • Stop outside the McEwan Hall - the graduation venue for the University of Edinburgh, and where J.K.Rowling received her honorary degree;
  • End your magical tour outside the location where it all began, where Nicholson’s once stood - the cafe where J.K.Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter books! 

In December 1993, J.K. Rowling left Portugal and moved to Edinburgh with her baby daughter, and a suitcase containing the first three chapters of Harry Potter. Living on benefits as a single mother, she plotted out the whole 7 book series, creating the magical world of witches and wizards hidden from the Muggles. Finally, on 1st September 1998, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published.

The rest you might say is history…

Fast-forward a decade or two, and over 500 million copies have been sold, 8 films made, with an enormous and adoring fanbase that hasn’t diminished with time.

Your private tour of J.K Rowling’s Edinburgh begins when she finished the Harry Potter series with the last book the Deathly Hallows, at the Balmoral Hotel.  

Your tour takes you through the parts of Edinburgh that may well have inspired J.K.Rowling’s magical world - the cobblestone streets around the Grassmarket, evocative of a certain Diagon Alley. Stop outside Edinburgh City Chambers where you’ll see J.K.Rowling’s handprints and the McEwan Hall where she was awarded an honorary degree from the prestigious Edinburgh University. You’ll also wander through the eerie Greyfriars Kirkyard where Rowling may have picked up some of the more famous names in the books - you will see the real Tom Riddle’s grave! 

Your magical tour ends at the location where Nicolson's Cafe once stood (now under a new name and management). It was owned by her brother-in-law and is where she would pop in to write chapters of the first Harry Potter book while her baby daughter slept. It really is where the magic all began!

Edinburgh's Haunted History: Private Half-Day Walking Tour
Explore the haunted history of Edinburgh on this fascinating tour of Scotland's capital city's dark side, famous for its imposing and rather spooky Gothic architecture, local legends, and ghostly sightings. 

On your private tour, you will:

  • Enjoy the atmospheric and dramatic storytelling of your expert guide;
  • Explore the haunted nooks and crannies, monuments, streets and cemeteries of Edinburgh;
  • Start your ghost tour at the Witchery on Castle Hill; 
  • Explore Edinburgh's historic Old Town - rife with stories of battles and bloodshed;
  • Learn of the hundreds of men and women who were burned at stake on Castle Hill for witchcraft over 200 years;
  • Stroll down the Royal Mile, deceptively innocent, it is rife with tales of tortured prisoners in the vaults beneath the streets, and ghostly sitings;
  • Walk through dark courtyards and mysterious alleyways, hearing chilling tales of executions, murder, torture, ghosts, and witchcraft in Edinburgh through the 16th and 17th centuries; 
  • Arrive at North Bridge, with a view to the majestic-looking hotel and former HQ of the Scotsman with many ghost stories;
  • Discover the picturesque Calton Hill, whose beautiful templed, romantic views and gothic cemetery disguise some chilling tales, from witch burnings to the mausoleum of David Hume; 
  • Explore the eerie Kirkyard Cemetery at Canongate, dating back to the 17th century;
  • Return to the Royal Mile and end outside Edinburgh's imposing castle, a fortress steeped in ghostly tales. 

Meet your passionate guide in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, outside the Witchery - an atmospheric restaurant named for the hundreds of people who were burned at the stake over a period of 200 years during the 1500s and 1600s.

Begin your tour walking down Castle Hill, above the haunted vaults of the city. Back in the 11th century when King Malcolm III first built the castle, conditions in these prisoners' vaults were dark and hellish... today the streets are rife with tales of ghostly hauntings, sitings, and the wailing of torture victims, long since dead... 

Living conditions in the rest of the city could also be dirty and filthy; crime was rife and punishments were swift, harsh, and violent, with many a thief ending his life at the gallows on the Grassmarket. Sometimes you can hear the creaking rope in the wind... 

Your fascinating Edinburgh ghost tour is an immersive, eerie experience that delves into the city’s most haunted nooks and crannies.  Hear tales of terror, explore local legends, and discover the historic scenes of butchery and bloodshed. Your private guide will lead you on a slow-paced stroll through Edinburgh’s ancient streets and hidden passages in the Old Town. 

You'll visit the picturesque Calton Hill, and discover the gory tales hidden beneath its peaceful facade, like the witch burnings and the restless ghosts that seek revenge. Visit the eerie cemetery that houses the mausoleum of philosopher David Hume - rumoured to have made a pact with the devil. 

And walk through the 17th-century Canongate kirkyard, where over 30 phantoms are said to reside.
Hear how the city of Edinburgh inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write his Gothic novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 

End back on the Royal Mile and the fortress-like Castle, whose own history is steeped in the history of bloody battles and betrayals! 

Please note: as this is a private tour, your guide will be able to make each story as eerie or as kid-friendly as you request to have the best experience for everyone.
Taste the Best Scottish Ales: Rose Street Private Pub Tour
Embark on a journey through time & heritage, from old to new within the heart of Edinburgh, home to many of the UK’s oldest drinking establishments, with local pubs (or ‘locals’) at the heart of communities all over the city. The city’s Rose Street is one of the most famous streets in Scotland, and for good reason – this intimate and friendly lane has played host to many great people over the years. Its pubs are still alive today with great stories, great beers and amazing food.

On your Rose Street private pub tour, you will:

  • Enjoy a walking tour of the famous Rose Street area in Edinburgh;
  • Stop at many traditional taverns and soak up the cosy, old-fashioned atmosphere of Edinburgh’s historic pubs;
  • Learn about the history of traditional Scottish whisky and the cultural identity it has in Scotland;
  • Taste Scotch whiskey from independent distilleries, single malts craft blends and more;
  •  Enjoy the pub aroma of brass polish, yeast, hops and malt intermingled with the honeyed smell of Scotch whiskey and smouldering, smoky embers;
  • Visit three of the best-selected of the city’s 700 pubs (that’s one every 83 metres) in a population of 500,000;
  • Sip a pint of Scottish beer such as Belhaven Scottish Ale and Scottish Oat Stout;
  • Hear fascinating tales of Edinburgh’s centuries-old pub culture;
  • Enjoy a tasting of either a local beer, house wine, or a wee dram (single shot) of whisky at each of the three pubs;
  • End your tour outside the entrance of Calton Hill, where you can climb up to continue exploring at your own leisure.

From the Middle Ages’ spit-and-sawdust pubs that provided merriment for the poor, to 19th-century inns that offered an ear to life’s successes and misfortunes, pubs have been a cornerstone of Scottish society for centuries, serving as default venues for every occasion. 

Rose Street, a narrow traffic-free stone stretch running parallel to the main thoroughfare, is Edinburgh’s drinking heartland. Every pub in Rose Street has a tale to tell, from the bizarre and macabre to the curious. It is also famed in local lore for its drinking game – the Rose Street Challenge – in which pub-goers are dared to take a wee dram at every bar.

On your Tour of Edinburgh’s Historic Pubs, swerve the mediocre and over-hyped to seek out pubs with authentic character. Your tour guide - a local expert - will take you to three of the best pubs on Rose Street, where you will enjoy a pour of whiskey or a pint at each stop (up to three drinks included). 

Nothing evokes bygone bars like the unmistakable smell of brass polish, yeast, hops and malt intermingled with the honeyed smell of Scotch whiskey and smouldering, smoky embers in the grate. 

Perchance you’ll enjoy a tipple at The Abbotsford Bar, built-in 1902, and famed for its eye-catching centrepiece island bay crafted from dark-brown Spanish mahogany, divided into small serving ports by intricately carved railings. Another curious haunt, Milnes of Rose Street, has been a popular poetic pit stop with generations of quill-wielding Scottish writers since 1910. 

With its mind-boggling array of whiskeys, Scotts is the oldest drinking establishment on the block, pouring its first pint in 1790 - when George III was on the throne. Quirky artefacts ensure the decor is as oddball as its name, which honours a thirsty local man from centuries past who shovelled horse dung off the streets. 

No matter where you choose to pop into, each Rose Street pub will have a rich story to share with you.
x

Guides

Join the fastest growing community of professional tour guides.

Partners

Use our easy to integrate toolset to include Tours & Attractions in your customer journey.