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The Royal Mile

The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.

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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
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.
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.
Museum of Edinburgh
Edinburgh's treasure box - a maze of historic rooms full of objects from the capital’s past.
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. 
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.
Private Walking Tour of Edinburgh's Haunted History
Edinburgh has been abuzz with paranormal activity for several centuries, from bizarre hauntings to unexplained spectral sightings. Edinburgh’s history 11th-18th century is punctuated by murder, barbarism, and bloody battles by tyrannical figures and legions of wrath. On this spooky Edinburgh Ghost Tour,  seek out  the dearly departed on a spirit-lifting adventure with the city’s afterlife under the shadows of Edinburgh Castle - the ultimate fright-seeing delight.

  • Begin your private guided tour at the top of the city, at Edinburgh Castle
  • Hear gruesome tales of hangings and slaughter in Edinburgh’s macabre history 
  • Discover ghostly sounds of dragging limbs, children’s cries and beating drums
  • Wander down the Royal Mile - built intentionally on top of the Edinburgh Vaults
  • Learn about Major Weir, a religious zealot who was burned alive after turning to the dark side
  • Learn how Robert Louis Stevenson based Dr Jekyll and My Hyde on Edinburgh’s paranormal activity.
  • Hear recent haunted tales - including how more than 30 different phantoms were detected in Edinburgh’s ancient streets in 2019.
Founded by King Malcolm III, who built the castle and watched a small town prosper, Edinburgh guarded against invasion with thick-stone walls, but was a target for onslaught none-the-less. The city was plagued by hellish, squalid conditions due to overcrowding and poor sanitation. Violent crime was rife and punishments swift and harsh with Death by burning at The Castle and the hangman’s gallows at The Grassmarket. 

Since then, Edinburgh has been flooded with enigmatic, supernatural energy detected city-wide. Ghouls, spirits and ghostly apparitions make regular appearances in the Royal Mile, in the city's graveyards and ambling streets, and the Castle, part of - experts say - a lingering spiritual residue over Edinburgh’s earthly realm.

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 in Old Town, where hair-raising hauntings are frequent. Restless spirits have been encountered by gravestones, tombs and underground chambers with shivery ghoulish presences in Greyfriars Kirkyard. 

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. 
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