A journey along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is doused in medieval charm, passing captivating townhouses, hidden haunts, ancient alleyways and celebrations of the city’s past. Running downhill from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse through the heart of old Edinburgh, the Royal Mile is not one thoroughfare but a series of connected streets. A 16th century backbone of the city that delights in evoking the past, where traditional pubs occupy historic buildings and church chapels narrate a history of Scotland.
The Royal Mile is Scotland’s most famous walking route, as most of it has been pedestrianised. Coming from the castle, Castlehill winds past Assembly Hall and the Outlook Tower and Camera Obscura. Continuing downhill it swerves into Lawnmarket, where medieval merchant townhouses are now occupied by tourist shops and Dutch-style gables provide the iconic photo. Further down is High Street and the old Parliament House, an area full of pubs and the best-preserved architecture.
Heading towards the palace, the Royal Mile keeps descending, blending into Canongate and then Abbey Strand. Like Lawnmarket, these streets contain an eclectic mix of restaurants, buskers, pubs and townhouses that reveal Scotland’s regal past. They also have the largest collection of museums anywhere in the country. Perhaps the most interesting of all are the tiny side streets that jut out from the Royal Mile. Known as “closes”, these have an authenticity which can sometimes be obscured when there are thousands of tourists thronged outside shops selling tartan mugs and t-shirts. Edinburgh Waverley Train Station is just 100 metres away from the heart of Royal Mile and any bus service into Edinburgh Old Town will stop within walking distance of this famous Scottish attraction.
For a one-way walk, it’s well worth taking a bus to Edinburgh Castle and walking down. The Royal Mile is famously steep, rising 67 vertical metres as it heads to the entrance of the castle, where guards stamp their feet on the hour as they change position.