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Edinburgh World Heritage/The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile

Edinburgh's Royal Mile

Overview

The heart, or perhaps the backbone, of Edinburgh's Old Town, with the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its foot, and Edinburgh Castle at its head.

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Our ancient thoroughfare

The Royal Mile is at the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, with Edinburgh Castle at its head and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its foot. Its name comes from its tradition as a processional route for kings and queens for the last 500 years.

Historic buildings

The Royal Mile has retained many historic buildings to visit, Gladstone’s Land, The Writers’ Museum, Mary King’s Close, John Knox House and the Museum of Edinburgh. To get a real taste of the past though, explore the many closes and wynds, the narrow passageways that line the Royal Mile. In places like Riddles Court, Tweedale Court, Bakehouse Close and Dunbar’s Close you will step back in time to the old city.

From top to bottom

At the top of the Royal Mile is the Lawnmarket. Do not miss Gladstone’s Land on the north side, the best surviving example of an Old Town tenement from the 17th century. The Edinburgh tradition was for the best apartments to be on the middle floors, with cheaper flats at the top and in the basement.

Listen to the Stories In Stone podcast produced in collaboration with Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, on the Lawnmarket:


Further down lies the High Street with the striking St Giles Cathedral, founded during the reign of King David I in the 1130s soon after the founding of the royal burgh. Outside the cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian – a pattern of coloured setts (cobbles) which mark the place where the old Tolbooth stood, also used as prison.

St Giles Cathedral Royal Mile Edinburgh Old Town sky World Heritage Site

St Giles Cathedral (top feature image via Jim Nix)

The crossing of St Mary’s Street and the Royal Mile marks the location of the Flodden Wall raised after the defeat of the Scots in the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. East of the wall lay the separate burgh of the Canongate, formed from the abbatial lands of Holyrood Abbey. Today, at the bottom of the Royal Mile is the Scottish Parliament, designed by Enric Miralles.

Listen to the Stories In Stone podcast produced in collaboration with Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, on the Canongate:


Listen to the Stories In Stone podcast produced in collaboration with Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, on the Netherbow:


Abbey Strand ends the mile with the Palace of Holyroodhouse initiated by James IV in the 16th century and remodelled by Charles II in 1670. Close by is Holyrood Abbey, founded in 1128 by King David I.

Discovering Britain

The Royal Geographical Society has created a Royal Mile trail, called ‘Tale of a Tail’ – find it here, or visit our trails here.