The atmospheric Royal Mile thoroughfare cuts through the historic core of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, extending for slightly more than a mile from Edinburgh Castle all the way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Both sides of the partly pedestrianized street are bordered by historic granite buildings bearing shop display windows piled high with symbols of Scotland, from tartan to whisky to shortbread. In between the former tenements and taverns are darkened arm-width-wide alleyways, known locally as closes.
Because it penetrates the very heart of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town and is home to so many of the city’s star attractions, including St Giles’ Cathedral, the Scotch Whisky Experience, and Camera Obscura, the Royal Mile is a staple on Edinburgh sightseeing tours. Classic walking tours, Harry Potter–themed tours, and tours of the underground Real Mary King’s Close all cover portions of the Royal Mile, as do hop-on hop-off and ghost bus tours. Visitors based in Glasgow can take day tours to the city to see Edinburgh’s biggest attractions, among them, of course, the Royal Mile.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear sturdy walking shoes as some surfaces are uneven and sloping.
- To avoid an uphill slog, start at Edinburgh Castle and walk downhill to Holyrood Palace, then use public transport or a taxi to get back up.
- The cobblestoned sections of the street can cause difficulty for some wheelchairs, strollers, and mobility devices.
How to Get There
The Royal Mile comprises a succession of streets, namely Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, and Abbey Strand. It’s about a 5-minute walk from Princes Street tram station and even quicker from Edinburgh Waverley train station.
When to Get There
The Royal Mile is a much-frequented thoroughfare, and during the annual Edinburgh Festival in August, it is packed with visitors. If you can stomach the crowds, the atmosphere is truly something special with curbside entertainment courtesy of buskers and street performers.
Things to See on the Royal Mile
Many of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks are situated on the Royal Mile. In addition to the palace and castle at either end, you’ll find other centuries-old landmarks such as St Giles' Cathedral, the Mercat Cross, and Canongate Kirk. It’s not all dusty old attractions, though—the Royal Mile is also the setting for the contemporary Scottish Parliament Building, a striking 2004-built concrete structure whose abstract shapes and forms take inspiration from such diverse references as Scottish landscapes and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s paintings.