The Royal Mile – At the heart of Scotland’s history

The Royal Mile is world famous – and with good reason. Where else on the Planet could you take a stroll down the tail of a long-extinct volcano, from the Country’s most famous Castle, past the highest Courts in the land, the seat of Local Government, down by the National Parliament to a Royal Palace?

So, if you are going to visit the Royal Mile, find out here what you need to know

The Royal Mile is, as it suggests, a mile long (although this is an old Scot’s mile) and is actually made up of four distinct streets; Castlehill, Lawnmarket, the High Street, and Canongate.


This is the small stretch that runs down from the Castle Esplanade to the top of Lawnmarket where it joins Johnstone Terrace. Here you can see Cannon-ball House, which has a cannonball allegedly fired during the second Jacobite rebellion still lodged in the gable wall.


Lawnmarket carries on down the hill to the junction with George IV bridge and is now the home of the ‘Tartan Tourist shop’ For the history buffs, David Hume and James Boswell both lived in a tenement (now long gone) at James’s Court.

High Street

This is the main section of the Royal Mile and stretches from George IV Bridge to the World’s End – the site of the Netherbow Gate which was the boundary of the City walls. (the location of the gate is marked by a series of brass cobbles in the street. The High Street is home to the Courts, St. Giles Cathedral, the City Chambers, and John Knox’s house. The top section has been partially pedestrianized and in August becomes the center of the Fringe street performances, where you’ll see anything from juggling chainsaws to Japanese Kabuki.


Canongate runs down to Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament and is the forgotten part of the Mile. Many of the original buildings are gone and have been replaced by post-war ‘brutalist’ tenements. The area was historically a more industrial part of the city with a number of breweries. Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have stayed in Moray House at 174 Canongate on his two trips to Edinburgh. Canongate is also where Burke and Hare picked up Mary Patterson and Janet Brown, the former ending up as one of the 17 victims of the bodysnatchers. Canongate Kirk was the venue of the ‘other’ Royal wedding in 2011.

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