Woodcut depicting Gardyloo
As the name suggests – it’s only a mile long, and the whole of the Old Town is fairly compact and easy to get around on foot. However, what the maps don’t show you are the slopes. The Royal Mile is built on the ‘tail’ of the extinct volcano the Castle sits on and consequently everywhere you go will be either up or down a hill. Couple this with the cobbled streets and it’s probably not the place to wear your best six inch heeled Manolo’s.
Far From the Madding Crowds
If you want to spend your time strolling leisurely up and down the Mile, Do Not plan your visit in August. The Scenes that will greet you as you emerge onto the Royal Mile are Gobsmacking. For virtually the Whole of August, the Street becomes a giant carnival of chainsaw jugglers, fringe performers advertising their shows and thousands of tourists all crammed into a relatively small space.
Bizzarely, there is no Tourist information point on the Royal Mile or indeed anywhere in the Old Town. The Nearest is located on the top of Waverley Mall at 3 Princes Street Tel: 0845 225 5121 www.edinburgh.org
Opening hours 09.00 to 17.00 Mon-Sat. 10.00-17.00 Sun. (Nov-March) Open later during the spring and summer months.
The Edinburgh Pass
The Edinburgh pass can be purchased from the Tourist information centre on Princes Street, at the Airport, or in advance online. A pass can be bought for one, two or three days and provides excellent value for money. It gives you free entry to 30 attractions, free Airlink bus travel to and from the Airport and a series of discounts on tours, gifts etc. Current prices are £29.00 for 1 day to £49.00 for a 3 day pass. You can also download a free map of the Old Town from the website. www.edinburgh.org/pass
If you’re in the market for Tartan of any decription, ‘see you Jimmy’ hats or shortbread, then you’ll be well served along the Mile. There has also recently been an explosion of new shops selling Cashmere goods and ‘hunting, shooting & fishing’ type clothing. There are a number of whisky shops with decent ranges of single malts. Unfortunately, there is not a great range of quality independant shops on the mile itself, but you can find some interesting stuff just off the Mile in Victoria Street, Cockburn Street or Jeffrey Street. Having said that, there are one or two weird and wonderful shops, like Hilary’s Bazaar (297 Canongate) where you can pick up an ‘Arabian nights’ outfit and belly dancing lessons to go with it.
There are two pharmacies, the Royal Mile Pharmacy located in the middle of the High Street portion of the Mile and Boots which is situated on Northbridge about twenty metres off the Royal Mile. The guys in Boots are generally pretty helpful.
There are numerous small newsagents/mini-markets dotted along the length of the Mile which will cater for very basic needs – at a cost. The nearest supermarket is a Tesco Metro which is 0.5 Kilometres away on Nicolson Street, opposite Edinburgh University Old College.
Only one small Post Office located on St. Mary’s Street, opposite Travelodge.
It is usually fairly easy to hail a black cab on the street, but if not there is a Taxi rank located immediately outside the Raddison Blu at 80 High Street. If you need to book, try Central Taxis. Tel: 0131 229 2468
Bikes can be hired from Edinburgh Cycle Hire which has a small shop halfway down Blackfriars Street. This is run by a guy called Peter, who looks like Terry Gilliam and is just as weird. A days hire costs between £15 to £20. Tel: 0131 556 5560
The Royal Mile, like everywhere else in the country, has its share of ‘undesirables’. They tend to congregate around the junction with North/Southbridge and can easily be spotted by looking out for bottles of White Lightning cider or Special Brew. In the main they are harmless, but are prone to bouts of incoherent shouting which can shock the unwary passer by.
In the unlikely event that you need Police assistance, the nearest Police station is St. Leonards, 14 St. Leonards Street, EH8 9QW. Tel. 0131 662 5000.
*A local name for street dwellers with a liking for strong, cheap alcohol