Royal Mile Tourist Attractions

What to See

There are loads of attractions to see along the length of the Royal Mile, and to visit all of them would take you a good few days.

For families it would cost a significant amount, with some costing a family of four nearly £50.00 in peak season.

There are however a number of free Attractions worth seeing; such as the Writers Museum, St. Giles Cathedral, Museum of Childhood, The Peoples Story, Museum of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament, – and if you visit during August, you could wander up and down being entertained all day by street performers for the cost of a couple of pounds in the hat.

I’ve listed the main attractions here in order, starting from Edinburgh Castle running down the Royal Mile to Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. I’ve also included opening times and prices.

Edinburgh Castle

This is Scotland’s most famous tourist attraction and was awarded Best Heritage attraction at the 2011 British Travel Awards. This award has been won again in 2012, beating off competition from the likes of St. Pauls Cathedral and the Tower of London.

The birthplace of James VI of Scotland (who became James I of England in 1603), who was born to Mary Queen of Scots in the Royal Residence in 1566.  It became the main castle of Scotland’s monarchs in the Middle Ages. The buildings within the fortress include a 12th century chapel – Edinburgh’s oldest building- and the Great Hall, completed in 1511.The castle has had a rich and colourful history, withstanding numerous attacks from Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads in 1650, and William and Mary’s army in 1689

Edinburgh Castle is home to the National War Museum of Scotland (It is still an active army base), hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo every August, and is used in the summer as an outdoor concert venue

In 1996, the Stone of Destiny (the coronation stone of Scottish monarchs) was returned to Edinburgh Castle. It and the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) are on display there, as is Mons Meg, a giant siege gun given to James II in 1457.

Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Opening Times: Daily 0930-1800 (Apr-Sep); daily 0930-1700 (Oct-Mar).

Admission Fees: Peak Adult £15.00, Child £8.50. Off Peak Adult £14.00, Child £8.20

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 225 9846.


The Scotch Whisky Experience

If the Royal Mile springs to mind when you think about Edinburgh, then what springs to mind when you think about Scotland, -Whisky. Tourists come from far and wide to experience the broad variety of Scotland’s national drink. The Scotch Whisky Experience tour takes visitors through the whole whisky-making process and guides them round the different whisky-producing regions, before concluding with a tutored whisky nosing and tasting.

Address: 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Opening Times: Daily 1000-1800 (Sep-May); daily 0930-1830 (Jun-Aug); last tour departs one hour before closing time.

Admission Fees: £21.00 tour and tasting. No Children.

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 220 0441.

Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura is Edinburgh’s oldest purpose built tourist attraction. It is a unique way to view the city and it’s whitewashed tower is easily spotted. The Camera Obscura is a chamber with a mirror which reflects light downwards through three lenses and projects a life-size image of the city onto a white concave surface. The mirror can be tilted and turned to give a 360 degree panorama of the city.

Rated 4th out of 155 Edinburgh attractions by Trip Advisors popularity index

 Castlehill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Opening Times: Daily 0930-1930 (Jul-Aug); daily 0930-1800 (Sept-Oct); daily 1000-1700 (Nov-Mar); daily 0930-1800 (Apr-June).

Admission Fees: Adult £9.95, Child £6.95..

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 226 3709.

Writers’ Museum

Edinburgh was the first city to be recognised by UNESCO as a City of Literature and so it is not surprising that it should have its own Writers’ Museum, dedicated to the lives and works of Scotland’s great literary figures. The rich collection of manuscripts, first editions and portraits is complemented by a series of personal exhibits, which include Robert Burns’ writing desk, Robert Louis Stevenson’s riding boots and a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull. – one of only three ever made.

Address: Lady Stair’s House, Lawnmarket, United Kingdom

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 1000-1700; Sun 1200-1700 (during the Edinburgh Festival)

Admission Fees: Free

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 529 4901.

Mary King’s Close

Before the New Town was built, in the late 18th century, almost everyone in Edinburgh lived in “closes” – steep, narrow streets built on the slopes either side of the Royal Mile. A block of four of these closes has been opened up and can be visited by the public. Guided tours of Mary King’s Close are conducted by actors playing people who really lived there in the 16th and 17th centuries: a merchant, a street-cleaner, a serving-maid and the youngest daughter of Mary King herself. They give a fascinating insight into life and work in the medieval Old Town.

Address: 2 Warriston’s Close, Edinburgh, United Kingdom (next to the City Chambers)

Opening Times: Sun-Thur 1000-1700, Fri-Sat 1000-2100 (Nov-Mar); daily 1000-2100 (Apr-Jul, Sep-Oct); daily 0900-2100 (Aug).

Admission Fees: Adult £12.00, Child £6.50. No kids under 5 allowed.

Disabled Access: No

Telephone: 0845 070 6244.

St Giles’ Cathedral

It is disputed for exactly how long a church has stood on this site, but the first reference to it is in 835. The Cathedral as we know it was built in the early 12th Century although it has since been extensively altered.. John Knox served as Minister here from 1559, when he led the Reformation into Edinburgh, until 1572.  It also has a notable collection of stained-glass windows, dating from the 1870s onwards. The stunning Thistle Chapel, completed in 1911, is noted for its ornate wooden carving, much of it peculiarly Scottish, including angels playing bagpipes.

Address: High Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0900-1900, Sat 0900-1700, Sun 1300-1700 (May-Sep); Mon-Sat 0900-1700, Sun 1300-1700 (Oct-Apr).

Admission Fees: Free.

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 225 9442.

Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood is a fun day out for the whole family. Young people can learn about the children of the past and see a fantastic range of toys and games, while adults enjoy a trip down memory lane.

Young people and adults can enjoy finding out about growing up through the ages, from toys and games to health and school days. Hands-on activities, including a puppet theatre and dressing up area.

Address: 42 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG
Opening Times: Monday-Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Admission Fees: Free

Disabled Access: Partially
Telephone: 0131 529 4142

John Knox House

John Knox was the leader of the Protestant reformation in the 16th Century, but this is not actually the house where he lived. It has been known as John Knox’s house since Victorian times simply because it dated from the right period and the name stuck. The house has been restored and incorporated into the recently developed Storytelling Centre.

Next door to John Knox’s House lies Moubray house which is the oldest building in the Royal Mile and indeed the oldest occupied building in Edinburgh. Although it was originally built around 1477, the current frontage dates from the 17th Century.

Daniel Defoe edited the Edinburgh Courant from the building in the early 18th Century.


Address: 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR

Opening Times: Monday- Saturday 10am-6pm open on Sundays from 12pm -6pm in July and August.

Admission Fees: Adult £4.25, Child £1.00

Disabled Access: No

Telephone: 0131 556 9579

The Peoples Story Museum

The People’s Story explores the lives of Edinburgh’s ordinary people. The people of the past are brought to life through re-created settings, displays and costumed figures. Real people’s own memories are used throughout the Museum.

The People’s Story is housed in the Canongate Tolbooth, a category ‘A’ listed building built in 1591 on the site of an earlier tolbooth. It was the courthouse, prison and centre of burgh affairs when the Burgh of Canongate was independent from Edinburgh.



Address: 163 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12 noon – 5pm (during the Festival only)

Admission Fees: Free

Disabled Access: Partially

Telephone: 0131 529 4057

Museum of Edinburgh


The Museum of Edinburgh chronicles the development of Edinburgh through the ages and displays a wide range of artefacts ranging from silverware and glassware originally made in Canongate, models of the Old Town and the original plans for the New Town. You can even see Greyfriars Bobby’s collar and bowl.

Address: 142 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm (During August only.)

Admission Fees: Free

Disabled Access: No

Telephone: 0131 529 4143

Palace of Holyroodhouse


The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence in Scotland of The Queen, stands at the foot of the Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Holyrood park and Arthur’s Seat.
The Palace is closely associated with Scotland’s rich history and is perhaps best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and as the setting for many of the dramatic episodes in her turbulent reign. Mary was married at Holyroodhouse and witnessed the brutal killing of her secretary Rizzio by Lord Darnley, in her private apartments. The Palace briefly served as the headquarters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1745 uprising.

The State Apartments are still used regularly by The Queen and other members of the Royal Family for State ceremonies and official entertaining.

Address: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, EH8 8DX

Opening Hours: 9.30am – 6.00pm (April – Oct), 9.30am – 4.30pm (Nov – March)

Admission Fees: From 2012 Adult £10.75, Child £6.50

Disabled Access: Partially

Telephone: 0131 556 5100

The Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament meets in a purpose-designed building at the foot of the Royal Mile opposite the Palace of Holyrood. Infamous throughout its design and construction, the building has subsequently won several prestigious architectural awards. This Iconic building was designed using a mix of steel, oak and granite. Sustainability and minimal impact were key factors in the design, and the building is famed as one of the most progressive and innovative buildings in Britain today.

Much of it is open to the public and one-hour guided tours are offered every morning. The tours give access to the floor of the Chamber (when Parliament is not in session) and a Committee Room, as well as views of the parliamentarians’ office block and the historic Holyrood.

Address: Horse Wynd, Holyrood, Edinburgh, EH8 8DM
Opening Times: Business days (normally Tuesday-Thursday) 0900-1830; non-business days 1000-1730 (Apr-Sep); 1000-1600 (Oct-Mar); Sat 1100-1730.

Admission Fees: No.

Disabled Access: Yes

Telephone: (0131) 348 5200 or 0800 092 7800.