Must-See Stops on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland
A visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, would not be complete without taking a stroll on the Royal Mile. In fact, you will see the Royal Mile listed in just about every Edinburgh guide you come across. However, when I was originally researching, I couldn’t find any information on where the Royal Mile actually starts and ends or what to see when you visit! So, in this Edinburgh guide, you will learn how to get there and the best things to do on the Royal Mile.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Must-See Stops on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland
- What is the Royal Mile
- What to See on the Royal Mile
- Tips for Visiting the Royal Mile
- Best Things to Do on the Royal Mile Wrap-up
What is the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is located in the Old Town of Edinburgh and combines a group of streets that have become famous to walk down. This is completely free to visit and starts at Edinburgh Castle and ends at Holyrood Palace (or vice versa). The Royal Mile is just a little over a mile long (a Scott’s Mile) and runs West to East in the city, so all you need to do is walk straight.
The street names themselves change throughout the walk and include Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate, and Abbey Strand.
One of the main reasons this line of streets is important is because it was the processional path for kings and queens for hundreds of years. It also connects the famous Edinburgh Castle with Holyroodhouse; two very important landmarks.
With the below best things to do on the Royal Mile, you should plan at least an hour to walk it (excluding Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace).
What to See on the Royal Mile
Now that you know a little bit of history regarding the Royal Mile, let’s discuss some of the best places to add to your Edinburgh Itinerary. At the end, I will also include a map you can use to help you visit all the top points of interest on the Royal Mile.
The Edinburgh Castle is one of the top attractions this city has to offer and one of the best things to do on the Royal Mile. Ironically, it is also the start of our Royal Mile walk.
I encourage you to go inside Edinburgh Castle, but you will need to get tickets beforehand. It is best to get them in advance directly on their website (the audio guide is worth it).
Depending on the time you choose, this may or may not be your first stop on the Royal Mile. To properly explore this castle, you should give yourself an hour at minimum.
Hours: April – September. Open Daily from 10 AM to 5 PM (last entry 4:15 PM); October – March Daily from 10 AM – 4 PM (last entry 3:15 PM)
Admission: Adult (16-64yrs) £7; Age 65+ £5.50; Child (5-15yrs); £4.
Address: Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY, United Kingdom
Starting from Castlehill (Edinburgh Castle), you should first stop and admire Tolbooth Kirk, a stunning church. It is located at the roundabout right before Castlehill turns into Lawnmarket Street.
Upper Bow (Victoria Street)
Next, turn right onto Upper Bow Road. This will allow you to walk on the Victoria terrace to look down on Victoria Street, which is said to have inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, making this Royal Mile thing to do is a no-brainer.
It is okay to take a little detour down Victoria Street and even walking down to Grassmarket.
Lady Stair’s Close
Located on the left-hand side, head down the alleyway of Lady Stair’s Close. This will open up to The Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court. I suggest taking a peek inside The Writers’ Museum as it is free to visit and has a lot of historical artifacts. Even if the writers’ information doesn’t interest you, the home is from the 17th century that you can tour through for free.
Gladstone’s Land is also right here and is a paid attraction. With a visit, you will get to see how a wealthy merchant’s home would have looked back in the 1600s. The home has 3 floors to explore, and many call it a hidden gem that does a great job covering three centuries of history.
With 3 attractions all in one place, this should definitely be on your list of best things to do on the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh Fun Fact: A Close is Scottish for Alleyway
Writers’ Museum Address: Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Cl, Edinburgh EH1 2PA, United Kingdom
St Giles’ Cathedral
Continue down Lawnmarket Street until you see St Giles’ Cathedral on your righthand side. This is easily one of the best stops on the Royal Mile. St Giles’ is a remarkable church that has been in use for almost 900 years and is where the Queen of England’s casket was laid out before making it to London.
In fact, this church pre-dates most of the Old Town of Edinburgh. St Giles’ Cathedral was founded in 1124 by King David I (Dauíd mac Maíl Choluim).
It has been raided several times, changed worship, and much more. If you love history, I suggest checking out their official website for more, as there is so much interesting history here. Inside, you will find beautiful stained glass windows, so if it is open, I urge you to take a peek inside.
Hours: Monday – Friday: 10 AM – 6 PM; Saturday: 9 AM – 5 PM; Sunday: 1 PM – 5 PM
Admission: Free, but appreciate a donation.
Address: High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE, United Kingdom
After visiting St Giles’ Cathedral, pop right across the street to Advocates Close, known as one of the most Instagrammable places in Edinburgh. You don’t need to spend much time here, but the views looking down perfectly frame the Scott Monument on Princes Street.
Proceed down Canongate Street to Tolbooth Tavern by going through the alley. The alley you entered was the original Canongate Tolbooth. It was built in 1591, and this Tavern was once a part of it. You actually had to pay to pass through, thus the name.
They removed the tollbooth, and in 1820, the Tolbooth Tavern took the bottom floor. The structure is allegedly haunted. If you’re feeling hungry at this point, you can even stop in for a drink and a bite to eat. They open at 12 PM.
Right next to the Tolbooth Tavern, you will see the Canongate Kirkyard. It is a church and graveyard, and if you’re someone who loves wandering through historic graveyards, this one is entirely free to explore.
It is also quieter than Greyfriars Kirkyard (Harry Potter Fan Graveyard), and still quite lovely as far as graveyards go.
Fans of the television series Outlander should stop at Bakehouse Close without a doubt. Filming for Jamie’s bookshop took place here, as you may recognize from the photo below.
It’s always interesting to visit filming locations, even though it doesn’t exactly resemble a bookshop from the show. Plus, the Museum of Edinburgh is also just on the corner, and it is also free to visit.
White Horse Close
If you love charming little courtyards, you can take a quick look inside White Horse Close. Rumor says this is where Queen Mary of Scotts may have kept her white horses, thus the name. True or not, it is still a cute place. Just be respectful, as these are people’s homes.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The end of the road and best things to do on the Royal Mile is at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This 16th-century palace is another one of the top attractions in Edinburgh, so tickets beforehand are required. Plus you get a discount for advance tickets.
While here, you can tour the Staterooms and gardens. While here, you will also learn about some of the most historic figures, including Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots. This is also an official residence of the King, and the Queen before him. If open, the Holyrood Abbey is also quite nice.
Similar to Edinburgh Castle, you will want to give yourself at least an hour to properly explore this massive property.
Admission: Starting at: Adult £18.00; 18-24: £11.50; 5-17: £10; Under 5 Free
Hours: 1 November – 31 March:9:30 – 4:30 (last admission 3:15 PM); 1 April – 31 October 9:30 AM – 6 PM (last admission 4:30 PM).
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, United Kingdom
Tips for Visiting the Royal Mile
Now that you know some of the best stops to visit on the Royal Mile, here are some additional tips to know for visiting.
- Wear comfortable shoes that are water-resistant. It can always rain in Scotland. You may even want to consider bringing a little fold-up rain jacket if the weather isn’t looking great.
- Start early, and if you can, try to time your Edinburgh Castle ticket and Holyrood Palace ticket in line with each other. If not, the city is quite small, so you can plan it for another day.
- If you’re not from the UK, you will be excited to see a handful of red telephone booths along the way.
- Avoid visiting around the Fringe Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tatoo, as the crowds will be very intense – unless that’s what you’re into. These are for almost all of August.
Best Things to Do on the Royal Mile Wrap-up
This concludes some of the best things to visit on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I hope you have the best time exploring this medieval city. Below, you can use my personalized map to guide you to these fun spots!
Have any questions about these best things to do on the Royal Mile, or feel like I missed a good one? Let me know in the comments below!