Edinburgh Royal Mile
|Read time 4 mins
Edinburgh’s Old Town is a UNESCO world heritage site packed full of attractions, all located within a mile of each other!
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Culture and history abound along the length of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the tourist hub of Scotland's capital city.
The highlight of the Castle are the Honours of Scotland...a crown, a sceptre and the sword of state.
Discover the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile earns its name from its length as measured from Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse Palace, which is almost exactly a mile long.
This spectacular street showcases the very best of Edinburgh's city centre architecture and contains many surprises along the way.
Read on for our favourite places to visit on the Royal Mile.
Make Edinburgh Castle your first stop!
It forms an imposing part of the city’s skyline and dates back hundreds of years.
Must-see spots include the Great Hall where you can see a range of weapons and armour.
As the Castle is a military stronghold there are many references to Scotland’s army.
The most poignant of these is the Scottish National War Memorial, which commemorates those who have died in conflicts since 1914.
You can also visit the Royal Scots Museum, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum and the National War Museum. The latter building was once used as a storehouse and later a military hospital.
The highlight of the Castle are the Honours of Scotland, which are well worth the climb up the spiral staircase: a crown, a sceptre and the sword of state.
Don’t forget the one o’clock gun, first fired in 1861.
Ships in Leith traditionally set their clocks by the sound of the gun and today many crowds gather to see it being fired.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a royal residence and remains a living, working palace.
Legend has it that, after David I saw a vision of a stag here, he constructed Holyrood Abbey in 1128, while James IV first built a palace on the site in 1503.
There is plenty to explore, including the state apartments which, as you move towards the King’s Bedchamber, gradually become grander.
The final part of your visit will be to Holyrood Abbey, one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland, and the Gardens, which are best seen during the colourful summer months.
Just be careful not to fall into the ha-ha, a deep trench that creates a barrier for the garden without breaking the line of sight towards Salisbury Crags.
Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, following devolution from Westminster, and prides itself as one of the most open Parliaments in Europe.
You can book a Parliament tour for free, which teaches you not only about the work and history of the Parliament but also the architecture of this modern building.
If you don’t have time for a tour you are welcome to visit the main visitor area which includes the Main Hall, exhibitions, or short introductory free talks.
If you’d like to learn more about how the Parliament works, you can also request free public tickets to watch Parliament Debates and committee meetings.
For those visiting with young children, there is even a public crèche, the only one of its kind in Europe, where children can stay while their parents attend a tour, meet MSPs or attend other events.
Free walking tours in Edinburgh
When you first arrive in a city it can be hard to know where to begin.
Thankfully, there are plenty of walking tours from the Royal Mile, so take your pick!
Most are free but at the end, the guide will often ask for tips.
New Europe Tours, for example, offers a two-and-a-half-hour walking tour, bringing history to life.
Their guide will lead you through the main areas of the city centre, including the Royal Mile and Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Prepare your eyes for visual illusions at Camera Obscura!
Located at the top of the Royal Mile, there is plenty to explore, from vortex tunnels to holograms.
During your visit, you will climb to the top of the building where the Camera Obscura itself is located.
This 166-year-old Victorian technology shows you moving pictures of passers-by using a system of mirrors and daylight
Camera Obscura also has an interesting history.
Maria Short, the supposed daughter of the creator of the Great Telescope, opened Camera Obscura in 1835 and the business later moved to the Royal Mile.
After her death, Patrick Geddes bought the building and renamed it Outlook Tower, dedicating it as a centre of learning for residents.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions took over in 1977 and have been dazzling visitors ever since!
Scotch Whisky Experience
Located opposite Camera Obscura, the Scotch Whisky Experience is fully immersive.
For whisky novices, there is the Silver Tour, which begins with an explanation of the prodcution process before a sensory tour of the whisky-making regions of Scotland.
After learning the art of blended whisky you choose a dram to sample before heading into the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection.
The tour finishes in the McIntyre bar where you can buy more drams or, if you are on the Gold Tour, redeem your 4 additional whiskies.
If you’re under 18, don’t worry – Scotland’s favourite soft drink, Irn Bru, is on offer for you instead!
More in-depth tours include the 'Platinum Tour', which includes 5 tastings detailing the stories and production of each whisky, and the 'Morning Masterclass', a small group session which explains the production processes and features a tasting of 4 contrasting whiskies.
'Tasting Tales', meanwhile, provides food and whisky pairings while learning plenty of stories about the whiskies sampled.
The Amber bar and restaurant are not to be missed either, where you can try traditional Scottish foods and tasty tray bakes or, if you don’t have time to take a tour, sample whiskies.
As the Mercat founder said, “history is a good damn story. What it needs is a good damn telling”.
The Mercat guides do exactly this, bringing true stories to life with plenty of energy. Mercat is also the only company to have access to the haunted Blair Street Underground Vaults, constructed in the early 19th century.
There is a great selection of ghost tours to choose from, including an Evening of Ghosts and Ghouls, which features a tasting of whisky, ale or soft drink at the end.
The company also offers history walks, such as Treasures of the Old Town and Outlander Experience, which show you the history and places behind the hit TV show.
Book a city break with Reserve Apartments
Many of our properties are located within easy walking distance of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Browse our portfolio and book your next city break with us today.