The Royal Mile is the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and one of the most iconic streets in Scotland. It runs downhill between two significant historic buildings: Edinburgh Castle at the top and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom. The Royal Mile is approximately one mile long and is home to a number of major attractions, including St. Giles Cathedral, the Camera Obscura, and Mary King’s Close.

Edinburgh Royal Mile
Address:The Royal Mile,
Opening Hours:The Royal Mile is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.
Admission Price:There is no fee to visit The Royal Mile.
Parking:Roadside parking is possible in some backstreets (note: permit parking is in effect on some streets).
Paid parking spaces are located at Calton Road, Nicolson Square, Edinburgh Waverley Station, Quartermile, and Holyrood Road. There is a large multi-storey car park in the St James Quarter shopping centre (postcode EH1 3AD).
Facilities:The Royal Mile has bus stops, an information centre, restaurants, bars and pubs, cafes, and shops.


There aren’t many streets in the world that are tourist attractions in their own right, but Edinburgh’s Royal Mile easily takes that title thanks to its fascinating mix of architecture and history. Threading its way through the heart of the Old Town, the Royal Mile is a one-mile cobbled and paved road that links Edinburgh Castle at its top to Holyrood Palace at its bottom.

While most tourists view The Royal Mile (known locally as The High Street) as simply a means to walk between the castle and the palace, the road is an integral part of Edinburgh’s heritage, allowing visitors to see some of the oldest buildings in the city such as the Tolbooth Kirk, Gladstones Land, and John Knox House, amongst others.

The Royal Mile has been described as looking like a fishbone when viewed from the air, with the main road as the spine and the many alleyways that spur off it as the ribs. If you haven’t spent much time in this part of the city, I recommend leaving behind the tourist hordes to explore some of these hidden alleyways, as many are unchanged from the Victorian era.

Alternatively, if you’d rather be shown around by a professional, you can sign up for a tour with one of the guides hanging around the rear of St. Giles Cathedral near the Mercat Cross. These tours are reasonably priced and are the best way to discover the history of the murders, plagues, and riots that were part of everyday life in the Old Town in years gone by.

St Giles Cathedral

If history doesn’t interest you, you’ll be pleased to know that The Royal Mile is also a tourist hub for shops, pubs, and restaurants that sell a variety of Scottish gifts, food, and drinks. If you want to purchase genuine Scottish cashmere and Harris Tweed clothing, drink Scottish-brewed beer, or buy a bottle of premium Scotch whisky, the Royal Mile has something to offer you.

While some of the eateries are overpriced and serve low-quality food, there are a few jewels in the crown on the Royal Mile, such as The Witchery, which is located just below the Castle Esplanade. If you decide to sample the food there, be sure to try their legendary Scottish beef dishes, but bear in mind that the prices are quite steep compared to most other restaurants in the city.

In addition to its attractions, the Royal Mile makes a great base to explore Edinburgh. To the north is Princes Street (the main shopping street in Edinburgh) and the New Town, with the pubs and bars of Rose Street nestled between the upmarket restaurants and shops of George Street.

Beyond the west end of the Royal Mile, there isn’t much for tourists, but if you head in the opposite direction, you’ll find the enormous green expanse of Holyrood Park. The park is centred around an extinct volcano and is a miniature slice of the Highlands in a 650-acre green space that features a couple of lochs, sweeping cliff faces, and the highest point in the city, Arthur’s Seat, which features stunning views from its summit

If you’re limited in time and just want to explore the Royal Mile, I recommend starting at the castle and then visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience, the Camera Obscura, the Museum of Edinburgh, the Childhood Museum, and the palace.

The Royal Mile

The Highlights

1: Where to begin? Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace top the list for most people but there are lots of other attractions on the Royal Mile including The People’s Story Museum, The Museum of Childhood, John Knox House and St. Giles Cathedral.

2: This road in the heart of the city allows easy access to the best sights. If you do nothing else, you’ll have an enjoyable time just walking from the top to the bottom (or vice versa).

3: The Old Town is one of the best-preserved mediaeval districts in Europe. Stunning architecture and a dizzying number of historic attractions can be found from start to finish.

Visiting Tips

1: As a major tourist destination, the Royal Mile is well-served by public transport, with several bus routes passing nearby. It’s also a pedestrian-friendly zone, allowing visitors to explore the area comfortably on foot.

2: Throughout the year, the Royal Mile is a focal point for festivals and events, with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival taking over the street in August. Street performers and vendors create a lively atmosphere, and all of the street shows are free to watch, though donations are requested.

3: The best way to experience the Royal Mile is to join a tour. You can turn up at the Mercat Cross outside St. Giles Cathedral and speak to the guides that hang around there, or book online. has been going for years, and they’re very good at making Edinburgh’s history come alive.

ROYAL MILE AUDIO TOUR: Click here to purchase

The Royal Mile

Tourist Information

There’s a vast amount of things to see and do on The Royal Mile, and visitors can find attractions all the way along it, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll mention the best ones heading from the palace at the bottom to the castle at the top.

First, of course, is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This grand building is filled to the rafters with priceless works of art and royal memorabilia and also features a separate art gallery as well as a superb café and gift shop. It’s a must-do if you’re in Edinburgh.

Across the road is the Scottish Parliament building which is actually quite an interesting place to visit as they have guided tours that will tell you all about Scotland’s parliament and its relatively new headquarters. It’s free to get in but the security is a bit of a pain to get through, although that’s understandable as you’ll be able to view live debates in the main chamber.

Continue west, and you’ll find Canongate Kirk on the right, which is a beautiful old church with a graveyard that was favoured by the infamous Burke and Hare grave robbers. On the same side of the road is the People’s Story Museum which is dedicated to the tales and culture of the city’s past residents. It’s completely free to visit and is well worth an hour of your time, just like the Museum of Edinburgh across the road, which houses a collection of exhibits relating to the history and legends of the city.

Peoples Story Museum, free things to do in Edinburgh

The next point of interest is 1,000 feet up the road, where you’ll find The World’s End pub, which is situated on the (now-demolished) edge of the infamous Flodden Wall. The pub is a nice place to stop off for a quick dram or two before crossing the road and exploring the John Knox House. John Knox was well known for his political battles with Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1500s, and his house is one of the last remaining mediaeval buildings that survived the Victorian demolition of the Old Town.

Across the road, you’ll find the Museum of Childhood in a nondescript building that’s easily overlooked. The museum delves into the stories of the toys and culture of the last 100 years, and you’re bound to find something that’ll bring back fond memories, whether it’s an original Stretch Armstrong or those creepy porcelain dolls with the eyes that follow you around the room.

Walk another hundred or so yards towards the castle, and you can’t fail to miss St. Giles Cathedral which is another must-visit attraction in Edinburgh. The cathedral is quite beautiful inside, and it’s free to enter, although they do ask for donations, and there’s a mandatory fee to take photos.

Opposite the cathedral is the most famous close on the Royal Mile – The Real Mary King’s Close – which is waiting to transport you back in time to another world when Edinburgh’s poorest residents lived in unimaginably bad slums. Some of these underground dwellings have been unearthed and you can go on a tour around them, although I personally prefer the underground vaults tour offered by Mercat Tours.

The Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped mosaic, is located on the pavement outside St. Giles Cathedral, which marks the location of the 15th-century tollbooth where Edinburgh’s residents had to pay extortionate taxes or face cruel punishments. Such is the hatred of the tollbooth that the tradition of spitting on the mosaic continues to this day, even after the building was demolished in 1817.

The Writers Museum

After you’ve had a hearty spit on the Heart of Midlothian yourself, cross back over the road to enter Makars Court, which is a tranquil courtyard set back from the hubbub of the main road, where you’ll also find the thoroughly underrated Writers Museum. This museum displays exhibitions and original works from Scotland’s most famous writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson – and it’s a great place to visit if you have an interest in Scottish literature.

After you’ve looked around the writer’s museum, try to find the ornately carved paving stones in Makars Court, and then tilt your head up to marvel at the architecture of the hundreds-of-year-old multi-story tenement buildings that are one of the defining features of the Edinburgh cityscape.

Continue towards the castle and you’ll pass Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, which is a tourist attraction from Victorian times that features mind-bending mirror mazes, holograms, and optical illusions.

After that, there’s The Scotch Whisky Experience where you’ll be able to join a variety of guided tours that will explain the origins of the legendary spirit as well as give you a sample or two to try. In addition to a whisky barrel ride, there’s an enormous whisky collection, tasting rooms, a very good café, and one of the best whisky shops in Scotland.

The last port of call on this one-mile journey is Edinburgh Castle which doesn’t really need an introduction. The castle is Scotland’s top visitor attraction and regularly draws over two million tourists each and every year through its portcullis.

There’s more than enough to see and do at the castle to keep a family occupied for an entire day, with museums, military exhibitions, priceless jewels, cafés, restaurants, and shops nestled inside the walls of one of the world’s most formidable fortresses.

The Royal Mile

Things to Do

Explore Edinburgh Castle: Dominating the city’s skyline, the historic Edinburgh Castle houses the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish crown jewels) as well as several museums and memorials. It’s the most-visited attraction in the country and offers a fascinating journey through Scotland’s past.

Visit Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: This five-floor attraction is a wonderland of optical illusions and interactive exhibits. Discover the magic of light and colour and see Edinburgh in a new way through the 19th-century Camera Obscura. The rooftop terrace offers stunning views of the city.

Walk the Royal Mile: Stretching from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile is a historic street in the heart of the city. Take a leisurely stroll, gaze at medieval architecture, and explore various shops, restaurants, and pubs along the way.

Discover St Giles’ Cathedral: Known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St Giles’ Cathedral is a stunning Gothic church dating back to the 14th century. Admire its beautiful stained-glass windows, explore the historic Thistle Chapel, and try to find the grave of John Knox in the car park.

Experience the Scotch Whisky Experience: A trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without tasting a wee dram of its most famous export, whisky. Learn about the various whisky regions, take a barrel ride through the production process, and then participate in a tasting with a whisky expert.

Edinburgh Fringe

Things to Do Nearby

Edinburgh Castle. Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG. 8-minute walk from St. Giles Cathedral.
This is Scotland’s most-visited tourist attraction. This 11th-century castle and barracks house the Scottish crown jewels and is the location for the National War Museum. It also features popular attractions like the Mons Meg cannon and the One O’Clock gun.

Holyrood Palace. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DX. A 13-minute walk from St. Giles Cathedral.
Holyrood Palace is the monarch’s official residence in Scotland. The palace is open to visitors who can explore the royal rooms on a self-guided tour. Tickets include a visit to The Queen’s Gallery and Holyrood Abbey.

St. Giles Cathedral. High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE.
Grand, Gothic-style cathedral that is open to public viewing when religious sermons are not in session. Entry is free. Guided tours are available.

The Scotch Whisky Experience. The Royal Mile, 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE. A 5-minute walk from St. Giles Cathedral.
Popular tourist attraction on The Royal Mile that celebrates Scotland’s whisky traditions with tastings, a whisky barrel ride and guided tours. Shop and café on site.

John Knox House. Scottish Storytelling Centre, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR. A 5-minute walk from St. Giles Cathedral.
A 15th-century preserved townhouse that is believed to have been the home of the Protestant preacher John Knox. Includes historic displays and exhibitions that can be viewed on a self-guided tour. Joins onto The Scottish Storytelling Centre which has a café and gift shop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called The Royal Mile?

Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle are two locations that royalty frequently visited, and the Royal Mile is a historic road between them. The road is approximately one mile in length, hence the name.

How long does it take to walk the Royal Mile?

The Royal Mile takes approximately 25 minutes to walk from Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the incline to Edinburgh Castle at the top.

Is The Royal Mile Pedestrianized?

The Royal Mile is open to traffic but is temporarily pedestrianized during busy tourist times such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What visitor facilities are there at The Royal Mile?

Food, drink, and toilets are located in the pubs, bars, and restaurants on The Royal Mile.

Is the Royal Mile actually a mile long?

No, the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is not actually a mile long. The name “Royal Mile” is a nickname given to the road that runs between Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom.

The actual distance between these two points is approximately one Scottish mile, or 1.06 standard miles (1.7 km). The usage of Scottish miles was abandoned in the 18th century.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.