Located right on the Royal Mile, St Giles Cathedral, in Edinburgh, is a historical building famous for its colorful stained-glass, crown spire and heavily decorated Thistle Chapel.
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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About St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh
St Giles Cathedral is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh.
It is a church located in the old town of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile.
The current church dates back to the 14th century and the early 16th century.
However, significant alterations were made in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The 2 Edinburgh Cathedrals
Edinburgh has 2 Cathedrals:
- St Giles Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh - some of its oldest parts supposedly date back to 1124. It was rebuilt during the 14th century. It is not formally a cathedral as it is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland. But it used to be during the 17th century.
- St Mary's Cathedral was built in the late 19th century. It is located in the New town and home to the Bishop of Edinburgh.
PLANNING TIPS - St Giles Edinburgh Cathedral
How to get to St Giles
- The St Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh is located in the heart of the old town, on the Royal Mile between the Edinburgh Castle and the Holyroodhouse Palace
- No easy carpark in the area - I recommend you walk or use the hop on hop off bus - pre-purchase tickets in your own currency
- The cathedral is included in both my travel guides eBooks to help you plan your Scotland road trip:
Visiting the Cathedral
- St Giles Cathedral opening times in Summer: 9am to 7pm on weekdays, 9am to 5pm on Saturdays, 1pm to 5pm on Sundays
- St Giles Cathedral opening times in Winter (Oct to Apr): 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday - 1pm to 5pm Sundays
- Check for any changes to the schedule on their official website
- Entrance is free but if you visit the Thistle Chapel, a donation is recommended
- There is a shop inside the cathedral
- Photos are only allowed if you purchase a permit. It is £2. And you get a sticker to show you are allowed to take pictures.
- There are volunteer guides conducting tours on request
St Giles from the Outside
As you walk down the Royal Mile in central Edinburgh, it is impossible to miss the cathedral. It is not the most impressive building from the outside.
What stands out is the crown spire. It stands at just under 50 meters in height (the lantern being at 43m). It is only 60 meters in length.
The entrance is traditionally sculpted although just around the door. The rest of the facade is rather neutral.
Visiting the St. Giles Cathedral
Inside this is not the most impressive cathedral. But the blue-colored ceiling and the colorful stained-glass windows (see later) make up for it.
I did not have my tripod so pictures are not the best, but it gives you an idea.
There are a lot of flags in St Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh, but I am still not sure why. Should have asked...
One of the best features of the St Giles Edinburgh Cathedral are the stained-glass windows. All windows are very colorful with many different scenes including Scottish Saints. They are used as a narrative to help illustrate Bible stories. Most of the windows are from the 20th century.
One of the particularities of St Giles Cathedral is the organ.
Built in 1992, it was set up so that you can walk behind and discover the inside of the instrument. Just go towards the red wooden panel and press the button at the top for the inside to illuminate.
The Thistle Chapel
The most heavily decorated part of the St Giles Edinburgh Cathedral is the Thistle Chapel.
It is dedicated to the most ancient order of the Thistle, the order of Chivalry. It was built in 1911.
Decor is made of wood, colorful stained glasses and a sculpted ceiling.
Planning a trip to Scotland?
Check out my travel guides, that facilitate the planning of your itinerary
Other things to do in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle - Read article
- The Royal Mile - Read article
- Calton Hill and its views - Read article
- Or check out my complete article with the best things to do in Edinburgh
Want to see more of SCOTLAND?
Do you enjoy visiting cathedrals?
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