Walking the Royal Mile Edinburgh is one of the top things to do in the city.
Despite the high number of tourists and cars surrounding you, you can easily feel transported back in time imagining how life was in those old houses and narrow side streets.
Below is my guide with a Royal Mile map, tips and photos to help you plan your visit.
Before my tips + photos, here are my favorites for Scotland:
My favorite platform to rent a car in Scotland: DiscoverCars
The unmissable boat tour: Seal spotting on Loch Linnhe from Fort William
My favorite excursion from Edinburgh: Glenfinnan and Glencoe
The Royal Mile Edinburgh – Map and Intro
The Royal Mile is the central street in the old town.
It a fascinating walk lined with old buildings and some of the major attractions in Edinburgh.
As you explore the paved street you will start at the castle, admire the hub, the cathedral and the narrow passageways called closes.
How long is the Royal Mile in Edinburgh?
It is roughly 1 Scots Mile long which is 1.8 km or 1,13 miles.
The Royal Mile map
Below is an overview map of the Royal Mile with some of the main buildings and attractions to get your oriented:
Where does the Royal Mile start and end?
The Royal Mile Edinburgh starts at the entrance to the Edinburgh Castle, an impressive fortress on top of a Castle Hill.
An at the other end, it ends at the palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland.
It is the dotted line in the Google Map extract below:
Below is a picture of the entrance to the Edinburgh Castle.
The medieval fortress is like a small town in the town with some beautiful views over Edinburgh. Read my article.
Why is it called the Royal Mile?
The “mile” comes from its length of around 1 Scottish mile.
The “Royal” comes from a tradition. It uses to be a processional route for kings and queens.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips – The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
- Located in the heart of Edinburgh, the Royal Mile is a succession of streets through the old town section – including High Street.
- It starts at the Edinburgh Castle and ends at the Holyroodhouse Palace
- There are no places to park. I always recommend walking in Edinburgh or taking the hop on hop off bus
- However, if you are looking to park not far, there is the Edinburgh Castle Terrace carpark, on the other side of Castle Hill. But it means climbing stairs right at the beginning.
The best things to do in Edinburgh are included in both my travel guides eBooks that help you plan your Scotland itinerary:
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Walking the Royal Mile Edinburgh
- The street is roughly 1 Scots Mile long which is 1.8 km or 1,13 miles
- The ground is not in a too bad condition, but high heels are not recommended
- Sadly, the whole street is not free of cars. So be careful you have to share with crazy drivers for most of it.
- Mostly souvenir shops in the main part, surprisingly there were not that many restaurants
- Time to walk the mile depends on where you stop and what you decide to visit – It takes 20min without stopping at all.
You can walk down the mile on your own, or you could consider a walking guided tour to learn more about the fascinating history of the neighborhood:
- for a private walking tour along the Royal mile – check out this tour
- or join a group history tour – check out this one
- if you like haunted houses, check out this tour to learn more about the dark side of Edinburgh
Where to stay in Edinburgh close to the Royal Mile
You can find mostly rentals in the area to enjoy the historical vibe of the area.
Below are some suggestions for rentals
- The Witchery by the castle – very close to the castle, with historical designs – See photos and availability
- The David Hume Residence – a large apartment for families – See photos and availability
- Edinburgh Accommodation apartments – several comfy flats in one of the typical houses – See photos and availability
- Destiny Scotland – Royal Mile Residence – spacious apartments with modern and light decor – See photos and availability
And for hotels:
- The Inn on the Mile – modern decor, central location – See photos and availability
- Check out the Radison Collection Hotel, Royal mile – not right on the mile, but very close – See photos and availability
- Otherwise check out all the best rated accommodations in Edinburgh
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Walking the Royal Mile – old houses
Along the mile, you can discover rows of old 5-story buildings.
A small portion of the street is forbidden to cars giving you more space and freedom to look around.
The Closes of the Royal Mile
One of the main attractions and particularities of the Royal Mile Edinburgh are the narrow side street called ‘closes’. Wikipedia has a list of the closes.
These closes were usually named after a memorable occupant of an apartment or a trade made there.
The Closes nearest to the castle can have steep slopes. They are narrow and between tall buildings as housing was an issue when they were built.
The Closes further from the castle are less impressive but some of them are quite famous and have stories attached to them.
One of the most famous is the real Mary King’s close. It is left of the city chambers.
Here you can join a 1 hour guided tour and visit the many hidden streets from the 17th century.
Other things to do and see on the Royal Mile
The first building you notice when walking down the Royal Mile is this narrow towering building. It is now called the Hub, a conference venue (at first, I thought it was the cathedral that I will show you later in this article). It is the home of the Edinburgh International Festival.
It is a mix of modern design and Victorian architecture. its spire dominates Central Edinburgh. Surprisingly, it was built between 1842 and 1845. And not so surprisingly, it was previously used as a Church and general Assembly Hall for the church of Scotland.
The St Giles Cathedral
One of the main monuments on the Royal Mile Edinburgh is the St Giles Cathedral also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh.
Its most famous feature is the crown-shaped spire. It was built in the late 14th century and restored in the 19th. It is dedicated to St Giles, the Patron saint of Edinburgh.
It stands one third of the way on the Royal Mile (nearest to the castle).
The Cathedral is full of colorful stained-glass windows. Have a look on my St Giles Edinburgh Cathedral article.
Not far is the building of the City Chambers with the square courtyard.
Old houses and shopping – whiskies and more
Then you reach a wider section that is closed to most cars.
There you can better appreciate the houses, as I said before.
You will also find a lot of shops for tourists – with souvenirs and a lot of whisky!
The People’s Story
The People’s Story building was my favorite on the whole street. I liked the state of the stone and the dungeon-like tower.
The People’s Story is actually a museum with displays all about the lives of the Edinburgh People from the late 18th century to today.
Other great things to do in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle – Read article
- The St Giles Cathedral – 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?
Discover more things to do & places to see in my Travel Scotland Destination Guide.
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