Cannongate Walking Tour, Edinburgh (Self Guided)

The Canongate district takes its name from the main street called the "Canongate" and forms the lower, eastern half of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh's historic Old Town. It contains some other notable public buildings, including Huntly House (now the Museum of Edinburgh) and the historic Canongate Tolbooth (now housing the People's Story Museum), as well as the Canongate Kirk and the new Scottish Parliament building.
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Cannongate Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cannongate Walking Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Edinburgh (See other walking tours in Edinburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Author: Helen
Holyrood Abbey

1) Holyrood Abbey (must see)

Holyrood Abbey was constructed by King David I and is located close to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is surrounded by Edinburgh's largest park, Holyrood Park. Located atop the 250 meter-high Arthur's Seat, it offers a beautiful view of the city. This is a great place for biking, hiking or a picnic. Its many rocky crags, loch and meadows guarantee visitors an unforgettable time in Edinburgh.

2) Holyroodhouse (must see)

A visit to Holyroodhouse on the Royal Mile should be on everyone’s “must” list when they are in Edinburgh as it is an important part of Scotland’s history. It is the official residence of the United Kingdom’s monarchs and once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots.

King David I founded the abbey in 1128 and in 1501 the palace was built next to it, but today, only a small part of the original gatehouse remains. A “palace” was a rather grandiose title for what was a large house, but it was enlarged in 1532 and 1536. It was renovated in 1633, but during Cromwell’s time it was used as barracks for his soldiers and it was badly damaged during a fire.

In the 1670s it was rebuilt by Sir William Bruce and the abbey chapel became the Chapel Royal and it was used until 1768 when the roof fell in. The chapel and the house were restored again in 1822 and once more during the reign of King George V and Queen Mary. They also had indoor bathrooms and loos put in.

The house is open to the public when the “Royals” aren't in residence; you can admire the delicate stucco-work on the ceilings in the Royal Apartments and look your fill at the portraits of Scotland’s kings, both real and legendary, painted by Jacob de Wet.

The highlight of the visit is the Royal Collection which consists of armor, books, ceramics, clocks, drawings, jewelry, manuscripts, maps, paintings, prints, sculpture, silverware and weapons collected by kings and queens over a period of 500 years and held in trust for the nation by the Crown.

If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the ghost of Agnes Sampson who has haunted the house since 1592 when she was tortured and put to death for witchcraft.
Queen's Gallery

3) Queen's Gallery

The Queen's Gallery was founded in 2002 and is located next to the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Park. There is a café bar next to the gallery where visitors can rest. It hosts exhibitions of artwork, jewelery and furniture.

Hours: Mon-Sun 9:30-18:00
Scottish Parliament Building

4) Scottish Parliament Building

The Scottish Parliament Building has been at the centre of some controversy since it opened. The Scots either love it or hate it, so do go along and visit it to see which side you are on. It is best to take the guided tour, because rooms are open to tour guides that are closed to individual visitors.

It stands on 1.6 hectares in Holyrood Road at the foot of Arthur’s Seat. It consists of a campus of several buildings designed by Euric Miralles, who died before the building was completed.

Miralles’ idea was that his building would represent both the national identity of the people and the land, so it has many aspects that link it to nature, such as the Garden Lobby’s leaf-shaped skylights, which are made of stainless steel with the glass covered by a lattice of oak struts.

The huge windows in the Debating Chamber, Tower Building and Committee Rooms let in natural light and afford wonderful views of Holyrood Park, the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat. The walls and floors are made from Scottish rock and the furniture is oak and sycamore.

The gardens are open to the public and are full of wildflowers, shrubs and trees. There is a large pool with water features, green lawns, footpaths and bicycle paths.
Our Dynamic Earth

5) Our Dynamic Earth

Our Dynamic Earth is a great place for an instructive, interesting day out for both adults and children. It is located at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, not far from the Scottish Parliament building.

O.D.E. is an earth science museum, which opened in 1999, funded by the Millennium Commission. It is housed in the William Younger Conference Centre, a modern building consisting of a thin steel skin stretched over a steel skeleton, and looking a little bit like a circus big top.

The museum is an educational adventure voyage through time and space, with smells, sound effects, visual displays and interactive workshops. The journey starts in the present, where you see the world as we know it.

Then you step into the “time machine” and you are whisked into space at the time of the Big Bang. You’ll follow the creation of the planets, the forming of Earth and the movement of the tectonic plaques and the glaciers. You’ll learn about the power of volcanoes and earthquakes.

From the beginning of the Earth, you’ll be taken to the evolution of species where there is a section that explains why some species became extinct, why the dinosaurs died and why the mammals survived.

Coming back to the present, you will discover the savannahs and mountains, deserts and tropic rain forests and take a quick trip to the North and South Poles. The visit ends in the Future Dome which shows how the future will be and what you can do in the present to preserve it.

Hours: Mon-Sun 10am – 5.30pm
Dunbar's Close Garden

6) Dunbar's Close Garden

Shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile can be tiring, so if you don’t feel like having lunch in a crowded pub or restaurant, take a pack lunch or pick up a sandwich and take it to Dunbar’s Close Garden near the Canongate Kirkyard.

Dunbar’s Close is one of the 80 narrow lanes left over from medieval times and the garden there is like stepping back in time. Truly a secret garden, even a lot of local people don’t know of its existence, so you will be able to enjoy your lunch in peace.

The garden is surrounded by high ancient brick walls; it is long and rather narrow, its three quarters of an acre are laid out in a 17th century design, with gravel paths and flowers beds neatly bordered by ting hedges. The beds are filled with herbs, flowers, shrubs and conical-shaped bushes. Mature trees, including fig and sycamore, give a welcome shade over the stone benches.

The garden was created by Sir Patrick Geddes, a biologist, who wanted to make many other gardens like it, but sadly he died shortly after Dunbar’s Close Garden was finished. At the beginning of the nineteen seventies the garden was neglected and overgrown, but was taken over by the Mushroom Trust, a charity that promotes the creation of urban gardens. They commissioned the landscape architect Seamus Filor to clean the garden up and then in 1977, the Trust gave it to the City of Edinburgh Council, who opened it to the public in 1978.
Kirk of the Canongate Chapel

7) Kirk of the Canongate Chapel

The Kirk of the Canongate Chapel is located on the Royal Mile and is the church attended by monarchs when they are in residence at Holyrood Palace. Visitors are always surprised by the contrast of the chapel’s plain exterior and its beautiful interior.

The chapel was built in the late 17th century by James Smith, a master mason. It is a rectangular building with a Dutch-style end gable and a Doric columned portico. Outside the gate you will see a bronze statue of Robert Fergusson, the 18th century poet.

The chapel is the official church of the Order of the Thistle; although the chapel dedicated to the Order is to be found in St Giles Cathedral, investitures and ceremonies have been held at the Kirk of Canongate on even years since the reign of King James II of Scotland.

The church was remodelled in 1882 when a central pulpit and galleries were added, but these were removed and the apse re-opened during restoration work between 1946 and 1954. A new pipe organ was installed in 1988.

The interior of the chapel has a cruciform layout and is light and airy, with white walls and sky-blue pews, woodwork and fittings. The cushions on the seats in the apse are rainbow-coloured. The carpet is red and brightly coloured banners hang from the ceiling.
Museum of Edinburgh

8) Museum of Edinburgh

Don’t miss a visit to the Museum of Edinburgh, which you will find in the 16th century Huntley House on the Royal Mile.

This wonderful museum is all about the origins, the history and the legends of the city. The house once belonged to the Guild of Hammermen and there are many fine silverware objects on display.

There is also a collection of beautiful glassware, engraved in nearby Canongate, fine Scottish pottery, magnificent grandfather clocks and a Sedan chair. There is an interactive area with workshops, quizzes and you can dress up in costumes that represent fashion in different centuries. Each item in the museum is clearly named and has a short history about its origins.

You can admire relics from a 1st century Roman settlement found during excavations in Cramond, a small village to the north-west of the city where the River Almond empties into the Firth of Forth.

You will also find the original copy of the National Covenant, James Craig’s designs for the New Town and Greyfriars Bobby’s dog dish and collar. There is a “rogues’ gallery” of sorts, where you will meet Deacon Brodie, who was a cabinet maker by day and a house-breaker by night, or Burke and Hare, the infamous body-snatchers who sold their gruesome merchandise to Dr Robert Knox of the University of Medicine.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 pm
People's Story Museum

9) People's Story Museum

Learning about Scotland’s royalty and nobility is all very interesting, but sometimes you might ask: what about the ordinary people, how did they live? The answer is to be found in the People’s Story Museum.

Housed in Canongate Tolbooth, built in 1591 and once a customs house and jail, the museum tells the history of Edinburgh seen through the eyes of the people who lived and worked there, from the 18th century to the present.

A written and oral presentation, backed up with photographs, drawings and artefacts, will take you through their day to day lives, both at work and in the home. You will visit beautifully recreated replicas of a bookbinder’s shop, a pub, a prison cell, a tea-room and a war-time kitchen, all filled with copies of the original objects once used by people like you and me.

In the Edinburgh Life section you will see how communities helped each other; how they protested against injustice and the meetings and rallies they held. Working in Edinburgh will show you how books, beer and cakes were made in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Leith Collection focuses on work in the shipyards, how ships were built, repaired and unloaded in the docks. The Newhaven Collection covers working and day-to-day life in a small fishing community, and At Home in Edinburgh displays household items such as furniture, crockery, cutlery, domestic appliances, record players and toys.

It is a fascinating museum and the kids will love it and it will give you the chance to show them how you managed in life without a mobile phone or an MP4 player! The museum shop sells books and gift items related to the objects on display.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Gordon Nicolson

10) Gordon Nicolson

What to buy here: Sporran.

This traditional item of the Scottish Highland dress constitutes a great gift for your family and friends. It often takes the place of pockets on the pocketless Scottish kilt and serves as a great place to store keys, money and other personal items.

The pouch is usually made of leather or fur and comes in a wide variety of designs. The ornamentation of the sporran is induced by the formality of dress worn with it. There are several types of sporrans, such as: dress sporrans, day sporrans, animal mask sporrans and horsehair sporrans. The prices vary between $15 up to $650, or more.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm; Sunday: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Walking Tours in Edinburgh, Scotland

Create Your Own Walk in Edinburgh

Create Your Own Walk in Edinburgh

Creating your own self-guided walk in Edinburgh is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Religious Sites Walking Tour

Religious Sites Walking Tour

Edinburgh is an enchanting city and home to numerous places of worship. The city is open to all religions and features magnificent Presbyterian and Catholic churches, the main two religions in Scotland; as well as Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques, and even Buddhist centers. Check out this tour and visit some of Edinburgh’s beautiful religious sites.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
Famous Squares and Streets Walking Tour

Famous Squares and Streets Walking Tour

While in Edinburgh, discover the popular avenues, boulevards and streets that lead to its most famous squares. While exploring these streets, you can find a copious amount of historic and religious edifices, fashion boutiques, classy restaurants, famous market areas, and other sites. Check out the most popular Edinburgh squares and streets in the following self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Museums & Galleries, Old Town

Museums & Galleries, Old Town

Popular for its rich cultural heritage, Edinburgh attracts a large number of tourists towards its numerous history and science museums that tell the compelling story of Scotland. Edinburgh is also a city where many locals spend their free time visiting galleries and attending art events. You can find amazing collections of original artwork in the many exhibitions around town. Take this tour and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
Royal Mile Walking Tour

Royal Mile Walking Tour

The Royal Mile is not in fact a street, but the name given to a succession of streets forming a thoroughfare at the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. The thoroughfare is about a mile long and runs between the famed Edinburgh Castle and the Holyrood Palace. The Mile is home to the Courts, St. Giles Cathedral, the City Chambers, John Knox's house, and also numerous shops and restaurants. Take...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Comfortably yet tightly packed on the hilly terrain, Edinburgh – the Scottish capital – is a picturesque city much popular with tourists, in large part, due to its unique architecture comprising medieval (Old Town) and elegant Georgian (New Town) buildings. The cityscape is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, once the seat of the Scottish royals and now home to the country's crown jewels. To...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Edinburgh without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Edinburgh, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Top 12 Pubs On and Around Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Top 12 Pubs On and Around Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a vibrant city with abundant nightlife and no shortage of places to go after dusk. The Royal Mile alone, in the very heart of Edinburgh, is laden with character spots craving to be discovered by the first time visitors to the city. This is the highlight of some of the most notable bars...
19 Best Pubs in New Town, Edinburgh

19 Best Pubs in New Town, Edinburgh

A guide to the pubs that make up the area that is called Edinburgh's New Town. A description about what you can expect from each of the locations in the directory. A fantastic directory if you are a tourist or even a...
Scottish Souvenirs: 15 Authentic Scottish Things to Buy in Edinburgh

Scottish Souvenirs: 15 Authentic Scottish Things to Buy in Edinburgh

The popularity of Scotland stretches far beyond its geographical borders, fueled, in large part, by Hollywood's interest in the Scottish theme - Sean Connery (as James Bond), "Braveheart", etc. Indeed, the cultural spectrum of this part of Britain is enormous and comprises great...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Edinburgh for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Edinburgh has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Edinburgh's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass and Edinburgh City Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Edinburgh's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Edinburgh hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Radisson Collection Hotel - Royal Mile Edinburgh, Royal Mile Suites by the Castle, Grassmarket Hotel.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Edinburgh, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Edinburgh typically costs somewhere between US$15 and US$40 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Edinburgh from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the route. The ticket is valid for one day (24 hrs).

- No sightseeing of Edinburgh is imaginable without a visit to the imposing Edinburgh Castle dominating the city skyline from atop a hill that was once a volcano. A 2-hour tour of the castle will give you an insider’s view of Edinburgh's no.1 attraction, revealing some of its secrets and wicked stories.

- Join a guided walk led by a highly knowledgeable local resident to explore the cultural, historical and architectural treasures of Edinburgh learning, en route, the secrets of its past, stories of its famous personalities and other interesting facts presented in a rather entertaining and witty manner.

- Summon your bravery and curiosity to explore the ghastly side of Edinburgh on a ghost walk set to reveal the stories of treason and torture, bring light to the darkest corners of the Scottish capital and prepare you to hear the tales of its supernatural past and present.

- Come see the places that once inspired J.K. Rowling to write her world-famous Harry Potter series on a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh visiting the prototype of the Hogwarts school of magic and other locations closely associated with the witches and wizards of Edinburgh.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Edinburgh, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Loch Ness and the Highlands, West Highlands, St Andrews and Fife, Rosslyn Chapel and Stirling Castle, or the Da Vinci Code places and Scottish Borders. For as little as circa US$40+ to US$60+ per person you will get a chance to step inside a nature documentary, relive a history show, and explore the postcard-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sights comprising breathtaking medieval ruins, misty castles, sparkling lochs, quaint coastal villages with sweeping views, heather-clad mountains, and other impressive and mysterious locations. For any of these tours you will be picked up straight from your hotel in Edinburgh and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach/minibus to the destination of your choice and back again.