Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Royal Mile Walking Tour (Self Guided), Edinburgh

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 the following tour and explore the famed Mile at your own pace!
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Royal Mile Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Royal Mile Walking Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Edinburgh (See other walking tours in Edinburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 17
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: Helen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Scotch Whisky Experience
  • Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
  • St. Giles' Cathedral
  • Royal Mile Whiskies
  • Heart of Midlothian
  • Mary King's Close
  • Crest Of Edinburgh
  • Tron Kirk Church
  • Museum of Childhood
  • Geoffrey Taylor Kiltmaker
  • John Knox House
  • Gordon Nicolson
  • People's Story Museum
  • Museum of Edinburgh
  • Kirk of the Canongate Chapel
  • Dunbar's Close Garden
  • Queen's Gallery
The Scotch Whisky Experience

1) The Scotch Whisky Experience (must see)

What is the difference between “whisky” and “whiskey”? If you don’t know, visit The Scotch Whisky Experience to find the answer to that question and discover a whole lot of other interesting facts about Scotland’s favourite tipple.

This interactive museum is great fun, even for children, who have their own guide – “Peat the Cat”, that will take them on an exciting tour full of fun facts and games. For the adults, the journey through the museum begins with a barrel ride taking them through a mechanical replica of one of the first whisky distilleries. In there, the “Whisky Ghost” will tell you all about the distilling procedure.

Leaving the distillery, you’ll enter the MacIntyre Whisky Gallery where you will learn some, but not all, the secrets about how the different whisky flavours are reached. Certain procedures are kept secret to keep the concurrence guessing! From this gallery, you’ll continue into Sense of Scotland and experience the heady aromas of different types of whisky.

Finally, you’ll visit the tasting room where you will certainly find a whisky to suit your taste buds – just don’t ask for ice or soda, as these additives are almost hanging offenses! The museum has a wonderful shop with over 300 different malts on offer and gift boxes of miniatures.

The shop is open to museum visitors and the general public alike, but if you have taken the tour, you will have a generous discount on your purchases.

Why You Should Visit:
To feast your eyes on the largest collection of unopened whiskys with around 3400 different bottles valued at millions of pounds.
You'll learn some history and tasting tips, and get to try whisky on its own as well as with artisan Scottish cheese and chocolate.

If going on the tour with others who do not like whisky as much, they should sign up for the 'silver' and you can sign up for the 'gold' – the two tours are not separate.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6:30pm
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

2) Camera Obscura and World of Illusions (must see)

Located just below Edinburgh Castle is a Camera Obscura and Outlook Tower. The Camera Obscura gives an amazing live moving panorama of the city of Edinburgh. The Camera Obscura show is a fascinating and highly amusing way to see the city and learn about its history.
St. Giles' Cathedral

3) St. Giles' Cathedral (must see)

You will find St Giles’ Cathedral, or the High Kirk of Edinburgh as it is also known, on the Royal Mile and you shouldn’t miss a visit to this beautiful church.

The first church to be built on the site was put up in the 12th century but was destroyed by fire and only the central pillars remain. The second church was built in 1385 and over a period of time, many chapels were added, giving the church a rather haphazard appearance. At one time the church boasted over 50 side altars, called aisles.

In 1466 the cathedral became a collegiate church and the lantern tower in the form of a crown was added in 1490. During the Reformation in 1560, most of the church’s treasures were removed, stolen or sold, including the most precious relic – St Giles’ withered arm and hand which had a diamond ring on one skeletal finger. The church was separated into numerous preaching halls by partition walls during this period.

Although called a cathedral, it was only one for two short periods of time during the Bishop Wars in the 17th century, so its statute of High Kirk is more important. It was restored in the 19th century, the partitions were removed and several chapels were pulled down. The most beautiful of all remaining ones is the Thistle Chapel, built in 1911 in a 15th-century High Gothic style. The wood and stone carvings are marvelous; it is filled with heraldry banners and has a breath-taking delicately carved vault.

Among the memorials here, you will see a bronze relief plaque dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson in the Moray Aisle, a marble sculpture of James Graham, the 1st Marquis of Montrose, in the Chapman Aisle and another dedicated to Archibald Campbell, the 1st Marquis of Argyll, in the St Eloi Aisle. These two men, deadly enemies at the end of their lives, were the main signatories of the National Covenant in 1638.

Why You Should Visit:
Quiet, architecturally very special, and with such a wealth of spectacular stained glass that one cannot be anything else but awed.

Entry is free or by donation, but if you want to take pics, you'll need to fork over £2 for a "permit".
Best to get onto a tour as there's much you could miss just wandering on your own. A rooftop tour (£6) is also worth it.
Don't miss the café downstairs. The food is great and it is really cute.
Royal Mile Whiskies

4) Royal Mile Whiskies

What to buy here: Malt Scotch whisky.

Looking for a bottle of whisky as a gift for your friends or family? The malt Scotch whisky is exactly what you need. The finest whisky selection from Scotland's best distilleries with a quality that speaks for itself. Capturing rarity and exclusiveness in a glass, this Scottish alcoholic drink captivates curious and discerning whisky lovers from all corners of the globe.

The Single Malt Scotch Whisky is made exclusively from malted barley and it represents the Scotland's biggest export. Edinburgh is considered the home of the Malt Whisky Society, stocking the world's largest whisky collection. Prices vary between $20 and $340.

Open 7 days a week 10am - 8pm.
Heart of Midlothian

5) Heart of Midlothian

While you are exploring the Royal Mile in Edinburgh you might see some of the locals taking part in a rather disgusting ritual as they pass one spot near the west door of St Giles Cathedral. Drawing closer, but being careful to keep out of range, you will see that they are spitting on the Heart of Midlothian.

This is a heart-shaped mosaic set in the cobbled-stone pavement, marking the entrance of a building that was demolished 195 years ago, but which still remains in the memories of the people who grew up in the area, which is why they spit – for good luck.

The building was the Old Tolbooth, which was a medieval customs house, also used for meetings by the Estates of Scotland for a short time. In 1640 it housed the Court of Session the principal jail of the burgh, where prisoners were often tortured before being taken out for public execution in front of the entrance.

According to legend, Edinburgh’s petty thieves and not-so-petty criminals spat on the door as they passed to bring them luck against the day when they found themselves being taken through it.

The building was demolished in 1817 and the heart set into the cobble stones to remind the population of the misery and torture carried out behind the ancient walls.
Mary King's Close

6) Mary King's Close (must see)

If you are a fan of ghost stories and haunted houses, you’ll love Real Mary King’s Close, which is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh and which can be visited deep under the Royal Exchange building.

The close is a series of winding streets and tenement houses that were used as the foundations of the Royal Exchange, many years after they had been closed off during the Great Plague that struck the city in 1645.

The plague, which came from Europe, was carried here by the fleas on the merchant ships’ rats and infested the poorer parts of the city, where hygiene was minimal, to say the least. Carried by flea bites, the plague spread and many of the poorer tenement areas were closed off as urgent quarantine measures.

Mary King’s Close was one of the areas and according to legend, the people left inside the streets and buildings were bricked in and left to die either of the plague or of starvation. Their ghosts, and particularly one of a small girl, named Annie, are supposed to haunt the place.

The area was uncovered during renovations to the building over it and was opened to the public in 2003 as a tourist attraction. Guides in costume dress will lead you through the underground streets, which have been restored to 17th-century designs, and tell you the history of Mary King the master seamstress after whom the close was named, and about Annie.

You can leave a toy or make a small donation to the poor little spirit who wanders the streets looking for her favourite doll. All these gifts are in turn given to the hospital for sick children and other charities.
Crest Of Edinburgh

7) Crest Of Edinburgh

What to buy here: Scottish crest badge.

This heraldic badge showing honor and loyalty towards an individual or membership in a specific Scottish clan constitutes a great gift for your family or friends. It represents a crest embodied with a motto and is most often worn by representatives of Scottish clans.

Crest badges are made of silver or white metal and constitute an important accessory of the Scottish traditional dress. Women tend to wear it as a brooch, usually on the left side. Even though clan crests are often bought and sold, the heraldic crest and slogan correspond only to the chief and never to the individual clan member. Price: $20 - $150.
Tron Kirk Church

8) Tron Kirk Church

While you are in Edinburgh, you will surely take a walk along the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Holyrood Abbey. On one side of this famous street you will find the Tron Kirk Church.

This once beautiful church was built in the 17th century on the orders of King Charles I. It’s Palladian and Gothic design had a Dutch influence, inspired by its architect, John Mylne who had been impressed by the “Architectura moderna” churches designed by Hendrick de Keyser.

The original building was T-shaped to conform to modern 17th century religious practices, but it was re-designed in 1787 when the South Bridge was built. In 1820 the wooden spire was destroyed in a fire and the stone spire you will now see was built in 1828.

The building was de-consecrated in 1952 and has been used for various purposes since then, including a tourist information centre and Black Heart Entertainment who organised ghost tours around the city.

In the nineteen seventies, excavations carried out in the crypt discovered remains of Marlin’s Ward including the cellars of an ancient building a part of a paved street. These can be viewed when the building is open to the public.

For several years the church has been the subject of a lively debate. Some want to knock it down, while others want it restored. In the meantime, it gets a little more dilapidated while people fight over its fine architecture and it would be a shame if this well-known landmark disappeared.
Museum of Childhood

9) Museum of Childhood (must see)

If your kids are a bit fed up with visiting ancient monuments and galleries, it’s time to take them to the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile.

In the early 1950s, Patrick Murray, a member of the Edinburgh Council, realized that a lot of children weren’t very interested in the museums their parents took them to on cold, wet days. He began to think about a museum dedicated to children and everything that centers around kids – their education, their health and, of course, their toys and games. In this way, he hoped to amuse and educate both children and adults. In 1955 he founded the Museum of Childhood.

It is really a great place for everyone; the exhibits are spread out in five galleries over five floors and deal, as Mr. Murray hoped, with every aspect of childhood. In the Education section, your children can learn about how schools were run between 1950 and the present day and see photos of classic classrooms. Different uniforms are on display as well as the famous “birch rod”, used to discipline unruly pupils.

There are wonderful hands-on activities with a dressing-up room and a puppet theatre. And of course, there are toys all over the place! The children will see and learn about the toys and games that kept you and your parents happy long before video games were ever thought of. They can play with dolls and teddy bears, tin soldiers with cannons that fire match-sticks, numerous board games, train sets and other toys from all around the world.

The museum has a wonderful toy shop, where you’ll quickly find that your kids will be choosing a special toy to take home – and where you can perhaps buy a replacement for that favourite teddy you cuddled up with when you were a child.

Why You Should Visit:
To step back in time – this place is not just for families. There are all sort of interesting toys & games on display, some dating back centuries, others from recent past decades.

Free entry, but there are donation boxes as well as funny things and souvenirs you can buy on the ground floor.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Geoffrey Taylor Kiltmaker

10) Geoffrey Taylor Kiltmaker

What to buy here: Kilt | Tartan Scarf.

- People adore the comfort and practicality of kilts as well as the style, heritage, and courtesy that comes with wearing them. This knee-length item with pleats at the rear has originated in the Scottish Highlands during the 16th century, it being often labeled as “the national dress of Scotland”.

The originality of design, construction, and convention of the Scottish kilt make it different from other garments fitting the overall description.

This traditional dress for men and boys is highly appreciated throughout the world, it being considered a sacred symbol of patriotism and honor for a true Scotsman. Prices vary based on size and texture between $40 and $450, or more.

- Whether you wear it for style or warmth, the tartan scarf will definitely add splash to any outfit you decide to put on. It shows off the Scottish pride and constitutes a great accessory for both, men and women. These stunning scarves come in a variety of options, including wool, silk and cashmere and are often used as a sash for children. They feel soft and fuzzy, serving as a great highlight to your overall look. Their length allows you to wrap them in a variety of ways. An ideal gift for someone special or yourself! Prices vary based on length and texture between $10 and $200, or more.

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 09:30 – 18:00, Sunday: 10:30 – 17:30
John Knox House

11) John Knox House

House museums are always interesting to visit, not only because you get a fascinating insight into the lives of the building’s former owners, but also because you can see what fashions were like in the owner’s day. John Knox House is no exception.

The house was built in around 1490 and is the oldest house on the Royal Mile. It has wonderful hand-painted ceilings, oak beams and wooden galleries. Today it is owned and managed by the Church of Scotland, but once it belonged to James Mossman, who was a royal goldsmith. He fashioned the crown for Mary, Queen of Scots and later, the crown for her son, King James VI of Scotland.

Whether John Knox, the 16th century Protestant Reformer, actually ever lived there is debatable, but the house, which had become badly dilapidated, was saved from demolition in the 18th century by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, who put about the rumour that this had been Knox’s home before he died.

The house museum is a great place to visit for anyone who is interested in religious history as there are many manuscripts and artefacts from the Reformation, including papers placed in a time capsule by Knox.

The museum is part of the Scottish Story-Telling Centre and the history of Knox, Mossman and life Edinburgh before and after the Reformation are related by guides in dress costume. There is a special room for children, full of puzzles and where they can dress up as John Knox.

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sundays: 10 am – 6 pm (July & August only).
Gordon Nicolson

12) 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
People's Story Museum

13) 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.

Opening Hours: daily 10:00 – 17:00
Museum of Edinburgh

14) 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.

Opening Hours: daily 10:00 – 17:00
Kirk of the Canongate Chapel

15) 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.
Dunbar's Close Garden

16) 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.
Queen's Gallery

17) 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: ( 1 November- 31 March) Monday- Sunday: 9:30 am- 4:30 pm; (1 April- 31 October) Monday-Sunday: 9:30 am- 6 pm.

Walking Tours in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
New Town Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Edinburgh Introduction Walk

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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: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Harry Potter Trail

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Old Town Walking Tour

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With a lot of famous museums, art galleries, theaters, old churches, countless historic landmarks, shopping avenues and amazing architectural and recreational attractions all over the city, Edinburgh can seem quite daunting when it comes to sightseeing. The Old Town of Edinburgh, the oldest part of Scotland's capital, has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Old Town Museums

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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: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles

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