A walking tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town is a must when visiting Scotland’s capital. Although the city boasts of a chic metropolitan vibe, its historic heart offers visitors the perfect place to set out on foot and discover the rich historical heritage along the country’s famous Royal Mile. It is compact and easy to get around so you need no more than two hours to finish your exploration. However, if you are a history buff or an eager photographer, you will find yourself enjoying hours on end in the area.
Start your walking tour of the Royal Mile at the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle and finish at the scenic Holyrood Park. Getting to your starting point should not be a problem because it is well connected by bus to the rest of the city. You can also walk your way up the hill from the New Town. If you are coming from the east of Princes Street, just walk along the North Bridge, past the National Galleries all the way up the Mound to your destination. Make a short stop at the North Bridge to take in the view of Edinburgh’s stunning skyline. If, on the other hand, you are coming from the west end of Prince Street, then you can just hike your way up along Lothian Road.
As you walk along the stretch of the Royal Mile, you will notice that it is divided into four sections with their own respective names. These are the Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.
Begin at the esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle and explore the impressive fortress, the centuries-old Margaret’s Chapel and the Scottish Crown Jewels. If you are lucky, you might chance upon a musical performance at the castle grounds. Proceed northeast of the esplanade and you will find Ramsay Garden and its charming 19th century buildings. If you love architecture, then this area is a wonderful treat for you.
Move along Castlehill where you will find the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, the 17th century Bowell’s Court, and the city’s iconic attraction – the 150 year old Camera Obscura for a rare 360 degree view of the entire Edinburgh. Continue on your path and you will soon reach the 19th century Tolbooth Church, which marks the end of Castlehill and the beginning of Lawnmarket section.
You will soon catch sight of Gladstone’s land where 14th and 15th centuries architecture offers plenty to discover. Explore the area’s architecture in and around James Court, take a look at the nearby Lady Stair’s House and learn about the famous writers Stevenson, Scott and Burns at the Writer’s Museum. From Gladstone, go across to Brodie’s Close and get intrigued by the tales of the notorious William Brodie who inspired the hugely popular Stevenson novel of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
After you have satisfied your curiosity move on along Royal Mile all the way to High Street until you reach St. Giles Cathedral. The church’s history dates back to the 12th century but it was burned to the ground and has been rebuilt repeatedly throughout the centuries. There is nothing much to see of the centuries-old church except for the spire, which is one of Edinburgh’s most popular landmarks.
Nearby is the Law Courts of Parliament, whose impressive facade is also worth taking a look at. While walking around the area, look down where your feet are going every once in a while. Once you see the heart-shaped cobblestone arrangements, you may consider defying the demands of decorum and spit right smack on the middle of the cobble’s heart, which local tradition considers to bring good luck.
Continue down to Cockburn Street where you can grab a bite at one of the many restaurants or a few drinks at one of the local bars. There are also several art galleries in the area that you might wish to check out.
With renewed energy, carry on with your walking tour of the Royal Mile and you will discover more interesting sights along the way such as John Knox House, Canongate Tolbooth, Canongate Church, Parliament Building, and the Palace & Abbey of Holyroodhouse, to name a few. Soon enough, you will reach Holyrood Park. Don’t be in a hurry to leave the area because there are plenty of things to do at the park. In fact, if you are still up for more walking, you can take a hike to Arthur’s Seat and reward yourself with a beautiful panorama of Edinburgh when you reach the summit. (It’s absolutely beautiful!)
I spent four days in Edinburgh before roaming the Highlands and it wasn’t enough. This is truly one destination I can say I will definitely visit again! If Edinburgh, Scotland is on your bucket list (and it really should be), contact us today to help you visit this truly magical land.