The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is a collective name for the streets connecting Edinburgh Castle, at the top end, with Holyroodhouse at the bottom. The official names of these streets are Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate, and a short stretch called Abbey Strand leading up to the entrance of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Along the Royal Mile there are at least two dozen buildings that could with some justification be described as tourist attractions. I didn’t go to all of these, but here are the ones I stopped at:

Museum of Edinburgh

Down towards the lower end of the Royal Mile there are two local history museums which document the history of Edinburgh in quite different ways.

This one, the Museum of Edinburgh, gives an interesting if rather conventional view of the city’s growth and development over the centuries. It is located in a restored 16th century building called Huntly House.

The People’s Story

Opposite the Museum of Edinburgh (“across the street,” as we would say in the U.S.) there is another museum called “The People’s Story”, which documents the everyday life of the inhabitants of Edinburgh in various historical periods, from the late 18th century to the present day.

There are full-scale reconstructions of such places as a prison cell, a cooper’s workshop, a 1940s kitchen, a wash-house, a pub and a tea room, and a twenty-minute video presentation.

As of August 2020, the latest word is that all museums in Edinburgh are still closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tolbooth clock

The building “‘Canongate Tolbooth”, which now houses the “People’s Story” Museum, was built around 1590 to house the Council Chambers (and the prison) of the then-independent burgh of Canongate, which had not become a part of Edinburgh.

The building was restored in 1879. The clock on the outside of the building is not the original, but is a replacement for a clock that was made in the 17th century.

Tolbooth tavern

In addition to the museum “The People’s Story”, the historic building “Canongate Tolbooth” also houses a traditional pub (said to be “popular with tourists” — no wonder, considering where it is located) called the Tolbooth Tavern.

The Fudge House of Edinburgh

There are several fudge shops along the Royal Mile.

This is the only one I’ve ever been to, because I like its looks (also my son used to know a girl who worked here), so I’m afraid I can’t judge if their fudge is better or worse than anybody else’s along the street.

What I can definitely say is that their fudge is not as good as the fudge my mother used to make when I was a child. But it comes in more colors (colours) and flavors (flavours) than hers did.


The Palace of Holyroodhouse (pronunciation here), which is at the bottom end of the Royal Mile, was once the residence of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), who is better known in the opera world as Maria Stuarda” ever since Donizetti wrote his fabulous opera about her in 1834. I have seen this opera in Wiesbaden and Zürich, but not in Edinburgh.

Even though I have been to Edinburgh several times, I still haven’t managed to take a tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is always closed to the public when the Queen or a member of the Royal Family is staying there, and in 2005 it was closed for security reasons, because of planned demonstrations. I took my photo of the Palace of Holyroodhouse by sticking my camera between the bars of the locked gate.

Make Poverty History

The demonstrations in Edinburgh in 2005 were called “Make Poverty History”, on the occasion of the G8 Summit Meeting at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. Related meetings and events included exhibitions, conferences and talks, music, as well as theatre and dance performances. These events were co-sponsored by the Edinburgh City Council, which said “as a Council we congratulate the organisations that have contributed to, and promoted, the success of the Make Poverty History Campaign. All parties in Council support the principles of the campaign, which are to provide developing nations with an appropriate aid rate, to promote Fair Trade and export subsidies, and to cancel the national debts of the poorest countries.”

I used to think “G8” meant “The Greedy Eight” or “The Gluttonous Eight”, but in fact it stood for the ‘Group of Eight’ nations, namely eight of the (then) richest countries in the world. It 2014 it reverted to being the “G7”, since Russia was excluded following its annexation of Crimea.

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Edinburgh, Scotland.
See more posts on the composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848).

10 thoughts on “The Royal Mile”

  1. Gosh, it’s years since I was in Edinburgh, and even longer since I was on the Royal Mile! “The People’s Story” sounds like me sort of museum – I much prefer social history to battles and kings and queens etc. 😉 By the way, we also say ‘on the other side of the street’ and I think have done so for years (i.e. it’s not a recently introduced Americanism as so many of our turns of speech are these days!)

    1. Yes, I preferred the People’s Story to the official history museum. Good to hear you also say ‘across the street’, though I have come to like ‘opposite’ after hearing so many British people say it.

  2. Hello. My wife and I spent a week in Scotland last year, much of it in Edinburgh. Great vacation. Edinburgh is a charming city, with lots of old twisty streets, as you know. We felt very much at home.

  3. Fond memories. We haven’t been to Scotland since 2006 and considering the current travel situation, we won’t return for a while. We spent most of our time out in the countryside but did visit Edinburgh for 3 or 4 days and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. Thanks for this lovely tour of Edinburgh. My English teacher used to go to the UK every year in his summer holidays to get teaching matetials. The first year I had him as a teacher he was in Edinburgh and I wanted to go there ever since. That was 39 years ago 😁. I hope I manage one day 🙋‍♀️🐝

    1. Thanks for your visit and comment. I’m sorry it took so long to get your comment posted, but for some unknown reason it got shunted off into a spam file, and I didn’t notice because I was off travelling.
      When I was in an American high school in the 1950s, I had a German teacher who went to Germany every summer to get teaching materials. He also took a lot of color slides which he showed us and also lent out to other teachers all over the Midwest.

      1. Don’t worry. I had trouble with a link in my WP profile which is resolved now. That’s interesting that your German teacher did the same. Ah, I remember colour slides. My teacher did that too. I finished school just before the digital advancement 😁🙋‍♀️🐝

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