Day out: Royal Mile, Edinburgh

A processional route for royalty for the past 500 years, a walk along the Royal Mile reveals a compelling and fascinating history of Scotland’s capital

Published: May 27th, 2022 at 6:10 am
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Built on a volcanic crag known as Castle Rock, 135 metres above sea level, is Edinburgh Castle, once the stronghold and residence of Scottish monarchs.

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Visitors to this ancient castle come to discover its fascinating history, see the Scottish Crown jewels and to explore St Margaret’s Chapel – built around 1130, it’s the oldest building in Scotland.

An old artillery cannon is fired from the castle at 1pm each day – a tradition that began in 1861 and was used to help sailors set their maritime clocks. The sound of the cannon fire resonates along Princes Street below, often surprising visitors to the city.

Palace in city
Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse was substantially rebuilt by Charles II in the 1670s/Credit: Getty

The Royal Mile runs through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, connecting the castle to the magnificent Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. At 1.81 km, it is approximately one Scots mile long, which is slightly longer than an English mile, though this unit of measurement hasn’t been used since the 18th century.

In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the Palace of Holyroodhouse will host a display looking back at Her Majesty’s Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. This will include celebratory jubilee outfits worn by The Queen.

Walk the Royal Mile

From the castle, follow the cobbled street down towards Cannonball House, named for the cannonball embedded in its wall. It is said that, in 1745, a cannon was fired in the direction of Holyroodhouse Palace when the Young Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was resident in the Scottish capital.

Further along is St Giles Cathedral, founded around 1124. Today, St Giles is the home of the Order of the Thistle: the Queen’s appointed chivalric company of knights in Scotland. At the west door of the cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian mosaic, marking the entrance to the Old Tolbooth, a jail and site of public executions.

Continuing along the Royal Mile, you will come to Canongate. Until 1856, Canongate was an independent burgh, separated from the city and outside the walls. Here you will also find one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, the World’s End, named so because Edinburgh residents believed the world outside the city walls was not theirs.

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At the bottom of the Royal Mile, opposite Holyroodhouse and in the shadow of splendid Arthur’s Seat, is the Scottish Parliament. Look up to the mast of the palace – if the Royal Standard is fluttering in the breeze, you will know that the Queen is in residence.

Authors

Debbie lives in the Yorkshire Dales. If she is not at home you will find her somewhere out on the fells, or on top of a mountain. She is a consultant, speaker and writer specialising in inclusion and access for all.

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