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5 Spots on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile That Are Worth Your While

Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Monument and Bird in Flight. A gothic monument on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, stretches from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. If you’re feeling ambitious or are limited on time, it is possible to make it to each of these five worth-your-while stops in a single day. It’s a 25-minute walk from one end of the Royal Mile to the other. We recommend spreading them over two days and enjoying leisurely meals in between. Edinburgh has quite the food scene. We’ve listed our 5 spots in order from one end of the mile to the other. You could do them in reverse order if you’re better with whisky in the morning than we are.

1. Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace of Holyroodhouse aka Holyrood Palace on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

You can tour this current royal residence and delve back into history. Mary, Queen of Scots, the first female ruler of Scotland, cousin to Queen Elizabeth I, and mother to King James I (VI), lived in Holyroodhouse for six years. In her palace chambers, Mary witnessed the killing of her private secretary, David Rizzo, by her jealous second husband. As you tour her chambers, you can see what some claim are his bloodstains on the floor.

Beyond the palace, you can explore the ruins of Holyrood Abbey that stand next to it. Founded in 1128 and transformed over time, Holyrood Abbey’s ruins include Romanesque and Gothic architecture. You can also walk the gorgeous gardens surrounding the palace, where Queen Elizabeth II hosted an annual Garden Party each summer. 

Travel Tip: You can save £2 ($2.50) per person by booking in advance. 

The Cutty Stool in St. Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. It is a bronze, 3-legged stool.
The Cutty Stool in St. Giles Cathedral.

Explore 900 years of history within the walls of St Giles’ Cathedral, founded in 1124 by King David I. When we toured it, The Cutty Stool captured my interest. It’s a bronze sculpture by Scottish artist Merilyn Smith, built to commemorate Jenny Geddes, who took the stool of repentance and made it one of revolt when she (allegedly) flung it at the minister’s head on July 23rd, 1637, starting a riot. On that day in 1637, the minister read from the new ‘anglicized’ prayer book that King Charles I insisted on.

Charles I was the son of King James I (VI). Under King James I, in 1603, Scotland and England began to share the same monarch while maintaining their separate kingdoms and separate churches. England was Anglican. Scotland was Presbyterian. After a couple of minor wars (Bishops’ Wars), sparked in part by Jenny’s infamous tossing of the Cutty Stool all was settled. Today, England is Anglican. Scotland is Presbyterian.

What piece of St. Giles’ Cathedral’s history will most capture your interest?

Travel Tip: Free 45-minute walking tours are offered twice daily. Book a tour in advance because they fill up quickly. Check available times here

Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Monument and Bird in Flight. A gothic monument on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

To me, the Sir Walter Scott monument in Edinburgh is like the Eiffel Tower in Paris in that I am delighted each time I see it from a different spot. Through Advocate’s Close, from Edinburgh Castle, up close, and down the road. Like the Eiffel Tower, it can be climbed for a price. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, the Sir Walter Cott Monument is a Victorian Gothic design. It is the second-largest monument to a writer in the world. The first is the José Martí monument in Havana.

The Scotch Whisky Experience building on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland. A busker is in front of it playing music.

The Scotch Whisky Experience offers a variety of tastings and tours. One is a 3-hour Taste of Scotland Tour (£96), which includes their Platinum Tour and a meal at their award-winning Amber Restaurant. You can also choose between a Silver, Gold, or Platinum Tour. Another option is the Tasting Tales experience that I booked for Chris and me. To see if it’s the right tour for you, check out our post, Should you Try The Scotch Whisky Experience’s Tasting Tales?  

Chris examining Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle on The Royal Mile.
Chris peering into Mons Meg cannon.

There’s more than one way to storm (visit) the castle. You can choose a Standard, Flexi, Guided Tour and Admission Ticket, one of their partner options, or even an Afternoon Tea experience. I would’ve loved to do the tea experience, but there weren’t any openings on our chosen date. Instead, we purchased the Guided Tour and Admission, which included a 30-minute tour by an official guide. Afterward, we spent a couple of hours exploring Edinburgh Castle on our own.  

Edinburgh Castle houses the oldest Crown jewels in Britain, including a crown, sword, and scepter. It’s also home to one of the most extraordinary (and probably the heaviest) wedding gifts of all time — Mons Meg, a cannon that weighs 15,366 pounds. It was given to King James II of Scotland by Duke Phillip of Burgundy, the great uncle of King James II’s bride, Mary of Guelders.

You can see the modest room in which King James I (VI) was born and the far more humble accommodations of castle prisoners. We were surprised to learn that some of the prisoners were Americans taken prisoner during the Revolutionary War.

 Travel Tip: Book your tickets online in advance because they often sell out. When we arrived at 9:30 a.m., they were sold out for the day. Thank goodness we bought our tickets ahead of time. 

Where to Eat + Stay During your Visit To The Royal Mile

Stay right next to the Royal Mile at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton.

Check out our restaurant recommendations in our post, Edinburgh, Scotland: 8 Great Places for Food + Drink.  

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