1.6km Royal Edinburgh Walk
The Royal Mile, as the name suggests, runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. The street was traditionally used as a processional route for the monarchs, including the procession for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral first held in St Giles Cathedral. There are many shops and restaurants on the Royal Mile and in the closes if you wish to get a souvenir or grab a bite.
This route is all along the Royal Mile, High Street, and Canongate which you can of course start at either end.
The Royal Palace, located in Crown Square at Edinburgh Castle and first built in the 1500s has a long history significant to Scotland. Queen Mary of Guise died here in 1560, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI (who was crowned King of Scotland at only 13 months old), and King Charles I was the last to stay here in 1633.
Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest fortified castles in Europe, holds the Honours of Scotland (the oldest Crown jewels in Britain and former home to kings and queens for centuries). St Margaret’s Chapel is Edinburgh’s oldest building, built in memory of Queen Margaret who died at the castle in 1093!
St Giles Cathedral has been a working church for almost 900 years and was where the procession and vigil was held for the late Queen Elizabeth II. The Cathedral is free to enter to the public and accepts donations. Some afternoons and evenings you can attend a concert series which you can purchase tickets for here. What would a Scottish church be without cherubs playing bagpipes; the only church in the world you will ever see such a thing, and of course a Thistle chapel with stalls for the 16 knights part of the Order of the Thistle.
Just outside St Giles, you will see the Heart of Midlothian mosaic on the floor. Ironically, locals often spit on it for good luck; watch your step! The mosaic marks the spot where Edinburgh’s Old Tolbooth used to be; you can see the outline of it in bronze rectangles on the floor as in the bottom right of the photo below. The Old Tolbooth was a municipal building and once served as a jail where physical punishment, torture, and later public executions were frequent practice.
Holyrood Palace is the King’s official residence in Edinburgh. Steeped in history, there are several rooms, each with a story, or many, to tell. Mary, Queen of Scot’s chambers was built almost 500 years ago for her stay from 1561-1567. One will notice the unevenness of the winding staircase leading to the chamber. This served as an “alarm system” if you will, as it was expected that an intruder would trip walking up the stairs, therefore alerting the guards and anyone sleeping in the chamber.
In the Great Gallery hangs several portraits of past kings and queens. However, many were damaged in 1746 after the defeat at the Battle of Falkirk and you can see marks made by swords on some of the paintings if you look carefully. Another highlight is Holyrood Abbey which has the remains of James V in the Royal Vault. The Palace Gardens were the site for Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Garden Parties and, during the summer especially, you will see why with the vibrancy of all the flowers outlining the garden. You can book your tickets here if you wish to step in and witness pieces of history.
Attached to Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s Gallery. The exterior already hints at the majesty of the portraits contained within, from the stone arch entrance to the letters carved out from individual stones and gilded bronze unicorn and lion on the doors. Various exhibitions of the Royal Collection are held here including works by Rembrandt Van Rijn and Anthony Van Dyck. You can also convert your ticket to a one-year pass, see their site for more information.
If you enjoyed this route, see our 5.7km Edinburgh Leafy Garden Walk.