The History of the Royal Mile

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  2. January 15, 2013 4:59 pm

The History of the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile of Edinburgh lies between the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the hill and Edinburgh Castle at the top. There are shops, restaurants, museums and pubs along the way from top to bottom, and side streets with even more points of interest.

Holyroodhouse originated as Holyrood Abbey in 1128, founded by David I, King of Scots. The castle at the top of the hill was begun in 1130 with a chapel, also founded by David I. The Royal Mile has almost a millennium of history behind it, placed in between these two essential places of interest to royalty and the residents of Edinburgh.

The term “Royal Mile” was not used until 1901 when the book “Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century” was published by W.M. Gilbert. It is a “Scot’s mile long,” being longer than a standard mile. Scots have survived centuries of rough weather and turbulent times, so why wouldn’t their mile be longer?

The Royal Mile is divided up into five main sections from west to east: Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, the High Street, the Canongate and Abbey Strand, all going downhill from the castle. It is probably the most traveled mile in all of Scotland; over a million visitors from all over the world tread up and down annually.

Each section of the mile has its points of interest, but many visitors want to see the Camera Obscura in the Outlook Tower on Castlehill from 1853. The High Kirk of Edinburgh, or St. Giles’ Cathedral, is in the High Street and well worth a visit; it has been a religious center in some form for 900 years. The Canongate Tolbooth, built in 1591, started as a tavern and is now a museum; it has survived for four centuries. The Royal Mile is a must-see locale.


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