Moments & Misadventures :: Along the Royal Mile


There are some cities that are just made for wandering and Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities to wander. A walk along the Royal Mile had me gazing in wonder at the interesting architecture and trying to fathom the layers of history throughout the city.

Edinburgh Castle from Market Street

The walk began at the Edinburgh Castle sitting on top of Castle Rock. The 12th century saw the first royal castle set on this hill with the reign of David I. Around 1633, it changed from its royal role to being used as military barracks until restoration projects began in the early 19th century. This castle has seen its share of historical conflicts with 26 sieges during its history. Because of this it is claimed the title of being the most besieged place in Great Britain.

Walking through the Greyfriars Kirkyard which was first established in 1562. The name Greyfriars comes as a nod to the Franciscan Friary that use to be on this site and the grey colored habits the friars wore. Most of Edinburgh most notable citizens have been buried here over the centuries and it is considered one of the most famous graveyards in the world. It was here too that J.K. Rowling took inspiration for character names for Harry Potter.

I love the buildings that line the street of the Royal Mile with all the incredible stone architecture and little side streets everywhere. There are places that you can see where the city built on top of itself creating levels and sublevels all in one spot. With fun shops and interesting tours all along this street there is plenty to fill days.

The Royal Mile is called such because it connects the Edinburgh Castle to the other castle of the Palace of Holyrood House. This has been the principal residence of royalty in Scotland since the 16th century. Along with being a residence for the royal family, Holyrood House is also used for state occasions and ceremonies. The historic apartments that were used by Mary Queen of Scots give a sad backdrop to the Scottish queen and her life. On one end of the palace there is now an exhibition space where items from the Royal Collection are presented to visitors. When I was there, the exhibit was the life of the late Queen Elizabeth II through pictures.

While I loved seeing Holyrood House, my favorite part of the visit was seeing the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey. The abbey was established in 1128 at the request of King David I after seeing a visionary cross of light while out hunting. The palace was built next to the abbey in the early 1500’s. The abbey has certainly seen better days, but it is so amazing how much of it remains intact as a beautiful tribute to this building that watched centuries of history unfold.

To really see all of this beautiful city I would need at least a few weeks. Though the time I had there was insufficient, I loved wandering through the streets of Old Town and along the Royal Mile admiring the stunning architecture and feeling overwhelmed by the history. This will always be one of my favorite cities that I have visited.

33 responses to “Moments & Misadventures :: Along the Royal Mile”

  1. Such history on the Royal Mile. If only those walls could talk. I don’t remember The Holyrood Abbey but your description makes me want to see it. 😊 Maggie

    • If those walls could talk that would be the greatest history lesson ever! I loved the abbey and the idea that the whole city started there and then spread outwards. Have a great week Maggie 🙂

  2. I enjoyed my time in Edinburgh, too, but like you, I wasn’t there nearly long enough. We have a goal of climbing Ben Nevis so I think we’ll be back there at some future date and I will try to give it the time and attention it deserves. Thanks for giving me a chance to visit it again. I especially enjoyed the little factoid about J.K. Rowling and the cemetery.

    • Oh that would be an amazing hike! It would be fun to really spend a lot of time in the cemetery walking around and looking at the old headstones and seeing what names looked familiar from the books. I feel like I need a solid few weeks to really see Edinburgh.

  3. We share your love of Edinburgh, we’ve had two fabulous breaks there, including one where we got snowed in and the flight home was cancelled. The castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood and the Arthur’s Seat is just one of those walks where you can lose yourself in wonder. Majestic city.

    • Well if you’re going to be snowed in, you certainly found a beautiful place to have an extended stay 🙂 Lose yourself in wonder in absolutely true between the scenery, the history, the architecture- I could lose myself in it for ages 🙂

  4. We’ve actually been thinking about visiting Scotland and were just looking at flights for June. So your post is very timely. Edinburgh will definitely be on the list. It’s neat to hear about how JK Rowling drew inspiration for some of the characters in Harry Potter from the graveyard here.

    • Timely indeed! You’ll love Scotland and I can’t wait to see your posts about it! I would love to go back and walk through the cemetery and see if I can find some familiar names there. 🙂

  5. Edinburgh is a fascinating city with so much interesting history. We’ve visited multiple times, but have never been to Holyrood Abbey, it looks amazing. If we ever visit again we will definitely stop by. Great post Meg!

    • Thank you! I think the abbey was my favorite part of the city because it was where the city started and then spread out from there. By a random and wonderful twist of fate, we just booked our tickets to Paris for next month! I don’t know if we’ll make it down to Normandy, but any chance you will be in Paris the third week of May?

  6. A splendid post Meg of a city I know very well. I never tire of visiting Edinburgh and as one of our sons studied there for four years I took every opportunity to visit whenever possible . Can you imagine anything more conducive to study than to have lectures in some of those ancient buildings overlooking Princes Street gardens!

    • That would be amazing to study there- I don’t know if it would inspire me to study harder or if I would be constantly distracted by the beautiful buildings and city around me. What a great opportunity for your son to study there 🙂 Thanks Marion, I hope you have a great week!

  7. One of my favourite cities to wander as well, Edinburgh is gorgeous through and through. Greyfriars Kirkyard was a delightful discovery on our visit last year too. We tried to find all the JK Rowling character names on our stroll through the cemetery and stumbled across a few more interesting names and tombstones. I love your photographs of the Holyrood Abbey which we did not visit. I appreciate your love letter to Edinburgh, hope you get another longer visit soon.

    • I wish I spent more time wandering through the cemetery looking at all the names because it probably has some fantastic ones. No wonder so many character names could be found there. I love the abbey, it was probably my favorite place in the city. Edinburgh is an easy place to write a love letter for 🙂 I hope you have a great rest of your week!

  8. oh yes, wonderful street. When we visited Edinburgh even though it was July that first night, it was so foggy and eerie. Luckily, it was a better weather tomorrow to really see it all.

  9. I absolutely loved reading about the Royal Mile! It’s always refreshing to hear about the little moments that make traveling so memorable, like stumbling upon a street performer or enjoying a cup of coffee in a charming cafe. Your writing and photos transported me right to Edinburgh and made me feel like I was there experiencing it all with you. Thank you for sharing your adventures and reminding us that even the misadventures can be moments to cherish!

    • Oh thank you, that just made my whole day 🙂 I really think you would love Edinburgh and all the history there. How are you doing? I know you have a lot going on with all you do and balance. I hope all is well with you and know that I’m sending you a wave and a hug from tennessee 🙂

  10. Aww I loved reading your post about my home! It’s such a fantastic city and I’m really glad you enjoyed it, even in the dreich weather (dreich = rubbish weather in Scots!). The Royal Mile is certainly magical – I’m still not tired of it after four years of living here haha.

    • Having a Scot love my post is a pretty high compliment 🙂 I loved it all the more for the ‘dreich’ weather because that beautiful architecture was just all the more atmospheric with the rain. Everywhere I visited in Scotland was just incredible and I can’t wait to go back one day 🙂

  11. I love that you loved Edinburgh. There are prettier places, but the architecture is wonderful, it has a great international buzz and the layers of history – as you say – are fascinating. I’ve visited for business and pleasure – always something to see!

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