Being one of the major cities in United Kingdom, a capital of Scotland Edinburgh fascinates tourists and locals with its medieval Old Town, underground city, historic monuments and ancient architecture. The place where you can truly discover Edinburgh is the famous Royal Mile.
As the name suggests, The Royal Mile is approximately one Scots Mile long street running from the top of the Castle Hill to the Holyrood Palace. It is the oldest and one of the most central streets in the town offering not only stunning views and time travel to Middle Ages, but also have very unique places worth visiting on your sublime walk from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
The street goes up to the very top on the Castle Rock hill where the ancient settlement is situated. The hill itself has been formed due to volcanic activity and therefore features sharp rocky cliffs almost all the way around. Starting at the top of the street, on the very peak of the hill there is Edinburgh Castle. The famous tourist attraction was once a 12th century fortress which now evolved into a military base and the main part of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.
The Castle is built of a several key buildings and defence structures with underground prison being a true shiver-giver which illustrates original horror stories of medieval sinners. Almost straight near the entrance there is a two-gun battery with guards waiting to light the One O’Clock Gun. The cannon is fired every day at specifically 1pm to signify the time for the nearby sailors in the Harbour of Leith. On the way up to the main settlement building, there is St. Margaret’s Chapel with its beautifully decorated arches. Next to it there is Dog Cemetery – a well maintained small section of the hill, full of named gravestones for the beloved pets. Passing through defence batteries The Royal Apartments and The Great Hall tops the Castle Hill with their sublimity. A magnificent collection of ancient weapons and armour decorates the rooms, and Scottish National War Memorial reflects on WWI and WWII. In the vaults below the royal buildings lie prisons of war. The underground exhibition looks shockingly true to reality – a definite must see on the visit.
The Castle exit leads to the square opening the most beautiful views over the city. It is a place for the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a festival of world armed forces coming to present their country’s display team.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
A couple of steps down the Castle there is The Scotch Whisky Experience museum. It offers a good and quick way to learn about intricate craft of making true Scottish whisky. Starting with a ride through digital distillery, the tour also includes interactive presentation allowing to discover, smell and taste different types of Scotch from all remote locations in Scotland. Depending on a ticket purchased, the tasting session can cover a sublime selection of the rarest whiskies. The guided tour continues to the display rooms with generous collection of 4000 bottles.
The Camera Obscura
Right opposite The Scotch Whisky Experience there is a museum of Camera Obscura. Considered Edinburgh’s oldest attraction, it offers unbelievable exploration of The World of Illusions. A rather small but tall building is filled with tricks, mazes, puzzles and interactive set ups to play with. Special effects compliment the quirky activities leaving one truly confused of how physics of the dispays’ work! This magical experience is topped off by a timed visit to the original Camera Obscura – a mirrored camera situated on the roof of the building. High above the city, it offers striking panorama views of Edinburgh as well as gives a chance to spy on passing by unaware pedestrians.
St. Giles Cathedral
In the centre of The Royal Mile there is St. Giles Cathedral. The most central religious monument in town serves Scottish Church and has always historically played an important role in the community life. Originating from the 12th century, St. Giles’ has organically grew through fires and rebuilds to the iconic symbol of the city that it is now. The Thistle Chapel inside the cathedral is a unique stunning element of the building representing the peak of the medieval decoration magnificence. Known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, the cathedral beautifully compliments the castle in the city skyline.
The Real Mary King’s Close
Inside one of the tight side alleys on The Royal Mile, the Real Mary King’s Close can be found. A guided tour goes through the underground city of Edinburgh revealing brutal life of the citizens of the town in Middle Ages. True to the fact display rooms go as far as three floors down below the ground. The 16th century set ups reveal shocking history of mysterious murders, unexplained happenings, ghost stories, trials of city residents and horrifying plaque years in the most bustling streets of medieval Edinburgh.
Just outside the Mary King’s Close one can continue venture through Edinburgh vaults by catching an anciently dressed tour guide. Find a fancy cloak and a top hat for an extended walk in the underground city of Edinburgh.
Going towards the end of The Royal Mile on the right hand side there is the Scottish Parliament. A contemporary building is overlooking Arthur’s Seat and wonderfully blends in to the open space of the Holyrood Park. It is free of charge to visit public areas of the parliament and bookings are only required for attending debates or special meetings. The shop, café and contemporary artwork exhibition can become a nice rest point bringing one back to reality from the historic walk through The Royal Mile.
The Holyrood Palace
At the very bottom of the Royal Mile there is The Palace of Holyroodhouse – the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. With its grand neoclassical architecture the palace can be seen from far up the street. The guided tour takes to the constantly changing main exhibition rooms as well as shows off the state apartments where fine artwork and the rarest tapestries are kept representing different tastes of the successive monarchs. Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers are also open for public. The stunning true to reality setting takes back to the 1500s where the monarch spent short and undoubtedly turbulent part of her life. The Queens Gallery wonderfully accompanies the palace by storing the most precious artwork from the Royal Collection.
Edinburgh is a wonderful place to explore combining historic and contemporary elements of medieval and recent history. Just by spending a day visiting The Royal Mail and its fascinating attractions one can discover a multiple facets of remarkable Scottish heritage.