So much can be said about the ‘Royal Mile‘ – I learn something new about its history each time I visit. I know I am a sucker for Scotland because of my Scotch (as my Mother would say) blood lines and all that, but I think there is more to it than just a selfish love for my own generational nationality.
Edinburgh is still structurally sound, and much the same as it was from inception. It is so easy to put yourself 400 years back – if you can remember to add in the smells and the filth and the mire (remember this post?).
I have done a few tour type things through Scotland (back in the days of travelling alone), where I learned quite a bit about the history, architecture and horror of Old Edinburgh.
If you would rather experience than read – or perhaps (like myself), you enjoy a bit of both – walking tours line themselves along the Mile for you to experience ‘hands on’ – I wasn’t disappointed by any that I took. Just look at the sandwich boards, and pick out something that interests you.
This tour though, I was our guide. Thankfully, I have a decent memory.
The Royal Mile is (just about) what it says it is – a mile(ish) long, so it makes for a do-able walk.
At one end, the Castle (it can close as early as 5, so keep that in mind – no, the Hubby didn’t get to have a tour this time around, though I have been before), in the middle stands St, Giles and at the other end, glorious Holyrood House Palace.
The Mile is filled with tiny alleys called ‘closes’ that lead to places that have not changed for centuries. Behind each close is a dramatic tale – some of valour and heroism, some of plague related horror, some of thievery and community justice.
The Paisley Close was the site of a tragedy in the 1800’s. Sculpted on its facade is the image of a survivor. From edinburgh-royalmile.com;
On the Sunday morning of November 24th, 1861, the adjacent 250-year-old tenement in Bailie Fyfe’s Close collapsed, killing thirty-five people.
The image sculpted at the entrance to the close is that of Joseph McIver, a young survivor of the tragedy, who was pulled to safety after rescuers heard his call of “Heave awa, chaps, ah’m no, deid yet’.
The ‘World’s End Close’ named so because it was one of the poorest areas of Edinburgh – reserved for those who could not afford to pay entry back into the Walled city.
According to edinburgh-royalmile.com, people actually spent their entire lives living between the walls through the World’s End Close. For them, this did represent the end of the world.
There are a few things to take note of that Edinburgh is famous for – the water fountains, that both sustained and poisoned this medieval town not so long ago (historically speaking, of course), the red phone boxes (that they were in the process of removing in neighbour England during my last visit), and of course the cobblestone.
When I think of cobblestone, I never imagine it being renewed (not much of it here in Canada). In my mind, cobblestone is always left over from another century. Not here on the Royal Mile. Cobblestone gets reworked as any other roadway material would.
There are many little details to discover along the mile, so make sure you look around. I love the golden eagle – revered for being an exterminator of the plague bearers, the small Castle and spire, overlooking the gorge, and of course ‘The Witchery’, a little shop not far from Edinburgh Castle.
Many additional photos in the slideshow.