Things to do in Edinburgh: Fun-packed days on the Royal Mile

Given that it’s usually teaming with selfie-stick waving tourists, many locals give the Royal Mile a wide berth.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 8:37 am
Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile has a plethora of visitor attractions and something for all ages and tastes.

But with visitor numbers down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time to explore this mile-long stretch that’s made up of five streets: Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate and Abbey Strand.

Located in the heart of the historic Old Town, the Royal Mile connects two royal residences: postcard-perfect Edinburgh Castle and the splendorous Palace of Holyroodhouse.

As well as offering some of the best eating and drinking spots in the city, there’s a plethora of must-see sights on the Royal Mile.

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Here are some of the highlights:

Edinburgh Castle

It’s not for nothing this iconic Capital landmark is Scotland’s most visited attraction.

Visiting Edinburgh Castle is like stepping into a fairytale, so it’s hardly surprising it was recently voted the most Instagrammable castle in the UK.

A stroll to the top of the cobbled Castle Hill allows you to walk in the footsteps of soldiers, kings and queens – and even the odd pirate or two.

Once inside the grounds, there are many ways to experience Edinburgh Castle, and you could easily spend an entire day here.

Highlights include the Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel and the One o’clock Gun.

Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG

0131 225 9846

Scotch Whisky Experience

Right next door to Edinburgh Castle, The Scotch Whisky Experience gives lovers of the golden nectar the perfect introduction to the whisky-making process.

An interactive exhibition rather than a working distillery, here you’ll find a range of tours which cater to everyone with an interest in whisky.

Each tour includes time in the Diageo Claive Vidiz Whisky Collection, a public display of nearly 4,000 bottles that has been described as “one of the seven wonders of the whisky world”.

The Experience is also home to two whisky bars, the award-winning Amber Restaurant, and an impressive Scotch whisky shop.

The duration is 90 minutes: 1 hour guided Silver Tour followed by 30 minutes Gold Tour tasting. See website for details.

354 Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE

0131 220 0441

Real Mary King's Close

It’s a different type of spirit you’ll encounter at the Real Mary King’s Close – a five-star attraction shrouded in myths and mysteries.

One of the most unique attractions in the city, this one-hour-long social history tour allows guests to explore the warren of underground streets and spaces.

Visitors can unlock the secrets of Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th Century street, wander through a labyrinth of Old Town alleyways, avoid the cry of gardyloo, and discover the stories of the people who lived, worked, and died here.

It’s a lot of fun and a history lesson to boot.

2 Warriston’s Close, High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1PG

Camera Obscura

For the first time in 168 years, visitors to Camera Obscura & World of Illusions will be able to look at views from the Camera Obscura after dark, using the power of modern technology.

Since 1853, when Maria Short brought her prized telescope to the Royal mile, millions of visitors and locals alike have been mesmerised by live, moving pictures of the city via the Camera Obscura. The telescope uses a mixture of daylight, reflections, and mirrors to project a live image internally onto a table within a dark chamber.

And now, the current team at Camera Obscura have gone to great lengths to ensure visitors can experience the same spectacular views after dark or in in poor visibility.

Using a camera fixed to the top of the tower roof to capture footage during daylight hours and a top-quality projector installed within the chamber itself; Camera Obscura & World of Illusions have developed a brand-new, contemporary visitor experience where guides can show-off the same magnificent views and give visitors some history of some iconic Edinburgh landmarks without the use of daylight.

Panoramic viewpoints from Camera Obscura include famous city landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, The Scott Monument, St Giles Cathedral, The Balmoral, and The National Gallery of Scotland with views extending all the way out to the Kingdom of Fife.

Andrew Johnson, the venue’s general manager, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have introduced this new visitor experience.

“We’ve always been so proud of the spectacular sights we offer visitors from our Camera Obscura, and it is fantastic we can now continue to do so after dark.

“We’re excited to see people’s reactions, and look forward to sharing more amazing views with guests.”

Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2ND

0131 226 3709

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Queen's official residence in Edinburgh really is one for history buffs.

Explore the Palace's close associations with some of Scotland’s most famous figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Until January 6, the splendorous palace will be adorned with glittering decorations to celebrate Christmas.

In the Royal Dining Room, the tables are laid with pieces from a silver service presented to George V and Queen Mary in 1935 to mark their Silver Jubilee, and decorated with flowers, wreaths and spires of faux candied sugared fruits.

Christmas displays are included in standard admission to the Palace. Some special events require separate tickets – see website for details.

Canongate, The Royal Mile, EH8 8DX

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