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This article by a guest blogger gives you just a taste of the rich and varied history of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  One other writer once said that two thirds of Scotland’s history took place on this street.  If ever one street defined a country…it’s this one.  What do you think?
The history of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
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The History of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile If you have ever been to Edinburgh and wanted to see something historic or cultural, you have likely been to the Royal Mile. This cobblestone road, that stretches from Holyroodhouse at the base of the hill, up towards the glorious Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill, overlooking the entire city, has long been the historical and cultural center of the city. While the city itself has expanded to adapt to industry and modern life, the Royal Mile is essential to any discussion of Edinburgh’s history, and is a major draw for locals and tourists alike. What makes this one mile of road so important? Let’s take a look at its history. The Early Years The hill that hosts the Royal Mile was carved by prehistoric glaciers, moving across Scotland. In the early 200s AD, the first people came to the area, building a fortress at the top of the hill, which would later become the castle. Settlers came to the area and build a town around the fortress, which, at the time, was called Clagen. There were only inklings of the great city that would come and the nation it would represent. 1000-1500 AD Malcolm II takes over Edinburgh and claims Scotland as a separate kingdom in 1018. This is the first point in history that the city is called Edinburgh. Only a hundred years later, David I, the new king, builds Holyrood Abbey at the bottom of the Royal Mile, which will eventually become Holyroodhouse. After another hundred years, Scotland allies itself with France, making them enemies of the British crown, who attach Edinburgh and sack the abbey. 1500-1600 AD As sea travel becomes safer and more reliable, the world begins to shrink and tension between the Scottish and English begin to rise. Edinburgh is named the capital of Scotland and the city is fortified against invaders with a wall and the Nor’ Loch (into which most of the waste from those who lived on the Royal Mile and its closes would flow). It is not enough to protect the city, however, as Henry VIII’s soldiers break through the defenses and destroy most of the city. It is also during this time that the reformation begins to take hold, not just in England, but in Scotland as well. John Knox, an influential Protestant minister, takes up residence at St. Giles’ Cathedral during this time period, coming to Edinburgh in 1559. Only two years later, Mary, Queen of Scots, and her court took up residence at Holyroodhouse, returning from France after the death of her husband. She and her court are not exactly hiding from the English monarchy, but when the Queen and her court are attacked at the house and her secretary is murdered, she flees through the Royal Mile’s winding closes, to escape being killed herself. Many of the closes, the streets perpendicular to the Mile, where, in Old Edinburgh, most people lived and worked, are now underground, but at the time, they boasted a thriving population of people both rich and poor, living in conditions that were, by today’s standards, terrible. All across Europe, the Black Plague was claiming countless victims, and Edinburgh, especially in the cramped, dirty closes along the Royal Mile, was no exception. On a lighter note, it was in 1582 that the Edinburgh University—and institution still flourishing today—was founded. 1600-1900 AD By the time James VI came to England’s throne in 1603, the reformation was in full swing all across Europe, but especially in Edinburgh. By the 1700s, however, the Catholic Church was attempting to regain control of the region, and Jacobites were sent to take over Edinburgh. The churches and cathedrals built on the royal mile were largely left alone, however, and today still stand sentinel over the road. During the 1600s, quality of life was very poor for those living on the Royal Mile. People flocked to the Mile, and by 1645, more than 70,000 people were living around it, with towering buildings barely housing all of them. Few improvements were made to the living conditions until the mid-1800s, when new residences were built and many of the old closes were demolished or built-on top of, to create new homes and businesses. Two of Edinburgh’s most famous citizens were born during this period—Walter Scott (1771) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850). The Greyfriar’s Kirk also had its most famous patron, a little dog named Bobby, during this time. Though not technically on the Mile itself, the Kirk is only a few steps from the cobblestones and has a memorial commemorating that loyal little dog, who visited his master’s grave every day. Holyroodhouse had long since ceased to be an abbey and instead, was used as a palace for visiting dignitaries. When Queen Victoria visited Edinburgh, it was where she and her family stayed, instead of in the darkness of the castle at the top of the Royal Mile. The Significance of the Royal Mile With a castle at one end and a palace at the other, it makes sense that this is where citizens of Edinburgh would gather. And with that concentration of people came culture, invention, and developments. It was the stage for just about every even in Edinburgh’s history, including some of its most famous. Holyroodhouse has played home to some of the city’s most exciting guests, starting with Mary, Queen of Scots, and including Queen Victoria. The closes, or the “dividing enclosures,” between the buildings built on the Mile were home to the city’s commerce and most of its population, and are still a major attraction today, especially those that have been preserved. Tales of the overcrowding and squalid conditions become real when standing on the closes themselves and seeing what is left of the architecture. Mary King’s is one of the last closes in its original state and which sheltered Mary, Queen of Scots, when she fled the palace, and is rumored to be haunted by some of the plague victims that died there. The city is steeped in history and the Royal Mile is the epicenter of that history. Famous Scots hail from this neighborhood, along with Kings, Queens, and intrigue. For example, the famous body snatchers, Burke and Hare ran their business of buying and selling dead bodies (especially of the people they killed themselves) on Tanner’s Close, right off of the Mile. The history feeds into the beauty of the Royal Mile, which is still rife with old world charm and boasts two of the best spots to overlook the rest of the city—Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat.
Edinburgh crag and tail Crag and Tail Edinburgh Edinburgh Royal Mile Advocate's Close Edinburgh BOOK OLD EDINBURGH TOUR BOOK GREYFRIARS KIRKYARD TOUR CONTACT US ABOUT A PRIVATE TOUR
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ADDRESS 28/2 Bridge Road Colinton Edinburgh United Kingdom EH13 0LQ
CONTACT Mail: robert@historicedinburghtours.co.uk Phone: 079590026077
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This article by a guest blogger gives you just a taste of the rich and varied history of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  One other writer once said that two thirds of Scotland’s history took place on this street.  If ever one street defined a country…it’s this one.  What do you think?
The history of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
The History of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile If you have ever been to Edinburgh and wanted to see something historic or cultural, you have likely been to the Royal Mile. This cobblestone road, that stretches from Holyroodhouse at the base of the hill, up towards the glorious Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill, overlooking the entire city, has long been the historical and cultural center of the city. While the city itself has expanded to adapt to industry and modern life, the Royal Mile is essential to any discussion of Edinburgh’s history, and is a major draw for locals and tourists alike. What makes this one mile of road so important? Let’s take a look at its history. The Early Years The hill that hosts the Royal Mile was carved by prehistoric glaciers, moving across Scotland. In the early 200s AD, the first people came to the area, building a fortress at the top of the hill, which would later become the castle. Settlers came to the area and build a town around the fortress, which, at the time, was called Clagen. There were only inklings of the great city that would come and the nation it would represent. 1000-1500 AD Malcolm II takes over Edinburgh and claims Scotland as a separate kingdom in 1018. This is the first point in history that the city is called Edinburgh. Only a hundred years later, David I, the new king, builds Holyrood Abbey at the bottom of the Royal Mile, which will eventually become Holyroodhouse. After another hundred years, Scotland allies itself with France, making them enemies of the British crown, who attach Edinburgh and sack the abbey. 1500-1600 AD As sea travel becomes safer and more reliable, the world begins to shrink and tension between the Scottish and English begin to rise. Edinburgh is named the capital of Scotland and the city is fortified against invaders with a wall and the Nor’ Loch (into which most of the waste from those who lived on the Royal Mile and its closes would flow). It is not enough to protect the city, however, as Henry VIII’s soldiers break through the defenses and destroy most of the city. It is also during this time that the reformation begins to take hold, not just in England, but in Scotland as well. John Knox, an influential Protestant minister, takes up residence at St. Giles’ Cathedral during this time period, coming to Edinburgh in 1559. Only two years later, Mary, Queen of Scots, and her court took up residence at Holyroodhouse, returning from France after the death of her husband. She and her court are not exactly hiding from the English monarchy, but when the Queen and her court are attacked at the house and her secretary is murdered, she flees through the Royal Mile’s winding closes, to escape being killed herself. Many of the closes, the streets perpendicular to the Mile, where, in Old Edinburgh, most people lived and worked, are now underground, but at the time, they boasted a thriving population of people both rich and poor, living in conditions that were, by today’s standards, terrible. All across Europe, the Black Plague was claiming countless victims, and Edinburgh, especially in the cramped, dirty closes along the Royal Mile, was no exception. On a lighter note, it was in 1582 that the Edinburgh University—and institution still flourishing today—was founded. 1600-1900 AD By the time James VI came to England’s throne in 1603, the reformation was in full swing all across Europe, but especially in Edinburgh. By the 1700s, however, the Catholic Church was attempting to regain control of the region, and Jacobites were sent to take over Edinburgh. The churches and cathedrals built on the royal mile were largely left alone, however, and today still stand sentinel over the road. During the 1600s, quality of life was very poor for those living on the Royal Mile. People flocked to the Mile, and by 1645, more than 70,000 people were living around it, with towering buildings barely housing all of them. Few improvements were made to the living conditions until the mid-1800s, when new residences were built and many of the old closes were demolished or built-on top of, to create new homes and businesses. Two of Edinburgh’s most famous citizens were born during this period—Walter Scott (1771) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850). The Greyfriar’s Kirk also had its most famous patron, a little dog named Bobby, during this time. Though not technically on the Mile itself, the Kirk is only a few steps from the cobblestones and has a memorial commemorating that loyal little dog, who visited his master’s grave every day. Holyroodhouse had long since ceased to be an abbey and instead, was used as a palace for visiting dignitaries. When Queen Victoria visited Edinburgh, it was where she and her family stayed, instead of in the darkness of the castle at the top of the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh crag and tail Crag and Tail Edinburgh Advocate's Close Edinburgh BOOK OLD EDINBURGH TOUR BOOK GREYFRIARS KIRKYARD TOUR
NAVIGATION
SOCIAL
ADDRESS 28/2 Bridge Road Colinton Edinburgh United Kingdom EH13 0LQ
CONTACT Mail: robert@historicedinburghtours.co.uk Phone: 079590026077
Copyright Historic Edinburgh Tours 2017
  
LEGAL
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