Edinburgh's High Street in winter.

Edinburgh's Royal Mile - A history tour

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Your Royal Mile tour

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is a street on which Scotland’s history has played out over hundreds of years.  Come with us as we show off some of the most significant buildings and locations on this historic thoroughfare.

We endeavour to cover everything that we’ve outlined on this page.  Sometimes, however, external factors can impact our tours.  Edinburgh often has special events, some of which involve diversions and ‘blocked off’ areas.  We will also make alterations to your tour if someone has mobility issues.  We aim to deliver an Edinburgh walking tour which is perfect for you.  If there are stories or places outlined here which you wish to see, please let us know, and we will make these our priority.


This is your Royal Mile tour, and we can’t wait to take you up the most important mile in Scottish history!

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The murder of David Rizzio.
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"We preferred a small tour and so decided to go with a private tour through Historic Edinburgh Tours. We found it well worth the money. Mr. Robert Howie, our guide, was pleasant, informative, interesting, knowledgeable and full of stories about past inhabitants of Edinburgh as well as of its various buildings. His love and enthusiasm for his city and its history was obvious and added to our enjoyment. He asked us what we wanted to see and adjusted the tour accordingly."

A detailed itinerary

Remember, your tour is private - you can choose when it starts! We’ve also got some flexibility with distances and elevations on the tour.  The Royal Mile is a gently sloping gradient, and we start at the bottom on this tour.  Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these alternatives.  We want to give you a tour that’s interesting and accessible.

In this Edinburgh walking tour, all your locations will take place along, or just off, Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. We’ve outlined all the story possibilities for your walk.  We may not cover them all; it depends on where your interests lie.

Story 1 - Dynamic Earth and an experiential tour lie ahead of us!
We start our Royal Mile exploration just off the ‘Mile itself.  We will meet in the forecourt of Dynamic Earth, and this lets us take in some views of the magnificent Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.  This tour has it’s own hill to climb, but the topography is important on this tour, and these hilly features are all linked together.

Story 2 - Murder at the Palace.
Holyrood Abbey and the Palace of Holyroodhouse sit at the foot of the Royal Mile.  We take you to the gates and tell you about one of the most infamous moments in the history of Scotland.  

Story 3 - The Watergate.
Just before we cross the road, we’ll have a quick opportunity to look at the area known as the ‘Watergate’.  This area was surprisingly important in Edinburgh’s history and played a significant role in the mid-1500s. 

Story 4 - Heritage and History.
The Canongate has some real ‘picture postcard’ scenes (trust us, we’ve got loads of postcards featuring places you’ll see on this tour).   Bring a camera as we take you into White Horse Close for a wander back in time.  The close played a role in Edinburgh’s communication links and was utilised during the Jacobite Occupation of 1745.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Story 5 - It’s not all history!
We bring the story of Edinburgh up to date as we walk past the Scottish Parliament building. You’ll get a chance to see this cleverly designed structure, and we’ll try to give you an unbiased account of the story of Scotland’s current politics. We’ll supply some facts and will try to avoid opinions!

Story 7 - Outlander tour anyone?
We’ve not yet seen all the Outlander series (I know, it’s shocking isn’t it?!) but we will take you to one of the most recognisable Edinburgh filming locations. We’ve also got some stories about how Bakehouse Close has developed over time, and we’ll show you our favourite Old Edinburgh photo.  It sends shivers up our spines!

Story 8 - A poet’s love and a murdered courtier (perhaps…)
The Canongate Kirkyard hides some famous links to Robert Burns, and you’ll see a much-disputed final resting place of someone we learned about earlier. 

Story 9 - Moray House and the tale of an unfriendly wedding reception.
Moray House was where Robert, your Edinburgh tour guide, went to university. He’ll share one of his favourite stories about the building and of a wedding party that made the most of the Marquis of Montrose’s hanging. It’s all fascinatingly distasteful!

Story 10 - Not-so-rich pickings.
Deacon William Brodie is one of our favourite ‘Old Edinburgh’ characters. You’ll walk past the execution platform he died on (maybe…) but here we’ll take you to see the place of the burglary which led to his arrest and downfall.

Stories 11 - Welcome to Edinburgh!
So you thought you’d been in Edinburgh all this time?  Well, yes and no!  We started your tour in the Canongate,  Now it’s part of Edinburgh, but for much of the city’s history it was a separate town or ‘burgh’. We’d only really get into Edinburgh proper when we pass through the long-lost Netherbow Port. We’ll let you see how this would have looked and share with you the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ‘attack’ on Edinburgh in 1745.

Story 12 - History and happenings on the High Street.
We’re now into the heart of Old Edinburgh. We’ll find out about the John Knox House, one of the prettiest buildings in Edinburgh and we’ll move up past the Tron Kirk on our way to the Mercat Cross, the focal point for royal proclamations, business meetings and executions. We’ll pass numerous wee closes on our way up, and we’ll visit the one that interests you the most. Edinburgh’s business life happened on the Royal Mile; her social life occurred in the tenements and taverns in the closes.  

Story 13 - Where next? Well, it’s your private Edinburgh walking tour - you pick!
This is your private tour of Edinburgh and we’re now in the bustling centre of the Old Town.  Robert, your local Edinburgh guide, doesn’t work from a set script. He’s got an excellent knowledge of the history of this area and will tailor the next couple of stops to the places you wish to see, or the stories you want to hear.  We can continue up the Royal Mile and learn about the infamous Tolbooth Prison, possibly finishing your tour by going down the West Bow and into the Grassmarket.  The Grassmarket would make for a fitting finale as there are some tremendous wee stories to be told here. There are also more than a few friendly little pubs to visit after your tour!)   We can take you to the site of one of the most significant murders in Scottish history, or we can finish your tour in Greyfriars Kirkyard, near to the Museum of Scotland. It’s your tour, and we’ll do what suits you the best.  We LOVE having the flexibility of these Edinburgh guided tours!

We’ve gone into some detail with these notes, but the full stories are even more fascinating.  This tour holds an average five-star rating, and we think that the Royal Mile walk is the most scenic of our walking tours of Edinburgh.

Moray House in Edinburgh's Canongate.
The Museum of Edinburgh.
A Royal Mile tour group in White Horse Close.