Create lasting memories with like-minded travelers on our small group tours in Edinburgh

Introduction to Edinburgh Tour: Exploring Old Town

Your essential primer on Edinburgh's Old Town
From US$127 for 1 person
Book a Tour
Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • Holyrood Palace
  • High Kirk of St Giles
  • Greyfriars Tolbooth and Highland Kirk
Photos & Highlights
  • Get acquainted with Edinburgh's Old Town
  • Led by an expert in history or local culture
Tour Description
Puzzled by wynds and closes? Join this three-hour Old Town Edinburgh Tour with a local historian and learn all about the city's history. We'll trace the Royal Mile that runs between the Palace of Holyroodhouse, official residence of the British monarch and Edinburgh Castle. This part of the city is crammed with old mansions and other landmarks that provide the perfect backdrop for an examination of social history, political intrigue, and possibly even ghost stories. This walk is perfect for first-timers, or those looking to develop a more comprehensive view of the city. 
  • Royal Mile
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse (exterior)
  • Holyrood Park
  • Canongate
  • Conongate Kirk
  • Conongate Tolbooth
  • Flodden Wall
  • The Netherbow Port
*Please note, similar to other Introduction tours these sites are visited by their exteriors only
  • 3 hours with a PhD- or MA-level guide
We'll begin this tour in the shadow of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, dramatic parts of Holyrood Park, which formerly served as the royal hunting grounds. Before us lies the Canongate, the eastern edge of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, once a separate burgh that was developed around a twelfth-century abbey. We'll begin our explorations here with some background on the basics of Scottish history and how to read the city (exterior visit).

We'll move on to admire seventeenth-century mansions clustered nearby that were once owned by such luminaries as Adam Smith. We'll also visit sites of old breweries and sugar houses and take a glimpse of the city's industrial past and of the slums, where overcrowding and disease forced the extension to New Town, north of the Nor’ Loch. This will provide an opportunity to discuss the social history of Edinburgh more generally.

We'll learn about the Scottish alleyway, called a close, and wander through many of them in the Old Town along our tour. Each close has a story to tell: of royal murders, espionage intrigues, and former craftsmen’s guilds. We'll visit the Canongate Tolbooth, which incorporates the legal and administrative aspects of the burgh. We shall see how this part of Edinburgh is closely connected with Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, both of whom stayed in the palace at different times.

At the end of the Canongate stands the Flodden Wall, which kept the citizens of Edinburgh in and invaders out. As the name of a local pub recalls, it was for them the world’s end. The Netherbow Port, a bridge on which the heads of traitors were impaled, formed a barrier across the street. We can see a section of the ancient wall as well as the house John Knox, the first Protestant Minister of St.Giles, lived in.

At the end of our tour we will have seen how the Royal Mile functioned as the central spine of a town where medieval ‘skyscrapers’ were criss-crossed by narrow wynds. We will come away with an understanding of some of the most key moments that took place in these streets and buildings, which shaped both Edinburgh, and Scotland's past.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins near the National Museum of Scotland area. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map. The walk typically ends near Netherbow Port.
Is this tour good for kids?
Yes. We have some excellent family-friendly guides who can appeal to the learning styles of children. Feel free to provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. 
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 1-2 miles overall at a gentle pace. There are occasional opportunities to sit, use the bathroom, and get something to drink if needed.
Does this include Edinburgh Castle? 
You'll see Edinburgh Castle from the exterior, but the tour does not include an interior visit.
Does this tour go inside Holyrood Palace? 
You'll see Holyrood Palace from the exterior, but the tour does not include an interior visit.
Where You'll Start
210 Reviews (4.79)

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Jenny is wonderful! Lively, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable about Edinburgh and Scotland!
We had an exceptional tour thanks to Adam whose extensive knowledge of Edinburgh history and his friendly manner made it a very well spent three hours! The best!
Terry was lovely. Right mix of historical knowledge, good cheer, and humor.