Puzzled by wynds and closes? Join this 3-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 Queen. This the part of the city is crammed with old mansions and other landmarks that provide the perfect backdrop for stories of an examination of social history, political intrigue, and possibly even a couple ghost stories. This walk is perfect for first timers, or those looking to develop a more comprehensive
There was never a dull moment even though the weather was dreich!
Royal Mile Tour
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 lays the Canongate, the eastern edge of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, but once a separate burgh that was developed around a twelfth-century abbey. Here, the nobles’ houses were clustered to be near the king and today this area reveals delightful secret gardens in courtyards obscured by the jumble of tenements fronting the street. We'll begin our explorations here with some background on the basics of Scottish history and how to read the city.
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.
Old Town Edinburgh Tour
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. Our docent will touch on many. For example, we will learn that the Canongate Kirk, built for the congregation of Abbey Church by James VII, is a reflection of the Dutch presence of William of Orange, the ‘safe’ Protestant who inherited the throne when James was forced to flee to France. 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.
Death and Dying (of Course)
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, or narrow lanes. 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?
Generally speaking, the walk begins near the National Museum of Scotland area. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and 24 hour phone number for any last minute issues. The walk typically ends near Netherbow Port.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this tour good for kids?
Yes! We have some excellent family friendly docents who can appeal to the learning styles of children. Please book privately if you have children under 13. Feel free to provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. This way we can match you with the best possible docent.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 1 mile 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. An interior visit can be added to a private tour for an additional 2 hours, or can be arranged as a separate private tour on a custom basis.