Walk 38: Edinburgh City Centre: This one’s not around the ‘Fringe’

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4 miles (6.44km)

Time to walk: Roughly a couple of hours, but could be done as part of a whole day spent visiting galleries & The Castle etc

Difficulty: All on hard paths. Edinburgh is a hilly city so there are quite a few steep steps & hills to negotiate, but it’s quite easy

Parking: Unless staying in the centre, it’s best to park outside & catch public transport. The city now has an excellent tram system which also runs to the airport

Public toilets: Everywhere, bars, cafes etc

Map of the route: @Walking World @ A self guided walking tour


Edinburgh is the capital city, the second most populated in Scotland & the seventh in the UK.  It’s also home to the Scottish Parliament, the seat of the Monarchy in Scotland & the largest financial centre in the UK after London

The city’s historical & cultural attractions have made it the second most popular tourist destination in the UK after London, attracting over one million overseas visitors each year, many for the Edinburgh International Festival, The Military Tattoo & the Fringe, the latter being the largest annual international arts festival in the world. Edinburgh’s Old Town & New Town together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The city has long been known as a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, the sciences & engineering

Close by is the Port of Leith which stands on the Firth of Forth. This is well worth a visit & we’ll have a look on a later walk

It looks like the late evening sun’s coming out so…

Let’s Walk!

Love this locally sketched map – it tells us so much more…

map 2

1. Our walk starts in Market Street, just outside Edinburgh’s main railway station, Waverley Street which is the second largest station in terms of area in the UK after Waterloo


Over the road’s Edinburgh City Arts Centre


2. Turn left & walk under North Bridge…


If you fancy staying at The Scotsman next to the Bridge then it’s a 5* Boutique Hotel


North Bridge links the High Street with Princes Street, & the New Town with the Old. The current bridge was built between 1894–97. A previous North Bridge, built from 1763–72, stood until 1896

The Bridge is 525 feet long & has three spans of arched girders, each 175 feet in length. It was constructed between 1894–1897 by Sir William Arrol & Co, the company who also constructed the Forth Bridge

3. At the fork in the road go right up Jeffrey Street…


There’s fine views across the roof of the station…


4. Also down to the left are The City of Edinburgh Council Offices which have an unusual bloke on a podium outside…


This is the ‘Everyman’ statue created by artist Stephan Balkenhol from Hessen, Germany. It’s said to represent ‘Joe Public’ & is reputed to have cost £100,000. Many of the Council members are said to be less than happy with it!

5. Follow the road up the hill. We’re heading towards The Royal Mile now & the eclectic shops etc are starting to appear…



This one’s more like it…



6. At the crossroads below turn left into Cannongate which forms part of The Royal Mile…



The Royal Mile covers a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town. The thoroughfare, as the name suggests, is approximately 1 mile long & runs between Edinburgh Castle & Holyrood Palace. The streets making up the Royal Mile are Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate & Abbey Strand

7. It’s difficult to miss things on The Royal Mile as it’s got so much to see & history attached to it

First on the left’s the Edinburgh School of English, which has the reputation of being one of the UK’s leading language schools


And over the road’s the first of the city’s many ‘Closes’ we’ll come across…



‘Closes’ are the small alleyways & courtyards that led off The Royal Mile to the north and south. These were usually named after a memorable occupant of one of the apartments reached by the common entrance, or a trade plied by one or more residents

Edinburgh Castle sits on an extinct volcano & The Royal Mile follows one of its slopes. Most ‘closes’  slope steeply down from the Royal Mile creating the impression of a herring-bone pattern formed by the main street & side streets when viewed on a map. Many have steps & long flights of stairs.

Because of the need for security within its town walls against English attacks in past wars, Edinburgh experienced a pronounced density in housing. ‘Closes’ tend to be narrow with tall buildings on both sides. We’ll come across one of the most famous later

8. There’s plenty more eclectic properties as we wander down the hill…

There's a theme developing

There’s a theme developing


The Tolbooth Tavern is an imposing building. It was once the administrative focus, the tax-collection point, the council chamber, the court & the jail for the borough of Canongate

Although the Tolbooth was built in 1591, the Tolbooth Tavern has occupied part of it since 1820. The whole of the building was extensively restored in 1879 to the appearance it has today


From the outside the Tolbooth Tavern appears quite small. Internally it opens out and stretches right back through the body of the Tolbooth & into an area originally built as housing in about 1750. It’s here that you’re most likely to feel the effects of the tavern’s resident ghost who excels in knocking things over!

map 3

9. Almost directly over the road’s one of the city’s most famous institutions…Bene’s Fish & Chip shop – finest purveyors of all things fried!


Check out the link above as the menu is so extensive, plus of course they do one of Scotland’s finest…


You can also request deep fried pizza, but if you just order fish & chips then the traditional way to have them is with ‘salt & sauce’. No tomato ketchup here as you’ll get them smothered in vinegar, salt, pepper & brown sauce!

10. Resisted? Then carry on down the street & next door’s The Museum of Edinburgh…


And we’re zig-zagging all over the road as we’ve spied a very interesting looking church on the other side…


11. This is The Cannongate Kirk. Completed in 1691, it serves the Parish of Canongate which includes the Palace of Holyroodhouse & the Scottish Parliament. It’s also the parish church of Edinburgh Castle, even though the castle is detached from the rest of the parish

This is where the Queen attends service when she’s in Edinburgh. The wedding of Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter & Mike Tindall took place at the church on 30 July 2011

The bronze statue outside the gate is of poet Robert Fergusson created by David Annand


12. We promised you this street had eclectic shops…next door is one devoted to Xmas! We did this walk in July by the way…


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

Apparently Cliff Richard once visited & there’s a newspaper clipping of the event in the shop. Edinburgh has 3 Xmas shops!

13. We’re nearing the bottom of The Royal Mile now & a really modern, high security building’s coming into view….



This is The Scottish Parliament which has been heavily in the news recently due to the question of independence. It cost almost £1 billion to make & still incurs the wrath of locals


The Parliament is a democratically elected body with 129 members. Following a referendum in 1997, in which the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, the current Parliament was convened by the Scotland Act 1998. The Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in all areas that are not explicitly reserved to Westminster. The British Parliament retains the ability to amend the terms of reference of the Scottish Parliament, & can extend or reduce the areas in which it can make laws. The first meeting of the new Parliament took place on 12 May 1999

14. Take care crossing the busy road to arrive at the very bottom of The Royal Mile & the buildings of The Palace of Holyrood House. The first one’s The Queens Gallery


…which is an art gallery opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II exhibiting works from the Royal Collection. It’s open to the public daily

The Victorian building was originally built as Holyrood Free Church, but was last used for worship in 1915. Prior to its conversion into the Queen’s Gallery, the building was used as a storeroom

15. Walk round the corner & ahead of us now are the main gates to The Palace of Holyroodhouse itself…


The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland. It has served as the principal residence of the Kings & Queens of Scots since the 16th century, & is a setting for state occasions & official entertaining

Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements & ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots & the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence


16. It’s time to go & explore the other end of The Royal Mile so head back up Canongate keeping your eyes open for what you’ve missed on the way down…


Sounds good!

Sounds good!



17. Cross the High Street & enter the northern pedestrianised sector…


There’s more shops etc along this stretch than the southern part so there’s more to catch the eye. On the right’s the superb John Knox House


The house was built from 1490 onwards & features a fine wooden gallery & hand-painted ceiling. It belonged to the Mossman family of Edinburgh goldsmiths who re-fashioned the crown of Scotland for James V. The carvings date from 1850 when the building was restored & further restoration took place in 1984

Over the next few centuries many decorations and paintings were added & the house & its contents are now a museum. The building is owned by the Church of Scotland & is now part of the new, adjacent Scottish Storytelling Centre

18. Continue up the street – this pair brought a smile to our faces…



19. The church with the large spire on the left’s the Tron Kirk…


The Tron Kirk is a former principal parish church built in the 17th century & closed as a church in 1952. Having stood empty for over fifty years, it was used briefly as a tourist information centre &, more recently, has been re-opened as a small marketplace & concert venue – there was a jazz festival on when we were there

Apparently on quiet nights, you can hear drumming coming from under the High Street. Allegedly in the early 1800s, someone found the entrance to a secret passage leading from the castle. It was so narrow that no man could climb down, so the council sent a little boy with a drum down the tunnel. The boy beat his drum as he crept along & the council kept their ears to the ground, following the sound down the high street. However, when they reached the Tron Kirk, the drumming stopped

It never restarted & the boy never reappeared. The council sealed up the entrance & it hasn’t been found since

20. Moving quickly on then…


…& as we continue to gain height don’t forget the view behind…


You’ll remember we mentioned the ‘Closes’. On the right is one of Edinburgh’s must visit tourist venues – the wonderful Mary King’s Close


21. We visited the Close some years ago & we would urge everyone to book & go

The Close took its name from Mary King, daughter of advocate Alexander King, who in the 17th century had owned several properties within the close. It was partially demolished & buried under the Royal Exchange. New research & archaeological evidence has revealed that the close actually consists of a number of closes which were originally narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to seven stories high




Mary King’s Close was re-opened to the public in April 2003 & is displayed as a historically accurate example of life in Edinburgh between the 16th & 19th centuries

Check out the video link below…


22. Across from the entrance to The Close is the impressive 12th century St Giles Cathedral



St Giles’ Cathedral, more properly termed the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. The present church dates from the late 14th century, though it was extensively restored in the 19th century

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, who is the patron saint of Edinburgh, as well as of cripples & lepers


We didn’t have time to go inside on this walk, but found this panoramic view…



23. Continue up the street as it becomes Lawnmarket…


A bit of traditional busking

A bit of traditional busking

…turning left into George IV Bridge. The corner of the two streets marks the site of the last public execution in the city…



24. This is another lovely street & one not so well known. It also houses the National Library of Scotland on the left…



25. Over the road on the right’s the well-known Elephant House Cafe. This is where JK Rowling spent many hours penning her Harry Potter novels!



The bar next door’s certainly different!


The Frankenstein Bar is a gothic establishment spread over 3 floors – we didn’t have the Goth gear on that evening so moved on…

26. On the corner of the street with Candlemaker Row (great street name) is a small statue of a dog. Note the shiny nose that everyone passes strokes for good luck…


This Skye Terrier was known as Greyfriars Bobby. In 1850 a gardener called John Gray arrived in Edinburgh. Unable to find work he joined the Edinburgh Police Force as a night watchman. To keep him company through the long winter nights John took on a partner, a small Skye Terrier called Bobby

John eventually died of tuberculosis in 1858 & was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby refused to leave his master’s grave & although the gardener tried on many occasions to evict Bobby from the Kirkyard, in the end he gave up & provided a shelter for Bobby at the side of John Gray’s grave

Every day on the firing of the one o’clock gun Bobby would leave the grave, following William Dow, a local joiner to the same Coffee House that he had frequented with his master where he was given a meal

In 1867 a new bye-law was passed requiring all dogs in the city to be licensed or they would be destroyed. Sir William Chambers (The Lord Provost of Edinburgh) paid Bobby’s licence & presented him with a collar with a brass inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed”. This can be seen in the Museum of Edinburgh

The kind folk of Edinburgh took good care of Bobby, but still he remained loyal to his master. For fourteen years the dead man’s faithful dog kept constant watch & guard over the grave until his own death in 1872

27. The pub on the corner’s also named after Bobby & is well worth a visit…



28. Facing the pub turn right down Candlemaker Row into Grassmarket…



It was in this area that famous ‘body snatchers’ Burke & Hare used to ply their trade. They later moved into murder, selling the bodies for dissection to medical scientists. They were eventually hanged in 1681

There's much nicer activities happening in this area today!

There’s much nicer activities happening in this area today!

29. In Grassmarket we get our first view of Edinburgh Castle…


We’ll come to this shortly, but now need to turn right up West Bow into Victoria Street…

Go on…you know you want to!

Go on…you know you want to!

In the middle of the road’s Bow Well which was the city’s original piped water outlet (1681). It was also here that Burke & Hare faced the gallows


30. Victoria Street is steep & picturesque with many different shops & restaurants…



It’s been called Edinburgh’s prettiest street & it’s clear to see why…



31. Half way up this street turn left up the steep steps of Upper Bow…



…& then left along Johnston Terrace to get a fine view of the Castle



The scaffolding above is the seating in place for the Edinburgh Tattoo

32. Cross over the road & climb another set of steep steps up to the Castle itself…



33. Because of the preparations going on there was no admission into Edinburgh Castle today…



We’ll get a much better view from the other side shortly. Edinburgh Castle stands on the plug of an extinct volcano, estimated to have risen about 350 million years ago. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100 year-old history, giving it a claim to having been “the most besieged place in Great Britain & one of the most attacked in the world”

The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun & the National War Museum of Scotland

34. As we can’t visit the Castle today & the weather’s worsening let’s crack on with the walk turning away from the Castle & heading down Castlehill (the top part of The Royal Mile)…



35. Continue until arriving at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern which has a tale to tell!


Deacon William Brodie was a Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild & city councillor who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill & partly to fund his gambling

He used his daytime job as a way to gain knowledge about the security mechanisms of his clients & to copy their keys using wax impressions. He was asked to work in the homes of many of the richest members of Edinburgh society & used the illicit money to maintain his second life, which included a gambling habit & five children by two mistresses (who did not know each other). He reputedly began his criminal career around 1768 when he copied keys to a bank door & stole £800

He was eventually caught, found guilty & hanged at the Old Tolbooth in the High Street on 1 October 1788, before a crowd of 40,000. According to one tale, Brodie wore a steel collar & silver tube to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it & arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived

Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Brodie, wrote a play entitled Deacon Brodie, or The Double Life, which was unsuccessful. However, Stevenson remained fascinated of Brodie’s respectable façade & his real nature & was inspired to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1886) – told you there was a tale attached!

36. Turn the corner & there’s a plaque on the wall…


Head down Bank Street & follow it all the way down to the Royal Scottish Academy



The Academy's on the right

The Academy’s on the right

37. Approach the busy Princes Street junction but, just before it, turn left into the splendid Princes Street Gardens…


The excellent tram system

The excellent tram system

The entrance to Princes Street Gardens

The entrance to Princes Street Gardens

38. Princes Street Gardens were created in two phases in the 1770s & 1820s following the draining of the Nor Loch & building of the New Town. The gardens run along the south side of Princes Street & are divided by The Mound. East Princes Street Gardens run from The Mound to Waverley Bridge & the larger West Princes Street Gardens extend to the adjacent churches of St. John’s & St. Cuthbert’s

The Gardens are the best known park in Edinburgh. Concerts & other events are held at the Ross Bandstand

Immediately we enter on the right’s the magnificent Floral Clock



39. All along here’s magnificent views of Edinburgh Castle (minus the scaffolding!)…


There's the concert theatre

There’s the concert theatre

Looks a bit like Hogwarts doesn't it

Looks a bit like Hogwarts doesn’t it

40. Exit the gardens up the steps at the end of the terrace…


…where there’s one last magnificent view of the Castle…


41. Cross Princes Street into South Charlotte Street & carry on to arrive at the splendid Georgian Charlotte Square



Initially named St. George’s Square in James Craig’s original plan, it was renamed before completion after King George III‘s Queen & first daughter, to avoid confusion with George Square, in the south of the city. Charlotte Square was the last part of the initial phase of the New Town to be completed in 1820. Much of it was to the 1791 design of Robert Adam, who died in 1792, just as building began

In 1939 a large air-raid shelter was created under the south side of the gardens & in 2013 the south side was redeveloped creating major new office floorspace behind a restored series of townhouses

42. Turn down George Street…


…& then right into Castle Street…



…before crossing the road & heading down Rose Street…


43. Rose Street used to be Edinburgh’s red light district, but these days is more ‘party town’ as it’s full of pubs & clubs & is a well known destination for stag parties…




44. Carry on straight over the next junction…


…where there’s more of the same…

Jamie's here!

Jamie’s here!

…but this looks more like us!


Should be interesting!

Should be interesting!

45. Turn next right into Hanover Street & follow back to the junction with Princes Street…


…where we turn left…


Princes Street is Edinburgh’s main shopping street so keep your wallet/purse safely tucked away!

See yous Jimmy!

See yous Jimmy!

46. The light’s fading quickly now but over the road’s the impressive Scott Monument


The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world

47. Ahead of us now we see Calton Hill, one of the best places to watch a sunrise or sunset over Edinburgh, but it’s too rainy tonight…


…so we turn right, crossing the busy road in front of the hotel to arrive bad at our starting point Waverley Station…



So…that’s it! A tour of central Edinburgh in about 2 hours, but of course you can split it all up & enjoy each section in more detail over a few days. There’s also lots more to do & explore like walking up Arthur’s Seat

It’s a fantastic city so…

Go Walk!



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