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Edinburgh's busiest and most important street

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High Street
In this city full of historic sights, two buildings in particular are accepted as the most important. The first is Edinburgh Castle, which has been protecting the city since medieval times. The second is Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. Connecting these two landmarks is a single, straight road, running east to west in the heart of the city. It's called the Royal Mile, and it's probably the busiest place in the country.
With a name like that, you'd expect the street to be a mile long. In a way, this is both true and false. The distance is exactly one "Scots mile", which is around a tenth longer than the normal measurement. Please remember though, that the scots mile has been out of use for many centuries! The country's distances and speed limits all use the standard figure of 1760 yards.
There's no need to worry too much about how the Royal Mile got its name, since that isn't its official title anyway. The boulevard is technically made up of several different streets, each with their own name and their own attractions. The first is Castlehill, leading down from Edinburgh's famous fortress. At the top is a large, open courtyard called the Castle Esplanade. This is the venue for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the army's annual display of music and marching.

The Castle Esplanade
Photo Ipoh
Just along from here is the city centre's tallest building. Nowadays it's known as The Hub, but it used to be a church called Victoria Hall. On several occasions the building has hosted the Scottish Parliament, but it's presently occupied by the organisers of the Edinburgh Festival.

The Hub
Photo the quad laser
Past here, Castlehill turns into a street called Lawnmarket. Despite the name, this area used to sell linen, rather than grass. It's now crammed full of modern shops stocking just about everything. The olden days aren't completely gone though. The National Trust for Scotland managed to preserve a high-rise merchant's building called Gladstone's Land, where you can learn about 16th century life.

Vintage Bus Tours, starting from Lawnmarket
Photo Ingy The Wingy
There's much more retail and commerce in the Royal Mile's next section. This is the High Street, which never fails to be crammed full of eager shoppers and lively street performers. This part of the Mile is also home to Edinburgh's criminal and civil courts. The latter is housed within Parliament House, an elegant 17th century structure with stone pillars and arches. Just next door is St. Giles Cathedral, a major part of the city skyline. It has been a place of worship for at least 900 years.

St Giles Cathedral
Photo Nigel's Europe
The High Street takes up a large chunk of the Royal Mile, but it eventually gives way, and turns into Canongate. Here you'll find the Museum of Edinburgh, where you can relive the city's long history. Across the road is another exhibition called "The People's Story", which looks at the residents of Edinburgh through the ages. It's housed within the Tollbooth, an old tax house with a distinctive clock face.

High Street
Photo timo_w2s
At the end of Canongate are the extremely modern buildings of the Scottish Parliament. The government has moved between several locations on the Royal Mile, but they seem well settled here now. The complex was opened in 2004 by Her Majesty the Queen.

Inside the Scottish Parliament building
Photo andrew_j_w
After she'd finished the ceremony, Elizabeth didn't have a long journey home. Holyrood Palace, her residence in Edinburgh, is only a stone's throw away. This marks the end of the Royal Mile. It's just one street, but there are probably more important buildings here than in the rest of Scotland put together.
Visitor Information
Gladstone’s Land is open April to October, from 10am to 5pm (6:30pm in high Summer). Entry costs around £5:50 for adults, family £15. 447b Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT. Tel: 0844 493 2120
The Museum Of Edinburgh is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm (also limited hours on Sundays during Festival). Entry is FREE. Huntley House, 142 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DD. Tel: 0131 529 4143
The People’s Story is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm (also limited hours on Sundays during Festival). Entry is FREE. Canongate Tolbooth, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8BN. Tel: 0131 529 4057

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