The Royal Mile

The traject connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace is known as the Royal Mile.

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Located in the old part of the city, known as the Old Town, this area is very particular and its stone buildings are a reflection of the Edinburgh of distant times, when the city was surrounded by walls, built to protect its inhabitants from the attacks of the English army.

The oldest of these walls that we can still visit is the King’s Wall, later on, after the Scottish army was lost the battle of Flodden, the Flodden wall was built, this limit lasted for around 250 years. An extension of land was added to the city, surrounded by the Telfer Wall. These two walls can be seen nowadays at the Vennel and at Greyfriars Kirk.

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These walls not only prevented the English from attacking the Borough, they also prevented its citizens and visitors from entering and leaving the city at their will. To be able to cross the gates they had to pay a tax. Some visitors spent their money or were robbed and had to stay, unable to go back to where they belong.

Nowadays you can see brass cobbles marking where were the limit of city, at the corner of High street and St Mary street, just outside the Pub “The World’s End” This name is self explanatory, as you can imagine, it was given by the inhabitants of the city because the world, as they knew it, ended there.

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A growing number of inhabitants within a limited space created a real housing problem. When there was no more land left, the city started to grow up and down, with streets at different levels, wynds, closes, skyscrapers up to a height of 40 meters and even an underground city that will amaze those visiting this city.

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Without a sewer system, the upper classes occupied the buildings that were in the upper levels and the lower classes occupied the lowest ones, where the physiological waste fell to the streets and were washed away by the rain to the north natural limit of the Borough, the North Lake.

The city was organized and citizens were able to throw away their physiological wastes only twice a day, at 10 o’clock in the morning and at 10 o’clock at night. At those moments, people opened their windows shouting, in French “garde l’eau!” or “Beware of the water!” as a warning to prevent, those who were walking in the streets, from being showered by them.

The poorest people in town could get to share their room with up to 24 other tenants.

The upper floors were often wooden, to make it lighter, but even so they frequently collapsed. These wooden constructions, combined with the cauldrons used for heating were the cause of numerous fires in the winter season.

Water was provided to the population by water fountains on the streets, still remaining to these days. There were people who were hired to bring buckets with water to the apartments on the upper levels of those buildings.

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The narrow alleys leading to dwellings, are what is known with the name of “Close”. Those wide enough to allow the passage of a horse or a cart are known as “Wynds”.

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Some of the attractions to visit on the Royal Mile are: Edinburgh Castle, the Camera Obscura, The Royal Mary King’s close, the Children’s Museum, the Writers Museum, People’s Story, St Giles Cathedral, Mercat Cross, the heart of Midlothian, John Knox House, the Canongate Kirk, the Old Moray House, Wynds and Closes are not only beautiful and mysterious but they were also the home of many famous and prestigious people, such as Adam Smith, for example. You can even visit the Dunbar’s Close Garden, Pubs, Restaurants, Coffee places, Gems and stones shops, Souvenirs shops, the Parliament and the Palace of Holyrood.

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For those looking for a free walking guided tour, at the Royal Mile, near the junction with South Bridge and North Bridge, you will find different posters advertising them. Those are not mere advertisements but they are are also the meeting point for the tours, at the time indicated in there.
With so much to see, I suggest you to carefully plan your journey in advance and select what and when to visit.

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