Old Town and The Royal Mile

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When not visiting Calton Hill or hiking in Holyrood Park, the majority of our time in Edinburgh was spent touring the Old Town district, and more specifically, the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a series of streets that comprise the heart of historic Edinburgh, sloping downward from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. The Mile is lined with gothic seventeenth century buildings, most of which are now occupied by pubs and tourist shops.

Below is a small sampling of some of the sights to be found along the way.

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Edinburgh Castle sits atop the Royal Mile on a prominent bluff of ancient volcanic bedrock. Human activity has been documented on this site dating back to Iron Age inhabitants, and it has been fortified in various renditions and served as a Royal palace since at least the 12th Century.

While we considered a castle tour, unfortunately due to time limitations we decided to save that for another time. I do think it would be very interesting to go back, perhaps this time with some research in advance, and take one of the tours and learn more about the history within these castle walls.

 

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Edinburgh has amazing gothic architecture on display- and even for someone like me who usually doesn’t take interest in that sort of thing, you can’t help but be impressed while walking the length of the Royal Mile. It was in doing so, basically just looking up (possibly with my mouth agape) that this sign caught my eye. I snapped a quick photo because I thought it was interesting, but after a little research it seems quite sinister.

The Witchery itself is a luxury restaurant and I’m not sure if there’s further backstory or what specifically this building served before. However, I later read that in the 15-1600’s, hundreds of alleged “witches” were burnt at the stake in the nearby Edinburgh Castle Courtyard. Notice the torch above the crown…

 

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“The Hub” seen above is one of the most striking features dominating the upper Royal Mile. As I understand it this is a cultural center of sorts, with visitor information and ticket sales, a small event hall, and home of the Edinburgh International Festival.

The building originated as a place of worship for the Church of Scotland and was noted for services performed in both English and Gaelic.

 

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Just down from the Hub is the Ensign Ewart, one of the many historic pubs to be found along the Royal Mile. This one was of special personal interest, however, as it is where my wife Cris worked when she lived in Edinburgh. What I always remember most is how she used to tell me of the apprehension she felt toward going into the buildings cellar. Like its neighboring buildings along the Royal Mile the Ensign Ewart was built atop tenements that once housed victims of the Plague. Ghostly encounters have been reported in many of these buildings, and the Ensign Ewart is widely considered to be among the haunted.

 

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This photo was actually taken just off the Royal Mile, but I found these bright red phone booths (or “phone boxes” as I believe they’re called locally) to be interesting. The color definitely lent itself well against the backdrop on this drizzly day. Red phone boxes were once iconic symbols found across the U.K. but are one of those things that have quickly become obsolete with advances and wide spread adaptation to cell phone technology. Many places, Edinburgh included, are finding new ways to repurpose these booths, such as turning them into shoe shine stations and even community defibrillator sites.

 

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St. Giles Cathedral is a beautifully adorned structure a bit father down the Royal Mile. The oldest part of the building is believed to have been built around 1124 A.D. It his the present home of the Church of Scotland and is sometimes referred to the “Mother Church of Presbyterianism.” Its namesake St. Giles was the Patron Saint of the physically disabled and spent much of his life as a hermit alone in the forest with the sole companionship of a red deer, who legend says he saved from a hunters arrow- being shot himself in the process.

 

That’s all I’ve got for today from the Royal Mile, but check back tomorrow as I share a look and (an attempted) explanation of Edinburgh’s Closes.

 

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