The Old Town is one of the greatest tourist attractions of Edinburgh. The streets going down from the Royal Mile and the delightful little courtyards show a great diversity of forms, with their towers, turrets, variously shaped windows, chimneys and railings. I could walk there for hours, admiring all these architectural details. And it is not just the architecture that fascinates the visitors. The buildings of Auld Reekie, as the town was called by those who minded the smell of the gutters, where water, and not only, was thrown directly from the windows, are steeped in history. It was here that numerous men of genius lived: poets, playwrights, historians, philosophers, well-known publishers, next door to people like the respectable Deacon William Brodie, a thief by night and a prototype of R.L.Stevenson's character, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Explore the Closes, which in the past witnessed many human tragedies, visit the Writers' Museum in Lady Stair's Close. Go down into the labyrinth of the underground passageways and vaults to check out the rumours of the apparitions there, like that of 8-year-old Annie, who had been walled in there to die from the plague. Apparently, her spirit still resides there, or so a medium says, and people bring the girl dolls and other toys for her to enjoy. But not all the apparitions seem to be so mild so, rather than explore the passages on your own, you'd better join one of the guided tours, just in case. Or, even better, come to Edinburgh in May for the Edinburgh Ghost Fest, when the underground vaults and passageways are open to the public from midnight till 6 a.m. and famous paranormal investigators host all night vigils, workshops and talks, including recording spirit voices. Wish I could see it too!
Under the City Chambers on the Royal Mile are hidden streets where people lived and worked for centuries. When the Royal Exchange (now the City Chambers) was constructed in 1753, the top floors of the existing buildings were torn down while the lower sections were left standing and used as the foundations for the new Council Chambers. This left a number of dark, mysterious passages largely intact. These underground "closes," originally very narrow walkways with houses on either side, date back centuries and were opened up in 2003 for the first (official) time in 250 years. The During the tour you wander around some of the streets and get a running commentary of what life was like back in the 1700's. In theory people continued to live in these streets even after they were covered in with their exit at the bottom of the hill. These people were in theory plague victims consigned to a life of darkness awaiting their death.
The cost of a tour is £8.00 so not too cheap and a bit of a tourist trap but interesting all the same. The guides dress up for effect!!
I really enjoyed walking around Edinburgh with its beautiful old buildings. There is a free three-hour walking tour every day which covers almost the main sights of the Old City of Edinburgh. The guide is really nice and I got a lot of interesting information from her. The meeting point is in front of the Starbuck cafe on the High Street, see more on the website.
Connecting the Grassmarket with George VI Bridge (and High St) is Victoria St, an unusual two-tiered 'road' built in the 1840s, replacing the original warren of steep alleys and passages. The lower level is shops, bars and restaurants - the upper is a pedestrian thoroughfare, predominantly apartments.
The Heart of Midlothian is located near the entrance to St. Giles cathedral and according to my tour guides and guidebooks, was located at the entrance/exit to the debters prison.
It was customary to spit on the heart as you entered/exited the prison.
It is still a custom to spit on the heart as you walk by it.
I saw many locals doing just that during my walks by it and not wanting to be left out, joined in the spit-fest.
It's all in good fun so hock up your best and let it fly without having to be embarrased about spitting in public.
This curved street leading from the Grassmarket to George IV Bridge has a lot to offer! This is what you should keep an eye for:
The Wee Gift Shop. The whisky shop. The Red Door Gallery. Ian Mellis Cheese Shop (!!!). Odd One Out - cool clothes shop. Long Tall Sally (for tall women). The Christmas Shop. Kool. W K D Ltd. Liquid Room (nightclub). Maison Bleue (outstanding lunch or dinner). Howies (trad scottish food). Espionage (cheesy nightclub). Finnegans Wake (pub). El Mariachi (mexican food).
Situated at the top of the royal mile just below the castle esplanade this visit attraction is one of my favourites. You get great views of edinburgh from the top, a show where you get to look down on different parts of the city and lots of tricks of the eye interactive activities on three levels. I must admit I wasn't sure about going on this trip- I imagined the magic eye pictures that I could never understand as a child-I'm sure people say they can see something of nothing- however the visit was nothing like that and the interactive displays are really good. If you are visiting go and have a look- different points of edinburgh will be pointed out so it's a good first day trip to understand where you still have to visit.
Edinburgh's Old Town, at the foot of the castle, is a rabbit-warren of twisting cobblestone lanes and steps. There are quaint shops and cafes aplenty for exploration. Grassmarket, Victoria Street and Cowgate are some of the more lively streets. Grassmarket has a grim history as the stamping ground of the body-snatchers!
The old medieval part of Edinburgh has a lot of history and is one of those places where you can have a great time just randomly strolling about. There is so MUCH to see. This is the very heart of Scotland.
Take a stroll through Edinburgh's old town, there is a fair amount of interesting architecture. My favourite is the Georgian style tenements. A lot of buildings in the old town were blackened by chimney pot smoke, hence the name Old Reekie, but a lot of buildings have been cleaned & restored to their former glory
Explore the closes and wynds! I'd never seen anything like a "close" in my life and I found them absolutely fascinating. Closes are narrow alleys that lead off the Royal Mile and High Street, through the Grassmarket and Cockburn Street. A "wynde" is an alley that is open at both ends, while a "close" only opens at one and usually leads to a courtyard. The closes were the primary way people in medieval times accessed their apartments and travelled throughout the town. They allowed for maximum density of buildings while also providing quick shortcuts between places (instead of following the streets). It was said that people 10 stories up could reach out their window and shake hands with a neighbour across the alley. These alleys were absolutely filthy; families dumped all their waste into these narrow lanes. These squalid, rat-infested tunnels helped spread the bubonic plague throughout the city in the mid 1600's.
Bonus Tip: Buy a book about Edinburgh ghosts and scare yourself silly ghost-hunting these closes at night. We terrified ourselves doing this! Some good books are available at Witchery Tours, 84 Victoria St. If you take a tour with them, a book is included in the admission.
In most cities a tip about alleyways would be `off the beaten path` but here in Edinburgh the tiny Closes, Wynds and Alleys are an intrinsic part of the Old Town
space was at such a premium that every available square foot was used creating a warren of narrow alleys and walks, many of there are on several levels linked by steps as the demand for space led to building upwards and downwards
as you walk along the Royal Mile take the time to venture sideways into the archways or `pends` and see what was once Edinburghs slums but is now prime real estate
Tron Kirk was built in the 1630s though the spire you see today is not the original, that one was destroyed in 1842 in the Great Fire, and part of the Tron Kirk was demolised in the 1800`s when the South Bridge was built
the Tron Kirk was used for worship untill the 1950s
now it is the Old Town Information centre, inside you will find interesting displays and tourist advice, also a small shop
what looks like construction work inside the building is actually excavations of Marlin`s Wynd, an old alley, and the cobbled street, drains and foundations of the houses and shops show you how tiny the available accommodation was and how closely together the medieval peoples had to live
Edinburgh's Old Town, mostly along the Royal Mile, is littered with these narrow closes and lanes between the old buildings,. This one led from Cockburn Street up to the Royal Mile. They are interesting to explore!
We turned a corner just passed Waverly Station and came across the entrance to the Edinburgh Dungeons. I just had to get a picture of the lovely skeleton gracing the entrance but unfortunately we didn't have time to actually go in - maybe next time!