Unless you want something typical Scottish to eat and pay for it don't eat at the restaurants on the Royal Mile. They are very expensive and if you never had any Scottish food before and are not sure, this is not the place to try it.
For all its beauty and history, getting up and down the Royal Mile can be a royal pain. During the summer months it is overcome by tourists, tour groups and locals, taking a lot away from the experience itself.
Unique Suggestions: As always, go early. I would say go late here too, but i imagine its just as bad at night time.
Fun Alternatives: Edinburgh is pretty big, and the Royal Mile, even though its wonderful, isn't the only thing to see in the city... The Old town is just ont he other side of the castle, and is also amazing
Supply and demand.
So, it seems in Edinburgh there is a demand for fake ginger hair and tartan, child-like bagpies and hidious imitation kilts.
Edinburgh has its own version of the "bucket and spade", the "kiss me quick hat" gimmicks of a joke shop or seaside stall. the cheap and nasty souvenires.
I guess I just feel sad that these shops are so garish and prominent on the beautiful Royal Mile. It seems most incongruous to have these shops amongst the cobbled streets, ancient stone buildings and shoe worn alleyways. It cheapens it and turns it into a "tourist street", and all that means.
Unique Suggestions: Still, there is so much else to catch your eye, and many people bussling and browsing, that you'll possibly not notice.
Fun Alternatives: Think "quality" before you buy.
Now dont' get me wrong. The Royal Mile is very interesting with lots of narrow "wynds" and alleys to explore and lots of shops and a few museums. But buying souvenirs in the shops might be a bit more expensive than you planned as it is in most tourist centers. Compare prices carefully. Lots of the shops have a lot of the same merchandise.
There's also Deacon Brodie's cafe. We had lunch in there and the staff were a bit brusque and not very friendly at all. Yes it was busy at lunchtime but they could have been a bit nicer. You felt rushed as well. Guess we would have been better off finding a place to rest our feet off the Royal mile over in the grassmarket or the student areas.
Unique Suggestions: Compare prices carefully before you buy.
Fun Alternatives: Try off the main roads, over by the university or out in Leith. Most of the city center is pretty touristy and Prince's Street is a fairly upper shelf shopping street as well.