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Destinations , Hidden Gems , Scotland , Things to do · April 5, 2024

The 10 Best Walking Tours & Unique Experiences in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is an historic city with a medieval-fairytale magic to it. When walking around, it’s hard to not think about Edinburgh’s many tales, history, and the Harry Potter inspiration. Due to this, Scotland is home to several amazing, and unique experiences and guided tours. Here is a concise and professionally-curated list of the best Edinburgh walking tours and unique experiences – so you can easily pick the right one for you!

Disclaimer : This post has affiliate links that can help me earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. If you click through and buy with these links, thank you in advance for the extra support .💖😊

10 Best Guided Tours and Unique Experiences in Edinburgh. Discover the BEST Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour

Table of Contents

The 5 Best Edinburgh Walking Tours

1. old town walking tour history and tales in edinburgh.

  • Price: 16.61 euros/per person
  • Duration: 2 Hours
  • Cancellation Policy: Free cancellation. Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.
  • Language:  English

Are you looking for a traditional walking tour that brings you throughout all of Edinburgh and it’s historic sites? Then this is the perfect walking tour for you!

What’s amazing about going on a guided walking tour is that you can let yourself focus on appreciating the city, while the local guide brings you the must-sees and tells you all about the city and its history. Even better, during this tour you will learn about the hidden gems that local’s love!

During this tour you will visit important places such as St. Gile’s Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Mercat Cross and more!

Book your tickets today for this beloved walking tour!👇

2. Original Harry Potter Locations Tour in Edinburgh

  • Price: 18.99 euros/per person
  • Language:  English, French, German, Spanish

Attention Potter Heads, or Harry Potter appreciators… did you know that J.K. Rowling took endless inspiration for Harry Potter from Edinburgh ? And that this is where the real Tom Riddle tomb lays?👀 If you didn’t know before, know you do!🥳

During this 2-hour tour , you will walk the street that inspired Diagon Alley, walk the Royal mile, visit Tom Riddle’s grave, and more. You will also learn about J.K. Rowling, participate in Harry Potter trivia, and so forth.

Something that’s important to note is that Harry Potter was never filmed in Edinburgh. The locations you visit during this tour served as the INSPIRATION.

This is one of THE most popular tours in Edinburgh, so make sure to get your tickets in advance!👇

3. Comedy Walking Tour with Professional Comedian

  • Price: 25.66 euros/per person
  • Bonus : Wheelchair accessible

Worried about going on a walking tour that turns out to be a bore? Then this is the perfect walking tour for you!

Led by a professional stand-up comedian , this 2 hour long walking tour is bound to be nothing short of memorable and full of laughter. The comedic guide, who’s a local, will tell you all about Edinburgh’s history and historic sites, while keeping things upbeat with standup comedy. How great is that?

Along with Edinburgh’s history, you will learn about the Scottish language and cultural curiosities . Something that is important to note is that the guide has a thick Scottish accent, and will be sharing adult humor. Due to this, it’s best to attend this tour if you’re fluent in English, and the tour is not recommended for children under 16 years old.

This incredible guided tour is likely to sell out, so make sure to save your spot ASAP !👇

4. The Dark Side Walking Tour

  • Price: 17.50 euros/per person
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours
  • Bonus: Wheelchair accessible

Welcome to the dark side… muahaha.

Are you someone who’s into gruesome graveyards, narrow alleyways, and spooky tales? Than this is the perfect tour for you .

This ghost-themed walking tour will bring you around Edinburgh, and to the Canongate Kirkyard and mausoleums. During this tour, the guide will tell you about Burke and Hare, unsettling tales of witch trials and burnings, and the truth about Mary Queen of Scots’ lover’s murder. Not “spooky enough”? Just wait until you hear the stories of the real-life cannibals and vampires!

Book your tickets today for this highly-rated, spooky walking tour !🧛⚰️🪄

5. 3-Hour Guided Secret Food Tour

  • Price: 80.49 euros/per person
  • Duration: 3.5 Hours

What better way to dive deeper into Edinburgh’s culture than with a secret food tour ?

This 3.5 hour-long guided tour will bring you through out Edinburgh and stop at 5 different places. During this tour you will learn about Edinburgh’s thriving culinary scene, the food’s history, as well as try delicious local foods.

The tour starts off with the one and only Haggis, Scotland’s national dish – something you simply cannot miss out on. After that you’ll enjoy foods and drinks such as lowland single malt, creamy cheese, and traditional afternoon tea with Scottish cakes. The tour will end with a delicious secret dish.👀

This guided tour is perfect for foodies and people who enjoy trying local cuisine. Food is an important aspect of culture and heritage, so this is a perfect way to dive deeper into the city. In addition to learning about food, the guide will also share both interesting and historic facts regarding Edinburgh and Scotland.

Book your tickets today , and get ready to feast!😋👇

The 5 Best Unique Experiences in Edinburgh, Scotland

1. edinburgh castle: guided tour with live guide.

  • Price: 39.08 euros/per person

One of the must-dos when in Edinburgh is visiting the mesmerizing Edinburgh Castle. Sitting on top of the Castle Hill, this 12th century castle gives the ultimate medieval-fairytale enchantment. This engaging guided tour through the castle will help you dive deeper into the 3,000 year old history of the castle, and the significant role it played in forming Scotland.

The guide will bring to the most important sights within the complex, as well as share the castle’s hidden histories. With this tour you have full access to the castle, and will have time to roam around at your leisure. The guided tour does not bring you through the castle museums, but you can access those after the tour.

Out of all the Edinburgh Castle guided tours, this is the best one ! Make sure to book your tickets today to not miss out!👇

1. The Scotch Whisky Experience Tour and Tasting

  • Price: 26.83 euros/per person
  • Duration: 50 to 75 minutes
  • Audio guide included with many different languages.

When in Scotland, do as the Scotts do… drink Scotch Whisky!

Scotch Whisky is Scotland’s national drink, and is a drink rich in cultural heritage. Scotch Whisky the Experience is home to one of the world’s largest collections of whisky. This is a fun, interactive, and and educationa l experience that teaches you all about the origins, art of making whisky, maturation, and so much more.

Whether you drink or not, this is a great opportunity to dive deeper into Scotland’s cultural heritage and learn about it’s beloved national drink. If you don’t drink, go for the Silver Tour Experience – this tour introduces you to the world of whisky and offers you a soft drink (unless you want one whisky tasting). If you’re with kids (children under 18), this is also a suitable tour for them!

For those who are 18+ and want four additional single malt whiskies to try, then the Gold Tour Experience is perfect for you! The Scotch Whisky the Experience also offers other elevated tours , which you can find on their website .

For the Silver or Gold Tour Experience, book your tickets here !👇 You can book as early as 3 months.

3. Underground Vaults Tour

  • Price: 23.33 euros/per person
  • Duration: 1 Hour

Edinburgh, particularly it’s Old Town area, is a city that gives a darker, medieval-fairytale vibe. In other words, it’s a magical city with a different and unique charm to it. Alongside history, Edinburgh is rich in tales, which range from stories about witches to murders, ghosts, and even dragons!

This beloved tour will bring you through the South Bridge underground vaults, which are under the Old Town. These vaults date back to the 18th century, and are often considered to be haunted. Apparently, on Most Haunted Live, these vaults are mentioned as one of the scariest places on earth…👀

During this tour you will learn about the darker side of Edinburgh’s history , teach you how the vaults were used, living conditions of the residents, haunting spirits, and more. With the underground area being candle-lit, get ready for some spooky vibes!

There are two types of tickets , one that includes the Torture exhibition, and one that doesn’t. Make sure to select the correct ticket you want!

This is a very popular and beloved tour , so make sure to book your tickets in advance! Smoothly book your tickets here!👇

4. The Johnnie Walker Whisky Experience

  • Price: 35 euros/per person
  • Cancellation Policy: Free cancellation. Cancel up to 2 days in advance for a full refund.
  • Bonus: Wheelchair Accessible

Whether you are a whisky fan, or want to be introduced to whisky, this Johnnie Walker whisky experience could be perfect for you !

Johnnie Walker is a beloved Scottish whisky brand from 1820. The Johnnie Walker experience is an immersive attraction located on the beautiful Princes Street, where you can enjoy live performances, experience interactive projections, and 3 personalized cocktails.

During this guided tour experience , you will learn about Johnnie Walker, how Scotch whisky is made, and take a flavor quiz. Through the flavor quiz you’ll find your perfect whisk, and receive 3 personalized cocktails to enjoy. How great is that?🤩

Can’t drink alcohol but don’t want to miss out on the experience ? There are non-alcoholic options for you to enjoy!

Would you prefer storytelling and history over live performances? Then check out this other, amazing experience !

5. From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour – #1 Selling Day Trip

  • Price: 83.99 euros/per person
  • Duration: 12.5 Hours (Day Trip)

Looking for a memorable day trip from Edinburgh? Then this #1 Selling Day Trip is perfect for you!

Navigating on a luxury modern air-conditioned coach, you will embark on an eco-certified day trip to the Highland’s main sites. During this trip, you will learn about Scottish traditions and legends, and explore the breathtaking nature. And the (personally) best part? You’ll get to meet the iconic Scottish Highland cows!!

It’s important to note that this is somewhat of a cross-country tour, so a big chunk of the trip will be spent on the coach.

This is the #1 Selling Day Trip , so make sure to book your tickets ASAP !

If you don’t care for the Highland Cows, this is another phenomenal guided day trip ! During this experience, you will get to explore Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, and follow both Harry Potter and James Bond’s footsteps at Glencoe and Rannoch Moore. You will also see the British Isle’s highest mountain and listen to stories of Scottish heroes.

This highly-rated day trip tour is likely to sell out, as it’s the second most popular tour. Make sure to book in advance !👇

Common Questions regarding Edinburgh Tours

Can you do a day trip to the highlands from edinburgh.

You most definitely can! There are several day trips you can take to the highlands. Here are the best ones!

How many days are enough to visit Edinburgh?

2 to 3 days is the recommended amount of days to visit Edinburgh. 2 to 3 days in Edinburgh is enough to see the Old Town, New Town, and even squeeze in a hidden gem of a neighborhood.

If you’re planning to take a day trip from Edinburgh, then I recommend staying at least 4 days, so you still have the 2 to 3 full days in Edinburgh!

What’s the best way to explore Edinburgh?

There are two best ways to explore Edinburgh, and I recommend a mix of the two:

  • Let yourself wander aimlessly and get lost.
  • Go on a guided tour, or attend an experience, that allows you to learn more about Edinburgh from a local.

As an additional note, Edinburgh is an incredibly walkable city – and you can truly walk everywhere! Due to this, if weather permits, walk as much as you can and as you do so – look around yourself.

Not to get extremely deep, but it’s very common for people to focus on the destination and not on the journey. When in Edinburgh, enjoy the journey and take in all the beauty you encounter as you’re approaching the destination. (This is a good life lesson too).

Where to stay in Edinburgh?

If you’re staying for only a few days, the best areas to stay in Edinburgh are the Old Town and New Town – which are right next to each other.

Old Town is the perfect pick if you want to be in the most central and historic area – even though it may be more expensive and touristy. New Town is perfect if you still want to be very central but want a more affordable, and less touristy, option.

However, if you’re staying for a longer period of time, you should consider the Stockbridge neighborhood. This hidden gem is less touristy and has a unique look. This is perfect if you want to dive deeper into Edinburgh’s local life!

Start saving your ideas

More Information on Edinburgh, Scotland

Here are some additional Edinburgh blog posts to help you out with your upcoming travels!👇

  • How to Spend One Day in Edinburgh
  • 2 Days in Edinburgh: The Ultimate Itinerary For New Visitors
  • Climbing Arthur’s Seat: Everything You Need to Know
  • The 13 Best Gluten Free Restaurants in Edinburgh
  • Where to Eat the Best Gluten Free Haggis in Edinburgh

Want more help with your travels? Check out my services!

One of the main reasons I became I travel blogger is my love and passion for helping others experience the best of their destination. I offer three services on Thatch:  Customized Itineraries ,  Customized Recommendations , and  Consultation Calls .

If you want extra help on your Edinburgh travels, check out  my Thatch page  and book my services!

📌 Pin this for your Future Edinburgh Travels!👇

I have to ask…

Which of these best guided tours and unique experiences in Edinburgh will you be booking? Let me know in the comments!😊

Share this with family & friends who are planning to travel to Scotland and would find this helpful.🤩

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Self-Guided Edinburgh Walking Tour

walking tours in edinburgh

This post is a free, self-guided tour of Edinburgh, along with a map and route, put together by local tour guides for Free Tours by Foot.  

You can expect to walk nearly 2 miles or just over 3.2 kilometres.

Below is the abridged version. You can get the full version with directions by downloading this map, PDF version , or downloading our audio tour (see below).

Edinburgh Walking Tour Map

Click the map to enlarge it or to download it to your smartphone.

GPS-Enabled Audio Tour

We also offer an audio tour of historic Edinburgh, researched, written, and recorded by one of our own tour guides.

Here’s a sample.

Purchase our Audio Tour of Edinburgh

Additionally, you can also take free guided walking tours that run multiple times each day. These tours are in reality pay-what-you-wish tours.

Edinburgh is one of the most historic cities in Scotland and the entire United Kingdom.

In addition to its medieval history, this city’s history of education and learning has also affected our modern lives.

Whether it be the contributions that Adam Smith made to our modern understanding of a free market economy or the inspiration pulled from Edinburgh for the Harry Potter series, the people and the atmosphere of this city have contributed to the world in many important ways.

This tour will lead you through some of the most influential and popular landmarks in Edinburgh with plenty of sightseeing on the way.

In addition to historic sites, I’ll also point out some options for food, museums, art, and other ways to make the most of your time in Edinburgh.

This tour will begin at Edinburgh Castle and continue downhill, mostly following the Royal Mile, with a few turns onto other streets.

Once you’ve made your way to the castle gates, you’ll be ready to begin this tour.

Edinburgh Castle

This is the most historically significant landmark in all of Edinburgh, and there have been people living in the area since around the second century CE.

Edinburgh Castle

The castle itself became a royal residence in 1124, and it has been through a total of 26 sieges throughout its history.

This makes Edinburgh Castle the most besieged location in Scotland and one of the most attacked structures in the whole world.

This is the home of the Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels. Entry is ticketed, and you can visit every day of the year.

The Castle is open from 9:30 am - 18:00 (6 pm) daily from April - September and from 9:30 am - 17:00 (5 pm) daily from October - March.

Tickets are £17.50 for Adults, £14 for Seniors and Unemployed, and £10.50 for Children. Visit the website .

Kids under 5 get in for free with an Adult. Alternatively, you can save money on tickets using either the Edinburgh Explorer Pass or the Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

We also offer a 25-stop audio tour of historic Edinburgh, researched, written, and recorded by one of our own tour guides, that you could take whenever you wish.

  • Purchase an audio tour (£2.30)
  • Get a confirmation email with .mp3, pdf, and embeddable Google Map
  • Enjoy the tour(s).

Edinburgh Castle Map

The Witches’ Well

This monument was erected in memory of the more than 4,000 alleged witches who were burned at the stake in front of Edinburgh Castle from the 15th - 18th century.

The Witches Well

The plaque features symbolic imagery including a foxglove plant which represents the use of herbal medicine, two heads representing evil and good, and a snake that is representative of both treachery and wisdom.

Many in Edinburgh would like to see an even better memorial, as this one is fairly small and has fallen into disrepair.

Castlehill Attractions

Castlehill is filled with notable attractions, but there are three, in particular, you may want to visit:

  • The Scotch Whiskey Experience
  • The Witchery
  • Camera Obscura & The World of Illusions

The Scotch Whiskey Experience has one of the largest collections of Scotch Whiskey in the world, and it also has a ride that allows you to experience how this drink is made.

Scotch Whiskey Experience

The Witchery is an interesting restaurant with 9 theatrical suites that are designed to look medieval. Although prices are high, this is a very popular location for tourists.

Camera Obscura & The World of Illusions is a family-friendly attraction with multiple interactive exhibitions.

It's also home to the Camera Obscura, which reportedly projected moving images 40 years before the motion picture was invented.

Princes Street Gardens & Museums

These beautiful gardens are located right alongside Edinburgh Castle, and there are a lot of great monuments to see in the area.

This is also the location where several local events and festivals take place every year.

Princes Street Gardens

Located across from the Prince Street Gardens, the Scottish National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy are both beautiful art museums which you can visit for free.

The Scottish National Gallery is especially worthy of a visit because it houses works by Raphael, Claude Monet, and Paul Gauguin.

walking tours in edinburgh

Museum on the Mound

This is the Head Office of the Bank of Scotland, and it was originally built in 1806.

Although it’s still used by the bank, there is also an interesting museum inside which is free to visit.

Museum on the Mound

The museum focuses on the history of economics in Edinburgh, as well as the money and coinage used in the city over many centuries.

One of the most interesting exhibits is a £1 million note from the Bank of England.

The Museum on the Mound is open from Tuesday - Friday from 10 am - 17:00 (5 pm).

It’s also open on Saturdays and Bank Holiday Mondays from 13:00 (1 pm) to 17:00 (5 pm), and admission is free.

The Writer’s Museum

Housed in a historic building known as Lady Stair’s Close, this museum is dedicated to the lives and works of 3 well-known and beloved Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Burns is known for poems like Halloween and Auld Lang Syne .

Sir Walter Scott is known for the poem The Lady of the Lake and novels like Rob Roy and Ivanhoe .

The Writer's Museum Edinburgh

Robert Louis Stevenson is known for novels like Treasure Island and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde .

The collection on display here includes portraits, written works, and personal objects owned by the three writers. Admission is free and the museum is open daily.

The Writer’s Museum is open daily from 10 am - 17:00 (5 pm) and admission is free.

Gladstone’s Land

This 17th-century tenement house is one of the oldest buildings on the Royal Mile.

And it has been restored to remain faithful to its roots so that visitors can experience what life was like hundreds of years ago.

Gladstone’s Land

Although admission isn’t free, it is fairly affordable and open daily throughout most of the year.

Check out the official website for more information.

High Court of Justiciary

This is the supreme criminal court of Scotland, and even to this day, they hear cases of both criminal trials and appeals.

One of the most interesting things to see here is the statue of David Hume, a philosopher who once coined the phrase “reason is the slave of the passions.”

David Hume Statue

Hume was inspired by the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and John Locke, and he saw philosophy as something that could be scientifically tested and experimented.

Hume inspired many notable figures, including people like Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin.

The Heart of Midlothian Mosaic

This used to be the site of the Old Tolbooth, an administrative building that was also used as a prison and a site of public executions.

Heart of Midlothian Mosaic

The mosaic that exists here now is named after the Midlothian county, of which Edinburgh was the county town.

It memorializes the location of the jail, and there is an odd tradition of spitting on it for good luck. 

While there’s no law against doing this yourself, it’s certainly not the most delightful of customs.

St. Giles’ Cathedral

Although it was founded in the 12th century, this church became an important historical location in the 16th century during the period of the Reformation.

John Knox served as a minister when St. Giles’ became a protestant church in 1559, and he brought the language of the bible to everyday Scots, making it more accessible to the common man.

St. Giles’ Cathedral

Although St. Giles was granted cathedral status from 1661-1689, it has been a Presbyterian church since then and is no longer technically a cathedral, but it’s still colloquially known by that name.

The most recent addition is the Thistle Chapel, built in 1909.

This chapel is fairly important, as it is the site of the ceremony where the Queen selects new members of The Order of the Thistle every other year.

The Real Mary King’s Close

This close was a pretty important location during the 17th-century, and it was the site where George Rae once treated victims of the plague using the suit that has since become known as the “plague doctor” attire.

The Real Mary King’s Close

Although parts of the close were demolished and buried during the 18th century, you can now visit daily and tour the close for yourself to see and learn about the area.

Many hauntings have been reported at Mary King’s Close over the years, and as a result, it has become a subject of fascination for believers of the supernatural.

Nowadays, you can get a fully guided tour of the close which is offered daily from 9:30 - 18:00 every 15 minutes.

Tickets are £17.95 for adults.

Adam Smith Statue

Built in 2008, this is the newest statue on the Royal Mile, and it depicts one of the most important Scottish figures in the history of the country.

Adam Smith Statue

Adam Smith is well known as one of the fathers of modern free trade economics, and he’s also the author of The Wealth of Nations, which would quickly become influential in American politics.

American founding fathers James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson all spoke very highly of Adam Smith’s ideas.

And it’s clear to see that his economic concepts were important both here in Scotland and in other parts of the world as well.

Mercat Cross

This was once the site where civic proclamations were publicly read to citizens by a town crier, and it was also used for many punishments including hangings and other public executions.

Mercat Cross, Edinburgh

Although the original cross dates back to 1365, it has been damaged and altered multiple times over the years.

Today, a royal unicorn sits at the top with a Scottish flag beside it.

The Mercat Cross is lined with the royal arms of Britain, Scotland, England, Ireland, Edinburgh, Leith, the Canongate, and the University of Edinburgh.

Statue of James Braidwood

Although this figure may not appear familiar, he was actually a pretty important person in the history of Edinburgh and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Statue of James Braidwood

James Braidwood not only founded the first fire service in the city, but he was also the first director of the London Fire Engine Establishment which would come to be known as the London Fire Brigade.

Braidwood is credited with developing modern fire fighting principles that are still in use today.

And he was recognized for acts of heroism during the great fires of Edinburgh in 1824 and London in 1830.

Parliament Square and Old Scottish Parliament

Located behind St. Giles Cathedral, this public square was formed in front of the Parliament House in 1632.

Old Parliament House

An equestrian statue of Charles II of Scotland stands at the entrance to the Old Supreme Courts of Scotland which is next to the Parliament House on the right.

The Parliament House would only be in use from 1639 - 1707 when it was dissolved as a result of the Acts of Union.

The Acts of Union led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Edinburgh City Chambers

As you come out from behind St. Giles’ Cathedral, you’ll see the memorial to the 5th Duke of Buccleuch ahead of you and the Edinburgh City Chambers on the left.

This is the meeting place of the City of Edinburgh Council, and these chambers have existed under one name or another since 1753.

Edinburgh City Chambers

The building here was originally designed to be the Royal Exchange, which led to the partial demolition and burying of Mary King’s Close, as we discussed earlier.

The Royal Exchange was never very popular among merchants, so the Town Council eventually took over the Northern part of the building and used it as the City Chambers starting in 1811.

By 1893, they had taken over the whole building, and it remained home to the city’s council of state for most of the years since.

Its other most important function was as a filming location for the movie Braveheart.

You can also find plaques on the ground with handprints of famous Scots, including J.K. Rowling. This is also a stop on our self-guided Harry Potter Tour .

The National Library of Scotland

Although it was initially opened in 1689, this library would not officially become the property of the nation until the 1920s, at which time it became the National Library of Scotland.

The National Library of Scotland

There are more than 26 million items of historic relevance here, and it’s also the home of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive which has over 46,000 videos and films.

Items of note in the library include a letter from Charles Darwin, a Gutenberg Bible, the First Folio of Shakespeare, and more.

Edinburgh Central Library

This was the first public library in Edinburgh, and it was initially built and opened in 1890 with the help of funding from Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy Scottish-American industrialist turned philanthropist.

Edinburgh Central Library

Upon Carnegie’s insistence, the motto “Let There Be Light” was placed above the entrance.

Above the inner doorway, you’ll find the lintel from the home of Sir Thomas Hope, the owner of the home that was once located on this site before the library was constructed.

The Elephant House

Even though this cafe isn’t particularly old, it has still become a quite notable location in Edinburgh thanks to the famous people who have visited.

Elephant House

Perhaps most notably, JK Rowling is said to have worked on her first Harry Potter novel right here at the Elephant House, and you’ll see all kinds of signs that have been left there by fans.

Authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith also frequented the Elephant House, which makes this a popular stop for budding writers and fans of their work.

National Museum of Scotland

This is a relatively new museum just East of the Greyfriars Kirkyard which combines both the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Museum.

While the building of the Museum of Scotland opened in 1998, the connected Royal Scottish Museum building opened all the way back in 1866, which is why the museum includes such different architectural styles.

The focus of this museum is the achievements of Scotland and its inhabitants, including examples of art, science, technology, and historical artifacts.

Exhibits include Dolly the sheep -- the first successfully cloned mammal, one of Elton John’s suits, a kinetic sculpture known as the Millennium Clock, and many more.

Admission is free and they are open daily from 10:30 - 16:30 (4:30 pm). Advanced online booking is required.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Although this graveyard dates back to 1562, it has more recently become known as one of the locations where JK Rowling may have gotten a few ideas for the names of her characters.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This is also the location where the dog that would come to be known as the Greyfriars Bobby would stay by the gravestone of his deceased owner for 14 years until he also passed away.

Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter, loyal dogs, or historic headstones, there’s plenty to see and experience at Greyfriars Kirkyard and it’s open from Monday - Friday.

Admission is ticketed , but it is very affordable.

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walking tours in edinburgh

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11 Best Edinburgh Walking Tours Worth Your Money (ranked!)

This post contains affiliate links for which I may make a small commission to help keep the site running. You will not be charged extra for these items had you not clicked the links. Thank you for your help to keep the site running!

There’s so much to see in the heart of Edinburgh…where do you even begin?

As a city so rich with history and attractions, it’s easy to miss some of the most impressive details of Edinburgh.

One great way to ensure that you don’t miss out is to take a walking tour of Edinburgh!

These walking tours of Edinburgh will give you an up-close look at the city’s breathtaking architecture, and enlighten you on its history!

walking tours in edinburgh

⏳ Don’t have time to read the whole list?

The best Edinburgh walking tour is this Edinburgh darkside tour with mysteries and legends!

Click here to check prices and availability.

Whether you’re here for lighthearted fun, gruesome details, or a more classical history lesson, these tours will have you coming away with a breadth of knowledge you’ll be eager to pass on to your friends and family!

Not that interested in history?

Get to know Edinburgh from another perspective: dance your way through the city, instead!

With all the unique walking tours of Edinburgh to choose from, you’ll have no problem finding the perfect option to enhance your trip to Dùn Èideann , including Harry Potter walking tours Edinburgh, Edinburgh Old Town walking tours, and the best Edinburgh walking tours.

Which of these highly-rated tours is the best one for you?

Hey! Want more honest UK tips and planning advice? Click here to join my London and UK Travel Tips Facebook group , where I can answer more of your questions!

Easy Guide: Best Edinburgh Walking Tours

1. edinburgh darkside walking tour: mysteries, murder and legends.

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 2,800+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  2 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THIS TOUR

  • Visit and learn the gruesome history of Calton Hill
  • Visit one of the city’s famous cemeteries
  • Learn the eerie side of the history of Edinburgh
  • Enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city from Calton Hill

Embark on an eerie evening tour of Edinburgh’s dark side with this popular walking tour !

Tales of murder, monsters, witch trials, cannibals, and other spooky subjects will send a shiver down your spine as you follow your guide around Old Town.

You’ll climb to the top of Calton Hill , taking in the sights as your guide tells of the gruesome witch trials that were once held there. 

Snap a few photos of the evening skyline, then head back down and explore one of Edinburgh’s most famous cemeteries on this walking tour Edinburgh.

You’ll visit either the Canongate Kirkyard cemetery (dating all the way back to the 17th century!) or the Old Calton Burial Ground (the final resting place of famed philosopher David Hume).

Creep through the graveyard as your guide shares haunting tales of murder, body-snatching, and even Hume’s rumoured deal with the Devil himself!

The tour concludes outside a local pub , where you might want to head inside for a drink to soothe your nerves after this haunting tour!

2. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle Guided Tour w/ Fast-Track Entry

⭐️  RATING:  4.8 out of 5 Stars, 2,100+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  1.5 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

  • Entry to Edinburgh Castle
  • Skip the line to get into the castle
  • Entry to castle dungeons
  • Knowledgeable tour guide on this walking tour of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is a sight to behold, but sometimes, just looking isn’t enough!

If you want to go beyond snapping a few photos, why not take a guided walking tour of the castle and go a little deeper?

This tour includes an entry to the castle , and even allows you to skip the line – no more waiting with all the other tourists!

You’ll meet your guide outside the nearby Caffé Nero, then enjoy a short walk down the Royal Mile toward the castle .

Once inside, you’ll learn all about the iconic Edinburgh attraction, with your knowledgeable guide covering 3,000 years of its history.

Beyond the main buildings, you’ll also get to see the castle dungeons and military prison, learn the dark tale of the Black Dinner, visit St Margaret’s Chapel, and more!

After the tour, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the castle museums at your own pace.

3. Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh

⭐️  RATING:  4.5 out of 5 Stars, 3,200+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  1 hour | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

  • Entry to ancient underground vaults
  • Entry to a secret witchcraft temple
  • Information about 18th-century city life
  • Many unique photo opportunities

Discover an often missed part of Edinburgh on this eerie walking tour !

Follow a knowledgeable tour guide through the secret passageways beneath the city, where you’ll learn the history of these fascinating vaults and the people who found shelter within them.

You’ll be intrigued (and maybe a bit creeped out!) by the dark halls that await you underground – not to mention the ancient temple that was once used by Scotland’s devoted witches!

This tour isn’t for the faint of heart.

The bravest in your travel party will have the chance to step inside an old (possibly haunted!) stone circle – if they dare!

You’ll be encouraged to take plenty of photographs during the tour, which you’ll be anxious to show off to friends as proof of a truly unique experience.

Please note that this tour is not wheelchair accessible, and requires the ability to navigate tall steps and a spiral staircase.

4. Walking Tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town – History and Tales

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 900+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  2 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

Edinburgh historic building with blue sky and autumn-leafed tree

  • Passionate local guide
  • Unique route through Old Town
  • Convenient location near public transportation
  • Easy-to-find meeting point

Follow a passionate guide around Edinburgh’s Old Town on this fun walking tour!

Leave the map behind and instead let a local lead you around these UNESCO-listed sites.

You’ll meet your guide on High Street, right across from the iconic St Giles’ Cathedral.

From there, you’ll embark on a 2-hour walking tour down the beautifully cobbled streets, learning the history of the area as you go.

You’ll want to have your camera out and ready to save all the stunning sights you’ll encounter along the way!

You’ll see (and learn about) the cathedral, the exterior of Edinburgh Castle , the Mercat Cross, the historic George Heriot’s School , Greyfriars Kirk and graveyard, and more!

Looking for kid-friendly tours of Edinburgh?

This tour is stroller accessible, and young ones will enjoy taking in the sights while the adults soak up the fascinating history.

5. Royal Mile Guided Walking Tour in Edinburgh : best Edinburgh walking tours

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 800+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  3 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

Scottish Natinal Gallery in Edinburgh. Old building with stone pillars and blue sky.

  • Comfortably small group (12 max)
  • Learn about the famed writers and inventors of Edinburgh
  • Plenty of time to stop for photos
  • Free for children 12 and under

Poetry and history enthusiasts alike will enjoy this educational yet leisurely 3-hour tour of the Royal Mile!

You’ll meet your guide outside of the famed auditorium, Usher Hall – the perfect place to begin a tour about the history of the arts in Edinburgh!

During the tour, your guide will tell you all about the famous writers, poets, and inventors who have called Edinburgh home over the years.

Learn about 18th century poet and lyricist Robert Burns, who is now known as the national poet of Scotland.

Notable stops include The Writers’ Museum, Milne’s Court, Waverley Station , and much more!

Torn between an arts-focused tour and a more general tour that will take you by the main attractions of Edinburgh?

You’ll be happy to know that this tour also passes by Edinburgh Castle and St Giles’ Cathedral, so you’ll get to learn the history of these marvelous sites, too!

6. The Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 740+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  2 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

An actor on the streets of Edinburgh dressed in a dress with a wig

  • Guided tour of Old Town Edinburgh
  • Authentic Scottish guide (who wears a kilt!)
  • History lessons packed with comedy
  • Lots of laughs!

With all the stress that can come with travelling, you’ll be relieved to unwind and have a laugh on this fun-filled comedy tour !

Take a lighthearted walk around Old Town Edinburgh with your hilarious (and very Scottish) guide – they’ll even wear a kilt!

You’ll meet your guide outside of the Monkey Barrel Comedy club , then embark on a whimsical 2-hour (wheelchair and stroller-accessible!) journey.

Your guide isn’t just a professional stand-up comedian; they also have a remarkable breadth of knowledge about the history of Edinburgh.

On this tour, you’ll be both educated and entertained as your guide expertly balances historic fact and laugh-out-loud comedy.

You’ll see the exterior of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, The Writers’ Museum, and more iconic sites as you walk the Royal Mile with your witty guide.

Please note that this tour is age restricted at 16 years and up!

7. Edinburgh – Dark History

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 280+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  2 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

  • History-focused tour of the Royal Mile
  • Passionate, knowledgeable guide
  • Excellent tour to take in the evening
  • Wheelchair & stroller accessible

Not sure what to do in Edinburgh when the sun goes down?

Take this educational tour and learn the dark history of the city on this guided walking tour in Edinburgh!

Follow your guide on a harrowing journey into Edinburgh’s past and discover why it’s known as “ The Jekyll & Hyde City ”.

You’ll start your tour outside of St Giles’ Cathedral in West Parliament Square, then walk down the Royal Mile and learn all about the grisly murders, public executions, witch trials, plagues, and other haunting elements of the city’s history.

Don’t worry, your guides won’t pull any jumpscares; you’ll find the gruesome history lesson unsettling enough!

Besides the cathedral, you can also expect to encounter the site of the old Tolbooth Prison, the iconic Mercat Cross , and other historic sites that are full of disturbing details.

You’ll end your tour at the Canongate Kirkyard, which dates all the way back to the late 17th century!

8. Silent Disco Adventure Tour

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 260+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  1 hour | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

  • Radio headsets
  • Fun and familiar music playlist
  • Large group (60 maximum)
  • Unique way of seeing the city!

Put on your comfiest shoes and dance your way through Edinburgh on this eccentric “walking” tour !

Your tour starts and ends outside of The Piper’s Rest, an exceptionally rated restaurant along the Royal Mile.

(In August, the tour starts and ends at Uplands Roast, a charming coffee shop at the University of Edinburgh.)

Put on your radio headset (provided at the start of the tour) and groove your way down the Royal Mile with a large group of fun-loving travelers!

Dance to familiar and upbeat songs as you pass by iconic Edinburgh attractions, including St Giles’ Cathedral, the Scottish National Gallery, and the idyllic Princes Street Gardens.

Anxious about dancing in public?

With up to 60 people in your tour group, you’ll be in good company and won’t have to worry about being the only one dancing.

In fact, passersby will likely be envious of the great time you’re all having!

9. Private Old Edinburgh Tour – Walk in the footsteps of Royals and Rogues!

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 160+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  2 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

Edinburgh street at night with lamp

  • Visit three historic execution sites
  • Visit the old site of the Tolbooth Prison
  • Private tour – no strangers!
  • Knowledgeable local guide

There are many great public tours in Edinburgh, but what if you’re not excited by the idea of following a crowd of strangers?

This private walking tour of Old Town Edinburgh is for you!

Meet your guide at the main entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard.

There, you’ll learn about Greyfriars Bobby – a famous dog that has been honored with an iconic statue in the graveyard.

From there, your guide will lead you through Old Town , showing you archival photographs of what the area was like in days past.

You’ll learn the gruesome history of the city, visiting three of its former execution sites as well as the infamous Tolbooth Prison .

Unlike most other Edinburgh tours, this tour will also take you through The Cowgate.

While walking down this historic street, you’ll learn what life was like for the poor in Edinburgh back in the Victorian era.

Of course, there are plenty of well-known stops along the way, too, including the Mercat Cross, Candlemaker Row, the University of Edinburgh, and more!

10. Guided 90-Minute Photography and sightseeing Tour in Edinburgh : best walking tours Edinburgh

⭐️  RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars, 130+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  1.5 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

  • Less touristy route – see the city like a local!
  • Tips on how to take the best vacation photos
  • Social media tips for posting photos
  • Tons of great photo ops!

Whether you’re looking to grow your social media account as a travel influencer, taking photos to share with friends and family, or just want some great shots to put in your personal travel scrapbook, you’re sure to get the best vacay photos on this tour !

Take a private, guided tour with a professional photographer who’ll show you the best way to capture the gorgeous views across Edinburgh.

You’ll be happy to get a break from the crowds as your guide leads you down side-streets and shows you parts of the city that a lot of tourists miss out on!

But don’t worry, you’ll still get to see (and take stunning photos of!) the most iconic sites in Edinburgh, like St Giles’ Cathedral, Holyrood Park, and, of course, Edinburgh Castle!

During the tour, you’ll also learn the best tips and tricks for using hashtags and editing your photos before posting them to Instagram.

11. Edinburgh: The Witches Tour : walking tours in Edinburgh, Scotland

⭐️  RATING:  4.3 out of 5 Stars, 90+ reviews | ⏳  TOUR LENGTH:  3 hours | ✔️  BOOK NOW

walking tours in edinburgh

  • Entry to the National Museum of Scotland
  • Knowledgeable tour guide
  • Learn how to read rune stones
  • Learn how to use a pendulum

Curious about the history of witchcraft in Edinburgh ?

Take The Witches Tour !

Your guide will lead you through the National Museum of Scotland and enlighten you on the fascinating history of the area’s witches.

Discover what witches were up to in the late 16th century through the mid 18th century, and marvel at the authentic objects that once aided them in their practice.

During the tour, you’ll have the chance to experiment with dowsing, reading rune stones, and uncover the dark history of hangings in Edinburgh – even visiting the site of such executions!

Weather depending, you may even venture to the roof of the museum, or, if it’s open, visit an historic witches’ shop!

All that talk of witchcraft got you itching to venture into the mystical?

Be sure to book a Chakra or fortune-telling reading (at an additional cost) for after the tour!

Hey! Want to use our trusty guides to the best tours in other places across the UK? Check these out!

  • 11 Best Tours of the Cotswolds from London in 2023
  • 11 Best Tours of the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh in 2023
  • 5 Best London Open Top Bus Tours
  • 9 Best Scottish Outlander Tours
  • 9 Best Ghost Tours in Oxford
  • 5 Best Bath Ghost Tours
  • 9 Best Bus Tours in Edinburgh
  • 19 Most Unique London Tours
  • 9 Best Day Trips to Oxford from London
  • 7 Best Stonehenge Day Trips from London
  • 7 Best Changing of the Guard Tours in London
  • 11 Best Oxford Walking Tours
  • 11 Best London Rock ‘n’ Roll Tours
  • 11 Best London Museum Tours
  • 3 Best Morse Tours in Oxford
  • 11 Best London Beatles Tours
  • 11 Best Walking Tours in Bath
  • 13 Best Harry Potter Tours in Oxford
  • 11 Best Jack the Ripper Tours in London
  • 9 Best London Literary Tours
  • 9 Best Street Art Tours in London
  • 13 Best Evening & Night Tours of Edinburgh
  • 15 Best London Pub Crawl Tours
  • 11 Best London Bus Tours for Families
  • 17 Best Harry Potter Tours in London
  • 17 Best London Foodie Tours
  • 13 Best Ghost & Haunted Tours in Edinburgh
  • 11 Best London Biking Tours
  • 11 Best Private Tours in London
  • 11 Best Ghost Tours in London
  • 11 Fun Tours of Royal London
  • 13 Isle of Skye Tours for a Magical Time
  • 13 Mysterious Tours of Loch Ness
  • 7 Best James Bond Tours in London
  • 7 Best Paris Tours from London
  • 7 Best Stratford-upon Avon Tours from London
  • 7 Best Tours of Bath from London
  • 7 Best Black Cab Tours from London
  • 11 Best Downton Abbey Tours in the UK

UK Travel Planning Guide: the FAQs

🏥 Should I buy UK travel insurance?

Absolutely yes. Basic coverage is not expensive, and as a visitor you are NOT covered under the NHS. Compare policies and prices with Travel Insurance Master here , a big name in the travel insurance business, and cross that off your list.

🔌 Do I need travel adapters for the UK?

Yes, you do, otherwise you won’t be able to plug in your electronics/phone/lifelines. I recommend this one , which is all-in-one so you can use it in other countries.

🚗 What do I need to drive in the UK?

The first thing you need to check out if you’re planning on renting a car in the UK is this guide to driving in the UK for visitors – the roads, signs, and driving experience will likely not be what you’re used to and it’s essential to prepare yourself to stay safe and aware.

🛌 What’s the best way to book hotels in the UK?

For UK hotels, Booking is the best site as it offers free cancellation on many properties. If you want an apartment, I always recommend VRBO over AirBnb.

📳 Will my phone work in the UK?

Yes – if you set it up right. Check out my guide on making your foreign phone work in the UK to ensure that you get the type of service you need.

🚿 Can I drink the water in the UK?

Yes, UK water is great and perfectly safe. But drink out of taps in any kitchen or use water fountains. Double check before drinking out of the taps in hotel bathrooms, though, as they may be on a different system. London water is safe to drink .

Heading to London? Want the best tips?

Check out my Ultimate Guide to London for Visitors. Using text, images and video, this guide is packed full of tips, tricks, safety advice, knowledge on how to get around and what to do, and more!

walking tours in edinburgh

Moving to the UK or already an Expat?

Grab my book which covers moving to the UK, struggles I faced and that you might face too, and uplifting advice to help you along the way! Available in hard copy and on Kindle.

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Edinburgh Guided Tour

Edinburgh Guided Tour

Private & group walking tours of edinburgh, scotland.

We now offer  virtual tours of Edinburgh  where our guide can link up to the client, using zoom or similar technology, whilst the guide walks and/or drives around the city giving a commentary as he/she does so. We have now done this, very successfully, for  educational establishments ,  companies  and  private individuals . If you wish to book a  virtual tour , or simply wish to know more, please contact us by using our contact form on our contact page , saying what you have in mind. 

  • Most Popular!
  • Hour Glass 3 Hours
  • Tag Walking Tour

Group Walking Tour – Edinburgh

The tour focuses on the historical, cultural, and architectural heritage of Edinburgh.

  • Hour Glass 3.5 or 7 Hours

Private Edinburgh Walking Tour

Customisable tours to suit your taste. Our private tours allow your group to have an educated guide all to yourselves.

Our Edinburgh Walking Tours

Start your holiday with us and let us give you inside knowledge on what to see, where to go, and things to do.

– Our Edinburgh Walking Tours focus on the historical, cultural, and architectural heritage of Edinburgh. Most of the major historical sites of interest are covered, including the world-famous Royal Mile in the Old Town.

– On our  Group Walking Tours , we have an absolute maximum of 12 walkers  to ensure you have a first-class experience. We feel strongly that tours of 30, 40 or 50 more, just cannot give you the same experience.

– Alternatively, our  Private Walking Tours   allow you to see even more landmarks and sights around Edinburgh, both in the Old and New Towns and can even be altered to suit your personal tastes and interests.

– Our guides are very carefully hand-picked for their intelligence and historical knowledge and they all share our love of history and the city. You can read all about our Guides here . You can book your tour with us with confidence. If your plans change, you can always cancel the booking and get a full refund (apart from cancellations made with less than 24 hours to go).

Edinburgh-skyline

Deutschsprachiger Guide

Erleben Sie Edinburgh mit Ihrem deutschsprachigen Guide Craig Goodman: individuell, barrierefrei, mit flexiblen Treffpunkten.

Corporate and Educational Tours

Corporate tours.

We have hosted tours for many Corporate clients over the years, from companies both large and small, who want their staff to enjoy Edinburgh’s attractions whilst they are in the city.

Please see our page on Corporate Tours for more details.

a group of people walking in front of a crowd

Educational tours

We have done hundreds of tours for students from schools and universities over the years.

Many of the clients return to us again and again because their students enjoyed our tour so much.

Please see our page on Educational Tours for more details.

Edinburgh Guided Tour Recognised Among Best In The World!

  • Edinburgh Guided Tour are extremely proud to announce that our Guided Group Walking Tour has won the 2023 Viator Experience Award ! It rates us among the Top Twenty Viator attractions in all of Northern Europe .
  • Viator is the world’s largest travel experiences marketplace with more than 300,000 bookable tours, activities, and excursions.
  • Our Guided Group Walking Tour is our most popular, best-selling tour and it is the original experience that started us off over 10 years ago!
  • This longstanding tour, focuses on the most important streets in Edinburgh and covers the most seminal people, buildings and events from Scotland’s history, and has grown from strength to strength and stood the test of time.

Other Plaudits for our Edinburgh Walking Tours

  • In 2019, Edinburgh Guided Tour was ranked #5 in the World for Cultural Experiences in the 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. An outstanding achievement!
  • In 2016 we were selected as being one of Edinburgh’s Top Ten walks by the Guardian newspaper.
  • In 2019 we were selected as one of Edinburgh’s 7 best walking tours by The Scotsman newspaper

Our Walking Tours in Edinburgh were Rated "Excellent" by 94% of our Guests!

"Wide range of information on the history, architecture geology and people who contributed to Edinburgh. I learnt absolutely tons in 3 hours. Easy nuggets of knowledge delivered in a conversational style. Excellent introduction to the city from our guide Alison."

"Stuart was great and very knowledgeable! He also gave great advice on where to shop, eat, and drink."

"Starting at the appropriately named Usher Hall (you'll be told all about that), the tour progressed at a leisurely pace throughout the centre of Edinburgh. Stuart's knowledge is extensive, and his delivery humorous, leading to a hugely enjoyable and unique touring experience. Would highly recommend."

"Hugely informative and wonderful as an introductory tour in Edinburgh. Great trivia and historical information along with fantastic restaurant and shop recommendations. I would advise anyone to take this tour as it is a fantastic way to accommodate yourself to this city!"

"Lively and entertaining. Just the right mix of solid facts and amusing trivia. A fantastic introduction to the city."

"Alison was a brilliant tour guide. The tour was interesting, enjoyable and gave the right amount of information on the places we visited. We had a small group which was great so we could ask questions and get to know the other guests. Would highly recommend this tour."

"We walked privately with Stuart Usher through old & new town as well as the Royal Mile. It was absolutely excellent!! Not only was Stuart enjoyable company, but the tour provided a solid overview of the history of the mile and recommendations for food and shopping. Stuart pointed out fun details that I would've never otherwise noticed. It really gave me an appreciation for what this city has to offer. Plus, the information provided was the perfect balance between detailed v. general, old v. modern, etc. We loved it and will definitely use the service should we return to Edinburgh in the future!! THANK YOU STUART! :)"

"It was a joy to spend the day with Alison. She was passionate about the city and its history and struck the right balance between historical content and lay person human interest. She engages the group in a comfortable manner and flexes to meet the needs and interests of whoever she has with her that day. Highly recommend joining one of her tours."

"We loved Stuart Usher and what he brought to our understanding of Edinburgh and the special knowledge that he has of its history having been there for many generations. His family donated Usher Hall, a premiere music venue, to the city and that attests to the intimate viewpoint Mr. Usher has of not only the history but also the current condition of Edinburgh. We enjoyed his very insightful comments and also his recommendations of places to eat and go see. All in all, a very worthy experience and one that I would do early in your visit to the city to be able to go back to some of the places pointed out on the trip."

"Our guide for the tour of Edinburgh was incredible ... literally cannot write/speak enough of my praise. Guide was well versed in the history - woven in the details was a comprehensive reflection of the old compared with the new. Guide arranged the tour to our interests, using old maps and books for us to view ... a truly must guide to show you around the lovely city."

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Edinburgh Unwrapped

Edinburgh Unwrapped

walking tours in edinburgh

Edinburgh Walking Tours

Take a guided Edinburgh walking tour to discover the city's history, stories and hidden gems.

walking tours in edinburgh

Outlander Private Walking Tour - walk in Jamie and Claire's footsteps to follow their story and discover life in 18th century Edinburgh.

Walking Tours of Edinburgh & Self Drive Tours of Scotland

Enjoy a private guided walking tour of Edinburgh with Elspeth, a friendly, qualified and experienced local Scottish guide. Your tour of Edinburgh is specially designed and created just for you. This means you’ll have a unique guided walk, which will fit in with the time you have available, and your own personal interests.

Alternatively, scheduled public small-group tours are also available to join. These group tours follow a set route to see key locations, historic highlights and hidden gems.

If you’re not sure what you want – don’t worry I’m here to help and advise you. You’ll find that a walking tour is the best possible way to see the historic city centre. Whatever type of walking tour of Edinburgh you decide to take, my aim is to make it a truly unforgettable experience. Together we’ll explore places you might have easily passed by. During your Edinburgh walking tour we’ll uncover the stories, rich history and fascinating facts about the city, its people and its buildings.

Palace of Holyrood House on Walking Tour Edinburgh

About Your Edinburgh Tour Guide

Elspeth McLean your guide on Walking Tour Edinburgh

Your Edinburgh walking tour will be guided by me, Elspeth McLean, the founder of Edinburgh Unwrapped. I’m a professional tour guide who has been connected with Edinburgh nearly all my life. So this gives me a real insight into Edinburgh’s culture and history. I’m also an accredited member of the Highlands of Scotland Tour Guide Association. As a result, you can trust that even my most incredible stories of Edinburgh’s colourful characters and historic past are authentic and true. During your walking tour I’ll share my enthusiasm and knowledge of Scotland and Edinburgh in a fun and informative way. Along our route you’ll find out about our local history, culture, legends and secrets. Find out more about Elspeth…

Self-Drive Tours of Scotland

If you’d like to discover more of Scotland, we also offer tailored self-drive tours. You can expect the same level of individual attention to create your ideal Scottish holiday planned just for you. Find out more on our Tailored Self-Drive Tours Page.

Speyside Distillery on Scotland Self-Drive Tour

Featured Tours

Old Town on Edinburgh Unwrapped Royal Mile Stories & Secrets Walking Tour

The Royal Mile Stories & Secrets Small Group Walking Tour

This small group walking tour will follow the route of the ancient Royal Mile. Discover its unique history, stories of its colourful characters and its hidden secrets.

walking tours in edinburgh

A Tale of Two Cities Private Tour

Highlights and hidden gems of the Old Town and New Town. Discover the best of both worlds & the two different sides of Edinburgh's split personality.

walking tours in edinburgh

Outlander Private Walking Tour

Come with me as we follow in the footsteps of Jamie and Claire, immersing ourselves in the atmosphere and history of 18th century Edinburgh.

walking tours in edinburgh

Customised Edinburgh Tours

Unique tailored tours created just for you because one size does not fit all.

Latest Posts

walking tours in edinburgh

Moray House: A Wedding, 4 Executions and the end of an “auld sang”

21st May 2024

Old Moray House has been right at the heart of some of Scotland’s key historical moments. Uncover its rich past and the stories it has to tell.

walking tours in edinburgh

11 Top Insider Tips to Get the Best out of your Trip to Edinburgh

30th June 2022

Make sure you get the best out of your trip to Edinburgh, whatever time of year you come. Here are some of my insider tips to help you plan and make the most of your city break.

walking tours in edinburgh

Two of Edinburgh’s Most Popular Historic Stories

28th February 2022

This year we are celebrating Scotland’s ‘Year of Stories’. What better place to discover historic myths and legends than on a tour in Edinburgh? Find out two of Edinburgh’s most popular historic stories.

What our customers say

I can’t recommend Elspeth enough. She’s a true Scottish treasure and I am looking forward to her next tour! She opened our eyes to the many layers of hidden history within the beautiful city of Edinburgh and we didn’t want each day to end. There’s so much to see in and around Edinburgh that each tour is different yet equally as captivating as the last.

Elspeth delighted us all with incredible stories of royalty, criminals, architecture, battles, scandals, fortunes won and lost, murder and marriages! Some terrifying, some hilarious; all of them fascinating.

Elspeth’s stories were so interesting and funny and I experienced for the first time in my life how enjoyable sightseeing can be. It was very easy to follow Elspeth and I really liked her knowledge and charisma. She had the perfect mix of information and stories about people’s lives that we found interesting.

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42A Saughton Crescent Edinburgh EH12 5SH

We are an Edinburgh Tour company offering private and group walking tours of Edinburgh. We also plan amazing self-drive tours of Scotland tailored for you.

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Edinburgh Free Tour

The best introduction to edinburgh, secure your space now.

The best-rated Edinburgh Free Walking Tour

  • 10am, 11am & 1pm
  • 154 High Street (Royal Mile)

No card info required

Free Walking Tour of Edinburgh

No trip to Scotland is complete without visiting Edinburgh, its inspiring capital, a cosmopolitan town teeming with genius and culture. On this 2 hours FREE Tour your expert guide will show you the most attractive spots of this seductive city.

Wonderful walking tour

"What a wonderful walking tour with Graeme. A beautiful summer day and an extremely engaging guide. Would definitely book again next time I visit Edinburgh."

Tricia Butterfield

Google (July 23)

It was worth every second

"I did three walking tours with City Explorers and it was worth every second! Definitely recommended. Ashlyn, Emma and Dr Rory were super fun and highly informative."

Sanyukta Desai

Highly recommended!!

"We had a PHENOMENAL ghost tour with Emma! We also had a AMAZING day time walking tour with Glen. Both guides were funny, knowledgeable, and friendly. Could not recommend these tours enough!!!"

Katie Cummings

Free Walking Tour of the Old Town

"Wonderful intro giving us enough info about where to spend our time as well as some great restaurant recommendations. Kenny was amusing, knowledgeable and easy to listen to so I highly recommend this walk."

Annelise Giddings

Google (June 23)

Greyfriars Bobby statue in Edinburgh's Old Town

Tour Description

The FREE Walking Tour starts every day at 10 am, 11 am and 1 pm on The Royal Mile , just in front of a bar called Copper Still (154 High Street).

We believe that everyone, no matter what is one's budget should be able to experience and enjoy what Edinburgh has to offer and we also believe that the price of a tour should correlate with your budget and how much you enjoyed it.

Our Edinburgh FREE Walking Tours are both informative and fun and offer something for everyone.

To ensure the highest quality of our Free Tours, groups of 15 or more people should book a Private Tour .

If you are arranging a booking for a School Group , please book a Private Tour .

This will allow us to give you a more personalized experience. Thanks for your understanding!

Secure your space now for the Edinburgh Free Tour!

Showing up is fine in most cases. However, you will have priority with a booking if tours reach their capacity.

Meeting Point

The FREE Tour starts on The Royal Mile just in front of a bar called Copper Still (154 High Street).

Look for the yellow umbrellas!

Related tours in edinburgh.

Free Ghost Tour

Free Ghost Tour

Every night @ 7pm

Duration: 1.5 hours

Discover the ghostly tales and sinister stories that will get you back to the terrifying past of old Edinburgh.

Free Harry Potter Tour

Free Harry Potter Tour

Every day @ 2pm

Explore the real people and places that inspired JK Rowling to create the Universe of Harry Potter.

Free New Town Tour

Free New Town Tour

Thu to Mon @ 2pm

Duration: 2 hours

Discover the finest part of town and the role Edinburgh played as a center of the Enlightment in Europe.

Edinburgh Castle Tour

Edinburgh Castle Tour

Every day @ 10am, 12.15pm & 1.30pm

Get the best value of your visit to Edinburgh Castle and jump the queue with our skip-the-line tickets.

Edinburgh Pub Crawl

Fri & Sat @ 8pm

Duration: 4.5 hours

Meet amazing people from all over the world and enjoy Edinburgh nightlife at its best 7 nights a week.

Edinburgh Travel Guide

Useful information.

Travel tips you need to know before visiting Edinburgh.

Sightseeing

Discover the most unmissable attractions in Edinburgh.

Things to do

The ultimate guide to things to do in Edinburgh.

Food and drink

Edinburgh's best restaurants, bars and pubs.

Where to stay

Find out the best places to stay in Edinburgh.

Discover how to travel around Edinburgh.

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The Best Walking Tours in Edinburgh

The narrow and charming Circus Lane in historic Edinburgh, Scotland on a sunny day

I never get tired of visiting Edinburgh . I love the enchanting cobblestone streets, the world-class whisky bars, the plethora of free museums, and arty vibe of the city (it’s the inspiration for many, many writers).

It has been Scotland’s capital since the 15th century and has a history that stretches back millennia (humans have been in the area since 8500 BCE). There’s an epic medieval castle, an ancient volcano, the historic Old Town, and the New Town (both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites).

One of the best ways to soak it all up is by taking a walking tour. While ghost tours are some of the most popular here (Edinburgh is supposedly one of the most haunted cities in the world), there are many other tours to experience, from bike tours to food tours to pub crawls.

Here’s my list of the best walking tours in Edinburgh to help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most out of your stay!

Best Overall Tour

The Mercat Tours company logo

Mercat Tours

This family-owned company specializes in a variety of tours of the vaults under the city (a labyrinth of tunnels that were first used as storage and workshop space for businesses in the early 17th century), and it’s the only company to offer vault tours during the day . Adult-only tours include the infamous Canongate graveyard and there are even vault tours designed for kids .

Tours start at 20 GBP.

Best Free Tour

Edinburgh's City Explorer's tour company logo

City Explorers

City Explorers runs four different free walking tours daily. Start with the classic Edinburgh Free Tour, on which you’ll see and learn about the main sights, including Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and St Giles’ Cathedral. There’s also a free ghost tour, a free Harry Potter tour, and a free New Town tour as well. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!

  While those two are my top recommendations for tours in Edinburgh, here are a few more options to help you make the most of your time here:

1. Secret Food Tours

Food is an important part of every culture. Scotland has all manner of interesting culinary delights, and the best way to learn more about them (while sampling a bunch) is by taking a food tour. Secret Food Tours offers the best one in Edinburgh. On their three-hour classic tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town , you’ll try delicacies like haggis, creamy Scottish cheese, neeps, and tatties (and learn what those even are), as well as enjoy traditional Scottish tea.

If you want to try more local spirits, you can take the Secret Whisky, Gin, & Beyond tour , which includes seven tastings of locally brewed and distilled liquors.

Prices start at 69 EUR.

Book here!  

2. A Wee Pedal Bike Tour

To cover more ground and get out of town a bit, take a bike tour. A Wee Pedal has several different offerings, so you can see more of Edinburgh and its surrounding countryside on two wheels. The most popular tour is the 20-mile loop tour , which circumnavigates the entire city. There’s also a 12-mile version that goes out to the rugged coastline for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure.

While rides are taken at a meandering, comfortable pace, you can also rent an e-bike for an extra 15 GBP if you’re not up for the challenge. You can also book special private tours, including one that ends at a brewery (tasting included), and a mountain bike tour.

Prices start at 65 GBP.

3. City of the Dead Tours

If you’re looking to get genuinely creeped out, take a tour with City of the Dead. They offer several tours that go through the underground vaults . City of the Dead is also the only tour company with access to the ominously named Black Mausoleum and Covenanter’s Prison , some of the most haunted places in the world. These spots are favorites of the Mackenzie Poltergeist, considered one of the world’s best-documented supernatural entities, with hundreds of supposed encounters. It’s one of my favorite tours in the city!

Prices start at 19 GBP.

4. Mountebank Tours

One of TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Things to Do in the UK, the Mountebank Comedy Walk, run by Daniel Downie, an award-winning stand-up comedian, is undoubtedly the most hilarious way to see Auld Reekie (an old nickname for the city). On this tour you’ll laugh and learn not only about Edinburgh but all things Scottish, from culture to history to some famous (and infamous) people. And if you’re lucky, Daniel’s adorable dog Bonnie Prince might even join you.

Prices start at 22 GBP.

5. See Your City

One of the biggest walking tour companies in the UK, See Your City offers several fun tours in Edinburgh. Their best (and most popular) is the Harry Potter walking tour , on which you’ll visit the places that inspired JK Rowling as she penned her famous series (and the café where she did so). You’ll even get sorted into your Hogwarts house and get to test your book and movie knowledge in a quiz to earn points. It’s a super fun tour and a must for Harry Potter fans.

Other unique See Your City tours in Edinburgh include a Cheese Crawl and a True Crime walking tour .

Prices start at 16 GBP.

Book here!   ***

Edinburgh is a fascinating place. It’s bursting with history and there are tons of walking tours on offer, allowing you to deepen your experience and connect with a local guide who can answer all your questions. Pick one (or several) from the list above and you won’t go wrong!

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

My detailed 200+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel while in Europe. It has suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Book Your Trip to Edinburgh: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Edinburgh? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Edinburgh for even more planning tips!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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A black and white photo of the Greyfriars church gate in spooky Edinburgh, Scotland

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Discover the many faces of Edinburgh with a passionate local guide

It’s hard not to fall in love with the Scottish capital. With a dark and mysterious history, woven through narrow alleyways and cobbled streets, it’s not hard to see how J.K Rowling found inspiration while writing Harry Potter here.

From the world-famous Edinburgh Castle, down the Royal Mile and to the postcard-perfect Arthur’s seat, we help you see “Auld Reekie” through the eyes of Edinburgh’s best local tour guides.

The original gratuity-based Free Tour of Edinburgh starts on the Royal Mile and covers many of Edinburgh’s top attractions. After you’ve got the overview with the gratuity-based free walking tour, delve deeper with us!

No trip here is complete without visiting  Edinburgh’s castle , where you’ll learn about some of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history and the Stone of Destiny. And don’t forget to also explore the  New Town , with a tour including the Scott Monument, the Princes Street Gardens and the Scottish Enlightenment.

Want to learn about Edinburgh’s dark history? The  Dark Side Tour covers murderers, witches, bodysnatchers and more. But if you want to discover Edinburgh’s magical world, the Harry Potter Tour takes you to the locations that inspired J.K. Rowling.

Enjoy authentic local experiences

Edinburgh is part of the SANDEMANs NEW Europe network, one of the largest walking tour companies in the world. Offering daily tours in English and Spanish, we believe in supporting local communities and are committed to giving a voice to some of Edinburgh;s best local freelance tour guides, who passionately share the city's history and culture with their own unique and always-entertaining style.

Aside from the gratuity-based Free Tour, in Edinburgh you’ll also find unforgettable tours and experiences. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

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Things to do in Edinburgh

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Finding the right place to stay can be tricky - that's why we have sorted you out with a list of our favourite hostels and hotels in Edinburgh

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Check out some of the best trips to do from Edinburgh!

The local expert guides we work with are proud to show you the best Edinburgh has to offer!

Scroll through to learn more about these unforgettable guides, including where they’re from, why they love Edinburgh and which tours they can offer you.

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Participation in tours promoted by SANDEMANs NEW Europe is strictly on a voluntary basis. Neither SANDEMANs NEW Europe, nor the self-employed freelance guides who are the providers of the tours promoted by SANDEMANs NEW Europe, will be held responsible in any way for injuries to body or property incurred during tours. The tour guides reserve the right to deny participation in any tour, to any person, for any reason. Thank you for your understanding.

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Wee Walking Tours

Explore edinburgh, wee golden walk   every wednesday-sunday 11:00am, choose from three tour length options:.

walking tours in edinburgh

Castle to Greyfriars Bobby:

1 hr. 30 min. 

Join us on an exploration of the top of the Royal Mile. Hear stories about history, myths, legends, and fictional characters. The tour weaves down picturesque Victoria Street to the Grassmarket and finishes at the iconic Greyfriars Bobby.

Castle to World's End:

2 hrs. 15 min. 

Including everything in our 'Castle to Greyfriars Bobby' tour, this op tion co ntinues along the Royal Mile with more stories that bring the city to life. We pass by and learn about some iconic landmarks such as St Giles' Cathedral and Tron Kirk, but there are also surprises for fans of various television seri es and movies . This tour finishes near the World's End.

Castle to Palace:

This option provides the full Edinburgh Old Town experience! Encompassing everything from our two other tours, continue along for a fas cinating journey that covers the Canongate section of the Royal Mile before it finishes between the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. 

*Please note that our walking tours do not go inside paid attractions (i.e. Edinburgh Castle or the Palace of Holyroodhouse).

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Wee Private Walking Tours

We offer fully customised and private walking tours. Let us know what you are looking for and we can help you design a unique Edinburgh walking tour.

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Wee Finnish Walking Tours

We also provide private tours in Finnish. You can request to have a fully customised tour or a scheduled itinerary such as our Wee Golden Walks.

Walking Tours 

Starting location.

All walking tours start at the top of the Royal Mile (Castlehill) at the base of Edinburgh Castle next to the Witches Well just past the entrance to the Tartan Mill. Please try to arrive a few minutes prior to the start of your walking tour. Look for Sami, your tour guide, who will have a Wee Walking Tours umbrella and grey backpack.

The Witches Well, Castlehill, Edinburgh, UK

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Mercat Tours Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland

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Explore the Treasures of History, One Step at a Time …

Are you ready to embark on a journey back in time, discovering the hidden gems and untold stories that lie within the heart of our beloved Old Town? Old Town Walking Tours invites you to experience the captivating blend of history, culture, and charm that makes our city truly unique.

Why Choose Old Town Walking Tours?

Winner “ The Award for Excellence in Scotland “

At Old Town Walking Tours, we are not just guides; we are passionate storytellers, eager to share the fascinating tales that have shaped our community over the centuries. Our carefully crafted tours take you on a delightful adventure through cobbled streets, iconic landmarks, and lesser-known alleys, all steeped in the rich tapestry of history.

What Sets Us Apart?

  • Expert Local Guides: Our team comprises enthusiastic local experts who have an unwavering passion for our city’s heritage. They bring a wealth of knowledge and captivating narratives that you won’t find in any guidebook.
  • Small Group Experience: To ensure an intimate and personalized journey, we keep our tour groups small, allowing you to ask questions, interact with your guide, and truly immerse yourself in the stories.
  • Customizable Tours: Whether you’re a history buff, a photography enthusiast, or a food lover, we have tailored tours to cater to your interests. Let us know your preferences, and we’ll create an unforgettable experience just for you.
  • Costumed Guides: Our guides arrive dressed in fully authentic historical costumes.
  • Hidden Gems Unveiled: The Old Town holds many hidden gems that only locals know about. Our tours will lead you to these lesser-known spots, unveiling their intriguing stories and adding a sense of discovery to your adventure.

Discover the Past, Create Memories for the Future

A walk through Old Town is not merely a stroll; it’s a voyage through time. Our tours cater to all ages and interests, making it an ideal activity for families, friends, school groups, and solo adventurers. Whether you’re a visitor or a longtime resident, Old Town Walking Tours promises a fresh perspective on the place you call home.

Ready to embark on an unforgettable expedition into the past? Browse our selection of tours, check availability, and secure your spot for an experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Let Old Town Walking Tours be your gateway to a captivating blend of history, culture, and memories waiting to be made.

Join us and let the ancient streets whisper their stories in your ear.

Come, let’s walk through time together…

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The Complete Guide to Walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: June 22, 2024

Discover what not to miss while walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh in our complete tour of this iconic route.

If you want to see the highlights of Edinburgh while immersing yourself in history, there’s no better way than to walk the Royal Mile. This route stretches between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is actually a little over a mile long. 

This guide will lead the way when you want to take a self-guided walking tour in Edinburgh. Covered here is what to see and do en route, including what to look out for. Of all the best walks in Edinburgh, this has to be number one!

When walking this route, we recommend you start at the castle and work your way down towards Holyrood. This means you get to take a downhill walk, instead of an upward slog. As the route ends close to Holyrood Park, you could also take a post-walk break there while enjoying the scenic views. 

If you do want to visit the castle, you can also do that before it gets too busy. But you can of course take the walk in any direction you like!

From the ultimate Edinburgh self-guided walking tour to where to stay and eat, plus our top tips and FAQs, read on. Here’s where to go and what to see on the famous Edinburgh Royal Mile. 

View down the Royal Mile in winter

Best tours and tickets along the Royal Mile

Edinburgh castle, the scotch whisky experience, camera obscura and world of illusions, alleyways along the royal mile, gladstone’s land, heart of midlothian mosaic, st giles cathedral, the real mary king’s close, john knox house and moubray house, the museum of childhood, the chocolatarium, the people’s story museum, canongate kirk, scottish parliament building, palace of holyroodhouse, holyrood park, makars gourmet mash bar, cheval old town chambers, the inn on the mile, radisson blu hotel, wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, carry a rain jacket and/or umbrella, bring a water bottle, pack a picnic, what is the royal mile in edinburgh, where is the royal mile in edinburgh, how long is the royal mile in edinburgh, when will you be walking the royal mile in edinburgh.

⭐️ Guided Walking Tour with Entry Ticket to Edinburgh Castle

⭐️ Dark History Royal Mile Walking Tour

⭐️ The Scotch Whisky Experience Tour and Tasting

⭐️ Real Mary King’s Close Guided Tour

⭐️ Royal Attractions with Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

⭐️ Palace of Holyroodhouse Entry Ticket

⭐️ Late-Night Underground Vaults Terror Tour

The Ultimate Edinburgh Royal Mile Walking Tour

Entrance to Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is incredibly rich in history, and in the past, has been home to a succession of Scottish monarchs. Tour it today and you can see the ancient buildings, the Crown Jewels, and of course the sweeping city views from the top. 

Standing proudly on an elevated site above the cobbled streets of the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle is the perfect starting point for your Royal Mile walk. 

Click here to book tickets for Edinburgh Castle

Scotch Whiskey

After leaving the castle, one of the first sites you’ll pass on the Royal Mile is the Scotch Whisky Experience. This popular visitor attraction shares the story of Scotch whisky . You can take tours, shop, dine, or attend tastings here. 

Tickets including tastings and a tour are very popular, and cover five Scottish whisky-making regions. 

Click here to book tickets for the Scotch Whisky Experience

Close to the Scotch Whisky Experience is Camera Obscura and World of Illusions . This appeals to people of all ages, featuring five floors of illusions, scientific wonders, and interactive experiences. 

View down Alleyway off the Royal Mile

Don’t miss the alleyways that you will see along the Royal Mile! Look out for Advocates Close (for that great view of Scott’s Monument) and other wonderfully named passageways.

I did a fabulous tour a few years ago to learn all about the dark history of the Royal Mile which included exploring more of these fascinating alleys.

Gladstone’s Land is one of the Royal Mile’s oldest buildings. You can go inside to discover what life was like centuries ago, and view original costumes and other exhibits. Don’t forget to look up, so you can see the stunning ceiling frescoes dating from 1620. 

There’s also a cafe and ice cream parlour on the ground floor. 

Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian Mosaic on the Royal Mile is in front of St Giles Cathedral. This spot was once the entrance to the city’s Old Tolbooth. It’s said to be good luck to spit on the heart, so don’t be surprised if you see football fans doing just that!

St Giles Cathedral 1

One of the key sights along the Royal Mile, the Cathedral of St Giles is the Scottish answer to London’s Westminster Abbey. Look out for the stained glass window featuring John Knox, an influential preacher who spread the word for Protestantism and the Church of Scotland. 

The church is open to everyone, has been a working house of worship for around nine centuries, and is the venue for important services, including those involving the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and the Kirking of the Parliament. 

Free walking tours are offered daily, at 10.30 am or 2.30 pm.

Real Mary Kings Close

Just past St Giles’ is the real Mary King’s Close. It’s beneath the Edinburgh City Chambers building. It’s the only 17th century street in the city, and you can tour it to imagine what life for Mary King, and other residents, must have been like. 

The close allows you to immerse yourself in four centuries of history, and has been named as Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience.

Click here to book tickets for the real Mary King’s Close

John Knox House

Moubray House and John Knox House are conjoined, and dating from 1470, together form the Royal Mile’s oldest mediaeval building. Knox didn’t actually stay here for long, but it’s his association with it that means it’s still standing. 

If you go in, look up at the The Oak Room ceiling to find the hidden devil. John Knox House forms part of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Whether you’re travelling with kids or want to please your inner child, the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile is a must. It’s free to enter, too, with a suggested donation of £3 per person. 

Exhibits span the period from the 1800s to today, and include toys, games, books, dolls, and even clothes.

Just off Cranston Street on the Royal Mile is the Chocolatarium, where you can make and taste all kinds of chocolate treats. A must for chocoholics!

Click here to book tickets for the Chocolatarium

Like the Museum of Childhood, the People’s Story Museum is also free to enter, again with a suggested £3 donation. Objects, images, and stories are used here to tell the tale of the city’s working class residents, between the 18th and 20th centuries. 

The building is interesting too, as it’s a tollbooth dating from the 16th century. 

Canongate Kirk can be found right by the People’s Story Museum. A number of prominent Scots are buried here, and the Presbyterian church dates from the 17th century. See if you can spot the graves of the poet Robert Fergusson and the economist Adam Smith. 

As well as the Kirk, the Parish of Canongate includes the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. It’s used by the Royal Family when they’re visiting Edinburgh. 

Toolbooth Tavern

The Scottish Parliament Building is at the end of the Royal Mile. It’s a modern structure, and construction commenced in 1999. Talks and guided tours take place here, and the public can also watch meetings, debates, and First Minister’s Questions. It’s always free to visit. 

Whether you enter or not, this bright, contemporary building with lots of curves, windows, wood, and local stone is well worth seeing. 

Palace of Holyrood in the rain

This royal palace dates from the 16th century, and is also at the end of the Royal Mile, by Holyrood Park. Today this is King Charles III’s official residence, and was also once home to Mary, Queen of Scots. 

The State Apartments, the Throne Room, and the Great Gallery are among the highlights. There’s also a cafe for refreshments. Entry to the palace is ticketed. 

Click here to book tickets for the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Holyrood Park

Whether you want to climb up to Arthur’s Seat or simply unwind with a picnic, picturesque Holyrood Park makes the perfect stop at the end of your Royal Mile walking tour. You can even find a lake, St Margaret’s Loch, in this sprawling park. 

Where to Eat on the Royal Mile

There are lots of restaurants, cafes, and pubs on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, so there’s no shortage of places to eat! You can simply pick one and wander on in, or we do have one recommendation.

Makars Mash Bar

This Edinburgh eatery is rated fourth among all the city’s restaurants, which number over 1,600. It’s the place to sample hearty Scottish fare crafted from local ingredients. While meaty options of course feature, plant-based alternatives are available.  

Mashed potatoes are of course the speciality, served with a huge variety of flavourings and toppings. Makars Gourmet Mash Bar is situated on Bank Street, close to Lawnmarket. 

Where to Stay on the Royal Mile

Here are some suggestions if you want to find hotels on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. We also have a guide to where to stay in Edinburgh if you would prefer an alternative location.

These deluxe apartments are only five minutes’ walk from Edinburgh Castle. There are studios, or apartments with up to three bedrooms, some with balconies. They’re luxuriously appointed and offer superb Royal Mile views. Breakfast is available daily, and there’s a gym and 24-hour reception desk. 

Click here to book Cheval Old Town Chambers

This is a four star, landmark property offering three floors of accommodation. Luxury rooms come with large flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and even GHD hair stylers. There’s a bar serving pub food and drinks, and you can also order room service. The castle is just five minutes away on foot. 

Click here to book the Inn on the Mile

The Royal Mile’s Radisson Blu Hotel comes from a trusted name in hospitality and offers a range of room types. A real perk here is the indoor pool, sauna and gym.

You can also find Itchycoo Bar and Kitchen here, overlooking the Royal Mile. The concierge here is particularly helpful, too. 

Click to book the Radisson Blu

Tips for Walking in Edinburgh

Steps in Edinburgh

If you’ll be walking in Edinburgh, comfortable footwear is a must! It’s easy to get heels caught in the cobbles, so avoid those. Sneakers for spring, summer and autumn, or walking boots for winter, are good choices to keep you comfortable all day long. 

It can get very chilly in Edinburgh in winter – and surprisingly hot in summer! Dressing in layers is the best way to cope with this, so you’re prepared for whatever conditions the Scottish weather brings. 

As in the rest of the UK, rain is a feature of Edinburgh life. So be prepared by bringing along a packable rain jacket and/or a compact travel umbrella. 

a person walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh in the rain.

If you visit Edinburgh between late spring and early autumn, you could be surprised by how hot it can get! Even in winter you’ll need to drink water when doing lots of walking, anyway. 

If it’s dry and warm enough, bring along a picnic to enjoy in Holyrood Park at the end of your walk. While there are plenty of shops on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, many are gift shops, so you might like to pick up supplies from supermarkets in the Princes Street area. 

🎧 Listen to the UK Travel Planning Podcast Episode #58 which shares our tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh

The Royal Mile FAQs

Pub on the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is a series of streets leading between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood. The route through the city’s Old Town is actually a little over a mile. Along its length you can sample Scotch whisky, see ancient and modern buildings, and visit a range of museums and tourist attractions. 

The Royal Mile is in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It connects Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The streets making up the Royal Mile are Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, and Abbey Strand.

Bakehouse Close

The Royal Mile is actually slightly longer than a mile. So how long does it take to walk the Royal Mile? It really depends on the stops you make en route. If you walk briskly without stopping, you could make it in under half an hour. 

But in reality, stops and crowds will slow you down! It’s best not to rush this quintessential Edinburgh experience, anyway. 

Walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is an experience not to be missed! With so much to see and do along the way, it’s best to set out early to make the most of it. Allow at least a morning, but you could easily fill a full day with the sights there are to see. 

Plan ahead if you want to visit popular sites such as Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Camera Obscura, or the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Tickets for the former, in particular, are often sold out, so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment on the day. 

📖 Read next

  • Edinburgh Travel Guide
  • 14 Best day trips from Edinburgh by train
  • How to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
  • 9 Best Edinburgh Ghost Tours
  • 20 Practical Tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh
  • 21 Best Day Trips from Edinburgh
  • 27 Things to do in Edinburgh

🎧 Listen

  • Episode 88 – Exploring Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • Episode 87 – Scotland Adventures with Edinburgh Black Cab Tours
  • Episode 73 – Unforgettable day trips from Edinburgh by train
  • Episode 63 – 36-hour Edinburgh Itinerary
  • Episode 58 – Essential tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh
  • Episode 26 – London to Edinburgh by train

City of Edinburgh Tours

Underground Ghost Tours, History Tours, & Walking Tours in Edinburgh.

Experience the underground horror in edinburgh.

Our entertaining and professional ghost guides will lead you on a walking tour through Edinburgh’s hidden wynds and secret courtyards.

Come with us and explore the secrets of the underground beneath Edinburgh’s streets whilst hearing some of Scotland’s darkest stories, the curious, the uncanny and the terrifying.

Every City is full of secrets, Edinburgh is no exception.

Dare you descend?

  • Most Popular
  • Hour Glass 1 Hour and 15 Minutes
  • Tags Ages 5+

World Famous Underground Ghost Tour @ 18:10; 18:45; 19:45

Edinburgh is undoubtedly the most haunted city in the world! are you ready to find out why? Let one of Edinburgh most infamous sons or daughters lead you round the dark side of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

  • Tags Ages 18+

Extreme Paranormal Ghost Tour Edinburgh @ 21:15

For the hardened Ghost hunter, or the non-believer, this late night walking ghost tour is not for the faint-hearted! Explore the mysterious Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery and more at night.

Tour of Terror @ 20:45

Shiver at the weird noises… on this 75 minute guided ghost tour into Edinburgh’s extremely dark past, haunted streets, and winding wynds.

  • Hour Glass 1 Hour

Old Town & Underground Ghost Tour @ 13:15; 15:15; 17:15

The Old Town & Underground Ghost Tour will then take you on a guided tour of Edinburgh’s underground vaults, for close encounters with the paranormal!

  • Hour Glass 1 Hour and 30 Minutes

Old Town & Underground Historical Ghost Tour @ 11:00; 14:15

Join a local historian on our historical walking tour around Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. Learn about Edinburgh’s fascinating history, literature heroes, infamous criminals and battles that shaped our city.

  • Hour Glass 1 Hora y 15 Minutos
  • Tags Edades 5 +

EL TOUR DE FANTASMAS Y LAS BÓVEDAS SUBTERRÁNEAS @ 20:15

Serán conducidos por el pasado oscuro de Edimburgo y sus alrededores incluyendo el cementerio más encantado del mundo.

  • Hour Glass 1 Hour and 45 Minutes

Original Whisky Tasting Experience @ 13:00; (17:00 in August)

The ultimate whisky tasting in the birthplace of Scotland’s national anthem. Enjoy 3 distinct whisky’s and learn the true history of Scottish whisky on this walking tour.

Charles Dickens Edinburgh Literary Tour

Delve into Edinburgh’s literary legacy with a tour tracing the paths of renowned writers like Dickens and Stevenson, including a visit to the alleged grave of a legendary fictional character.

Private Tours in English, Spanish, French & German

Daily ghost walk and historical tours are available for private booking with additional tours available on request only. Customize your groups walking tour of Edinburgh today!

AWARDS & REVIEWS

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Tour was amazing and soldier jock didn't let them down. Lovely guy and done an amazing job. Had to deal with an unusual situation and he done it professionally

A perfect spooky treat for the family just before Halloween!! our tour guide was brilliant! she was very enthusiastic and got all the group joining in. Will definitely do it again!

Our guide was amazing. They went by the name James Barry. When we come back, we are definitely going to take the tour again and would love it if James could be our guide again. Lovely service. Amazing body language while telling stories. Well done.

Fantastically fun and spectacularly spooky evening walk full of historical stories and ghost tales with tour guide Soldier Jock who was very engaging, interesting yet friendly - ish! Would highly recommend

We was lucky enough to have Dr. Knox as our guide. He was fantastic. Made sure he spoke to everyone on the tour individually. Made fun of everyone. His storytelling and humour was just perfect. The tour was fascinating especially the underground bit at the end.

We went on the night tour with Soldier Jock, and what a brilliant time we had! Jock was informative and captivating with his stories, and there was a great blend of humour and horror on the tour. It was so interesting seeing a side of Edinburgh that's a lot darker than you first expect. Definitely recommended - thanks again, Soldier Jock!

27 things you should know before visiting Edinburgh: Why does it smell? Can I use English money? And more

James Smart

Jan 3, 2022 • 8 min read

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 09, 2013: Edinburgh's busy Royal Mile (The Highstreet) is one of the most iconic streets in Scotland and a mayor tourist attraction

Here’s what you need to know before you dive into Edinburgh © matthi / Shutterstock

With its grand castle and famous festival, Edinburgh is a tourist magnet. But Scotland ’s capital isn’t just a collection of big-ticket sights. Set on a series of extinct volcanoes and blessed with chasm-like medieval alleys and grand civic squares, Edinburgh is a stunner with substance.

There’s history around every sandstone-hewn corner, of course, but you’ll also find vibrant life in its parks, pubs and suburbs. Edinburgh isn’t just worth visiting, it’s worth throwing yourself into. Here’s what you need to know before you dive in: when to go, what to pack, the slang, the smells and the banknotes.

Planning your trip to Edinburgh

Arriving in edinburgh.

Edinburgh's airport is 8 miles (13km) away. Buses (cheaper), trams (quicker when the roads are busy) and taxis (good for door-to-door drop-offs) connect the terminal with the city center. If you’re arriving from outside Britain and you’re not a UK citizen, you’ll need to fill out a passenger locator form .

Train passengers roll into Edinburgh Waverley – travelers coming from England will get gorgeous coastal views on the way up. Buses arrive at St Andrew’s Square in the New Town, just north of the center.

Come in summer for a chance of sunshine

Summer, when the days are long and bright and the winds are generally docile, will suit most visitors best. But if you don’t mind a spot of dreich (dismal) weather, come in the colder months, when you can mix warm pubs and museums with bracing strolls along atmospheric streets.

Dodge the Festival (unless you’re here for the Festival)

The world’s biggest arts festival takes over the city every August. If you’re going, book your accommodation months in advance and be ready to book the biggest shows early too. If you’re not, avoid August. Things also get pretty busy around Hogmanay (the run-up to New Year), but the madness is shorter-lived.

Booking in advance can be worth it

The earlier you book your accommodation the better, especially during the Festival. The biggest shows, including the Tattoo , should be booked well in advance too. The Edinburgh City Pass is worth a look if you’re also going to hit attractions such as the Castle and Leith’s Royal Yacht Britannia – it includes access to the fun city bus tours too.

Beyond that, booking online a day or so before you go is a good idea for the castle – you can save money and waiting time. 

Pack waterproof gear

You’ll need a jacket whenever you’re visiting. Edinburgh rarely gets that cold, but it can change from bright sunshine to rain-lashed darkness in a heartbeat. You’re likely to do a fair bit of walking, so a pair of comfy shoes is important. There’s no need to pack anything particularly formal.

People sitting on the grass and relaxing in striped lawn chairs near Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens, with Edinburgh Castle above.

Why are there two towns?

Central Edinburgh is a city divided. But it’s not any ill feeling that keeps the city apart – instead a valley containing the elegant Princes Street Gardens and Waverly Station separates the Old and New Towns. The Old Town is the medieval quarter, where packed tenements rise high and cobbled streets and wynds (alleys) stretch down from the famous Royal Mile. The New Town (around 250 years old, everything being relative) has airy boulevards and clipped squares along an orderly grid.

Further out are districts including the West End (fairly smart), Leith (the rough-cut setting of Trainspotting , now steadily gentrifying) and the Southside (low-key and studenty).

How long do you need in Edinburgh?

Take a day for a whistle-stop tour of the Royal Mile and a ramble around the Castle, or take two to get a sense of what the Old and New Towns have to offer. Four days or more will give you a proper feel for the city, heading north to the former port of Leith and west to the Gallery of Modern Art , as well as ticking off all the big sights in the center.

Spending time in Edinburgh

What kind of currency do you need .

Scotland has its own banknotes, but English notes are accepted everywhere in Scotland. (You’ll find a few shops in England that don’t repay the favor.) Card and contactless payments are now more common than cash, and they're the easiest way to pay on public transport too – if you use cash on a bus, you’ll need exact change, or a pass is a good alternative.

The Pink Triangle is where to find LGBTQ+ Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s gay scene is centered on the “Pink Triangle”, just northeast of Princes Street. CC Blooms is the mainstay, with (fairly expensive) food in the day and cabaret and DJs at night. Down the road in Abbeyhill, the Regent is a laid-back alternative. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Scotland in 2014. 

Sniffing out Old Reekie

“Old Reekie” is one of Edinburgh’s most enduring nicknames. It dates from the 17th century, when the Old Town’s narrow, tall streets, combined with the Nor Loch (a stagnant pool where Princes Street Gardens now sits) created a notorious odor that mixed smoke and effluent. These days, Edinburgh smells much like any other city, although the West End sometimes has a slight boozy fug from the brewery.

People and traffic on Princess street near Edinburgh Castle, as seen from the Calton Hill

How to travel around Edinburgh

It's hilly, but walking is the best way to get around Edinburgh  – you’ll pass unexpected views and get a feel for the city’s rhythms. If you’re heading right across town, a cab (try Central Taxis) or ride-sharing app (Uber is the big one) isn’t a bad bet. There’s no subway, but trams connect the city center and West End with the airport, and buses are also helpful for heading to Leith or the Southside.

Etiquette in Edinburgh

Don't offend the locals.

If you meet someone in a social setting, an informal “hi” or a handshake are the usual greetings. You’re unlikely to inadvertently cause offense, though subjects like politics and religion are generally avoided in small talk. Scottish independence and Brexit can inspire passionate responses too.

Remember that Edinburgh is in Scotland, which is a part of Britain, but you’re definitely not in England – while lots of English people happily make Edinburgh their home, the England football team is traditionally booed with enthusiasm.

Buy your round in the pub

Rules here are the same as elsewhere in Britain and Ireland – one person usually orders for your group at the bar, paying for the “round” of drinks and bringing them back to the table. Everyone else then takes turns to get the round. Smarter bars may have table service, and almost everywhere will be able to offer a tray if you’ve lots of drinks to carry.

Most places take cash, although card or phone payments are more common. Pubs stay open later than south of the border – usually until midnight or 1am.

When should you tip, and how much? 

Tipping is only really required for table service in a restaurant (10% to 15%), although locals often round up taxi fares. If a hotel porter helps with your luggage, a tip of a pound or two per bag is standard.

Mind your tongue!

As a cosmopolitan city, Edinburgh is used to a range of accents. But you may not recognize every word you hear – take, for example, haar (a sea fog), Jambos (supporters of local club Hearts), Hibbies (hy-bees, supporters of city rivals Hibernian), Weegies (Glaswegians) and salt ‘n sauce (a vinegary and delicious condiment for chips). And you should ken (know) that Cockburn Street is pronounced “Coe-burn” and Edinburgh itself is “Edin-bru”, or even “Embra”.

People walking along a street in Edinburgh on a wet rainy day

Health and safety in Edinburgh

It’s a safe city – but watch your step.

Edinburgh is relatively safe. Pub-packed areas like the Cowgate (Old Town), Rose Street (New Town) and Lothian Road (West End) get lively on Friday and Saturday nights, but serious trouble is rare. Calton Hill offers good views during the day but is best avoided at night. Take usual precautions for a city, and use recognized ride-sharing apps or black cabs if in doubt at night.

Street scams are also uncommon, but watch your step as you explore: The sloping cobbles of the Old Town are slippery when wet. And when crossing roads, remember that traffic drives on the left.

Can you drink the water?

Oh yes. Edinburgh tap water is safe to drink ,and you can request it for free with your meal in a restaurant. The region’s water is soft (low in dissolved minerals), giving it a fresher taste than water from much of the UK.

Attractions are mostly accessible

Most modern hotels and attractions are accessible for travelers with disabilities, but many older buildings – including guesthouses and some pubs and restaurants – lack ramps and lifts. The New Town, with its wide streets, is more straightforward for wheelchair users than the steep, sometimes cobbled streets of the Old Town. Tourism body VisitScotland has a useful guide to accessible accommodation.

You might also like:  Budget Edinburgh: the best things to do for free in Scotland's capital 17 best things to do in Edinburgh Edinburgh for first-timers  

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    Kelpies, Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle, Luxury Private Day Tour. 4. from $942.15. Per group. Edinburgh, Scotland. The Best Of Edinburgh's Amazing Old Town. from $129.06. Edinburgh, Scotland. Underground Vaults Walking Tour in Edinburgh Old Town.

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