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Royal Mile Shops: Good buys or Tourist traps in Edinburgh, Scotland?

The Royal Mile– a walk through Edinburgh’s history

While we may try to avoid a town’s busy high street (and its touristy shops) when we travel, sometimes the high street itself is the prime attraction. The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is not a typical high street– it’s an ancient set of connecting roads cutting directly through the heart of Edinburgh’s historic district (called the “Old Town”).

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, map

18th century map of the Royal Mile

This historic stretch of streets (made up of Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate and Abbey Strand) is thought to have its origins in the twelfth century.

800px-The_High_Street,_EdinburghBookended by Edinburgh Castle on one end and Holyrood Palace on the other, the Royal Mile is a tourist-friendly street, making it easy for multi-tasking visitors to combine sightseeing with other favorite tourist activities– like shopping.

The Royal Mile– Shopping and Sightseeing made easy

???????????????????????????????As you walk along this pretty street, it becomes obvious that the shops lining the Royal Mile aren’t for locals, they’re targeting you, the tourist. Does that mean you should skip them, and venture off the beaten path to find more “authentic” Scottish shops? royal mile shops cashmereI wondered the same thing when I visited Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and saw shop after shop promising “discounted Scottish souvenirs.” Was it really possible to find quality goods in such a tourist-heavy zone? We visited the local shops to see for ourselves. What did we find?

Royal Mile’s Clan souvenirs

Clan items are big sellers in Royal Mile shops. If you know your clan name, chances are excellent you will find the matching tartan plaid here. Since I don’t have a drop of Scottish blood in me, I skipped over these shops. If I wanted to pick a clan just for fun, though, I would definitely go with the Princess Diana tartan plaid.

The Royal Mile’s Cashmere and Woolens Shops

cashmere shop edinburgh royal miles scottlandIf you’re in need of a cashmere scarf you’re in luck. You’ll find plenty of them here.

But unlike souvenir shops in other cities that hawk local-looking stuff that is actually made in China, the souvenir shops along the Royal Mile all sell the real thing. All of the cashmere items we saw were made in local Scottish mills.

elgin cashmere shop royal mile edinburgh

I recognized some of brand names along the the Royal Mile, like this Elgin shop.

royal mile shopping

cheap cashmere royal mile souvenirs edinburgh

But you’ll finder cheaper cashmere at some of the “no name” shops.

cheap discount souvenirs royal mile edinburghAlthough we found that many of the Royal Mile shops have similar pricing schemes, it does pay to shop around a bit– there are some hidden bargains to be found.

pink plaid cashmere scarf scotland edinburgh royal mile

I bought this very scarf nearly ten years ago along the Royal Mile– it still looks and feels brand new and has kept me warm through many frigid winters.

I ended up doing my shopping at a very touristy looking shop along the Royal Mile– the kind I usually avoid. Although the items at this shop were all made in Scotland, there were definitely no local artisans on hand and I wouldn’t exactly call it an authentic shopping “experience,” (more like a transaction). But I did get come home with a great buy– I pulled this bright pink cashmere scarf out of one of the bargain bins and it has turned out to be one of my best purchases yet.

As I was having great luck with the shopping, I continued on and found another one of my favorite souvenir buys a little farther down the road.

Royal Mile Shops: Antiques

royal mile antique shops jugs jars

As you can see from the photo, my jugs made it home just fine.

If you like British antiques, you might be surprised at how much cheaper they are in the UK than back in the US. At the very back of an antique/knickknack shop on the Royal Mile, I unearthed a pile of these Victorian era jugs from the Orkney Isles. Price? A quid per jug.

I wouldn’t ordinarily bring home five breakable and heavy jugs, but at £5 for the lot, I figured it was worth the risk.

Have you brought back any great finds from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile? Or have you uncovered great finds at a shop meant for tourists only? Share in the comments below!

Thanks to my fab friend Emma Spires who just came back from Edinburgh and snapped the Royal Mile Shop photos. Check out Emma’s fabulous site Ladies with Luggage, where Emma reviews the best new travel products for women. Also check out Emma’s fun new Travel Community on Facebook, World Travel Addicts, for anyone who is addicted to traveling and daydreams about undiscovered lands!

Photo credits:
Royal Mile Map, in public domain.
Royal Mile Street via Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_High_Street,_Edinburgh.JPG / CC BY-SA 3.0
Shop photos Copyright 2014, Emma Spires, Ladies with Luggage.
Pink Scarf and Victorian Jugs, Copyright 2014, Souvenir Finder.

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11 Responses to Royal Mile Shops: Good buys or Tourist traps in Edinburgh, Scotland?

  1. sueslaght 03/26/2014 at 10:40 pm #

    I recognize that pink scarf! 🙂 Just arrived in Scotland but won’t be in Edinburgh. I’ll watch for scarves here in Aberdeen.

    • Kristin Francis 03/26/2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Oh jealous! Hope the weather is nice! Aberdeen was on my agenda on my last visit but we actually were too ambitious and had to skip it. Looking forward to seeing your photos, enjoy!

  2. Rolling Harbour 03/27/2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Love Edinburgh. When it isn’t raining. And even the tat! Well found with that Royal Mile map, btw. RH

    • Kristin Francis 03/27/2014 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks! Edinburgh is such a great city, thinking I should plan a return visit. But then I remember how it was cold and windy every single day in Scotland!!

    • Kristin Francis 04/03/2014 at 8:50 am #

      Wikipedia is always my first research source!

  3. Val Bromann 03/27/2014 at 3:04 pm #

    I’m pretty sure I’m wearing the exact red plaid scarf in one of your photos right now 🙂
    I picked it up there a few months ago!

    • Kristin Francis 03/27/2014 at 3:13 pm #

      Val that’s hilarious! And after looking through every shop I came across that one and thought it was so original! No matter, I really have worn it for the last 10 years– has to be one of my best investments yet. p.s. I am enjoying following your competitive eating prep– if I’m in town on the 4th I am definitely coming to watch!

  4. Jan Nesbitt 06/14/2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Heading that way in about 3 weeks. Which is the best priced shops for cashmere scarves? I love yours!

  5. Jeffrey Scot 04/14/2016 at 6:26 pm #

    Will be visiting Edinburgh for the first time this July. I’d love to purchase some cufflinks while there. Any recommendations as to where?

  6. Tammy Droste 04/16/2016 at 1:39 pm #

    what are the best shops on the Royal Mile for local Scotland wares – what I’ve read says alot of them are ‘made in China’ ugh – looking for the best for authentic

  7. Anonymous 06/07/2016 at 2:09 pm #

    Which is the best shop in Edinburgh, Scotland to purchase a fancy Spurtle and horn egg spoon?

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