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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”).
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.
Bookended 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? I 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
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.
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
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!
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.