Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is undoubtedly one of the city’s main attractions, drawing in tourists from all over the world. Lined with stunning architecture, bustling shops, and historic landmarks, it’s easy to see why this stretch of road is so popular. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, there are hidden treasures waiting to be discovered – the secret garden and closes.
Tucked away behind the grand facades of the Royal Mile are hidden courtyards and secluded gardens that offer a peaceful escape from the crowds. These secret havens invite you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history of Edinburgh.
One such hidden gem is Lady Stair’s Close, which also is home to The Writer’s Museum. This charming, secluded spot offers a glimpse into what life is like for the residents of the mile. The close is flanked by traditional tenements, and the communal courtyard is home to a solitary lamppost, providing the perfect opportunity to imagine escaping to Narnia – or simply a chance for a memorable photo. Take a moment to appreciate the architecture and imagine the generations that have passed through there.
Continuing your exploration of the closes, look out for Advocates Close, Bakehouse Close, and Tweeddale Court which are just a few examples of the many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These closes, with their narrow cobblestone paths and tall tenements, hold tales of Edinburgh’s past. Each close has its own unique atmosphere and stories to tell, making for an unforgettable journey through Edinburgh’s history. Advocates Close offers a window towards Edinburgh’s New Town, take note of the sharp contrast between the two to really get an idea of how the city changed through time. And of course, Tweeddale Court has gained popularity since it was used as a location to film Outlander (episode 6 of season 3), so take a moment to pause and picture Jamie… and enjoy.
Another hidden delight to escape the crowds is Dunbar’s Close Garden, located on Canongate, just off the Royal Mile. As you enter the garden, you’ll be transported to a tranquil oasis filled with lush greenery, colorful flowers, and viewpoint up to Calton Hill. This beautifully landscaped garden has been designed to resemble a 17th-century garden, recreating the charm of Edinburgh’s past. Take a leisurely stroll along the meandering paths, find a quiet bench to relax on, and let the serenity wash over you. It’s the perfect spot to escape the city’s hustle and recharge your batteries.
Another hidden delight lies within the closes or narrow alleyways that branch off from the Royal Mile. These closes, with their narrow cobblestone paths and tall tenements, hold tales of Edinburgh’s past. Venture down to Chessel’s Court, and you’ll discover a hidden courtyard along with the now-famous heart shaped vine. Whilst I would encourage you to be mindful that it is a residential area – and you are actually right on someone’s doorstep – it is nice to pause and appreciate the colours of the buildings and take a moment to enjoy the peace.
Finally, nestled towards the bottom of the mile (near to Holyrood palace), you can find White Horse Close. This Close has a completely different vibe, partly because it is nowhere near as old as many of the other buildings that can be found off the Royal Mile. It was renovated in the 1950’s as part of the ‘sum clearance’ and looks rather like it could be off a Disney set.
So, the next time you find yourself strolling along the Royal Mile, take a detour into the secret gardens and closes. These hidden treasures offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history and provide a much-needed escape from the bustling crowds. Whether you’re seeking tranquility or a deeper connection to Edinburgh’s past, the secret garden and closes along the Royal Mile are sure to leave you enchanted.