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The Royal Mile is a succession of streets that form the main throughoutfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh, the capital and the 2nd largest city of Scotland and the 7th most populous in UK, its population being approximated at a number of more than 477 000 inhabitants. Due to the vast number of appealing attractions and the famous Royal Mile, Edinburgh attracts a number of approximately 1 million overseas visitors a year, fact which makes it the 2nd most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom, after the beautiful and historical city of London.
As its name suggestes, Royal Mile is about 1 mile long, running between Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Castle Rock, down to Holyrood Abbey. The streets that make up Royal Mile are Castlehill, Castle Esplanade, High Street, Lawnmarket, Canongate and Abbey Strand. Royal Mile is Edinburgh Old Town's busiest tourist street, being rivaled only by Princes Street, in New Town, Edinburgh's main shopping street and one of the major throughout fares in the city's central area.
In 1723, Daniel Defoe named Royal Mile "The largest, longest and finest street for Buildings and Number of Inhabitants, not only in Britain, but in the World...". Today, Royal Mile in an eclectic mix of tourist shops and eateries, pubs and historical attractions, also serving as the heart of Scotland's legal system, housing both the High Court of Judiciary and the Court of Session.
Visitors will find lots of places to explore on either side of Royal Mile, among the most popular and favorite attractions also being:
Edinburgh Castle, a magnificent sight that stands above the city, a historic monument and a working military establishment, as well, the Scottish Division headquarters being based here. Badly damaged, many times, over the ages, the castle now hosts a mix of various architectural styles, its oldest surviving part being a tiny Norman Chapel, built in the 12th century.
The Castle Wynd Steps, consisting of a total of 187 steps, lead up to the top of Castle Hill and the entrance of Castle Esplanade, where Moby, Elton John, Tom Jones and Westlife have played, the area being used every year as an outdoor stage for The Military Tatoo, occasionally hosting pop & rock concerts, as well.
Witches' Well is a definitely "must" while exploring Royal Mile. Situated on the entrance to the Castle esplanade, on the west wall of the Tartan Weaving Mill, is easy to miss. It is a commemoration of the place where hundreds of women were burned at the stake, being accused of witchcraft.
The Whisky Heritage Center is also worth checking out. Here, visitors can learn about the history of Scotland's national drink.
Camera Obscura, built in the 19th century, contains the largest display of holograms in Europe, including fascinating optical illusions, displays of pin-hole photography and early photographs of Old Edinburgh. In 1945, the original mirror and lens were replaced. Opening times vary.
The Writer's Museum is another "must see" along Royal Mile, featuring pictures, etchings, busts and memorabilia, including bibles, pipes and walking sticks which celebrate the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Robert Burns, who, all at once, lived in Edinburgh.
Other major attractions housed within the Royal Mile, there are: the Lothian Chambers, High Court of Judiciary, Parliament Square, Tollbooth Prison, Police Museum, John Knox House, The World's End and dozens of other such attractions.