At least once before on this blog I’ve bragged that Walt and I have become pretty good at choosing great neighborhoods to live before arriving to a city. I should have known that after tooting my own horn like that, it was only a matter of time before I had to eat my words.
I don’t want to say we landed in a bad neighborhood in Edinburgh… it’s just different. I chose our apartment as I usually do: estimating our commute to potential co-working spaces, grocery stores, restaurants and things to see. Most of the time this puts us pretty close to the center of town, which often raises the rent of the flat. Finding a workable compromise between price and commute is generally pretty easy, and Edinburgh didn’t appear to break that pattern. I found our flat to be very centrally located next to a ton of restaurants and attractions, and still within walking distance to a cluster of co-working spaces. Sounds great, right?
Turns out, our place is smack dab in the middle of Edinburgh’s biggest tourist trap: the Royal Mile.
The Royal Mile gets it’s name from a pair of castles that are exactly one Scottish mile apart from each other (fun fact, the actual measurement of a Scottish mile was standardized using this road). We live at one end, right next to Edinburgh Castle. This castle is the older of the two, which was built on top of a huge crag of basalt to help defend it in ye’ olden times. Only problem is that it’s drafty as all get out and the living areas become unbearably cold in the winter time. So back in the 16th century, the Scottish royals had a second palace built at the bottom of the hill. This newer castle at the other end of the Mile is Holyrood Palace. As it turns out, this palace is still in use today. Every time the Queen comes up to bop around Scotland she stays at Holyrood.
So yeah, the Queen of England is kind of our neighbor. No big.
Because of its castle bookends, the Mile has turned into a sea of tourist shops and overpriced restaurants. We were a bit disheartened when we first arrived. Having crowds around your front door at all times can get tiring… but as we’ve lived here, it actually isn’t that bad. Two turns down a close (a tiny, often covered alley way) and we’re out of the fray and right in the middle of town. We don’t have to carve time out of our stay to see the Old Town sites – we pass by them all on our way to work. And like any tourist attraction, the Royal Mile has pretty strict hours of operation. Yes, there are literal bus loads of people during the day, but if I get up early enough on a Saturday morning, I can walk down the silent cobbled streets completely alone.
And I have to say, it’s pretty special to have this ancient neighborhood to yourself.