Mary King’s Close-What Lies Beneath Part 2

Many thanks to The Real Mary King’s Close, who were so kind as to permit me to use their awesome photos. All photos in this post are credited to them.

In my previous blog post, I gave you a bit of history of how Edinburgh, Scotland began; how it expanded eastward from Edinburgh Castle and how Mary King’s Close and other nearby alleys came to be frozen in time underneath the Royal Exchange. In light of that, today I would like to take you to see The Real Mary King’s Close, one of Edinburgh’s most compelling visitor attractions.

A cutaway of the area called Mary King's Close.
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Edinburgh, Scotland-What Lies Beneath Part 1

Beneath a portion of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile lies a hidden labyrinth of narrow alleyways and abandoned dwellings. This “secret” underground world is a fascinating peek into 17th-century life. To understand why it exists, however, we first need to take a look at how the city of Edinburgh grew.

Edinburgh originated with a community of people that lived and worked outside the walls of Edinburgh Castle. As its population increased, the city spread east along the sloped stretch of road called the Royal Mile. Overcrowding eventually became a serious issue, but because a protective wall enclosed Edinburgh, residents were unable to expand the city outward. They had no other alternative than to build up. What resulted was a web of narrow alleyways called ‘closes’ that led off of the Royal Mile, and buildings that sometimes grew multiple stories high.

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Follow the Cobblestone Road Part 1-Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

The Number 11’s brakes squealed and let out a whoosh as the bus jerked to a halt on Edinburgh’s busy Princes Street. The driver opened the door, and two people, who had never before crossed an ocean, now found themselves about to step out into the heart of Scotland’s capital city. Mr. C and I bubbled with anticipation. Excited about the day ahead, we climbed off of the red and white double-decker and took our first tentative steps onto the bustling street. Buses, cabs, cars, bicycles, pedestrians all were players in the well-organized chaos around us. Ahead, the Scott Monument-very Gothic, and very impressive-pointed sharply toward the sky. The squeal of a bagpipe cried in the distance. It was May, the weather was beautiful, and we had one destination in mind – Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

The Scott Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Scott Monument

A “Scots Mile” long, the Royal Mile is the beating heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is a series of four connecting streets that begin on the west end at Edinburgh Castle and slope steadily downward to the east, ending at the Palace of Holyrood House.

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