Old & New Towns, The Real Mary King's Close & St.Giles Church (Edinburgh - Scotland)

Very similar to Bath, Edinburgh is another city, frozen in time a few centuries back, and today protected under UNESCO, not as a site, but the complete city as a whole. This city is the capital of Scotland since 15th C CE till date. The entire city can be split into 2 based on its architecture - Old Town & New Town, with the railway track, almost forming the split.
The Old Town is a 15th C structure while the New Town is 18th C structure. While Old Town is the Edinburgh Castle and all the places around it with medieval architecture, the new town has a European urban planning. The streets are pretty narrow, curved and varying in altitudes, while the buildings made of stones & rocks in Old Town. To walk on the Royal Mile is enough to feel the medieval-ness of the old town with the way the buildings are built and the way the streets are paved!!! 

New town has a good planning with geometrical roads and identical buildings. A walk on the George St or Queen St is enough to feel the European renaissance inspired feel of the new town with its multi storied buildings,facades, Corinthian styled pillars etc. When looking from above the contrast between the old town & new town is stark and that co-existence is the reason it is enlisted under UNESCO.  

Apart from the Castle, and the streets that are frozen in time, 2 other buildings that express the feel of Old Town are St.Giles Cathedral & Mary King's Close. The striking feature of the Cathedral is its crown spire (yeah, that's Holyrood Park in the background of the Church's spire in the above pic!). Its a feature that I haven't seen any church in England! The church was built in 1124, but majorly restored in 1385 after a fire and again in 1872-83.

Very few structures of the original 12th C structure still exist. 2 of the most beautiful features of the church are the Thistle Chapel and the Stained Glass Windows. The Thistle Chapel is a small with intricate wooden detailing. The high ceiling looks spectacular with those pillars splitting up like a fan on the ceiling! The spider like structure on the ceiling is just perfection. The Order of Thistle is Scotland's prestigious order of Chivalry. This part of the Church was designed & built in 1911. There is a plaque here representing each member since 1909.
The earliest Stained Glass here is from 1873. However the original church itself must have had a lot of stained glass windows, however most of it was destroyed in the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824. So the entire church was almost rebuilt with after it and ofcourse the Stained Glass windows belong to 19th C or later.
The Real Mary King's Close is a tiny little street of the yester years. Closes are tiny streets that branch out of the main Royal Mile which served as bazaars. And as time went by, on either sides of these streets, houses and workshops came up and people started living there. Since these closes didn't have any sanitation or plumbing, more often than not, the dirty water & sewage ran on the streets! Mostly these closes were named after the most prominent business person in the close and Mary King was a wealthy widow who lived here.
The size of one of the houses here looked pretty much same as the beer cellar in many of the Royal villas along Thames! And usually a family of 8-10 people lived in this place without any sanitation etc. These streets also sloped downwards from the main road which  resulted in the houses behind being in much lower altitude and more houses were built atop them even upto 7 stories!
In course of time, when the Royal Exchange was built, the close had to go below it as it was in an underground altitude. So it was closed & sealed as it was illegal to have houses that did not have skylight on it, then. In recent years, it has been opened to public again. Many of the rooms here have the original woodwork, fireplaces & stone work  and even some belongings of the people who lived here incl work tools, furniture & toys of children who once lived here!!! It also means some rooms are very fragile!!! 

This is an authentic example of how people lived here and an original look & feel of the Old Town from 16th - 19th C CE. The very thought that we are walking on the street where sh*t & sewage flowed and the very place where people were let to die of plague is slightly yucky & scary! But then, totally worth the visit to actually know what was Old Town originally!!!

P.S.1: Check out here to know what I wore to the trip

To Get There:
St Giles Church: https://goo.gl/maps/zD2ApwwqHY22
Entry fee: Free

The Real Mary King's Close: https://goo.gl/maps/Z7dUrKHx3742

Located just diagonally opposite to St.Giles Church on Royal Mile
Entry fee: £14.50 
Available to buy online on their website.

P.S.1: I was invited by VisitScotland to experience the Edinburgh for review purposehowever the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

P.S.2: All the non-watermarked images belong to The Real Mary King's Close official press release as photography wasn't allowed there.

Dedicated to Venkat


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Now these places are more likely the places I will visit if ever we get the chance to visit Edinburgh in the future. I will never tire of visiting Cathedrals all over the world if given the chance.

  2. Whenever I see such structures, I always salute those architects who did this in that times..So advanced, so creative!

  3. The old architecture is absolutely breathtaking! They look so cozy and warm in contrast with the cold weather! :O

  4. It's always nice to visit places like this! It feels as if you were transported in time. I would love to see the place up close! There's so much detail!

  5. Cathedrals are symbolic places to visit. Sometimes I wished the world is still blessed with those ancient creative architect to build more in this modern era. Warm, pleasant feelings flows inside the structures.

  6. How exciting because I'm hoping to visit UK pretty soon. Of course I've got to make a stop at Edinburgh!

  7. How did you remember all these facts and details about these locations? The stained glass is beautiful. I wonder how the rest of the old stained glasses looked like. Will there be any old images?

  8. I like how they was able to preserve the old town feel of the place. The cathedral looks really well made down to its intricate details.

  9. Love the architecture. Thats what I love about European countries. Though havent been to any but by the photos its amazing

  10. I really love places like this. Structures standing for centuries already, these are the worth to visit indeed. What I love about old structures are its designs and where it is made of. It's something that you can sure that it was made of quality indeed.

  11. utiful structures well captured!

  12. Oh I did love Edinburgh. Your photos bring back such wonderful memories of walking around the Mary's King Close. Like you I couldn't imagine living in those small places, with no bathroom facilities and entire families!

  13. Love your commentary on the architecture! Great photos.


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