Walking down from the junction with Bank Street you're still technically on Lawnmarket - you'll pass a statue of David Hume and the relatively modern building of the High Court, before High Street begins.
You can't miss the imposing High Kirk of St Giles (for Edinburgh's patron saint) on the south side of the street. This building, with its distinctive crown-shaped bell tower, is sometimes referred to as St Giles' Cathedral. Although the building was technically a cathedral (that is, housing bishops) for two short periods during the seventeenth century, outside of these times, under the presbyterian Church of Scotland, as it is today, sans bishops, it is more properly referred to as the High Kirk.
Behind the High Kirk are the buildings of Parliament House, where the Scottish parliament sat prior to the union with England in 1707. You'll also find the Heart of Midlothian marked in the pavement near here, famed for denoting the doorway of the old debtors' prison which stood on this site. Visitors often spit on the ground here, as those released from the prison would have done, to indicate their contempt for the justice system.
Down a lane on the north side of High Street, immediately adjacent to the High Kirk, you'll find Mary King's Close, a fascinating guided excursion through the so-called 'underground city', an old Edinburgh street which was built over but remained intact and stands as an informative and entertaining insight into life in old Edinburgh. You'll also pass the City Chambers, housing departments of Edinburgh Council.
On High Street you'll find the box office for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a colourful building on the south side of the road. In the summer the queue for tickets here can be immense, so book your tickets online in advance, and join the (much shorter) queue to pick them up from the collection machines instead.
Past the next crossroads, marked by another former church, that of the Tron Kirk, you'll find buildings such as John Knox's House, reputed to be the home of the infamous religious reformer, as well as the Museum of Childhood, a free museum that is not especially child-friendly, but may appeal more to adults seeking to relive experiences from their own youth.
When you reach the next junction, on the south western corner of the crossroads is the World's End pub. For a long time, this junction marked the formal city boundary - Edinburgh reached only from the Castle to this junction, and all land beyond it was outside the city. At this junction once stood the main city gate, the Netherbow Port. This was the route which most people entering or leave the city would have taken, whether they were traders, visitors or invading armies. Crossing through the Netherbow required payment of a toll, so for many of the impoverished locals, paying the toll was more than they could have afforded, and consequently many of them were never able to physically leave the city as they could not have paid the price to get back in. This junction, for many people, was technically the end of the world, hence the pub. The outline of the Netherbow Port is marked in brass bricks in the roadway where it once stood.
You're now technically leaving the old burgh of Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile continues as Canongate.
Explore the Royal Mile in more detail with a Royal Mile walking tour, or a customised Edinburgh tour!
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