Immediately after the small roundabout at the junction of Johnston Terrace, you're into the Lawnmarket section of the Royal Mile. Originally a market area specialising in cloth or linen, the name Lawnmarket likely derives from a corruption of the French translation of linen, 'lin', or possibly from the Scots pronunciation of 'land', 'laun'.
On the north side of the Lawnmarket you'll find the restored 15th century tenement building of Gladstone's Land, which gives a fascinating insight into life inside the buildings of Old Edinburgh. These properties would have housed families from right across the social spectrum, from shop keepers and merchants to noblemen and their families, and quickly became overcrowded.
Notice the lanes leading off the Royal Mile on either side of the road. Take time to explore these alleys, known as closes, wynds or courts, each of them named for a wealthy or significant occupant of one of the houses here, or for the tradesman or artisan workers who lived there. The closes originally would have had a gate on the street to close them off at night; the wynds would have led down the hill to backstreets; and courts generally opened up into small courtyards, providing access to a range of buildings.
These alleys are a key part of Edinburgh history and heritage, and no visit to the Royal Mile would be complete without an exploration of them. You may be surprised to find pavement cafes, restaurants, bars, gardens, museums and a range of shops all nestled down these alleys, and each has a different character.
Down Lady Stair's Close, off the Lawnmarket on the north side, you will find the Writer's Museum, a free exhibition of artefacts relating to three of Edinburgh's finest literary figures, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.
On either side of the Lawnmarket you'll find both a tearoom and a pub named for Deacon Brodie, an infamous inhabitant of old Edinburgh, a man whose double life inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Enjoy a sandwich or a snack in the tea room, whilst the 'tavern' on the corner (whose sign outside is double-sided, and painted to reflect the dual natures of Brodie himself) is a popular spot to try haggis, Scotland's national dish.
The Lawnmarket is also where the City Bus Tours pick up and drop off. During the summer a number of different routes operate, and the buses pull in on either side of the road at the Lawnmarket, depending which route you're taking. This is the closest the Bus Tours get to Edinburgh Castle.
The Lawnmarket continues just across the next junction, with Bank Street and George IV Bridge, before the Royal Mile officially becomes High Street.
Outside the High Court building here you can find the statue of the philosopher David Hume, a significant figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume is scultped sitting in a chair with his foot overhanging the pedestal. People often rub his toe for good luck, an act that the philosopher himself would have dismissed as ridiculous superstition...!
Explore the Royal Mile in more detail with a Royal Mile walking tour, or a customised Edinburgh city tour.
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