In Edinburgh, things are given simple names. The Royal Mile, for example, runs one Scots mile long and ends on each side at a royal landmark (Edinburgh Castle on the west side and Holyrood Abbey at the east). If you’re a visitor to Edinburgh, you’ll probably be spending quite a bit of time here. Typical Scottish gift shops, whisky shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, etc. can be found on this series of streets that comprise the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, as well as several notable city landmarks.
There’s one easy way to spot a tourist on the Royal Mile, and no, it’s not simply the “I ♥ Edinburgh” t-shirts (why anybody would wear a t-shirt in Scotland is beyond me anyway). Located outside of St. Giles’ Cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian. What was once the location of the Old Tolbooth, where public executions took place, is now the location of… a lot of spit. That’s right, the Heart of Midlothian (pictured below) symbolizes the heart that marked the doorway to the Old Tolbooth Prison in the 15-18th centuries. The public would spit on the heart to show their disgust towards criminals. Keeping the tradition alive today, locals spit on the heart, which is now engraved into the sidewalk, for good luck; tourists walk right through it. I chose to partake in the former option. There’s something oddly rewarding about watching tourists walk through your own saliva. I proudly left my mark in Edinburgh.
There’s a lot going on in Edinburgh’s Old Town, and the Royal Mile is at the heart of it all. Bagpipes and harps fill the air with delightful Scottish sounds, complementing the hustle and bustle of the busy street(s). A stroll along the Royal Mile is well worth your time, but be sure to make your way off the beaten path as well. There’s much more to Edinburgh than meets the eye, and there’s certainly more to Edinburgh than the Royal Mile.