How crowded does the Royal Mile get during Edinburgh Festival?

As the vibrant heart of the Scottish capital, the Royal Mile is a bustling hub of activity during the Edinburgh Festival. The mile-long stretch from Edinburgh Castle to the Scottish Parliament is a hotbed of performances, food stalls, and excited tourists during this iconic event. In this article, we delve into the bustling atmosphere of the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival, exploring its thrilling chaos, unique performances, and the impact of its recent cancellation.

The Festival Fringe on the Royal Mile

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, commonly known as the Fringe, is the world's largest arts festival. It usually takes place for three weeks in August, transforming the normally quiet Scottish city into an entertainment paradise. During this period, the Royal Mile becomes the backbone of the festival, brimming with street performers who take the concept of 'free performance' to a whole new level.

The Fringe on the Royal Mile is not for the faint-hearted. It's a place where your senses are assaulted from all directions. Street performers range from jugglers to singers, comedians to acrobats, and even the odd fire-breather. And amidst this sea of talent, you're likely to see the famous Karen Gardiner. Known for her quirky, interactive performances, Gardiner is a beloved fixture at the festival.

Despite the array of free performances, the Royal Mile is not just about entertainment. It's also a marketplace of sorts, where performers flyer for their shows, hoping to convince passers-by to buy a ticket. It's a heady mix of performance and promotion - a microcosm of the festival itself.

The Impact of Cancellation on the Royal Mile

The cancellation of the Edinburgh festival in the past years due to unprecedented circumstances was a shock to the system of the city. The normally bustling Royal Mile became eerily quiet. The absence of the festival was felt deeply, particularly by businesses along the street which rely on the extra footfall.

For performers like Karen Gardiner, the cancellation was a blow. The Royal Mile is more than just a performance space; it's a community and a place where careers are made. The loss of the festival meant the loss of a significant platform for many artists.

In spite of the cancellation, the spirit of the festival lived on. Many performers turned to virtual performances, bringing the fun and chaos of the Royal Mile into people's homes. Though it wasn't the same, it was a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the artists and the Edinburgh community.

A Day on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival

Getting the best out of your day on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival requires a bit of planning. The street gets incredibly crowded, with thousands of visitors filling the cobblestone streets from the early hours of the day.

Starting your day with a tour of the Edinburgh Castle can give you a quiet respite before the festival chaos begins. From there, meander down the Royal Mile, taking in the street performances and the vibrant atmosphere. It's worth setting a few hours aside to simply soak in the energy of the place.

A word of advice: keep an open mind. The beauty of the Royal Mile during the festival is the unpredictability. You might find yourself pulled into a spontaneous performance or discover a new favorite comedian. Every corner, every alleyway has the potential for a new surprise.

English Influence on the Edinburgh Festival

Although steeped in Scottish tradition, the Edinburgh Festival also has a significant English influence. A large number of performers hail from England, bringing their own unique flavor to the festival. Even the Royal Mile itself is reminiscent of the traditional English market streets, bustling with energy and commerce.

However, despite this influence, the festival is distinctly Scottish. The Royal Mile, with its historic stone buildings and the castle looming overhead, is inherently Scottish. The festival is a blend of the old and the new, the local and the foreign, the traditional and the avant-garde. This is what makes the Edinburgh Festival, and particularly the Royal Mile, such an unforgettable experience.

Exploring the Royal Mile: Top Spots and Hidden Gems

As the main artery of the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Mile is teeming with must-see attractions and hidden gems. The ancient cobbled streets that stretch from the Edinburgh Castle to the Scottish Parliament house a myriad of shops, restaurants, and historic sites that are worth exploring.

Begin your tour from the Edinburgh Castle, as the early hours tend to be quieter and less crowded. Here, you can delve into Scotland’s rich history, marvel at the Stone of Destiny, and catch breathtaking views of the city. As you move along the Royal Mile, make sure to visit St Giles’ Cathedral, known for its stunning stained glass windows.

Among the hidden gems, you’ll find the Museum of Edinburgh, housed in a 16th-century building. It offers free admission and exhibits a fantastic collection of historical artefacts. Another not-to-miss spot is the Writer's Museum, dedicated to the lives of three giants of Scottish Literature - Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

During the festival, the Royal Mile becomes a stage itself, with street performers like Karen Gardiner creating enchanting moments at every corner. Remember, these performances are unpredictable, part of the charm of the festival. So always keep an open mind and be ready to participate if you're asked.

The Edinburgh Festival: An International Affair

Although rooted in Scottish tradition, the Edinburgh Festival has grown to become a global event, attracting performers and spectators from around the world. The English influence is significant, with many performers from England adding their individual styles to the festival.

The English hours of performances can extend well into the night, allowing visitors to enjoy a variety of shows at their leisure. Despite the English influence, the festival remains distinctively Scottish, providing a unique blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary.

However, the festival is not immune to external factors. With the recent cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances, many performers were forced to adapt, turning to virtual performances to keep the spirit of the festival alive.

While the cancellation was felt by all, it served to prove the resilience of the festival, its performers, and the community that supports it. With free cancellation policies in place for future events, the festival is prepared to face any challenges that may arise, ensuring its sustainability for years to come.


The Edinburgh Festival transforms the Royal Mile into a vibrant, eclectic hub of culture and entertainment. Despite recent cancellations, the festival's spirit remains unbroken, as performers and audiences alike pivot to virtual platforms to keep the tradition alive.

The fusion of Scottish tradition with international influences creates a unique experience that is both timeless and contemporary. From the historic Edinburgh Castle to the spontaneous street performances, every moment on the Royal Mile during the festival promises an adventure.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a festival veteran, there's always something new to discover in the buzzing atmosphere of the Edinburgh Festival. So, plan your visit, keep an open mind, and let the magic of the Royal Mile take you on an unforgettable journey.

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