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Best of Edinburgh


Best of Edinburgh Attractions

A Walk Down the Royal Mile - Abbey Strand

Abbey Strand
Street sign

Less than 100 metres long, Abbey Strand lies at the bottom of the Royal Mile, running down to the gates of Holyroodhouse.

Abbey Strand
View down Abbey Strand

The Queen's Gallery

Abbey Strand
Queen's Gallery

To the right of Abbey Strand is The Queen's Gallery, which was opened in 2002 by HM Queen Elizabeth II as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Gallery forms part of the Holyroodhouse complex and is used to exhibit works from the Royal Collection. (Admission charge applies).

Sanctuary

Abbey Strand
Sanctuary marker

If you look carefully, you will see running across the road junction at Abbey Strand a number of "S" shapes. These mark the boundary of the religious sanctuary provided from civil law by Holyrood Abbey.

The sanctuary zone was fairly extensive, taking in the perimeter of Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat and running as far east as Jock's Lodge. Those seeking asylum were principally debtors, known jokingly to the locals as the "Abbey Lairds".

Applications for sanctuary had to be made to the Bailie of Holyrood and a booking fee paid. Once accepted, letters of protection were issued which allowed applicants to live free from the threat of arrest within the sanctuary zone. As a result a small industry built up to service those granted sanctuary, eg inns providing food and accommodation etc. Some of these buildings can still be seen at Abbey Strand.

Interestingly, because legal proceedings were not allowed in Scotland on Sundays, those granted asylum were able to leave the sanctuary zone unmolested for 24 hours from midnight each Saturday night. In 1880 however a change in the law meant that debtors could no longer be imprisoned and as a result the need for people to seek sanctuary effectively ended.

Abbey Strand
Sanctuary buildings
Abbey Strand
Who goes there? Door at Abbey Strand

Heraldic Panel

Abbey Strand
Heraldic panel

We are almost now at the end of our walk down the Royal Mile. On the wall opposite the Historic Scotland Sanctuary Information and Bookshop you will see this colourful heraldic panel. This originally stood over the entrance to the gatehouse at this location. The initials IR5 stands for King James the Fifth.

End of Walk Down the Royal Mile

Abbey Strand
Palace of Holyroodhouse

As we arrive at the gates of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, here our walk down the Royal Mile comes to an end. We hope you have found it interesting and enjoyed this insight into the fascinating world of old Edinburgh.

Haste Ye Back!