Abbey Strand

Royal Mile Attractions


Royal Mile Abbey Strand Edinburgh is the small area around the Palace of Holyrood House which was built circa 1480 leading up to the Palace gates. The brass letter S’s in the cobbles that can be found across the start on the Abbey Strand were boundary markers of a sanctuary, which is five miles in circumference and takes in Holyrood Park. The Sanctuary was a safe place for people that were running away from creditors to live. The building that is now used as a gift shop was once homes for debtors. There are two significant buildings in the Abbey Strand Holyrood House Palace and Holyrood Abbey the later dating back to King David I.

Abbey Strand

Royal Attractions


allaboutedinburgh royal mile abbey strand

Unicorn Wall Tablet 

In the Abbey Strand on the entrance through the south wall near the gates to the Palace of Holyrood House you will see an ornate stone tablet of a unicorn with the inscription; IR5 or (KING JAMES THE V) A white unicorn (the symbol of Scotland) holding the saltire flag of Scotland, with a shield, with the red lion rampant.

allaboutedinburgh royal mile abbey strand holyrood abbey unicorn plaque

Palace of Holyrood House

Palace of Holyrood House is Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Scotland was built in 1498 by James IV. The Palace was set alight and burned down in November of 1650 when Cromwell’s troops were leaving. This was said to be an accident. The Tower of James V being the only part that survived. The present palace foundations were laid in 1671 and the rebuild completed in 1674, the new occupants took up residency at the end of 1679. The then Duke of Albany and York, to be James the II of England and VII of Scotland and family.

Holyrood House Abbey Strand Royal Mile Edinburgh

Holyrood Abbey Royal Mile Edinburgh

Holyrood Abbey was built by King David I in 1128 is now a ruin with a history that spans 800 years. Holyrood Abbey’s position close to Edinburgh Castle meant that it was often visited by Scotland’s monarchs throughout the centuries. Holyrood Abbey was the site of the coronations of James II in 1437 and Charles I in 1633. It also housed the first high school of Scotland.


Young Mary landed at Leith on 18 June 1549 and married 19-year-old James II, King of Scots, at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh two weeks later. On the completion of the marriage ceremony Mary was taken to her dressing room clothed in the coronation robes and returned to be crowned Queen of Scotland.

Abbey Strand Holyrood Abbey

Holyrood House Water Fountain

In the forecourt of the Palace of Holyrood House stands an Octagonal stone fountain which is said to be design on the original fountain that stood in Linlithgow Palace. The fountain has many figures and heads and was built around 1860. Octagonal stone fountain is decorated with figures from the who’s who Blair, Montgomery, Campbell and Blackadder, Rizzio, Queen Margaret, John Cunningham, Town Drummer of Linlithgow, Lady Cramford with a hawk perched on her finger and a dog by her left side, the Earl of Stair, Queen Mary, Sir John Cope, Arabella of France, heads of Edward I, Queen Mary and the Duke of Buckingham Archie Simpson (Dunfermline Abbey fool), Binnock (who deceived the English at Linlithgow) and Elizabeth Blackwood the heads of Young Earl of Kent, Abbot of St Andrews and Oliver Cromwell George Buchanan (Court fool) stabbing the Duke of Devonshire the head of Grieve on Jock Howieson's farm, the head of Shakespeare, and the fool in the Court of Elizabeth the Duke of Essex and Lola Irondale with a dog the heads of John Milburn of the Covenanters, a cherub and Elizabeth Milburn.

Abbey Strand Holyrood House Water Fountain

Queen Mary’s Bath House

Queen Mary’s Bath house was associated with Mary Queen of Scots. Used as a summer house for the Royals when walking in the garden. The wording on the sign reads; Queen Mary’s Bath House. This little two Storeyed building is traditionally associated with May Queen of Scots (1542-1587). It was once attached to a boundary wall enclosing the Kings privy garden and served as a pavilion or summerhouse where the royal family might relax whilst strolling in the garden. Weather it contained a bath is unknown.

Queen Mary's Bath House Holyrood Palace
allaboutedinburgh royal mile abbey strand holyrood palace queen mary's bath house sign


Holyrood Abbey


You can find the brass S’s in the cobbles of Abbey Strand leading to the entrance of Holyrood. Holyrood Abbey was designated as a debtor's sanctuary in the 16th century. The sanctuary extends to the whole of Holyrood Park slightly over 4 square miles. Anyone in debt could flee their creditors, and imprisonment or hanging, by taking up residence within the sanctuary, due to this a small community grew to the west of the palace most of the houses were demolished and only a few remain. "Abbey Lairds", were only able to leave the sanctuary on Sundays as it was not allowed to arrest anyone on the Sabbath. In 1880 the law was changed which meant debtors could no longer be imprisoned. The Sanctuary building is now used as a gift shop for the palace.

Holyrood Palace Gates Royal Mile Abbey Strand
Sanctuary Building Abbey Strand Edinburg
Sanctuary Cobbles Royal Mile Abbey Strand Edinburgh

Thomson’s Court

Abbey Strand

Royal Mile Edinburgh

Thomson’s Court is to the north side of Abbey Strand as was used for accommodation for the debtors who lived within the sanctuary area of Holyrood Abbey circa 1850. At one time there were Taverns on the ground floor with housing above. Originally built as housing circa 1500. Renovations have now been made and Thomson's Court is now Abbey Apartments with multi functional rooms and shop and the recreation of the first Physic garden which is now the Royal Botanic Gardens.

See the recreation of the first Physic Garden at holyrood Palace 

Abbey Strand Garden Holyrood Palace Edin
Abbey Strand Garden Edinburgh

Watergate Canongate Edinburgh

Watergate was the gated entrance to the Canongate. From outside the walls it would have stood between the Sanctuary building and what is now Russell House. The Water Gate took its name from a horse pond near to the bath house.


Abbeyhill Police Station

This building was originally a police Station built in 1896. 

Abbeyhill Police Station 1896
Edinburgh Coat of Arms.
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
About East Lothian Attractions

© 2021 by All About Edinburgh

Established  16 / 03 /2017

Edinburgh Coat of Arms.