Exploring Medieval Edinburgh

Scottish History: Medieval Edinburgh

Edinburgh is steeped in history and heritage. Which is why it’s one of the most fascinating and beautiful capitals in the world. For those interested in medieval history, particularly from the 1100s to the early 1500s (in the High and Late Middle Ages), there is much to explore here in Edinburgh. In the Old Town, preserved historical buildings and streets form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site

King David I founded Edinburgh’s Old Town in the 12th century. Protected by the royal fortress, the town was one of Scotland’s earliest royal boroughs. And today, you can see examples of medieval architecture as you stroll through the Old Town. So, follow in the footsteps of kings and queens and invading armies, as you explore this magnificent part of the city.

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
Stretching just one mile from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile is full of medieval treasures.

St Margaret’s Chapel

Start your journey through time with a trip to Edinburgh Castle. St Margaret’s Chapel within the castle walls, is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, built in the early 12th century.

John Knox House

This medieval building dates from 1470 and, along with the attached Moubray House, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the Royal Mile. On a tour of John Knox House, you can learn about some of the house’s past residents, including the minister and Reformation leader, John Knox.

One of the oldest houses on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
John Knox House dates back to 1470, in the Scottish Late Middle Ages.

St Giles’ Cathedral

Then, head to St Giles Cathedral, which was founded in 1124 and is one of the most iconic Edinburgh buildings. The core of the present church building dates from around 1385, which has been extended and restored over time. It juts out of the centre of the Old Town, piercing the sky with its crown-like peak. Here, you can take a guided tour and learn about its history, or climb the tower and enjoy panoramic views of Edinburgh. 

Holyrood Abbey

Next, visit the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which David I established in 1128. Inside the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, you can see this ancient and fascinating place as part of the palace tour.

Holyrood Abbey ruins in Edinburgh
Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 and a small part survives from the original ‘monastery of the Holy Rood’.

History Museums in Edinburgh

To learn more about the history of Edinburgh during the Middle Ages, visit the Museum of Edinburgh in the heart of the Old Town. Displaying artefacts from the medieval period and beyond, this is a fascinating maze of buildings to explore. Then at the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street, head to the Kingdom of the Scots exhibition to see more objects from this era.

A Medieval Christmas

Edinburgh is a magical place at Christmas. So, what better time of year to book a stay in the city? Many of the Christmas traditions we know today originated in medieval times. From wassailing (carol singing) to mince pies and Christmas pudding. Visit Edinburgh during this special time, explore the medieval streets and enjoy the festive atmosphere!

A portion of Christmas Pudding served on a plate with cream
Christmas pudding is a traditional festive food, which originated in the 14th century

Delve into the past of medieval Edinburgh and learn how our city became the vibrant capital it is today. Why not book a stay at our central Parliament House Hotel this Christmas and soak up the festivities and traditions, both old and new? So, take a look at our latest special offers and book your break in our historical capital!