Royal Mile

Living Streets Scotland carried out an assessment of the streets between the Scottish Parliament and Waverley Station, as a case study on the challenges of improving street design for walking.

The findings of the Miles Better report were presented to the Cross-Party Group on Walking, Cycling and Buses in 2020.

In 2018 we carried out an assessment of the route between Waverley Station and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

This route is part of Edinburgh's Old Town, a World Heritage site due to its street pattern, architecture and historic character - but it is also a busy, working part of the country's capital city.

Waverley station is one of the busiest railway stations in Scotland, and the Old Town is also home to the nation's legislature. 

In this study we focused on the area between the Market Street exit of Waverley Station and the Scottish Parliament: via East Market Street, Jeffrey Street, the Canongate and Horse Wynd.


We found:

Walking is the main form of travel for most of this route, but it is given little space or priority. 

Parts of the route are hostile to people walking, with a very large area given over to cars. 

A number of things make walking difficult, including wide junctions, narrow and crowded pavements, traffic dominance, obstructions and the design of the roads. 

The streets continue to be managed as traffic corridors, and do not promote active travel. 

All of these issues are likely to be magnified for people with disabilities. 

Royal Mile Edinburgh

Arguably people arrive in these spaces not because of the quality of the local infrastructure, but in spite of its low quality. The draw of tourist attractions or a wish to access the Scottish Parliament mean that many people are prepared to cope with the poor conditions, although we note again that some people will not physically be able to do so.

Miles Better report


There are two broad options for improving Canongate. The first option is to change the character of the carriageway design, while allowing the same level of access for vehicles.

The second option is to reduce carriageway capacity to allow a more significant re-design in order to prioritise walking. 

In this report we outline ways that the city can work to enhance this space for people walking and wheeling, providing safer surfaces, more space for pedestrians and a more pleasant environment for people in this space. 

The report includes recommendations to the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, heritage organisations, the local community, and others working in active travel.