No, it’s not Princess Street. And it’s not Prince’s Street. Edinburgh’s main shopping street was named after the two sons of King George III: George (who would later become George IV) and Frederick. In all of our travels around the world this street is the first major city thoroughfare we have encountered that has stores and businesses on one side of the street and a public park on the other. New Town Edinburgh, developed in the 1700s during the reign of George III, starts on the north side of Princes Street. For more than a mile there are only three structures on the south side of the street. Consequently, the views from the street of the Old Town across the valley are fantastic and it has been said that anything that is worthwhile seeing in Edinburgh can be seen from Princes Street. Let’s see if that’s true!
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
First of all, let’s look at the three exceptions to the no south-side construction rule. The luxurious Balmoral Hotel, formerly the North British Hotel and built by the railroad company who built the railroad between Old Town and New Town stands proudly on 1 Princes Street. Bridges on either side of the hotel lead over the Waverley Train Station to Old Town. And then down the block from the hotel there’s the Sir Walter Scott Monument, now undergoing repairs and standing perhaps a little less proudly. Just past the Scott Monument is an artificial hill called the Mound that links Princes Street to the Old Town and The Royal Mile. The Royal Scottish Academy is on the Princes Street side of the Mound. Behind RSA is the Scottish National Gallery. And that’s it for the south side. The street starts at Waterloo Place at the top of Leith Street hill and goes on for a little more than a mile with at one time a parade of Georgian mansions on the north side of the street. Over the years the mansions turned into businesses and stores and Princes Street is now Edinburgh’s main shopping street.
OK, I admit you can’t see some things from Princes Street: Picardy Place at the bottom of Leith Street hill, the palace of Holyrood House at the bottom of the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket on the other side of Castlehill and the front of the Royal Mile are four examples of places in Edinburgh that can’t be seen from the street but are still worth seeing.
But as you can see there are many different views from the street and the gardens and they are magnificent!