During the annual Edinburgh Festival, the High Street becomes the city's central focus, and is crowded with tourists, entertainers and buskers.
On the left is the High Court of Justiciary, Scotland's supreme criminal court. On the right, about one-third of the way down from the Castle toward the Palace is Parliament Square, named after the old Parliament House which housed both the law courts and the old Parliament of Scotland between the 1630s and 1707 (when it was adjourned by the Act of Union) Parliament House is now the home of the Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court. St Giles Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, also stands in Parliament Square.
The Heart of Midlothian By the West Door of St Giles is the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped pattern built into the setted road, marking the site of the former Tolbooth (prison). From the point of its demolition, locals used to spit on the site of the prison. The prison had been described by Sir Walter Scott as the "Heart of Midlothian", and soon after demolition it occurred to the city fathers to place a heart on the site. Locals still spit on the Heart (aiming very specifically for the centre). The legend has been "cleaned up" by tourist guides who claim the spitting is for good luck, but it is really the same as it was, a good old-fashioned disrespect for authority. On the left, opposite St Giles', is Edinburgh City Chambers, where the City of Edinburgh Council meets. On the right, just past the High Kirk, is the Mercat Cross from which royal proclamations are read, and election results announced. The central focus of the Royal Mile is a major intersection with The Bridges. North Bridge runs left (north) to the New Town's Princes Street across Waverley station. To the right South Bridge (which appears from above to be simply a road with shops on either side: and even from below, only one arch is visible) spans across the Cowgate, a street many storeys below, and continues as Nicolson Street past the Old College building of the University of Edinburgh.
Between The Bridges and John Knox House is one of the only remaining buildings on the Royal Mile that is still used for the same purpose for which it was built - Carrubbers Christian Centre. Built in 1883 to house the Carrubbers Close Mission, the building at the heart of the Royal Mile is home to a lively church. After John Knox's House the High Street reaches the former limits of the city, at its crossroads with St Mary's Street (north) and Jeffrey Street (south). At this point formerly stood the old Netherbow, a fortified gateway to Edinburgh (long since demolished). The recently rebuilt Netherbow Theatre is owned by the Church of Scotland and houses the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Following the English victory over the Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, a city wall was built around Edinburgh known as the Flodden Wall, some parts of which still survive.The old Netherbow was a gateway in this wall and brass studs in the road mark where it use to stand. On the corner of St Mary's Street is the World's End Pub, so named because this was formerly the boundary of the burgh - beyond which was the land controlled by Holyrood Abbey.