It is Scotland’s most historic thoroughfare, thronged with visitors flocking to attractions like Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and St Giles’ Cathedral.
But now the Royal Mile could become home to its first “land train” to take tourists around its key sites and help spread the benefits of the industry.
A move to replicate ventures in historic towns and cities overseas is being considered as part of a bid to turn the Old Town into a “world-class five-star destination.”
A key aim is spreading the economic benefits generated by the major attractions “more evenly” across the Old Town, which attracts more than four million visitors a year.
Streets would be regularly closed off for markets, processions, pageants and heritage-related events, new works of public art would be commissioned, and new walking guides would be created under a vision aimed at protecting the Old Town’s World Heritage Site status.
Its backers want a proposed new dedicated marketing campaign for the Old Town to “create a strong and aspirational identity, sense of place and global appeal.”
However a clampdown on begging, rough sleeping and antisocial behaviour is proposed in the blueprint, which businesses are currently being consulted on. A new team of “street ambassadors” could be brought in to help tackle long-standing problems, while action is also proposed to tackle “distressed” locations which have been blighted for years.
New lighting is proposed to help transform the fortunes of “no-go” closes and courtyards after dark, while measures to curb traffic on streets like the Cowgate and Victoria Street are expected to be drawn up.
Tackling “distressed” areas and developing long-standing gap sites are other key aims of the project, which has been developed by a steering group made of local businesses, heritage bodies and city council representatives.
The plans have been developed following research which found that safety and security concerns were cited by 42 per cent of businesses as the Old Town’s biggest problem. Two thirds demanded cleaner streets, while better promotional of the area was sought by nearly half of them.
A vote will be held next summer on a proposed Business Improvement District, which would see around £3 million a year raised for special initiatives via a new rates levy, similar to a scheme which already exists in the New Town.
James McGregor, owner of the Royal McGregor bar and restaurant on the Royal Mile, said: “An organised business community can work more effectively to create positive change and increase support for businesses in the area.”