The aim of this paper is to explore the concept of authenticity using the complex context of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, a popular tourism destination as well as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is an important study as the view that tourists are requiring authentic experiences appears to becoming more widespread, especially by policy makers. This study is based upon a mixed methodology, which involves observation, interview and the use of online sources. It presents a framework with which to analyse and understand authenticity in the context of a complex location such as the Royal Mile. The analysis reveals a wide range of issues, in particular the distinction between the meaning attached to that which represents the local heritage and culture and that which discards this meaning in pursuit of the ‘fast buck’. This is the first study which has attempted to understand the complexity of a high profile multi-use space, of which the tourist is only one stakeholder. It calls for a sophisticated approach to understanding authenticity that is multi-lens and multi-dimensional. It provides an insight for policy makers, practitioners and analysts into how a complex place such as the Royal Mile, can be analysed drawing upon established conceptualisations of authenticity.
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