gardens & parks
princes street gardens & beyond
Edinburgh has a fair selection of parks. If you are looking to escape the festival to an oasis of calm or just looking for a good walk read on.Princes Street Gardens (West and East)
The most accessible and obvious park to head for if you are on Princes Street, and just five minutes walk from the High Street. Join the office workers, tourists, mini-golfers, old folk, teenagers with their carry oots of beer, dossers, lovers, loungers and soak it all up. As well as the place to admire Edinburgh castle perched up on its rock, you can buy tickets to the gardens at Hogmanay and at the end of the Festival in August to watch the fireworks - always massively popular. The Ross Band stand in Princes Street Gardens West frequently has live music, of all types. There is also a childrens' play park in the West End and in the Spring/Summer there are elaborate floral displays (especially at the entrance to West Princes Street Gardens at the foot of the Mound).
The Meadows (Melville Drive)
Huge expanse of grass in the heart of studentland. Its flatness makes it ideal for footie, frisbee or other team sports. Bordered by a few trees, this relatively featureless setting also makes it a good place to clear the mind. If you are traveling by pedal power make use of its special cycle lanes. Occasionally, mini music fests and fairs take place here in the Summer.
Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Crags, and Holyrood Park
Just keep walking all the way down the High Street and you will end up in this dramatic, hilly park. The park is named after the queen's adjacent Edinburgh residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The ruddy cliff face, Salisbury Crags, and lion-like hill, Arthur's seat, can be seen from all over the city. With its myriad footpaths, mini loch and ruin on the hillside (St. Anthony's Chapel, which dates back to the 15th century), it is a great place to ramble. In the Spring, the grassy slopes are covered in yellow-flowered gorse. It is well worth making a trip to the lava-rock of the hilltop - takes about half-an-hour from the foot - for the excellent views of Edinburgh and its surroundings. In the Winter, it can be very gusty on top and lower areas can be get boggy, so you'll need to dress appropriately. In the Summer, remember your sun block.
A verdant oasis in Edinburgh's New Town area and Scotland's answer to Kew gardens is not only a place to learn about exotic flora, but its lush surroundings make it the perfect place to wile away a sunny afternoon. There is no admission charge and it is cleverly landscaped so that you can get lost in its few acres. Budding botanists will be glad to find everything is meticulously tagged and that there are frequent lectures for green-fingered types. Squirrels are common and foxes frequently spotted slinking along its verdant aisles. Tip: go immediately after a rain shower: the flora is at its most fragrant, and people most scarce.
Water of Leith
In recent years, there's quite a bit of cleaning up of the Watter of Leith (see Water of Leith Conservation Trust), and although rubbish can still be a problem in parts, it is well worth taking the time to discover this historic waterway. The 12-mile walkway is a hidden-away, green corridor
through the city. The walkway (and cycleway) starts at the outlying village of Balerno on the edge of the Pentlands, then moves to Currie, Juniper Green and Colinton and into the heart of Edinburgh. It passes Murrayfield and Roseburn onto Dean Village, Stockbridge and Warriston and on to its mouth with the Firth of Forth in Leith: it's quite possible that at some point in your travels you will be able to walk a section of it en route to your destination.
For example, you can head down to the Leith Docks for a couple of pints by the shore, and then follow the path across to Canonmills at the foot of Dundas street. Some of the most pleasant stretches are between Canonmills (enter through the gate at the Standard Life building) to Comely Bank. From Stockbridge you can walk at the foot of wooded gardens to the left and right, pass under the colossal Dean Bridge and then into the sleepy Dean village. You can then either head uphill to the Queensferry Street and the West End or continue along a more windy section of the Water of Leith walkway Roseburn. A staircase takes you to the Modern Art Gallery and the adjacent Dean Art Gallery or, as rugby fans know, you take the rustic walk to Murrayfield.
The top of Calton hill is an excellent and usually quiet place to come on any day, with its grassy slopes and panoramic views of the city, including down the length of Princes street (the main shopping thoroughfare) and Edinburgh castle. There is a good view North of the ruddy-coloured cliffs of Salisbury Crags and the undulating slopes of Holyrood Park. It is also littered with historical monuments.