Archive for the ‘Edinburgh walks’ Category

I enjoyed this article from the Guardian in December, researched by Claire Lloyd. Have added the images to help inspire…

Get your bearings

The heart of Edinburgh is split between the Old Town and the (actually quite old) New Town, with Princes Street Gardens and the National Gallery taking up the space left between the two.

The Old Town is dominated by the Royal Mile, which runs from the castle down to the new Scottish parliament building and Holyrood Palace.

Sightseeing apart, much of the city’s real action goes on elsewhere – in the shops and bars of the New Town, in the city’s tightest constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants in Leith, Edinburgh’s regenerated docklands area, and in the chichi, but also rather studenty, “south side”. The main tourist information office is at 3 Princes Street (0845 2255 121)

Take a view

It doesn’t take long to clamber up Calton Hill, on the eastern edge of the city centre, and you’ll be rewarded with almost 360-degree views of the city, the sea, and across to Fife. It’s a great place to take in the lie of the land before you start exploring the rest of the city.

For an even better view, pay £3 to climb the 143 steps to the top of the Nelson Monument, built, of course, to commemorate Nelson’s victory, and death, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It’s open from 10am to 3pm, daily except Sunday (and between April and September 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday, 1-6pm Monday; www.cac.org.uk).

Take a hike

The Water of Leith Walkway (0131 455 7367; www.waterofleith.org.uk) is much-loved among Edinburgh’s residents, but relatively few tourists find their way here. This 12-mile, wildlife-rich riverside path slips quietly around the western edge of the city centre. The prettiest section runs from Stockbridge, south through fairy dell-like Dean Village where, from the 12th to the 19th centuries, water mills ground grain for the area.

The stretch ends at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This elegant collection (0131 624 6200; www.nationalgalleries.org) is well worth discovering; it opens 10am-4pm daily, admission free.

Lunch on the run

For healthy, tasty food in a cosy neighbourhood setting, look no further than Café Renroc, at 91 Montgomery Street (0131 556 0432; www.renroc.co.uk). A café and alternative-therapy centre during the day and a bistro in the evening, it’s actually more glamorous than it sounds, and the menu is very good value, with soups from £2.50 and sandwiches from £2.95.

Window shopping

These days, Princes Street has lost its crown as Edinburgh’s prime shopping street, with everything from Harvey Nichols to Space NK setting up shop on George Street and Multrees Walk. For quirkier bargain-hunting grounds and one-off boutiques, try Victoria Street, William Street and Broughton Street; at Concrete Wardrobe, 50a Broughton Street (0131 558 7130), you can find contemporary Scottish crafts and fashion. Alternatively, head straight to MoletaMunro, at 4 Jeffrey Street (0131 557 4800; www.moletamunro.com) for interior decorations and gifts.
Cultural afternoon

The must-see in Edinburgh in January is the display of Turner watercolours at the National Gallery, on The Mound (0131 624 6200; www.nationalgalleries.org). This extraordinary collection spans the artist’s career. It was bequeathed on the condition that the paintings would be shown only in January, when the daylight is weak. The gallery opens 10am-5pm daily, until 7pm Thursday; admission is free.

An aperitif

George Street is the place for serious bar-hopping, with an endless choice of stylish bars to stagger your way along. For something a little more “shabby chic”, head down the hill to Joseph Pearce’s, at 23 Elm Row (0131 556 4140).

This is the latest opening from the Swedish team behind the cult Edinburgh favourites Bar Boda, Sofi’s and Victoria’s. Decked out in “Swedish Granny” style (with upholstered armchairs, flickering candles and proper dining-room tables for bar food), this pub serves an unusually good range of drinks, as well as coffees and a small Swedish-influenced menu. Between 11am and 5pm, there’s also a children’s corner set up, complete with wooden toys.
Dining with the locals

The Kitchin, at 78 Commercial Quay in Leith (0131 555 1755; www.thekitchin.com) is the star of the show in Edinburgh. Housed in a converted warehouse, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves up local, seasonal produce and big flavours. Count on paying around £45 per head for dinner, without wine.

Also inventive but much less pricey is Roseleaf, a new Australian-owned café-pub just around the corner at 23-24 Sandport Place (0131 476 5268; www.roseleaf.co.uk). Freshly made burgers (£6.50) and pastas are dished out on pretty china plates. Fruit juices, leaf teas and homemade ginger beer are served alongside the stronger stuff. It’s also great for breakfasts.

Sunday morning: go to church

Greyfriars Kirk was the first to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation; its minister organised the National Covenant in 1638, sparking violent conflict.

Another of the kirk’s claims to fame is its connection with Greyfriars Bobby, a legendary Skye terrier who, in 1858, followed the remains of his master to the church graveyard and then stayed loyally there for the next 14 years. A plaque also marks the burial site of William McGonagall, who was given the dubious honour of being dubbed the world’s worst poet.

Morning service is at 11am on Sundays (0131 226 5429; www.greyfriarskirk.com). At other times, the church can be visited on Thursdays from 1.30-3.30pm. From April to October, it is open on Saturdays 10.30am-2.30pm, and on weekdays 10.30am-4.30pm.

A walk in the park

No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without a bracing walk around Holyrood Park and a wind-blown clamber up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano to the south-east of the city centre. From St Margaret’s Well, the climb to the top is less arduous than it initially looks, taking around 40 minutes. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with some jaw-dropping views across the whole of the Scottish capital.

Out to brunch

For a real blowout, head to Channings, at 12-16 South Learmonth Gardens (0131 315 2225; ). Every Saturday and Sunday, the restaurant at this luxurious hotel offers a “Boozy Snoozy” lunch deal, whereby £65 buys you a three-course meal for four, with two bottles of wine. It is served from 12.30pm-3pm on Sundays (midday-2.30pm on Saturdays).

For brunch on the go, fuel up for the day the Scottish way with a fresh fruit juice (£2.10) and a bowl of delicious Stoats Cranachan porridge (raspberries, toasted oats and cream, £1.95) at Juice Almighty (24), which is at 7a Castle Street (0131 220 6879; www.juicealmighty.co.uk). It is open from 10am on Sundays.

Take a ride

For a different take on Edinburgh, try a trip on a recumbent bike. A company called Laid Back Bikes (07981 430159; www.laid-back-bikes.co.uk) offers tours for £22 per person, including bike hire, guide and coffee. One of its most scenic tours is an 18-mile (three-hour) ride out past the Gallery of Modern Art to the pretty coastal village of Cramond, north-west of the city.

Icing on the cake

Two of the best hunting grounds for patisserie are Falko Konditorei, at 7 Bruntsfield Place (0131 656 0763; www.falko.co.uk), which whips up the best cakes in town, German-style; and The Manna House, an elegant patisserie and café at 22-24 Easter Road (0131 652 2349; www.manna-house-edinburgh.co.uk).


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Cycling or walking over the Forth Road Bridge is a great thrill. Between the two bridges (road and rail) is the pretty coastal village of Queensferry which is worth a visit in itself for it’s sea front, habour areas, sailing school, museum and various galleries,shops, cafe’s and restaurants.

From Queensferry you can take boat trips –  for example to the Isle of May  which has a large colony of seals and is a popular destination for  bird spotting. Hopetoun and Dalmeny Houses  are nearby – both are open to the public.  Incholm island lies close to the rail bridge – interesting for its fortifications built for protecting Rosythe during the world wars.

In Edinburgh there are excellent cycling routes, often on disused railway routes, and you can get from the centre of the city out to the Forth Bridges avoiding most of the busy roads. Here are some photos from a ride I did recently. I took the roads for the sake of speed, only having 2 hours to spare. 

My route took me along London Rd on to Leith Walk and then on to Queen Street; through Ainslie Place and Randolph Crescent on to Queensferry St/ A90. I stopped on Dean Bridge, crossing the Water of Leith (which has an excellent walkway with access to the Modern Art Museum, Stockbridge and the Botanic Gardens). Here I took the first few photos shown below. I continued on the Queensferry Rd (A 90) as far as Burnshot Wood, where a cycle route takes you along the B924, past Dalmeny House and down into South Queensferry beneath the Rail Bridge. To get onto the road bridge I continued along the Hopetoun Rd until it runs beneath the bridge and there is a foot/bicycle access up to the bridge from this point. Distance of the round trip is about 25 miles.

Cycle routes and links to other information about possible activities can be found on the activities page of  the apartment website.










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Beautiful city of Edinburgh!
Where the tourist can drown his sorrow
By viewing your monuments and statues fine
During the lovely summer-time.


I’m sure it will his spirits cheer
As Sir Walter Scott’s monument he draws near,
That stands in East Prince’s Street
Amongst flowery gardens, fine and neat.

And Edinburgh Castle is magnificent to be seen
With its beautiful walks and trees so green,
Which seems like a fairy dell;
And near by its rocky basement is St Margaret’s Well,
Where the tourist can drink at when he feels dry,
And view the castle from beneath so very high,
Which seems almost towering to the sky.

Then as for Nelson’s monument that stands on Calton Hill,
As the tourist gazes thereon, with wonder his heart does fill
As he thinks on Admiral Nelson who did the Frenchmen kill,


Then, as for Salisbury Crags, they are most beautiful to be seen,
Especially in the month of June, when the grass is green;
There numerous mole-hills can be seen,
And the busy little creatures howking away,
Searching for worms among the clay;
And as the tourist’s eye does wander to and fro
From the south side of Salisbury Crags below,


His bosom with admiration feels all aglow
As he views the beautiful scenery in the valley below;
And if, with an observant eye, the little loch beneath he scans,
He can see the wild ducks about and beautiful white swans.

Then, as for Arthur’s Seat, I’m sure it is a treat
Most worthy to be seen, with its rugged rocks and pastures green,
And the sheep browsing on its sides
To and fro, with slow-paced strides,
And the little lambkins at play
During the livelong summer day,


Beautiful city of Edinburgh! the truth to express,
Your beauties are matchless I must confess,
And which no one dare gainsay,
But that you are the grandest city in Scotland at the present day!


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Any holiday  spent in Edinburgh deserves to include a visit to the delightful Royal Botanic Gardens.

Although not on the same scale as Kew (a mere 70 acres), these gardens have just as much charm and a wonderful amount of variety. Like Kew there are some huge glass houses within the gardens.  Ten separate rooms in these glasshouses are designed to create as many different climates and habitats so it is, of course, like rapidly passing from one part of the world to another.

There are huge palms, giant waterlilies, and the largest collection of wild Chinese plants outside China.

Outside highlights include the Arboretum, the Scottish Heath garden, the renowned Alpine Rock Garden, the glorious 165 foot herbaceous border and the Woodland Garden.

As a family outing this is an ideal environment. Children can roam freely – ambushing parents, or just be pushed around in buggies –  whilst discovering a wide variety of birds and remarkably bold squirrels.

Picnicking is an excellent option – but there are very good eating options in the grounds also for meals or just coffee.

If you fancy a guided walk, the garden rangers offer a free service most days of the week at particular times of the day. You can find details through the Edinburgh Activities page on the apartment website.

The gardens also contain a building, Inverleith House that hosts  exhibitions throughout the year. Currently there is a sculpture exhibition by Karla Black along with paintings by Bet Low. Past exhibitions include a favorite of mine – Andy Goldsworthy. He used the space as the starting point for his inspiration, dividing one room entirely with a delicate lattice work of chestnut leaf stalks.

Elsewhere in the garden there is a craft project called “The Wych Elm Project”, running until 21st March 2010. This was inspired by the felling of a huge Elm in 2003. The wood is now being used to create a wide variety of works by craftsmen such as wood carvers and wood turners.

I hope this gives you the inspiration to visit the gardens – they are certainly worthwhile – and if you’ve anything to add let me know!

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Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat are perhaps the greatest leisure asset that Edinburgh possesses. Such a resource is pretty unique within a big city  – and they’re  only a few minutes walk from the apartment


Walk to the top of Arthur’s Seat –  why not take a picnic and possibly a kite!  The extinct volcano that forms Arthur’s Seat affords a superb panoramic view  (http://www.panoguide.com/gallery/1154/view_pp/?w=1280&h=770) from it’s peak of 251m – the city – Edinburgh Castle, Scott’s Monument, Murrayfield, Calton Hill, the Firth of Forth with the 2 Forth Bridges and its islands – Cramond Island, Incholm, the Isle of May. Follow the coastline from the docks at Leith to the seafront at Portobello to Musselbrugh and then along to the sandy beaches of  Gullane and beyond towards North Berwick. Then turn south west towards the Pentland hills – a fabulous area for walks, cycling, skiing, even paragliding just outside the city. You could try being there for sunrise or sunset.

Guided walk  Every Wednesday afternoon the park ranger service offers a free guided walk around Arthur’s Seat starting at 1pm. Advance telephone booking is required.

Bouldering  the area contains some fantastic rock faces – notably around Salisbury Crags – where climbing clubs often practice their skills. Bouldering is free climbing that tends to traverse the rock face. Climbing skills are tested but the climber does not climb to a dangerous height. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rA2g-vHk9g&feature=related 

Cycling. The park is encircled by a road that provides a great circuit for a bike. Three times around would be a very good work out with a good mixture of climbing, flat and downhill. For more variety the cyclist can include a loop following the “Innocent Railway” bicycle track to Duddingston village around Duddingston Loch and then back up past Duddingston Kirk on the south side of Arthur’s Seat.

Duddingston Loch behind Arthur's Seat

Birdwatching. 3 lochs in the Park area provide a great attraction for water birds. You could see anything from swans and ducks to hawks that can often be seen hovering over the heathy areas typically hunting rabbits. Join in with an RSPB bird watching event in the park.

Running. Holyrood park has been the venue for the World cross country running championships and hosts running events each year. The runner has a great choice of routes and terrain. Whether running on paths around the periphery or choosing to test himself on the steep ascents of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat.

Sledging  in snowy weather there is endless fun to be had on the slopes of Arthur’s seat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oJ68VRijc4&feature=related

You’d be amazed at the capers people get up to on Arthur’s seat. See some of their contributions on Youtube:







Sword fighting!


Have you done anything on Arthur’s seat you’d like to tell us about? – We’d love to hear from you!

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Anyone who has seen the excellent History of Scotland series on TV might be interested to use this audio walk provided by the BBC and the Open University.

You can simply download it as a podcast and listen to  it as you follow the walk

Holyrood Palace

The subject of the walk is Mary Queen of Scots. It  starts just 5 minutes from the apartment, by Holyrood Palace and proceeds up the Royal Mile.

You can find a link to the walk on the Edinburgh Activities page of our site at www.edinburghselfcatering.org

There you can also find details of a fantastic free guided walk around Holyrood park which is organised by the park rangers every Wednesday afternoon.

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The current wintry weather reminds me of a blizzardy family walk we took in the Pentlands whilst staying in Edinburgh. 

The Pentland hills lie just south of Edinburgh (about half a mile from the ring road). They are suitable at any time of year for vigorous walks and mountain biking. You often see paragliders hanging on the thermals and there is even an artificial ski  slope  – open all year round.

On the occasion that we went for this walk – just into the new year, we were well togged up for the weather and took a sledge. The snow and wind was so strong that we didn’t venture very far – but we had plenty of sledging in these ideal conditions. We also met a herd of wild horses who came to us for some attention – which they received in abundance although I guess they might have been a bit more chuffed if we’d brought them something to eat!

Pentland Ponies!

For further information about walks in the Pentland hills and other activities around Edinburgh check the Edinburgh activities page at www.edinburghselfcatering.org

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