Edinburgh Green Walk II – Meadows to Grassmarket

This is the second walk of my Edinburgh green walk series and covers around 5 miles of parks as well as some Edinburgh highlights. You could easily spend a full day on this walk, if you want to visit all the sights, but I would recommend at least half a day. Climbing up to Arthur’s Seat takes some time (unless you are very fit!) and I’d plan at least an hour for National Gallery. 

Start this walk with a cup of coffee and a Swedish pastry at Söderberg Coffee Shop by The Meadows. Sainsbury’s next to the cafe is a good place to stock up, if you want to bring some snacks/ picnic lunch for your walk. Continue into the park and walk through it diagonally, turning left at the entrance.

Pass the Summer Hall and turn onto E Preston Street. Near the Lloyds Bank building turn  to Holyrood Park road and enter the Holyrood Park. There’s an information stand near the entrance with paths to Arthur’s Seat. Choose the one you prefer, I recommend middle path for its quiet and great views over valley.

Walk along the path until you meet people coming up from the other side. It gets busier here when you come to main stream, turn right and continue along The Dasses path until it splits. You can now join the crowds and climb up to Arthur’s Seat or continue little longer and have a quiet picnic by yourself.

When you finish admiring the views continue along the path towards Dunsapie Loch. You can see the lake from anywhere and it’s a nice gentle stroll down. If you do feel you need to catch your breath, there’s a bench by the loch you can rest and swan spot. Otherwise turn left and continue along Queen’s Drive.

Where Queen’s Drive splits keep left. There’s another nice viewing spot by the St Margaret’s Loch and more swans. You can also see the ruins of Saint Anthony’s Chapel from here if you look up the hillside. Continue until you reach the roundabout and turn right, passing Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Take the Canongate Street to city centre that has few sights on the way such as Canongate Kirk yard and Museum of Edinburgh. Turn right at Jeffrey Street and keep going until you reach to Scottish National Gallery. There’s a cafe in the gallery or Costa on Princes street with good views over castle.

The highlights in the gallery include known artworks such as The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch and The Monarch of the Glen, but there’s much more to explore including art by Scottish painters. If you have a backpack leave it in the locker or carry it in your hand when you walk.

Finished at the gallery walk up The Mound and turn left up the hill until you reach to Royal Mile. Cross the Lawnmarket and the next house on your left is  National Library of Scotland. It has interesting staircase and a shop if you have time to peek in. It also holds exhibitions and has a small cafe.

When you exit the library go back a little bit the way you came from and turn left to Victoria street leading to Haymarket. Half way down the street you find a The Bow Bar, go in for authentic pub experience. You can rest off your walk, have a drink from wide selection of spirits and take in the quirky interior.

 

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Edinburgh green walk – Waverley to Calton Hill

This is a great walk if you want to get to know the Edinburgh highlights, but also have some down-time away from the crowds. I’d recommend this walk either in the morning or afternoon. With fast pace this walk could be done in less than two hours, but if you want to really enjoy it, allow at least 2 and half hours or even better – half a day.

Start from Waverley Cafe stand, which is a cute coffee box near Waverley station. Bring your own reusable cup for take-away coffee to warm up your walk (especially in winter). Take the News Steps up to Old Town and enjoy the views over Edinburgh New Town.

Turn to St Giles’ Street up to Lawnmarket and walk along the Royal Mile until the Edinburgh Castle. If you have enough time and sterlings to spare, visit the castle, otherwise turn left and take the Patrick Geddes Steps down to Grassmarket Square.

There are few benches you can sit on, if you feel tired of climbing up and down the stairs. When you have had enough rest and people watching, continue the walk towards Castle Terrace. There’s an entry to Princes Street Garden behind the car park. 

Walk through the gardens taking in the views of the castle. There’s plenty more seating if you want to chill out for a while. Gross the road beside The Royal Scottish Academy and you are in East side of Princes Street Gardens with great views and Scott Monument.

Turn to busy Princes Street and continue walking until you reach Calton Hill. Take the steps up and walk around the Observatory for great views all around. When you finish exploring take the Regent Walk back down (you can also reverse the steps and walk).

Walk to The Conan Doyle for after walk rest and pub food. It’s a chain pub named after famous novelist, but quite nice to finish the walk. Note there are construction works happening in the area and continue to find somewhere quieter if you like.

 

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Green and creative Edinburgh city break

Location: Edinburgh
Travel Dates: 29.09 – 2.10
Walking distance: ~50 km/30 miles

The first time I travelled to Edinburgh was nearly a decade ago and with a friend, in the heart of winter. It was cold and dark most of the time, but it was also beautiful and I remember many visits to pubs and cafes, which was nice when it drizzled outside. This time I was on my own, which meant less socialising and more attention to the city itself. As I am on the mission to take many green urban walks, this was also a great opportunity to revisit some of the walked paths and find few new ones.

I was also interested in checking out couple of museums I missed last time, visiting a gallery or two and looking up Edinburgh Printmakers – a cultural centre in old boot factory. But overall I just wanted a nice break with lot of walking and some new green and creative inspiration.

Day 1 – Marchmont, Royal Mile, Calton Hill, City Centre, Grassmarket (19 km – 28 332 steps)

Taking a tram from airport to city centre – a new & sustainable transport option
Made it to top of Calton Hill – bit wild-eyed from taking all the steps
Foliage on Calton Hill with Castle Rock and city centre in the background
View towards Leith, rain clouds coming in from North Sea
Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park on the left
Scott Monument and Princes Street Gardens from St David street
Edinburgh Castle in twilight with west of Princes Street Gardens in foreground
Buzzing Haymarket square at night

Day 2 – Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat (nearly), National Museum of Scotland (14 km – 21 734 steps)

Holyrood Park road entrance with Salisbury Crags in the background
Right. All set for some modest ‘urban mountaineering’
Taking an easy route.. looks great so far!
From this view who would guess it’s in a city park?
Beautiful views all around..
‘Highway’ to Arthur’s Seat summit. Looks busy on the top..
I could keep going..
.. or I could just sit here with views of my own.
Tranquility and a cup of tea.. not a bad finish for the urban climb!

Day 3 – Edinburgh Printmakers, National Gallery of Modern Art, Water of Leith Walkway, Botanical Gardens (18 km – 26 655 steps) (My favourite day!)

Edinburgh Printmakers studios and galleries in old shoe factory
An interesting concept.. Plants meet Coffee
Scottish National Gallery Modern Two
Dean Village and the Water of Leith
Water of Leith Walkway
With some lush views
St George’s Well garden
Chinese Hillside garden walk in Botanical Gardens
East Gate entrance to Botanical Gardens
Greyfriars Bobby

Conclusion: Edinburgh is extremely walkable city with amazing views popping up on every corner. The pathways of Royal Mile are fascinating to explore, but it’s also a tourist trap.. For the best of Edinburgh I’d head further away from the crowds. The parks of Edinburgh are stunning with Holyrood topping others with amazing views over the city. I wish I had more time to explore the Leith area, other peaks of the city, Union canal and Edinburgh creative scene.

Next: I’d plan couple of week’s stay in Edinburgh with more city walking and some day trips further away. Edinburgh should be on every urban walker’s list.. especially when the sun is out!