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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Visit National Parks posters

These three new vintage style posters are inspired by travel advertisements that were used to promote travelling to British countryside in early 20th century, when the train travel for many was nearly the only option to have access to great outdoors. Although the times have changed and travellers may prefer to explore the countryside on a car, taking the train is still one of the most sustainable and comfortable way of travel, as well as sometimes even a more scenic option.

The fictional art posters invite to visit Britain’s fifteen national parks by train and include a stylised map of train stations that are access points to the national parks. The 38 stations can be travelled from towns and cities or even act as connections between parks. Why not to travel the Tenby to Taunton coastline or take a train from beautiful Windermere to Ribblehead Viaduct? The golden age of railways may have passed, but the the new age of train travel is now!

London nature walking week – in photos

Location: London National Park City*  (London becomes NPC in July 2019)
Travel Dates: 18.06 – 25.06
Walking distance: ~120 km/75 miles

Looking back to this week in London I covered around 120 km of streets and paths (140 km according to my walking app and 100 km according Google maps). Overall I visited approximately 36 parks and green spaces, walked by Thames and Regent’s Canal, passed many green squares and gardens and saw large variety of nature and wildlife.

This week helped me to really appreciate the variety of London’s green spaces and accessibility to outdoors and wildlife as well as understand the challenges of nature walking in city environment. It also provided valuable research for my walking maps.

I also met many interesting and creative people…. thank you all for inspiration!

Day 1 – Central London/Thames Path (North Bank) (21 km)

AM/noon – Brompton Cemetery and Barbican Estate
PM – From Charterhouse Square to Somerset House

Starting from Charterhouse Square, now open for public

Found a green rounded garden with seating next to Museum of London

Looking at lush foliage in Postman’s Park, quiet green space near Barbican

Walking through St Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard Garden greenery

It’s getting really wet now, so I’m hiding under the umbrella

Peeking into Middle Temple Gardens, not open for public (at least not from Thames side)

Day 2 – Central London/South Bank (20 km)

AM – Kensington/Hammersmith
PM – From Waterloo to Barbican

One of the many private garden squares in Kensington

Walkway in railway tunnel at Waterloo, South Bank

Day 3 – North London (32 km)

From Golders Hill Park to Canary Wharf

At the start of the walk by gates of Golders Hill Park

Passing the Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath 

The impressive sign in Highgate Wood gates

Entering to Queen’s Wood Nature Reserve

Walking along Parkland Walk that runs along a railway line

From here I left the path and continued in Hackney Downs

Impressive London Plane trees in Hackney Downs Park

Passing beautiful wildflower meadow in London Fields Park

Spotting this beautiful brick building covered with foliage on Regent’s Canal

Taking a detour from the canal via Victoria Park

Back on Regent’s Canal path and surrounded by greenery

Modern landscaping of Mile End Park, running along the canal

Finally arriving to Limehouse Basin.. tired, but happy!

Colourful boats mooring at Limehouse Basin

Quirky seagull statue on Ropemakers Field

Turning to Thames Path for a ferry back to Central London from Canary Wharf.. It’s been a great day!

Day 4 – Central/Royal London (21 km)

From Victoria Tower Gardens to Primrose Hill

Starting the walk today with coffee and green view in Victoria Tower Gardens

Found a quiet space in Jewel Tower gardens in Westminster

Spotting marching pelicans in St James’s Park

Walking path just for myself in Green Park.. look at the crowds on the left!

Lovely and tranquil Queen’s Meadow in Green Park.. next to busy junction

The Italian Gardens Cafe with living roof, taken over by nature

Henry Moore’s nature inspired Arch in Kensington Gardens 

Arrived in Regent’s Park wilder area

Regent’s Park’s wildlife garden with useful tips for gardeners

Passing wildflower meadow in Regent’s Park

Crossing the bridge over Regent’s Canal next to London Zoo

After a short climb the view over London from Primrose Hill. This is the end of my walk!

Day 5 – South London (27 km)

From Wandsworth Park to Bushy Park

Starting the walk from Wandsworth Park by Thames

Walking through the nature on Putney Heath

Spotting a windmill on Wimbledon and Putney Commons

Arriving to Richmond Park… hooray!

Fallen trees in Richmond Park providing shelter for Stag Beetles and rest for walkers

Half the distance done and feeling great!

Winding trail ahead in Richmond Park

Richmond Hill/Terrace Field with stunning views over Thames towards Surrey

Back on the Thames Path for the next 10 km

After a while passing the Teddington Lock

Approaching Kingston Bridge in the distance

Passing quiet Canbury Gardens, it’s late on Sunday evening

Made it to Kingston Bridge..

.. and looking exhausted. 5 km to go!

Finally in Bushy Park at Hampton Wick Gate!

In leafy and quiet Bushy Park and breathing in the freshest air in London

Meeting the herd of deer in Bushy Park.. a perfect end of the day!

Day 6 – Central London/South Bank (15 km)

From Tower Bridge to Waterloo

100 km behind me and on one of my favourite Thames walk

Tranquil wilderness spot in Potters Fields Park

Detour through Borough Market

Crossing Waterloo Bridge with green views over South Bank. The walk is done and my week in London is finished.. until next time!

Conclusion: My walking week in London proves London is great destination for walkers, who appreciate the variety and culture of the city, but still want to see nature close by. London has many species of wildlife and provides unique environment for wildlife spotting. However navigating in urban environment can be stressful at times and the routes are not always straightforward. Large parks have plenty of space to enjoy nature, but the main paths are often crowded and traffic can be heard nearly everywhere. I loved to see few smaller squares and parks in city centre opening up for public in recent years. I sometimes felt unwelcomed outside city centre, yet again few people stopped to help me. Some paths lacked facilities such as fresh drinking water or toilets. If not to account these few issues, London’s urban forrest is very special city environment and I hope more people will choose London as nature walking destination.

Next: I would explore certain area, instead of taking linear path. London has lot of cultural variety and North feels completely different than South or Docklands. I would love to take time discovering different areas in depth as each area is unique.

Park Connection Map second version

As the first Park Connection Map received lot of positive feedback and many wonderful suggestions to include more parks, I designed the second map with 80 additional open spaces and three new lines. I would have liked to fit in even more suggestions, but as you can see below, the map is getting quite busy! Maybe next version will cover even more green ground.🤞

For those who did not see the first version, this is a creative park connection map connecting parks, open spaces and waterways. The idea of the map is to create a green ground network that can be cycled or walked, based on the idea of classic London Tube Map. The aim of this map is to inspire people to spend more time overground and on healthier green infrastructure. 🍃

The six original ‘lines’ connect Royal parks and City parks, link open spaces in North and South London and follow Thames and Regent’s Canal. The three new lines run along Lea and Brent river and create a BeeLine. Suggested by TiCL.me map makers, BeeLine is a corridor of safe havens for pollinating insects linking London’s green spaces and gardens. 🐝

As a seedling of an idea the Park Connection Map gets watered by the inspiring ideas of National Park City and its aim of making London greener, healthier and wilder, with contributing suggestions from outdoor lovers and green organisations. 🌱

 

Greenground Map v2

Greenground Map v2 PDF

Park connection map in Londonist

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Lovely M@ [read: Matt] from Londonist shared the park connection map alongside with great suggestions to his readers for the long weekend. His article The Greenground: A Tube Map Of Parks And How To Get Between Them highlights the map with a challenge to a reader ‘Imagine a ‘tube map’ showing the parks of London, joined together in ways you might want to walk or cycle.’ and invites to ‘Get out there and explore!’

Helen’s map isn’t intended as a detailed navigational aid, but more as an inspiring prompt to encourage exploration. A walk from Highgate Wood to Clissold Park via Woodberry Wetlands, for example, strikes us as a smashing way to spend a Sunday. Likewise, we can imagine a very pleasant cycle ride from Wandsworth Common to Richmond Park, taking in Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common.

Matt himself is a keen explorer who has taken few outdoor adventures out and about London. He has even compiled his own London Walker’s Tube Map based on most prominent walking routes.

A London Walker's Tube Map by Matt Brown
A London Walker’s Tube Map by Matt Brown

Londonist – Things to see and do in London is an online source to latest news in London, what’s on and events, the best London food and pubs, history and trivia, what’s free and cheap in London. Twitter Account

Creative park connection map

Greenground Map

 

Idea The idea behind this map is to connect parks using environmentally friendly transport like cycling and walking . The creative ‘greenground’ network is made of six lines – Thames, Regent, Royal, South, City and North which connect parks in similar way tube lines connect stations. The map also suggest outdoor activity points such as kayaking on the canal and swimming in the park. This map idea is inspired by the National Park City Foundation green concept of making London the world’s first National Park City.

Why? This map could help to organise routes in accessible way, helping the green commuter to navigate from park to park in the order they are depicted on the map. Each of the lines could be cycled and walked and Thames line suggest River Bus connection points.