The most scenic parks in Edinburgh

photo by Alan Stanton

The first thing that usually strikes first-time visitors to Edinburgh is the sheer magnificent of the architecture. Walking through the streets of the old town and being surrounded by towering, somber-colored buildings dating back to as far as the 16th century makes you feel small and in awe. Architecture is definitely one of the main draws of this Scottish city, but the many green spaces make it even better. Edinburgh has just enough green in it to balance out the brick, and wherever you are in the city, you are never very far from a refreshing corner of vegetation. So for those who like the outdoors, here are some of the most scenic parks in Edinburgh.

Holyrood Park

Holyrood park, photo by Grahan van der Wielen

Although the official name of this park is Holkyrood, it is usually called Queen’s Park or King’s Park, depending on the gender of the current British monarch. Holyrood is located close to Edinburgh Castle (about a mile), and it is a little bit of wild Scotland in the middle of the city. The park has lochs, hills, glens, basalt cliffs, and patches of gorse – as befitting its former status of former hunting estate in the 12th century. If you climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the tallest hill in the park, you can see the whole old town of Edinburgh very well from above.

The Meadows

If you like your parks manicured yet simple, you will enjoy taking a walk through the suggestively named Meadows, a large park south of the city center. The Meadows consists of …well, meadows, with scatterings of trees and a maze of walking paths. The park has a children’s playground, cricket pitches, a croquet club and tennis courts. A variety of yearly festivals and events take place in the park, and in June there are often visiting circuses as well.

Princes Street Gardens

Prices Street Garden, photo by Nigel Brown

Princes Street Gardens is probably the most obvious and well known of all the parks in the city, as well as one of the most scenic parks in Edinburgh. The gardens are located in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, and they were built in the 19th century to replace a loch. The park is full of statues and monuments, the largest of which is the gloomy Scott Monument. Winter is a great time to visit the gardens, as they are turned into an interesting Winter Wonderland.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Although not a park per se, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is free and you can waltz in and out whenever you want (within the opening hours, of course). The garden has 70 acres of fascinating scenery, and is home to all sorts of fascinating plant collections (their collection of wild Chinese plants in the largest outside of China). The Scottish Heath Garden will give you an idea of what the countryside of the Highlands is like, and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden is a beautiful place for a rest.

Carlton Hill

Carlton Hill, photo by Bob Jones

Carlton is one of the famous hills of Edinburgh, with an unmistakable unfinished Athenian acropolis at its top, defining its skyline. Carlton Hill is a quiet and pleasant place for walks, if you’re not bothered by a bit of walking up its fairly gentle slopes. The acropolis, unfinished because funds ran out in the 19th century, was dubbed ‘Edinburgh’s Shame’, but now it has become a popular landmark.

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