In central eastern Scotland not too far away from the North Sea is Edinburgh, the country's capital city. Edinburgh is known for its medieval and classic architecture as well as its natural landscapes with incredible rock formations. It's often said to be one of Europe's most beautiful cities and is surrounded on all sides by rolling green hills, red cliffsides and the expansive blue sea. The best way to discover Edinburgh is by foot, as you'll be brought by narrow stone streets past rustic buildings and hidden gems that give the city its undeniable character and personality.
A city like Edinburgh is a great place to visit because there's so much to see inside the city thanks to its incredible history which is reflected in the old buildings and landmarks that line its streets. If you visit Edinburgh or live there enjoy the main tourist attractions, and remember there's lots more to do inside of the city limits. We recommend checking out the many Edinburgh parks and gardens which offer beautiful grounds for both locals and visitors to discover.
Once you've finished shopping or making your way through museums, get ready to meander through incredible Edinburgh parks. Looking for backpack storage in Edinburgh? Drop your bags and extra gear with Bounce. You'll find us near parks, transit hubs and city attractions. Travel light to see as much as you can.
Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden is one of the most popular parks in Edinburgh and as soon as you step through the park entrance you'll see why. This 72-acre green space has been around for about 350 years now and some say that it's one of the most impressive gardens in the world. It began as a learning conservatory, mostly used by students, although today it teaches people all over the world about a variety of different plants. The gardens and their beauty can be enjoyed all year round and sometimes host seasonal events as well.
You can explore the gardens for free, although there's a fee to enter the greenhouses. There are different areas in the gardens like the Chinese Hillside and Garden which is a nice, calm place to relax with more than 1,600 plants originating from China, and the Rock Garden which features mountainous plants from across the globe. The Woodland Gardens are a must-see and are home to incredible Giant Redwood trees. Among its specialty gardens are the Rhododendron Collection, the Arboretum, and the Health Garden which is where you'll find the Scottish Native Plants Collection. We recommend starting your journey at the Visitor Center and checking out the Botanics Shop before you leave.
Inside the gardens, you'll find several cafes and a restaurant so you won't have to worry about going hungry. If you sit on the Terrace Cafe you'll get to admire spectacular views of the Edinburgh Castle while you eat. The main building of the garden has interactive exhibits and activities that are great for kids, too. Make sure to stop by the Inverleith House which acts as an exhibition space and features some impressive artwork.
Princes Street Gardens
Near Waverly Station, these incredible gardens are found right by the famous Edinburgh Castle between the old and new parts of the city. The space that the gardens now sit on used to be the Nor Loch, but the city began draining it in the 1770s and it was dry by 1820. Today everyone can enjoy the park and its wide and smoothly paved pathways make it easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
As you follow the walking trails you'll be brought past wooded sections, across fields of wildflowers, over streams and even past a railroad that divides the park. Princes Street Gardens are not only a beautiful spot to take a walk but are also used as a venue for events throughout the year. Something you should keep an eye out for depending on when you are there include Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations as well as the December market during the Christmas season. The latter brings a Winter Wonderland to the park with a Ferris wheel, an ice skating rink and plenty of festive shopping.
Aside from the celebrations mentioned above, this park also hosts concerts during the warmer months, held at the Ross Bandstand in the gardens on the west side. Nearby there's a children's play park and a place selling coffee and ice cream. Inside the park's east-side gardens, you'll find the Scott Monument and other statues, and there are benches scattered throughout the grounds, too.
Calton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best parks in Edinburgh. It's fairly popular due to the different landmarks and monuments that can be found inside the grounds. On top of that, locals often come here to attend the many Edinburgh festivals that it hosts. Some of the most notable include the Samhuinn Fire Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Beltane Fire Festival and the Edinburgh Science Festival.
The best spot to go is the Nelson's Monument which dates back to 1816 and offers incredible 360-degree views of the city. From here you can see Parliament, Arthur's Seat, the Crags, the Firth and Forth as well as Holyrood Palace. Aside from being a fantastic place to observe the city and to watch each annual Edinburgh festival, the monument has been used to signal to ships in the Leith Harbour using the Time Ball since 1852.
Another monument worth visiting is the National Monument which is a replica of Athen's Parthenon, erected in 1822 in memory of those who lost their lives during the Napoleonic Wars. Of course, the City Observatory, which has been around since 1818, is worth checking out as well. It's been a significant space for astronomical research and today it's home to restrooms and a restaurant.
Braidburn Valley Park
Braidburn Valley Park is situated in the Oxgangs and Morningside part of the city in south Edinburgh. Indicated by its name, the park encompasses part of the valley that was made by the Braid Burn brook that spans between the Pentland Hills to the Firth of Forth. In total, the park covers 27 acres of land.
Throughout the grounds, you'll find spacious grassy areas and shaded spots that are perfect for picnicking. Inside Braidburn Valley Park there's even a wildflower meadow which was actually added by local children. The wildflower meadow encourages different animals and insects to frequent the park, including birds, bees and butterflies. Other wildlife, like otters, herons, foxes and even bats during the night, can be spotted if you're patient and keep an eye out.
Make your way to the northwestern edge of the park to find the path that the author Robert Lewis Stevenson liked to walk, called the Fly Walk. Directly across from it, you'll see a grove of nearly 400 cherry trees which were planted in the shape of a trefoil. The trees date back to 1935 when Girl Guides planted them in the name of King George V, and they are maintained every year by the locals.
As the biggest park in Edinburgh, this one speaks for itself. It's located by the east side of the city centre and is 260 hectares in size. The hill in the middle of the park used to be a volcano called Arthur's Seat and is 251 meters high at the summit. If you're up for the hike you can go all the way up where there are unbeatable views of the city and Edinburgh Castle to the west, as well as Firth of Forth to the northeast. There are several trails that you can take up Arthur's Seat, many of which can be reached from along Queen's Drive.
There are volcanic cliffs called the Salisbury Crags that you can walk along or admire from below if you take the path that is located by the entrance behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a palace and abbey that dates back to the 16th century. From here you can easily reach Mt. Margaret's Well, a holy well that has been around since 1860, as well as the ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel that are thought to date back to around the 12th century.
As you can tell, Holyrood Park is home to some incredible historical landmarks. In fact, archaeologists who have worked in the area discovered artifacts that date back to the bronze and iron age making them somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 years old. To learn more about the park and its fascinating past, go to the information center which houses exhibits. Aside from walking around the park, you can also go running or cycling.
This is one of the most popular parks in Edinburgh so you'll definitely want to investigate it at some point. It spans 22 hectares and is the perfect location for the entire family to spend the day. On site, you'll see a children's playground and sports fields, as well as a nice pond and spacious grounds where you can play catch, sit down and relax or do a variety of other activities. The park has been a space for contemplation, gardening and recreation since the 19th century so it's a favorite for many locals. You can find the park in the New Town on the north side and it's right across from the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Inverleith Park has several sports facilities so don't forget to pack your equipment if you want to play a few games. This includes table tennis, football and rugby pitches as well as tennis courts and basketball courts, a pétanque court and cricket fields. If you don't want to play sports but still want to be active, take advantage of the running track and outdoor fitness equipment set up in the park.
The grounds have been separated into four sections to help you find your way around. In the northeast section, there are fruit and vegetable garden plots that locals often use, and on the park's southern edge, you'll come across Inverleith Pond with a water garden and boating facilities. Make your way east to reach the gorgeous wildflower meadow and Sundial Garden. Some people don't notice one of the park's best hidden gems; the unicorn that can be spotted above the North Archway. Be sure to keep an eye out so you don't miss it!
Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve
Corstorphine Hill is a beautiful L-shaped public park with grasslands and forests made of mature trees. The natural heritage park was given and has maintained a Green Flag since back in 2010 so you know that it's clean and well maintained. On top of that, it's also been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site and you can spot many impressive rock formations around the grounds.
It's a lovely space to take a walk and if you make your way up to the summit of the hill, you can admire stunning views of Edinburgh below. If the weather is clear you can see all the way to the Pentland Hills towards the south, to the north is the Forth Estuary and Fife, and if you look to the west you can see the top of Ben Lomond. The ultimate lookout spot is the Sir Walter Scott monument, a tower dedicated to the historian and the highest point in the park. It's open to the public so feel free to climb all the way to the top.
As a nature reserve, Corstorphine Hill is home to some significant bird species like woodpeckers and tawny owls, plus a whole community of badgers. You may spot one while walking around the park's pathways or in the gorgeous walled garden. Look for the cup-shaped markings and other landmarks that date back to the Bronze Age.
Explore the green spaces in Edinburgh
The gardens, parks and green spaces in Edinburgh can be used by everyone, from dog walkers and athletes to families and people of all ages who want somewhere nice to go for a walk. As you explore the various properties you'll find adults and children alike out enjoying the sunshine, and various species of plants and animals rely on these parks as well.
If you're moving on in your journey via Edinburgh Airport, be sure to stretch your legs and see more of the city's natural beauty before you go. If you enjoy spending time by the water you'll definitely want to check out these Beaches Near Edinburgh. Want to do something more active? The Best Hikes in Edinburgh will keep you moving.