Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world, primarily for how beautiful it is. There are scenic locations in Edinburgh that really stand out. Here are some of my favorites.
Located just half a mile south of the Royal Mile, the Meadows is where the locals go to hang out and relax, cook barbecues, play all manner of sports, slackline between the trees, or have massive snowball fights in the winter. An interesting fact I got on one of my tours: the Meadows used to be a lake. During the time when plagues were in Edinburgh, plague victims were buried in the water before it was filled in and turned into fertile ground. This could be an urban legend, but I’ve found a few records that allude to this.
When I first arrived in Edinburgh on April 30th, 2015, it was for the Beltane Fire Festival located on Calton Hill. Mingling with 12,000 other revelers, it was hard to see what the hill was like. Two days later, I returned to see it without the crowd. On the top is the National Monument of Scotland, a row of columns modeled after the Greek Parthenon but never completed. Next to that is the Nelson Monument in the shape of an upturned telescope. The hill is also the location of the Old City Observatory, formerly the Royal Observatory, and in front of that is the circular, columned structure of the Dugald Stewart Monument so iconic in photos of Edinburgh.
This is easily my favorite spot in town, or rather Arthur’s Seat in the center of Holyrood Park is. It’s not every day that you have an ancient volcano in the center of a city, but that’s exactly what Holyrood Park is. The dominant hill in the center is Arthur’s Seat, possibly named after the legendary seat of power of King Arthur. Facing Edinburgh’s Old Town are the bluffs of Salisbury Crags. Cris-crossing the park are dozens of paths, although it takes barely an hour to walk from one end to the other. There are three small lakes (lochs in Scottish) in the park too, and the ancient ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel rising above the swan-filled St Margaret’s Loch.
In the 19th century, the Royal Observatory moved from Calton Hill to Blackford Hill, just a couple miles to the south. The rolling hills here are roughly the same size as Holyrood Park, although Blackford is mostly covered in golf courses. Did you know golf was invented in Scotland? It shows in how many courses there are around the country. Anyway, Blackford Hill has some really nice paths through the trees and around Blackford Pond.
If you’re looking for something a little more extensive, not five miles south of town is the beginning of the Pentland Hills. These hills cover over 20,000 acres. I’ve gone on a couple wonderful hikes there. My favorite is down around the east side of the hills, parking at the Pentland Hills Cafe and walking around the Glencorse Reservoir. The road there continues three and a half miles, with several trails leading off into the hills.
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
Finally, if you’re looking for a place with a little more foliage, head to the free Royal Botanic Gardens. This 70-acre beautifully sculpted and manicured landscape and the three satellite locations around the country contain about 4% of all known plant species in the world. This is a great place for an afternoon walk if you’re looking for somewhere tranquil. Then again, so are the above five places.
Suffice to stay, you can’t visit Edinburgh just for the weekend, not when you have so many attractions to choose from. I haven’t even touched upon Portobello Beach, the fairytale-like Dean Village, the three bridges spanning the Firth of Forth, or any of the non-nature related attractions in the city.