The Water of Leith is Edinburgh's secret river, winding a 12 mile path from the outer suburb of Balerno right through the heart of the City until it emerges near the docked Royal Yacht Britannia. If you pick up the trail behind the National Gallery of Modern Art then the last few miles are enlivened by spotting five life-sized Anthony Gormley figures who stand in the river bed.
Well signposted nearby, easiest found behind the National Gallery of Modern Art
24 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH14 1TQ
+44(0)131 455 7367
Google map: bit.ly/p2NMgS
Little Sparta is a garden created by the artist Ian Hamilton Finlay over four decades. It is unique and delightful. As you wander round you are continually surprised as you encounter his many art works.
Fantastic small gallery with some of the most innovative exhibitions in the city. Best to plan ahead and set aside some time if you are interested in the video pieces. Very helpful and friendly staff as well.
Not a gallery in the accepted sense, nevertheless a Georgian square in Edinburgh's New Town has been transformed into an outdoor gallery displaying amazing, giant sized natural history photographs. The exhibition is part of the city’s Science Festival and runs until May 1st. Many more people were admiring the work displayed in this setting than I’ve seen visiting more conventional galleries.
The first thing you see as you enter Edinburgh’s Dean Gallery is Eduardo Paolozzi’s huge Vulcan, a seven metre high Roman fire god made of multi-faceted metal striding among the café tables. The gallery also has a recreation of Paolozzi’s studio: you can stand for hours spotting all the little toys and bits of junk he used for inspiration. There’s an excellent programme of temporary exhibitions too, and Scotland’s best brownie in the café.
These are two first-class galleries, across the road from one another, in Belford Road, some 15 minutes' walk from the city centre. The collections are diverse, of very high quality, and contain a comprehensive display of painting and sculpture from 1900 to the present time.
Only a portion of the entire holding can be shown at any one time. Accordingly a selection is rotated periodically, with special exhibitions mounted in the Dean Gallery, where there is, in addition, a permanent show of the work of Eduardo Paolozzi - a local hero with an international reputation.
Entry is free. The galleries have shops, selling scholarly material as well as postcards and gifts, and the Cafe Newton in the Dean Gallery is particularly attractive, with good food at sensible prices. The staff at both galleries are welcoming and helpful.
Belford Road, Dean Village, Edinburgh. Number 13 bus, or the National Galleries of Scotland free bus service, which runs a return journey, every 45 minutes, from the National Gallery complex in the city centre and visits each of the five national galleries.
One of the most loved places for hippies, lefties, backpackers and young artists: the Forest Cafe, run by a DIY collective of artists, is the best place in Edinburgh to hang out in a non-capitalist fashion and meet like-minded people.
With free internet access, an art gallery, vegan and vegetarian food and stunning entertainment and events during and outside of the festival, this is the craziest place in town for dissidents and thinkers.
No matter if you want to watch films, read the latest protesting leaflets, or drop off your clothes and old books in the free shop, the Forest is the space for you. Just around from the university, it constantly changes.
It’s usually open from about 11am -11pm, licensed - sometimes with bring-your-own bottle - and during August it’s open till 3am. Also, it sells famous organic heather ale and seaweed beer.
3 Bristo Place, EH1 1EY;
tel: 0131 220 4538;
bus stop: 2, 42
There are plenty of free museums and art galleries to see in Edinburgh: Chambers Street museums (Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland), Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, The People’s Story (all central) and City Art Centre, Dean Gallery and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (n.b: you have to pay entry fee for some exhibitions within the galleries).
Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland: www.nms.ac.uk;
City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, The People’s Story: www.cac.org.uk;
Dean Gallery and Scottish Gallery of Modern Art: www.nationalgalleries.org
From outside the Dean Gallery looks like what it used to be: a hospital. Not the orphan hospital it actually was, but more a retreat for Victorian gents with gout, set as it is in opulent grounds. But it’s all about the beauty on the inside. Surrealist art (including works by Dali and Man Ray), a recreation of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s haphazard studio, a shop packed with fascinating books, and a buzzing café in which locals and visitors share their love of art over steaming cups, all combine to make it an unusually vibrant gallery experience.
Not quite so lively is the Dean Cemetery, located at the side of the gallery. But it’s still wonderful to stroll through the trees and read the names of forgotten scholars and captains of industry on mossy mausoleums and gravestones.
Old and new melted into one another. Dali might have liked it.
The Dean Gallery it located directly opposite the National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road, Lothian. Number 13 Bus from Georges Street; entry is free; www.natgalscot.ac.uk
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