To walk from Balerno to Leith Docks, along the Water of Leith is truly a walk through this city – as you stroll along sparkling water and weirs, you’ll see all manner of Edinburgh – ancient, old and new, rich and poor; grand-scale housing, colony housing, tenement housing; a glimpse of the lives people live, stunning scenery, many birds, industrial sites, a shout of graffiti and Anthony Gormley’s six times. New flood defences are also being built along the way. Passing strollers will greet you with a smile and a nod to the day.
Take the 44 bus to Balerno High School, the walk is signposted to the left. Part railway path, mostly riverside there is countryside, Colinton Dell, allotments, the Water of Leith Visitors Centre (an unimposing building and gives the history of this once hard-working river) onto industrial areas, then a beautiful stroll from Roseburn to the Modern Art galleries (great art, great café) and is where the Anthony Gormely 6 Times begins, onto historical Dean Village and New Town, St Bernards Well, Stockbridge, Bonnington where industrial meets regeneration and on to where the Water of Leith meets the Firth of Forth at Leith Docks and AG #6 looks out to sea, (well worth the walk) on one side adjacent to the Royal Yacht Britannia, the other to working dockland.
One of the beauties of this urban walk is you can jump off the beaten track at any time – to have a break, explore (and you will be tempted!) or get a bus! I’ve lived around the city centre most of my life and I love walking here, and never fail to see something new.
Edinburgh may be more well known for its rugged city-centre hills, picturesque parks and cityscapes, but it also has its own golden stretch of beach. Yes, it's on the North Sea, and St Tropez it's not, but it is an expanse of scrupulously-clean golden sands situated just 20 minutes from the city centre. In summer the mile-long stretch allows plenty of space for all the usual beach activities with the back-up of shops, cafes and beer gardens aplenty. In winter, nothing beats a bracing stroll along the promenade before a retreat to a cosy little pub.
Three miles from the city centre, Lothian Buses Nos 15 or 26 take you to Portobello High Street, 20mins/every 5-10mins
Holyrood Park was originally a royal hunting estate and is most famous for being the home of the natural rock formation known as Arthur’s Seat, which is shaped like a crouching lion.
The park is also home to the Salisbury Crags (a series of cliffs) and three lochs. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk if you want to escape the city of Edinburgh and you can download a leaflet featuring a number of walking routes from the web site below.
Edinburgh isn't exactly a city that hides its charms: a castle bang in the centre of town atop dramatic cliffs, a gothic skyline, a cobbled old town crammed full of tourist shops, a Georgian 'New Town' of refined restaurants and leafy squares, and several celebrated museums and galleries.
However, if you tire of tourists and want to seek real, everyday Edinburgh, consider a trip to the district just south-west of the city centre. Tollcross isn't what you would call beautiful, but is home to some of the city's finest ethnic restaurants (such as Number 1 Sushi and Lai Thai), as well as the King's Theatre and the Cameo Cinema. One of the finest arthouse cinemas in the country, the Cameo is both atmospheric and cheap, and with several screens offers something for every discerning cinema goer, as well as a much loved bar seeping with old-world atmosphere. The Beckett Pub nearby is similarly atmospheric, and neighbourhood newcomer, Cuckoo's Nest offers some of the cities best value for money drinks (particularly the cocktails).
Heading up the hill, you reach the Bruntsfield Links on your left, and beyond spectacular views across the Meadows to the Castle, Old Town and Arthur's Seat. Bruntsfield itself is one of the city's loveliest districts, a pleasing mixture of vibrant student district and upscale residential neighbourhood. Its main drag is home to several quality restaurants and bars, as well as a handful of intriguing shops, especially for foodies.
Coco's is arguably Edinburgh's best chocolatier, and sits near to a branch of Peckham's delicatessen and an extravagant cake shop. For those who wish to continue, the main road heads down into extremely well-heeled Morningside (though the shopping strip is perhaps a little underwhelming), and neighbouring the Grange and Merchiston, all of which are home to some beautiful Victorian villas on their leafy streets, and are a pleasure to stroll around.
Tollcross is at the southern end of Lothian Road, a ten-fifteen minute walk from all parts of central Edinburgh. The main road, Gilmore Place-Bruntsfield Place leads up the hill to Bruntsfield and then round towards Morningside. Multiple buses to all of these neighbourhoods, see Lothian Buses website.
Cosy tea room/bistro/restaurant (mind your head!) at beautiful Cramond on the quayside of the River Almond and Forth. A great selection of home cooked local recipes, soups with home made bread, full meals or just a tea, coffee or chocolate and cake.
The stone built artisans cottage was once a cooperage for the long gone brewing pub next door. Lovely walks along the beaches and fields away from the Edinburgh crowds, but within walking distance of the city (four-five miles).
On the waterfront at Cramond, watch the boats swans and seabirds. Buses and a big car park up the hill.
No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the top of Arthur's Seat - the large volcanic hill in the centre of town.
The views are amazing. Sturdy shoes are a must.
While there make sure you go on a pilgrimage to Hutton's section, the place where one of the great heroes of the enlightenment, geologist James Hutton, deduced in the 18th century that the world must in fact be millions of years old: "there is no vestige of a beginning nor prospect of an end".
The Water of Leith Walkway will take you along about 12 miles of river through the heart of Edinburgh from Balerno to Leith. One of the nicest stretches is the walk from Stockbridge to the Dean Gallery and Modern Art Gallery, which consists of a mile of picturesque woodland, including a Victorian mineral well guarded by a rather grand nymph-type and wander through the very pretty Dean Village. The best bit is that when you get to the fantastic galleries, you can reward yourself with chocolate cake (Dean Gallery Cafe - highly recommended). Alternatively, walk in the opposite direction (towards Leith) and after three miles pop out onto The Shore in Leith for an excellent feast and pint at the King's Wark.
A lovely out-of-town place with a wonderful pub, The Cramond Inn, which has a big beer garden and parking space, and serves loads of good and traditional food for really good prices and has also drinks from a small, independent brewery Scintilla and spectacular beers and ales.
Its near the wonderful seaside promenade, with about 45 min if walked in full.
The path to Cramond Island is only walkable when the tide is out, so take some water with you in case you'll get trapped there with the tide rushing in.
Nice for doggies, kiddies and their owners as there is a big beach, too.
Take bus no 41 directly to Cramond or 42 to first walk the seaside promenade to Cramond;
Cramond Inn: 30 Cramond Glebe Road, EH4 6NP;
tel: 0131 336 2035;
Take the short but invigorating journey up the steps from Waterloo Place and climb Calton Hill for a truly panoramic view of the city’s sights, including the Castle, the New Town, Princes Street, Holyrood House and Arthur's Seat. At the top of the hill is a collection of monuments and sculptures, including Nelson's monument and an unfinished but magnificent Athenian Acropolis.
Calton Hill lies just behind Holyrood House and Arthurs Seat.
The Royal Mile is actually made of several streets and it captures the old world atmosphere of the city and has specialised (expensive) shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels. It is quite steep though so sensible shoes are a must.
The Royal Mile connects the castle and Holyrood Palace and is in the heart of the Old Town (but beware as it does change its name 7 times).
A warren of underground streets and houses hidden beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Costumed guides take you around this amazing site, revealing the stories of the former residents. Very eerie and supposedly very haunted. Great for adults and older kids alike.
Mary King's Close, off the Royal Mile;
Bookings: 08702 430 160;
This extinct volcano is visible from everywhere in Edinburgh and you can hike up it in a quarter of an hour, if you're reasonably fit. Beware of the weather up there, which can change abruptly: I went up in sunshine and came down in a hailstorm.
Barely out of the crowds of Princes Street, this peaceful spot is blustery enough to chill your bones at times, but is a great bit of greenery with great views of the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh city centre, and some weird architecture to puzzle over.
Calton Hill, central, near the North Bridge.
Whilst the gardens are free, and it’s a pleasure to walk in the huge park overlooking the Firth of Forth, the castle is by guided tour only. However, there are also arts events organised in the castle. It is a really nice and relaxing place with astonishing views.
There is also a restaurant at the back of Lauriston Park called Lauriston Farm, which is run by Brewer's Fayre, so the meals are pretty low priced and the quality is OK, though the menu is a bit mainstream. Pub is quite child friendly, and has a nice beer garden and huge parking space.
It is also situated near the famous seaside promenade by Cramond, and near the community golf course. Lots of sheep and cows in the fields, too.
Lauriston Castle. 2a Cramond Road South, Edinburgh, EH4 5QD; tel: 0131 336 2060;
For more information see: www.information-britain.co.uk/showPlace.cfm?Place_ID=740;
For pictures see: www.flickr.com/photos/idleberry/sets/72057594130404977/
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