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Historic Trails

Here we bring you a couple of short walks through Edinburgh past. It is probably worth printing the details off the web site and carrying them round as you do the walk.

Historic Walk 1 - The New Town

This route begins half way along Princess Street, outside the Royal Scottish Academy. It is at this point Edinburgh’s New Town begins and the difference in architecture is very noticeable.

At the foot of the Mound the Royal Academy and National Gallery of Scotland house one of the best art collections in Europe. From Old Masters to Post-Impressionist painters the selection is world class. An annual exhibition of the gallery’s Turner collection is held each January. www.nationalgalleries.org

On the opposite side of the road just inside the gates to Princess Street Gardens is the world’s oldest floral clock; laid out each year using over 20,000 plants it has electrically driven hands.

Heading east along Princess Street the Scott Monument can be seen rising 200ft above one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. It is well worth breaking your tour to climb the narrow winding staircase of 287 steps to appreciate the citywide views. Open daily 10-6pm, 4pm Nov-Feb.

Walking east you will reach the impressive Balmoral Hotel built in 1902 for the North British Railway Company. At this point cross the road towards the St James shopping centre home to John Lewis and other large high street stores. Across Leith Street a narrow cobbled lane leads to the top of Calton Hill. Magnificent views and some interesting historic monuments will reward the steep climb.

Back on Leith Street heading north you will reach Picardy Place.To the right is a new multi screen leisure complex and St Marys Roman Catholic Cathederal on the left. A fire in 1878 left only the façade, but the early 20th nave is interesting. Open daily 8.30-6pm.

At the west corner of Picardy Place turn left onto York Place. Heading west York Place becomes Queen Street home to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The red sandstone gothic architecture is stunning and sits in stark contrast to the Georgian elegance surrounding it. Like all of the cities galleries entrance is free. www.nationalgalleries.org

A short detour along Heriot Row displays the fine Georgian architecture and splendid views at this section of the New Town. Return to Queen Street via Howe Street and head south along Frederick Street to George Street. Running parallel to Princess Street spacious George Street is lined by high-class boutiques and restaurants.

Adjacent to George Street Rose Street is best known for its large number of traditional pubs and restaurants perfect to enjoy after a days exploring.

Historic Walk 2 - Stockbridge and Dean

This tour begins in Stockbridge proceeds upriver towards the Dean Village ending with visits to two of the cities major art galleries.

A stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens at Inverleith Park will really set the mood for this peaceful and scenic walk. www.rbge.org.uk

Leaving the gardens by Arboretum Place head south through Arboretum Avenue to St Bernard’s Row. At this point the Water of Leith will be on your left.

Turning left you will see the beautiful Stockbridge Colonies before you. These 11 rows of terraced cottages were built for artisans serving the New Town. Each house is split into an upper and lower dwelling resulting in some unusual design. A noticeable feature is that the gable end of each row has stone carving showing the implements and tools belonging to the different trades.

Crossing the road a small footpath to the right of Glenogle Swimming Baths, one of Edinburgh’s original bathing houses leads up into Saxe Coburg Place with its splendid Georgian architecture. Heading south through Coburg Street and crossing Hamilton Place you will arrive on St Stephens Street.

This really is a lovely street famous for is antique shops, galleries and cafes.
At the junction with Circus Place turn right and walk down towards the stone bridge crossing the river below. Turn left along Dean Terrace and steps lead down to join the Water of Leith walkway.

Heading west the path passes St Bernard’s Well a small circular Roman Temple. Local history claims the spring was discovered by boys fishing in 1760 and thereafter became popular for the healing powers of its waters.

The walkway continues under the towering Dean Bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1832 and rising 106ft above the river. At this point the river enters Dean Village where it skirts the base of a deep gorge and passes the Damhead Weir once used to power the numerous mills along this stretch of river. In this tranquil haven it is hard to believe the bustle and traffic of the city is less than half a mile away. Leaving the walkway at Belford Bridge and heading west will bring you to the Dean Gallery and on the opposite side of the road the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. www.nationalgalleries.org