Edinburgh is a compact city centre with an endless list of things to do and see. Walking is an ideal way to soak up the atmosphere while visiting places of interest and seeing the sights. The following four walks are just a suggestion of possible routes and contain a mix of attractions, views, architecture and landscape.
Walk 1 - Castle, Old Town and Palace.
This route begins at the top of the Royal Mile where 1-2 hours can be spent touring the castle, its battlements and admiring the stunning views. To the front of the castle esplanade a fountain and small plaque mark the spot where witches and warlocks were burned during the 16-18th centuries.
Below the castle the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre www.whisky-heritage.co.uk tells the history of Scottish whisky in a tour lasting about an hour and including a free dram!
A short diversion to the right down a steep cobbled lane leads to Ramsay Gardens a beautiful residential complex built by Sir Patrick Geddes for Scottish poet Allan Ramsay. Follow this street round the corner for open scenic views over the New Town towards the Firth of Forth and on a clear day Fife.
Perched high above Ramsay Gardens a distinctive black and white turret contains the Camera Obscura and World of Illuminations. The outlook tower and camera provide fascinating live images and 360 views of the surrounding city.
Heading down the Royal Mile the historic buildings now house an array of small shops selling Scottish crafts and souvenirs. At George IV Bridge the Royal Mile becomes the High Street at this point dominated by St Giles Cathedral. It is well worth taking the time to look inside St Giles either briefly of as part of a guided tour. The interior is really beautiful with splendid stained glass. A shop and restaurant are situated in the Lower Aisle.
On the pavement in front of the west door of St Giles is the Heart Of Midlothian, a heart shape worked into the cobbles inspired by the novel by Sir Walter Scott and signifying the centre of the Old Town. This spot also marks the place where the town jail and place of execution stood- as a result the cobbled heart is tradionally spat on by passers by to show their contempt!
Immediately opposite are the City Chambers with the fascinating St Mary King’s Close hidden beneath. This tour is a must for those interested in Edinburgh’s hidden past www.realmarykingsclose.com
While making your way down the High Street explore some of the closes leading off the main street as they retain some centuries old features.
The next section is the High Street is the main area for street performers during the August Festival The Fringe office at 180 the High Street is the place to go for programmes, tickets and fringe souvenirs.
As the High Street broadens is the Museum of Childhood. A heart warming break from modern life and a real trip down memory lane for all ages. www.cac.org.uk
At the junction with Jeffrey St and St Mary’s Street you cross into the historic Canongate, which was once a separate town. The Canongate has a number of attractions including The Peoples Story museum and the Museum of Edinburgh.
The last section of the Royal Mile is now dominated by the new Scottish Parliament Building. A radical modern design quite in contrast to the historic architecture of the Canongate. www.Scottish.parliament.uk
The large gates at the foot of the Canongate lead to the Palace of Holyroodhouse the Queen’s Edinburgh residence. Open to the public and with guided tours available the Palace is home to an impressive collection of paintings and beautiful gardens open through out the summer. Tel:0131 556 5100.
The parkland behind the Palace is Holyrood Park, encircled by Queen’s Drive, and dominated by Arthur’s Seat a steep hill with rugged crags and ridges.
For the more energetic the 822ft ascent will be rewarded by wonderful views looking back over the city.
Walk 2 - The Southside,Greyfriars and the Meadows.
This route begins at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby on the corner of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row. The statue commemorates a little dog that faithfully visited his master’s grave in Greyfriars graveyard each day for 14 years. Having won the hearts of local people, on his death he was buried near to his master just inside the graveyard entrance.
On the opposite side of the road is the unmistakable sandstone clad Museum of Scotland completed in 1998.Visitors can view some of Scotland’s most valuable national collections and precious artefacts charting Scotland’s history from its very beginnings.
Around the corner in Chambers Street is the Royal Museum of Scotland one of Edinburgh’s most popular attractions. Free-guided tours are available although it is advisable to book in advance. Tel: 0131 247 4422.
On the junction of Chambers Street and South Bridge is the University of Edinburgh’s Old College. Built in 1834 the architecture is very impressive and those with a keen eye will spot a small statue of a `golden boy` carrying the torch of knowledge surmounting the dome.
Beyond the South Bridge on the busy Nicholson Street is the glass fronted Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
Opposite is the Royal College of Surgeons containing a Museum of Anatomy and Pathology.Veiwing, including guided tour are available by appointment Tel:0131 527 1649.
Much further along this route, on Clerk Street is the Queen’s Hall. A Georgian church that now hosts mainly classical concerts Tel:0131 668-2019.
At the end of Clerk Street, the road to the right leads to the Meadows another valuable green space within the city. This public park is used by the people of Edinburgh for a range of leisure activities and each August the Meadows Festival. Stalls, live performances and a fun fair all create a fun family atmosphere.
The pathways leading west join Lothian Road and Princess Street beyond.