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27 February 2023

Discover Edinburgh’s public art

Leith Mural
Leith Mural

Edinburgh is home to an incredible variety of art galleries - from the grand National Galleries of Scotland: Portrait on Queen Street to the intimate Scottish Gallery on Dundas Street. But take a look around the city's streets and you’ll also find a wealth of public art, both by up-and-coming and world-renowned artists.

From Colinton to Leith, here’s our guide to the art works that are worth keeping an eye open for the next time you’re out and about in the city.

  • Tip 1: Plan your art trail in advance and map your perfect route.

  • Tip 2: Take advantage of Edinburgh’s compact layout by completing your trail on foot or wheels. You’re bound to discover a few hidden gems along the way.

  • Tip 3: Seek out your own public art and share your findings with us: #ForeverEdinburgh

The Colinton Tunnel

Perfect for

Enjoying local art in a unique setting on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Keep going and you’ll reach the villages of Currie and Balerno

Collington tunnel mural Winter Forever Edinburgh

In what was once an old railway tunnel, artist Chris Rutterford has transformed the Colinton Tunnel into the biggest mural of its kind in Scotland.

Celebrating local history and heritage, this once dark and gloomy space is now bright and cheerful, with illustrations from Edinburgh author and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson’s From a Railway Carriage.


Leith History Mural

Perfect for

Discovering what life was like for some former Leith residents.

Leith Mural

For over 40 years, this large-scale mural has been a landmark in the bustling neighbourhood of Leith.

Painted in 1986 by Tim Chalk and Paul Grime, it depicts scenes of everyday life and important historic events from Leith’s past, including the dockyard strikes and the Leith Hospital Gala.


The Manuscript of Monte Cassino

Perfect for

Taking a moment to reflect on times gone by and appreciating the present.

Manuscript of Monte Cassino

Known locally as The Foot and The Hand, The Manuscript of Monte Cassino is composed of three enormous body parts – a foot, an ankle and a hand. Together, they form a poignant statement on the horror and destruction of war.

Created by Edinburgh-born artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005), the work is thought to have been created as a reaction to his experience of growing up during World War II.

Widely considered as a pioneer of British Pop Art, if you want to explore more of Paolozzi’s work, don’t miss a trip to the National Galleries Scotland: Modern where you can see how this revolutionary artist worked in a reconstructed display of his studio.


Dreaming Spires

Perfect for

Photo-bombing these magnificent sculptures with your friends and family

Giraffes

This photo op favourite, created by Midlothian born artist Helen Denerley, was unveiled in 2005.

The two giraffes, nicknamed Martha and Gilbert, are made from scrap metal including parts from cars and motorbikes. Surrounding the sculpture is a line from a poem by Roy Campbell, which reads ‘Giraffes! A People Who live between earth and skies Each in his own religious steeple Keeping a lighthouse with his eyes’,

Jump on a number 26 Lothian Bus and you’ll be able to see these beautiful creatures for yourself. Giraffes, Ronnie, Arrow, Gerald, Fennessy and Gilbert can be visited at Edinburgh Zoo.


The Lion of Scotland

Perfect for

Sitting on a sunny day with a book and a brew, or just relaxing while watching the world go by

The Lion of Scotland

The mighty Lion of Scotland statue has been at his home in St Andrew Square Garden since 2010, although his former home was outside the Scottish Parliament.

This impressive sculpture was hand-carved by Scottish artist Ronald Rae. Carved out of pink Corrennie granite, it weighs a massive 20 tonnes.


Beachcomber

Perfect for

Challenging yourself to read the ornamented words to George MacKay Brown’s poem

Beechcomber, Rose Street

These beautifully detailed steel panels, which stretch across several windows, were installed as part of a scheme to regenerate Edinburgh’s Rose Street.

With a nautical theme, they are a celebration of the work of the ‘Rose Street Poets’ who used to gather in the street’s pubs in the 1950s and 1960s. The panels take their name from the poem Beachcomber by George Mackay Brown.


First Conundrum

Perfect for

Standing back and taking in the beautiful architecture of The Usher Hall, located across the road

First Conundrum Stones at Sheraton

Made of a variety of materials including limestone, granite, stainless steel and bronze, these impressive works by Remco de Fouw are inspired by Neolithic stones.

Found throughout Scotland, the use of such stones is not completely known, although many believe them to have been a form of currency. Located as they are today in Edinburgh’s financial services district is therefore an appropriate home. 


The Bronze Swans

Famous for

Enjoying Edinburgh’s outdoor experiences – including those that are both stationary and moving!

Bronze Swans

The flock of ten bronze swans which occupy this picturesque spot at the end of the Union Canal were unveiled in 2006 as part of the development of the Edinburgh Quay area.

They were designed by Glasgow-born sculptor Shona Kinloch and cast by Edinburgh company Powderhall Bronze.

From watersports to boat trips, find out how you can enjoy Edinburgh‘s Union Canal


Fish and Boat Sculpture

Perfect for

Exploring new parts of Leith, including its vibrant food and drink scene, award-winning attractions and the serenity offered by The Water of Leith

Leith Fish & Boat Sculpture

This striking sculpture was commissioned to commemorate the redevelopment of the Commercial Quay in Leith in 1997.

It was designed by Jois Hunter and Master Blacksmith Peter Johnson of P. Johnson & Company, the company which also created the Pinnacle at the Foot of Leith Walk.


6 TIMES

Perfect for

Discovering unique monuments and landmarks located in and around The Water of Leith

Water of Leith Sculpture

Created by Turner Prize-winning artist, Antony Gormley, 6 TIMES is a series of six sculptures.

Life-size cast iron sculptures of the artist’s body create a trail which starts at the National Galleries Scotland: Modern winding its way through the historic and pictureque Dean Village and along the Water of Leith Walkway, before finishing at the shore in Leith.

Why not make a day of it and explore the city via the full trail.


The Scotsman Steps

Perfect for

Reaching Edinburgh Waverley from The Scotsman Hotel. Walk down 104 uniquely coloured, swirling and mottling marble steps, created by the artist Martin Creed to reach the train station.

Running along the side of what used to be the headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper, and bridging Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, artist Martin Creed has turned this historic stairwell into a permanent art work.

Named Work no 1059, each of the 104 steps is clad in a different marble with unique colours and  markings. 



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