Edinburgh’s Winter Gems
09 January 2023
- things to do
Visiting Scotland’s capital in winter and looking for interesting things to see, do and experience?
Look no further. Our Winter Gems Guide explores some of the best places to watch the sunset, get cosy when it’s cold outside and takes a look at the gems best enjoyed during the winter months.
Sledging in St Marks Park
If you’re lucky enough to catch some very rare snow on your visit to Edinburgh and want to go sledging, then St Marks Park on the Water of Leith Walkway is the perfect spot. As you zoom down the hill, be sure to take in the amazing view of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle overlooking this picturesque part of the city.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a man standing in the water - that’s one of celebrated artist and sculptor Antony Gormley’s Standing Man statues. Forming part of his 6 TIMES artwork, six of these towering figures can be found throughout the city. Maybe you can find all of them on your winter walks? Explore Antony Gormley’s 6 TIMES Trail >
St Margaret's Loch & St Anthony’s Chapel
Named after the 11th century wife of King Malcolm III of Scotland, St Margaret’s Loch is a picturesque spot in Holyrood Park that is home to many ducks, swans and geese.
Above it sits the ruins of 15th century St Anthony’s Chapel, and it’s from here that you get amazing views across the city as the sun sets.
(The paths around the chapel are rough and uneven – care should be taken and appropriate clothing and shoes should always be worn).
A beautiful spot to watch the sun setting after a busy day is the small, but perfectly formed Newhaven harbour.
A traditional harbour and fish market, fishing has been part of this small coastal community since the earliest people settled here. By the 16th century, the village had become a prominent port, and between 1572 and 1890 it was a major centre for oyster fishing. In the mid 1830’s an average of 20 million oysters were exported from Newhaven each year, and 1.7 million consumed within Edinburgh!
Today, you can still visit the old fishmarket, which is home to a variety of top-class eateries, including The Fishmarket for some great fish and chips cooked to order or Loch Fyne Restaurant & Bar for a variety of superb fresh fish & seafood.
The National Museum of Scotland
As soon as you walk through the doors of the magnificent National Museum of Scotland, there’s a multitude of treasures that catch your eye.
From colossal dinosaur bones to the miniature Lewis Chess Men, iconic fashion pieces to early mobile phones, whether you’re interested in history, culture, art of science, you’re bound to find something here that will pique your curiosity.
One of the most popular attractions in the UK outside of London, the museum is also free to visit! (exclusions apply for some special exhibitions).
Discover more of the top attractions you can visit in the city without spending a penny in our guide to Free Attractions >
Escape the hubbub of city life and breath in nature’s fresh air at Edinburgh ‘other castle’, Craigmillar Castle.
Dating from the 14th century, the castle has hosted some of the most iconic figures in Edinburgh's history over the years, including Mary Queen of Scots, who famously used the castle as a safe haven in 1566.
A wander around the surrounding park offers great views of Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle, just a couple of miles away.
Dean Village, Stockbridge & The Water of Leith
(Image Credit: VisitScotland Kenny Lam)
If you love architecture or simply want to find a quiet space to relax, Dean Village, which sits along the Water of Leith, is the perfect spot for you.
Once home to mills of various kinds, the remnants of the industry can still be seen today - look out for mill stones and carved stone plaques with baked bread and pies. The most striking building in the village is Well Court, which was built in the 1880’s as housing for local workers.
For the ideal winter wander, start in Dean village, then let the Water of Leith Walkway carry you on past beautiful gardens in suburban-like greenery. Find yourself in the pretty district of Stockbridge, where you can warm up with a perfectly brewed coffee and a fantastic selection of independent gift boutiques and shops.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
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With a history dating back nearly 350 years, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a treasure trove of the natural world.
With an extravaganza of plants from around the world, it offers a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of modern life, with highlights including the Rock Garden, Alpine Houses, Woodland Garden, Rhododendron Collection and the Scottish Native Plants Collection.
What better way to escape the dreich weather than by settling down to watch the latest blockbuster.
Built in typical 1930s Art Deco style, Dominion Cinema in the Morningside area of Edinburgh is one of only two independent cinemas in Scotland and since opening in 1938 it has been transporting movie goers to cinema paradise with a wide range of film genres.
If you love charming architecture, stunning views and cosy restaurants, then South Queensferry, or Queensferry as it’s known locally, should be at the top of your to-do list.
A short train ride from Edinburgh Waverley, a walk through this quaint town reveals lots of quirky shops and independent boutiques, perfect for finding that unique gift, alongside cafés and restaurants which line the main street - the ideal spot for relaxing while admiring the iconic Forth Bridges that cross over to Fife.
Dalkeith Country Park Trails
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With over 1,000 acres to explore, the beautiful grounds of Dalkeith Country Park offer sanctuary from the bustle of everyday life.
One of the best ways to explore the park is on one of the Trails. Ranging from 2K to 6K, and from hikes to more leisurely rambles, choose the route best suited to you and enjoy nature at its best.
Looking for more events taking place in Edinburgh over the winter months? Head to our What’s On for some inspiring ideas >