Find wellness in Edinburgh all year round
07 January 2021
- health and wellness
With the New Year rolling around once again, many of you might be thinking of getting fit and healthy for 2021. Thankfully, Edinburgh has a 12 month calendar of natural ways to keep well, writes Becky Kleanthous.
Blessed with more green space than any other UK city, Edinburgh is not only utterly gorgeous, but might actually be good for you as well.
With so much greenery to enjoy, we’ve been inspired by NHS Shetland’s ‘nature prescription’ initiative. Our own wellness calendar includes year-round suggestions for local outdoor experiences to calm your mind, invigorate your body and fill your lungs with fresh air. Time spent outdoors can improve blood pressure, sleep quality, heart health, and ease anxiety and depression, so you can really feel good about taking this ‘me-time’, 100% guilt-free. In fact, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Each space featured here is free to visit, and all activities are suitable for absolute beginners. Just be sure to only wash and eat foraged food when you’re confident you’ve got the right plant, and always follow your own comfort level with physical activities such as climbing.
People of Edinburgh, there’s a whole city of high hills, birdsong and windy beaches right on your doorstep. So pack your brolly and sun cream; head out, soak it up, and breathe.
- Commit to a year of nature: begin drawing or photographing one particular tree to document its changes each season.
- See if you can spot any otters along the Water of Leith - you’re in the right place for it!
- Be the first up and out to put lots of crunchy footsteps in the frost.
- Take some seeds to the park to scatter for the birds; they’re hungry at this time of year. Find your local park here.
- Walk the boardwalk of Figgate Park’s pond to watch the ripples and reflections in the water.
- Turn over rocks and logs at Ravelston Woods to find some hidden beasties.
- Cycle along the promenade at Cramond.
- Take your lunch to one of the secret gardens off the Royal Mile; Dunbar’s Close is particularly lovely.
- Photograph some wild creatures at the Hermitage of Braid Nature Reserve (if you’re lucky: woodpeckers, kingfishers, and tawny owls).
- Enjoy a weekly park run. It’s free, non-competitive and there’s no commitment to go every week.
- Hug a tree at Cammo Estate. It’s probably much older than you.
- Lie in the grass for some cloud-spotting: what can you see?
- Walk along the sculpted grass swirls at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. “Everything is going to be alright”, the building says.
- Fill a Thermos with boiling water. Pick and add some jaggy nettle leaves at the start of your walk, then sit down and enjoy your nettle tea at the end of the walk (it will have infused by then).
- Climb a tree. Then try to get back down again…
- Feed the friendly ducks at Inverleith pond. Rice, sweetcorn or peas are all much better for the ducks (and the pond itself) than bread!
- Have a walk at the Botanics and take time to enjoy the waterfall.
- Go searching to discover your favourite nature pattern: a snail shell, a peacock feather, a coiled fern? Take photos, or draw what you find.
- Write a poem amongst the cheerful daffodils at Victoria Park.
- Visit Blackford Pond and sit quietly by the water.
- Soothe your soul with an evening walk along Portobello beach.
- Go and say hello to the newly sprung bluebells in Ravelston Woods.
- Sew some lavender seeds in a window box - the bees love it!
- Pick some dandelion leaves to add to your sandwich or salad.
- Go on a colour walk at Dr. Neil’s Garden: can you find a flower for every shade of the rainbow?
- Watch the swans working together to build their nest at Inverleith pond.
- Don your wellies and use a sieve and ice-cream tub to go river-dipping in a shallow area of the
- Water of Leith. It’s nearly mayfly season; identify the nymphs by their three tell-tale tail prongs.
- Join up with the Water of Leith behind Stockbridge Colonies. That pungent smell on the riverbank is wild garlic - it makes a great pesto.
- Go to the Meadows to sit beneath the stunning pink cherry blossoms.
- Be a kid again: roll or run down the hills in Princes Street Gardens.
- Take your breakfast outside this morning, even if just to sit on your doorstep and watch the world go by.
- Find some dandelion clocks and blow away the seeds. Make a wish.
- At the foot of St. Bernard’s Well, you may find a big bush of lemon balm. Pick some and hang it in your shower for a citrussy start to the day. It also makes a delicious tea.
- Fish for free in the Water of Leith.
- Smell the roses at Saughton Park and pick up a brew at the Garden Bistro
- Walk around Arthur’s seat (or up it, depending on your strength).
- Take a yoga mat or towel outside and do some stretches on the grass.
- See how deep a hole you can dig in the sand at Portobello.
- Take a book outside and lie in the sun to read.
- Have an invigorating walk at the Pentlands. You might even meet some lovely sheep.
- Play pooh sticks over a quiet bridge in Stockbridge or Roseburn.
- Go paddling at Silverknowes beach.
- Follow a butterfly: start at a buddleia bush and see where you end up.
- Visit the cygnets at Inverleith, Holyrood Park or Leith pond.
- Carry a little bottle of honey and water mixture around with you this month, and give a few drops to any dozy bees you see.
- Find the silver lime tree at the Botanics and breathe in its sweet, heady scent.
- Go for a nature hunt with a small member of your family; look together for ladybirds, twigs, daisies, feathers and pebbles.
- Go on a coin walk: flip a coin at every crossroads and turn right for heads or left for tails. Maybe you’ll find somewhere new.
- Join a friend for a picnic in Lochend Park.
- Sit barefoot in the grass and look for a lucky four leaf clover.
- Skim stones at Cramond beach.
- Take some relaxing music and headphones, and enjoy it while you stroll around the beautiful grounds at Lauriston Castle.
- Collect a big bag of nature debris (leaves, twigs, pine cones) and create a mandala on the ground for someone else to discover.
- Make silhouette art by drawing around the shadows of plants at the Botanics.
- Collect seashells at Granton harbour.
- Introduce yourself to a highland cow at Dalmeny Estate.
- Walk around St. Margaret’s Loch in Holyrood Park.
- Go blackberry picking and eat them with lunch.
- Give back to nature and go litter picking.
- Make a sand sculpture.
- Take a walk along the Water of Leith. It flows right through the city and you can join the path at multiple points in Leith, Canonmills, Stockbridge, Murrayfield or Saughton.
- Collect driftwood and seaglass at Silverknowes beach. Use your treasure to make picture frames, or arrange around a candle.
- Find the brightest autumn leaves. Press them, mount in a glass frame, decoupage onto cards, or punch holes in them to make confetti.
- Collect shiny conkers and put them in a glass or jar as a centrepiece.
- Rise early and listen to the birds in your local park.
- Spot different coloured berries - red, yellow, orange and candyfloss pink - on the mountain ash trees along Queensferry Road from Orchard Park to Comely Bank.
- Find an unusual toadstool or mushroom to draw or paint.
- Swish through some lovely leafy piles in the Meadows.
- Visit Grassmarket, Stockbridge, Leith or Potterow market to buy some autumnal vegetables to make a hearty soup.
- Make bird feeders and hang them along local trees. Just smear nut butter on a pinecone, roll it in seeds, and hang up with string.
- Make an sun catcher by sticking interestingly shaped autumn leaves inside folded acetate. - Take a hot drink and watch the sunrise from the best spot in Edinburgh, at the top of Calton Hill (get there for about 7.20am).
- Jump on a puffball.
- Look for nests in the bare trees at Ravelston Woods.
- Go for a sound walk - no earphones allowed! What do you hear?
- Watch the sunset, from start (3.30ish) to end.
- Take a short train ride to North Berwick and write a message in the sand. Watch it get washed away by the tide.
- Learn something new about wildlife at the Botanics: the John Hope Gateway has ever-evolving exhibitions, and Inverleith House often has something on too.
- Walk with a friend at Blackford Hill.
- Hang out with some happy dogs at your local park.
- Go out after dinner and watch the stars. Can you pick out any constellations, or spot the North Star?
- On a walk, pay attention to variations in nature. Start by comparing the leaves at the top and bottom of a holly hedge.
- Take some peanuts to your local park to feed your squirrel pals.
Between writing jobs, Becky Kleanthous is working her way through Edinburgh’s escape rooms and every ice cream at Mary’s Milk Bar. Slow down her progress by getting in touch here: SheSellsSentences.com.