In Edinburgh, we’re incredibly lucky to have the best of both worlds – not only do we have world-class visitor attractions, universities, shops and a fantastic range of place to eat, but we are also blessed with a range of green spaces, ideal for when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city living.
In a city where the views are just as refreshing as the welcome, be prepared to be blow-away by Edinburgh.
Did you know - Edinburgh has over 4,500 acres of parks, open spaces and woodlands across the city, as well as more trees per head of population than any other UK city.
From tranquil nature trails, adventurous hills, wooded reservoirs, calming canals, and fresh walks along the coast, there's never been a better time to build a walk on the wild side into your routine!
So, pack a picnic, jump into your joggers and tie-up your trainers and join us as we explore Edinburgh’s open spaces!
Gardens in Edinburgh
From formal to the more relaxed, there are a number of gardens in the city that are well worth a visit. In the spring, they burst into life with new shoots and the promise of warmer days; in summer they offer a refuge from the sun’s baking heat (which we sometimes experience!) and in the autumn, they become covered in a blanket of crisp brown leaves, as nature slowly moves into winter.
Whether you’re a budding horticulturist, or struggle to keep a vase of vase fresh for a few days, these green places offer everyone a chance to get close to nature, unwind and take a step back from life’s often hectic pace:
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Set amongst 72 acres of stunning scenery, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh dates back 350 years and is one of the finest botanic gardens in the world.
Enjoy the serenity of the Chinese Hillside, explore the world-famous Rock Garden or stroll amongst the magnificent Giant Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden. Plus, there are artworks to view in the Garden's exhibition space, Inverleith House.
Open all year, and with a range of seasonal events on offer, the gardens are free to visit, however a small fee is required if you choose to visit the greenhouses.
Princes Street Gardens
Situated between the Old and New Towns and in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens are a peaceful expanse of green space and floral beds, as well as a diverse and fascinating collection of public monuments and memorials.
The gardens have undergone many changes – from a loch, to a sewer, to a private garden, with a railway line added, and to a public memorial garden.
Today, they play an important part in the life of the city and are home to various festivals throughout the year, the biggest being in the weeks leading up to Christmas when they are transformed into Edinburgh’s Christmas Market.
Escape the hive of activity of The Royal Mile.
A wander down the narrow cobbled Dunbar’s Close opens out into a surprisingly tranquil and elegant 17th century-style garden, with lush trees and elegant shrubs.
Donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978, it is believed the close was named after David Dunbar, a writer who, in 1773, owned tenements on either side of this close.
Entrance to the garden is free of charge.
The Archivists' Garden
Hidden behind the impressive General Register House at the east end of Princes Street is a beautiful botanical haven. The Archivists' Garden is filled with 57 different varieties of plants - all connected in some way to Scotland's collective memory, whether through myth and folklore, heraldry, or association with individual famous Scots.
Designed and created by David Mitchell, curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, it fills the open courtyard space between General Register House and New Register House. Although just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street, this is a lovely quiet spot to relax in and have a quiet moment of reflection.
Open during office hours, with free admission.
Dr Neil's Garden
Sometimes been called Edinburgh’s Secret Garden, Dr Neil's Garden is nestled beside Duddingston Kirk, close to the banks of Duddingston Loch.
The garden was a labour of love for the late Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil who transformed what was formerly waste ground into the beautiful, blooming haven it is today. Boasting a huge variety of plants and flowers, this is a perfectly peaceful spot with stunning views over the loch and of Arthur's Seat.
Entry is free of charge (except during advertised events) but donations are welcome.
The Secret Herb Garden
Nestled at the foot of the Pentland hills at the edge of Edinburgh and set within 7.5 acres which are bordered by native hedgerows and a gentle stream, the Secret Herb Garden is a wonderful herb nursery.
Not only that, this little jewel also has a café, shop and distillery.
Portobello Community Garden
(Image Credit: Visit Scotland Kenny Lam)
Once a bandstand, the garden has 3 Coade Stone Pillars, plants and a quiet seating zone along the Portobello seaside.
Discover more about Edinburgh’s seaside resort in our Portobello Neighbourhood Guide>
Sandeman House Garden
This secluded spot is just off the Royal Mile, down Trunks Close, and belongs to the Scottish Book Trust.
Open to the public during the day, it’s ideal for relaxing with a book or having a spot of lunch.
Johnston Terrace Garden
Managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and their smallest wildlife reserve, Johnston Terrace Garden is a peaceful garden in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, close to Edinburgh Castle.
Demonstrating how a wildlife refuge can find a home in an urban area, the best time of the year to visit is between June and August when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Access is by prior arrangement with the Trust’s head office.
Lauriston Castle Gardens
A hidden gem in Edinburgh, Lauriston Castle is situated near historic Cramond. The beautiful grounds, which are free to visit, cradle the sea and offer stunning views. The calm and tranquil Japanese garden is definitely worth a visit.
A great way of keeping fit and healthy, both mentally and physically, Edinburgh’s green spaces are packed with ways for the whole family to stay well all year round. For more ideas, have a look at our Guide to Finding Wellness in Edinburgh all Year Round>
Parks in Edinburgh
Walking the dog, shooting the breeze with friends, or simply catching your breath while feeling the sun on your face, there’s no shortage of parks within Edinburgh to choose from. So, the next time you want to top-up your vitamin D levels, why not consider spending time in these city parks:
One of Edinburgh's most popular parks, you’ll find rugby & football pitches, tennis court, allotments here, as well as a children’s play area and a pond.
- As you pass through the North Archway, be sure to look up, otherwise you’ll miss the unicorn!
Once the site of the Borough-Loch, this park is now one of the city's most popular green spaces.
It has several facilities, including a play area, tennis courts, croquet and cricket club.
The colourful cherry blossoms which line the pathways in the early summer make it a popular photo location.
Saughton Park and Gardens
One of Edinburgh's hidden jewels, Saughton Park and Gardens have an interesting history.
They came into the City of Edinburgh Council ownership in 1900, when a nine-hole golf course, nursery and playing fields were laid out. In 1908, the park became the site of the great Scottish National Exhibition. During WWII, the formal gardens were turned into onion beds as Saughton helped dig for victory.
Today, the gardens still have playing fields, as well as an athletics track, the biggest skateboard park in Scotland and a modern creative play area. Spread over 34 acres, it also has a delightful formal garden which features the largest herbaceous border in Edinburgh.
A great place for walking, running, cycling, or simply taking in the fresh air, Holyrood Park’s dramatic hills and crags shape Edinburgh’s skyline, and its history and archaeology span thousands of years.
Set in 260 hectares of open space, why not try climbing Arthur’s Seat, the park’s highest point, for 360-degree views of Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Situated on the banks of the Water of Leith, the trees are the most attractive feature in this popular park. Many and varied, forming sharp contrasts of colour, shape, form and height, there are tall specimen conifers, varieties of holly, towering beeches, yew and a monkey puzzle, all of which create a sense of enclosed peace.
Figgate Park is gorgeous gem, nestled between Duddingston and Portobello in the east of the city.
The pond at the centre of the park is home to a fantastic variety of birds and other aquatic animals which draws many families for a spot of feeding the ducks. A walk around the pond is colourful feast for the eyes at any time of the year, with an incredible backdrop of Arthurs Seat.
Muir Wood Park
An attractive woodland park in Currie, in the south west of Edinburgh, the local community have worked with the local school and Edinburgh City Council to transform this park into a tranquil haven, with woodland walks, seats and a play area.
The park has been awarded a Green Flag since 2011, in recognition of it being a quality green space.
With uninterrupted, panoramas over the Firth of Forth to Fife, this park is a great place to watch life on the water.
Within the park there are annual beds; one shaped as an eight-pointed star and two crescents. These depict the 'Star of the Sea' believed to be symbolic of a ship's compass and harking back to the days when Forth sailors navigated the oceans by the stars.
Prefer to do your exploring on 2 wheels? Edinburgh has many safe and interesting cycling routes which can be enjoyed by all ages. From off-street paths, former railway lines and sea view esplanades, there are cycling routes to suit all abilities. Let’s explore some of the city’s most popular trails>
Hills and Nature Trails in Edinburgh
For those times when you really feel the need to stretch your leg muscles that little bit further, Edinburgh has several routes that really provide the chance to escape into nature:
Home to the National Observatory, Blackford Hill has views across the city, spanning over the Forth to the distant Lomond Hills.
It is an important part of Edinburgh's natural heritage, and along with neighbouring Hermitage of Braid, has been classified a Local Nature Reserve. Blackford Pond and the surrounding wetland are important for water birds such as swan, little grebe, heron, pochard, mallard and tufted duck.
Situated in central Edinburgh, just to the east of the New Town and included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calton Hill offers some of the best views of the city.
The hill also houses several iconic monuments and buildings including the National Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson's Monument, the Old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martys' monument and the City Observatory.
Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve
(Image Credit: Calum McRoberts)
A natural heritage park with large areas of mature woodland and grassland, at its highest point (531 feet), Corstophine Hill has stunning views of the city.
On a clear day you can see the summit of Ben Lomond in the west, exceptional views of the Forth Estuary and Fife to the north, and the rolling backdrop of the Pentland Hills to the south.
The park has been awarded a Green Flag since 2010, in recognition of it being a quality greenspace.
Craigmillar Castle Park
This 62 hectare site features parkland, woodland and plenty of open space to run around.
A natural heritage park with areas of mature and young woodland, grassland and old quarries, in 1997 over 40,000 trees were planted as part of the millennium forest for Scotland project.
The park is set against the backdrop of Craigmillar Castle, an enormous baronial structure which was built in the 15th century.
Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve
Nestled between the peaceful residential areas of Braidburn and Craiglockhart, Easter Craiglockhart Hill rises dramatically through cliff-faces and steeply wooded slopes to a plateau featuring views over the Forth, the Trossachs, the Pentlands and East Lothian.
The Pentland Hills
The Pentlands overlook Edinburgh, to the south of the city. Over 100km of signposted paths guide walkers through an oasis of green hills and lochs.
With beautiful views of the surrounding area, there are also cycle and pony trails offering lots of ways to explore this beautiful outdoor sanctuary.
Ravelston Woods Local Nature Reserve
The first record of this ancient woodland appears in 1826.
Situated in Blackhall, this park is locally renowned for its diversity of plants and animals. It is well worth a visit in the springtime to see the dazzling display of bluebells which carpet the woodland floor.
Did you know?? - most of Edinburgh sits on hard, volcanic rock. Ravelston, however, is sedimentary sandstone which has been quarried to supply stone to build Edinburgh homes since the 16th century. This stone was also used to build the Palace of Holyrood House and St Giles Cathedral. The quarry ceased production after World War II.
Looking for outdoor ideas that all the family can enjoy – check out our Guide to Top 5 Outdoor Activities in Edinburgh and make memories that will last a lifetime>