One of the joys of Edinburgh is that it is a very compact city and well suited to walking. The main attractions in the Old Town are best explored on foot, but if you’ve already taken in the castle and the Royal Mile, and you have a car, there are many more places worth visiting.
In this itinerary, we will explore the beautiful and rugged scenery of Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, the quaint and historic Duddingston Village, the lovely coastal towns of Portobello and Musselburgh, before ending your drive in the vibrant Port of Leith.
Holyrood Park was originally the grounds of a 12th-century hunting estate attached to the stately Palace of Holyroodhouse, home to many of the kings of Scotland. Drive down the Royal Mile past the Scottish Parliament and take the second exit at the roundabout to pass the palace and enter the park.
St Margaret's Loch in Edinburgh — Photo courtesy of Public domain
Turning left into the park will lead you past the dramatic cliffs of Salisbury Crags and the evocatively named Haggis Knowe and on to St Margaret’s Loch. This manmade loch is home to many ducks and swans,and it's presided over by the romantic ruins of 15th-century St Anthony’s Chapel. Follow the road 'round Whinny Hill towards the car park beside Dunstable Loch to enjoy spectacular views of Arthur’s Seat and the surrounding city.
Following the road on down the hill leads you to the south end of the crags and the road to Duddingston. Turn left and left again at the two small roundabouts at the foot of the hill, and skirt the edge of the golf course. The nature reserve of Duddingston Loch will be revealed to your right.
Follow the road into the picturesque village of Duddingston, with its 12th-century church and “Bonnie Prince Charlie House,” where the "Young Pretender" reputedly held a council of war during the Jacobite Rebellion.
The Sheep Heid Inn — Photo courtesy of The Sheep Heid Inn
Duddingston is the perfect place to stop for lunch. The Sheep Heid Inn may be the oldest surviving licensed premises in Scotland, and it has a wonderful bowling alley dating to 1870. They recently won Scottish Pub of the year at the AA Hospitality Awards, and the traditional and eccentric décor make this a great place to dine.
When you're ready to set out, head on down Old Church Lane and follow Duddingston Road, turning left at Baileyfield Road towards Portobello. If you wish, you can visit Figgate Park Nature Reserve on your left or continue on to Sir Harry Lauder Road, which will lead you on to Portobello High Street. Portobello Beach runs parallel to High Street and is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy an ice cream.
Town bridge at River Esk — Photo courtesy of Public domain
Head on along the High Street to follow the road round the coast to Musselburgh. Cross the quaint old bridge and turn right to join the A6095 back towards the city past the Fort Kinnaird retail park, turning right on to Duddingston Park South where you can join the coastal road and follow it all the way into Leith. Here you’ll find some great restaurants, like Fisher’s Bistro for your evening meal.
You could also continue onto Commercial Street and turn right at the end to visit Ocean Terminal, which has plenty of free parking. It's home to the Royal Yacht Britannia, a cinema and plenty of places to eat.