Best Outdoor Activities in Edinburgh

Open-Air Fun with the Top 10 Outdoor Pursuits in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is graced by some spectacular scenery and wonderful open spaces where residents and visitors alike can take part in a wide range of outdoor pursuits. So join us as we take a look at the top ten outdoor activities this great city has to offer.

Edinburgh is home to the UK’s largest artificial ski slope. Located at the outskirts of the city the Midlothian Snowsport Center combines excellent skiing, snowboarding and snowblading facilities with incredible views of the surrounding hills and the city. Skateboarders, BMX bikers and rollerbladers will love the purpose built Saughton Skate Park which is the biggest and best of its kind in Scotland.

You can also take part in rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking, canoeing and mountain biking without straying far from the capital. Epic Ventures can provide you with tuition, transport and equipment hire for a wide range of sports. Adventures can last a few hours or many days, and all ages and abilities are catered for.

You don't have to be super fit or very active to enjoy fresh air and great scenery. Why not take a walk in one of the capital's many beautiful parks. Whatever your level of fitness, experience and daring, you are sure to have a great time experiencing the outdoors in Scotland’s beautiful capital city.


Espionage Missions is a high tech treasure hunt and interactive puzzle event around the city center for groups of participants. Groups of anywhere between ten and one hundred people are split into teams and given a series of challenges and tasks such as code-breaking, logic- puzzles, forgery tasks, foreign language translation, and time-trials. In order to win, teams must work together, and plan their strategy carefully. More than just a treasure hunt, this is a great team building activity, but also great fun. The activity is pitched towards corporate groups, youth groups and stag and hen parties, but offers a deliciously different challenge for any group of friends looking for a novel way to explore Scotland's capital.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Espionage Missions offer something a little different for groups looking for an active and cerebral challenge on the streets of Edinburgh.

Simon's expert tip: Espionage Missions are not too physically challenging, but you can expect to cover a fair bit of territory so dress accordingly!

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Royal Botanic Gardens
Photo courtesy of Calum McRoberts

Any plant or flower, rare and common, can be seen and enjoyed at the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was originally developed as a learning conservatory for students, but it has grown to become an example to the world. The rock garden, arboretum, and over 70 acres of shrubs, blooming plants, and trees are great fun to explore. There is also a serene Chinese Garden and a duck pond. Some of the plants date all the way back to the dinosaur age. You will also find exhibitions and interactive activities for children in the main building and there is a shop, a restaurant and a couple of cafes. On a sunny day you'll enjoy the peace and beauty you'll find here. There are also some spectacular views of the city.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Royal Botanic Gardens is a great place to explore and enjoy a picnic and some spectacular views of the city.

Simon's expert tip: Make sure you visit the Terrace Cafe for gorgeous views of the castle, it's perfect for a picnic. You should also check out the John Hope Gateway where you'll find a great gift shop and sometimes events, displays or activities.

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Outside the City

This tidal island can be reached on foot via a walkway which is only visible when the tide is low. The tide comes in fast, cutting off the island from the mainland so visitors have to time their trips carefully. The island was fortified in WWII, but it has been in use for centuries. King James IV bombarded the island with artillery as target practice in the early 16th century, and a stone burial site was found there that it is believed, dates back to prehistoric times. Today it is a picturesque place for a stroll and it offers stunning views of the Firth of Forth.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Spectacular views and loads of wildlife make Cramond Island a great place to explore.

Simon's expert tip: The Cramond Gallery Bistro is the perfect place for a healthy or naughty snack after you have taken the air at Cramond.

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Musselburgh Links Golf Course is generally agreed to be the oldest golf course in the world, with golf being played at the site as early as 1672. It was one of the original venues of the Open Championship, acting as host on no fewer than six occasions in the 1870s and 1880s. One of the courses more famous players was the tragic and romantic figure of Mary Queen of Scots. The course has nine holes (par 34) and is held in public ownership. You can apply for membership of this wonderful old course, but members of the public may also play by appointment.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: For the true golfer a visit to the oldest golf course in the world at Mussleburgh Links is too good to miss.

Simon's expert tip: For a truly unique historical experience why not hire hickory clubs to play this historic course?

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Epic Ventures is an Edinburgh company which offers tuition and equipment hire for a variety of outdoor pursuits around Edinburgh and further afield. They offer canoeing and kayaking, rock climbing and abseiling, mountain biking, orienteering and chain-walking, and cater for all levels of experience from beginners to experts. You can pack an outdoor experience into a few hours, or opt for a multi-day package. They even offer mountain biking tours of Scotland which can be tailored to your precise specifications. There are great family sessions and a variety of options for groups including hen and stag parties, youth clubs and society days out.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Epic Ventures can help you take part in some great outdoor activities around Edinburgh.

Simon's expert tip: Gift vouchers for Epic Ventures are an excellent present for the adventurous and offer good value for money.

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The Water of Leith Walkway is an idyllic and tranquil path and cycle track which snakes its way through the heart of Edinburgh. The walkway passes numerous beauty spots and places of interest including Saughton Winter Gardens, Colinton Village and Dell, the Union Canal, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village and Stockbridge, and the Royal Botanic Garden. As part of your walk or cycle why not pop into the Water of Leith Visitor Center? This free attraction features video and interactive presentations and includes a lovely café and gift shop. There are also numerous events held throughout the year including guided walks, family events and an annual plant sale which has proved very popular.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: A walk along the Water of Leith Walkway is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Simon's expert tip: Practical Action Days allow members of the public to get involved. Why not join them for some exercise, fresh air and the knowledge that you have helped preserve this beautiful natural asset?

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Blackford hill was purchased by Edinburgh Corporation in 1884 as a public park and the Hermitage of Braid was added to the parklands in 1938. It is a nature reserve which features around thirty acres of mature woodland and is dissected by the Braid Burn which flows from the Pentland Hills to Portobello. The site is home to the stately Hermitage House with its visitor center and a beautiful dovecot and walled garden. There is also an artificial duck pond which is very popular with families, in part because it is also the site of a very good play park. At the summit of Blackford Hill sits the Royal Observatory with its iconic copper domes. The observatory is still central to astronomical research in Scotland, but also houses an exhibition and a library which includes works by famous astronomers such as Copernicus, Kepler and Newton.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Whether you are into orienteering, hiking and nature walks or just want to feed the ducks, Blackford Hill is a great place to enjoy the outdoors.

Simon's expert tip: There are two excellent nature trails in the nature reserve and regular orienteering events for those who want to try their hand at a bit of map reading.

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Portobello Beach is a beach resort located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It was initially outside the city limits, but became a suburb of the capital as it expanded. There is a long promenade skirting the edge of the beach with an amusement arcade, a very good café selling delicious ice cream and a lovely children's play park. The beach itself is very well maintained and extremely popular with sun worshippers and picnicking families on a sunny day. Portobello Kayaking and Sailing Club (PSKC) operate from the beach so you will often see groups of adults and children sailing dinghies and kayaks to the beach.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Portobello Beach is a great place to spend a sunny day making sandcastles, enjoying a picnic or taking part in watersports.

Simon's expert tip: There are regular events held on the beach such as "the Big Busk" featuring street musicians and performers.

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Midlothian Snowsports Centre boasts the biggest artificial ski slope in the UK and is the training center for the Scottish Olympians. There are two main slopes, two nursery slopes and a jump slope. They offer courses for adults and children, beginners and experts. Yet the fun is not limited to skiing. Enthusiasts can take part in snowboarding and snowblading and a range of freestyle features, such as the purpose built tubing runs. Thanks to state of the art floodlighting, the slopes stay open after the sun has set. There is also a lovely café with incredible views of the Pentland Hills and the city of Edinburgh.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: With the UK's largest artificial ski slope and a series of tubing runs, Midlothian Snowsports Center is a great place to enjoy winter sports.

Simon's expert tip: Make a bee-line for the travelator which is the fun way to get up the hill!

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The Saughton Skate Park is arguably the best and biggest of its kind in Scotland. It was completed in 2010 and has quickly gained a loyal following amongst skaters, roller bladers and bmx riders. The skatepark layout combines a mix of street style and bowl features. It is divided into three main areas featuring transitioned ramps, street style obstacles, and bowls with the potential for flow and lines between areas. The skate park was designed by local skaters and funded by Sportscotland, WREN (a charity which subsidizes community projects) and Edinburgh Council. A decorative flourish was added by professional street artists and children from Balgreen and Stenhouse Primary Schools. Saughton Skate Park is a great place for novice and experienced skaters, roller bladers and bikers to practice their art in safety.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Saughton Skate Park is a great place for novice and experienced skaters, roller bladers and bikers to practice their art in safety.

Simon's expert tip: Saughton Gardens next door is the perfect place to relax after catching some air at the skate park.

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Meet Simon Hill

Simon has lived in various corners of Edinburgh over the last 18 years. He fell in love with the city as a small child after visiting the castle and returned to study Scottish History.

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