At the foot of the castle and along Edinburgh's main thoroughfare you'll find Princes Street Gardens. It's a popular place for locals and tourists to enjoy a spot of lunch and take in the breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle. The park is split into two by The Mound where you'll find two excellent art galleries. The East gardens play host to the Scott Monument, while the West gardens include a stage and seating for outdoor performances. There are many statues and benches littered throughout both gardens and the trees, manicured lawns, and floral displays give them a lush feel. Explore at your leisure.
Recommended for Parks because: Princes Street Gardens is an oasis of green in the heart of the city.
Simon's expert tip: At the far end of the West gardens in the shadow of the castle you'll find an ornate fountain with a children's play park and a place to buy coffee and ice cream just beyond it.
Corstorphine Hill is an L-shaped wooded ridge which has been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site due to the variety and accessibility of interesting rock formations found there. It is also a nature reserve which is home to a large colony of badgers and a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers and tawny owls. At its summit there is a tower dedicated to Sir Walter Scott which is open to the public and offers some outstanding views of the city of Edinburgh. There is also a beautiful walled garden and some traces of a Bronze Age settlement including the mysterious cup shaped markings, which it is speculated may have served some religious purpose.
Recommended for Parks because: Corstorphine Hill is a beautiful nature reserve which is also of significant geological and archeological importance.
Simon's expert tip: There are a number of guided walks available at Corstorphine Hill to allow visitors to benefit from the knowledge of the rangers who care for this nature reserve.
Cammo Estate is a nature reserve situated close to Turnhouse Golf Course and the River Almond in the north west of the city. It is owned and maintained by Edinburgh Council. Cammo was once the site of one of Edinburgh's most palatial residences, Cammo House, and the ruins of the manor house, its walled garden and impressive water tower lie within its borders. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife and retains a pleasantly rural atmosphere. The park is a very popular place for dog walking, and also benefits from a number of guided walks, an orienteering course, public toilets and a visitors center.
Recommended for Parks because: Cammo Estate is Edinburgh's undiscovered gem and a great place for a peaceful walk
Simon's expert tip: An ancient grove known as the Cammo Pinetum can be found to the north of the ruined Cammo House which features Monkey Puzzle, Giant Redwood, Umbrella Pine, Arolla Pine, Deodar Cedar, Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.
Situated close to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Stockbridge, Inverleith Park is one of Scotland's largest urban parks. Opened in 1891, the park still features its original boating pond, playing fields and tree-lined walkways, but to these have been added a children's play park, three football pitches, four rugby pitches, and six seven-a-side pitches, a petanque court and a running track. The secluded wildflower garden is home to a beautiful sundial dating to 1890 and offers stunning views of the city and the Pentland Hills. An area of the grassland has been converted into allotments for residents of Edinburgh and the western end of the pond was extended to form a wetland to encourage wild birds to flock to the park. Visitors can see the birds in their natural environment from a wooden walkway which skirts the edge of the water.
Recommended for Parks because: Inverleith Park is one of the largest urban parks in Scotland and is great for open air sport, dog walking and picnicking.
Simon's expert tip: There are a wide variety of events in the park throughout the year, but one of the most popular is the Foodies Festival held once a year in August.
Braidburn Valley Park is a lovely open space situated close to the leafy suburb of Morningside. The park is formed by the valley carved by the Braid Burn as it winds from the Pentland Hills north to the Firth of Forth. The western boundary is known as Fly Walk and is reputed to have been a walk favored by famous Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson. The park is also the site of a delightful orchard of cherry trees planted in the shape of a trefoil to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. There is a beautiful wildflower meadow which attracts a wealth of birds and insects and heron, otters, and foxes can be seen near the stream, which is rich with trout.
Recommended for Parks because: Braidburn Valley Park is a great place for a peaceful walk and has wonderful views
Simon's expert tip: There is a program of outdoor performances held in the grassy amphitheater, check their website or facebook page for details of upcoming events.
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 Parks because: The Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill form an important nature reserve in the heart of Edinburgh, an ideal destination for active families.
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.
Originally known as Caltoun or Caldoun Hill, Calton Hill offers one of the best and most iconic views of the city of Edinburgh. Granted to the people of Edinburgh by James II in 1456, the hill is now home to a bewildering number of buildings and monuments including the National Monument (an unfinished folly resembling the front of the Parthenon which is dedicated to those who died in the Napoleonic wars), Nelson's Monument (housing a time-ball mechanism by which ships used to set their chronometers), the Dugald Stewart Monument (a beautiful circular temple of nine columns dedicated to the Scottish philosopher), the Political Martyrs Monument, and the City Observatory (to name only a few).
Recommended for Parks because: Calton Hill is home to some of the most famous Edinburgh monuments and offers some of the best views of the city.
Simon's expert tip: Calton Hill plays host to a huge bonfire and festival on Beltane (the ancient Celtic festival heralding the beginning of spring on 30th April) which always features some great Celtic drumming.
Originally known as Figgate Moor this wetland is home to a wide array of waterfowl which can be easily viewed from the boardwalk which skirts the pond and Figgate burn. The park is a great favorite with joggers and dog walkers, but also offers wonderful views of Arthur's Seat and Duddingston village. There is a lovely picnic area, a beautiful wildflower meadow and children's play park, but the real attraction is the varied wildlife. Birdwatchers should make a bee line for this Green Flag winning park which is home to swans, moorhen, mallards and heron, to name but a few.
Recommended for Parks because: Figgate Park is a great place to see a wide variety of wild birds in their natural environment.
Simon's expert tip: This park is a great spot for budding ornithologists due to the surprising large numbers of wild birds and ducks that visit.
Holyrood Park (aka Queen's Park) is a royal park in central Edinburgh created in 1541 by James V from the twelfth century hunting estate of the Palace of Holyrood. It encompasses the extinct volcano of Arthur's seat and Salisbury and Duddingston crags, three small lochs, two natural springs, and a wide expanse of unique flora and fauna making it a truly wild oasis within the city. There is also the picturesque ruin of St Anthony's chapel and the rather more imposing ruin of Holyrood Abbey built by David I during the tenth century. Arthur's seat is the highest point in Edinburgh and offers some spectacular views of the city and there are walks to suit all levels of expertise within the park including the gently rising Queen's drive which offers access for vehicles and wheelchair users.
Recommended for Parks because: Holyrood Park offers wonderful views of the city and is a great place to explore for adults and children alike.
Simon's expert tip: Holyrood Park is a must see sight for anyone with an interest in geology and archeology thanks to the extinct volcano of Arthur's seat and the majestic Salisbury crags on which the remains of four iron ages forts are still visible.
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 Parks because: The Royal Botanic Gardens has the biggest collection of flora anywhere in 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.