Edinburgh is a city with a seemingly endless number of green spaces and walking paths to explore. Whether you’re looking for city escapes or the best tourist attractions, Edinburgh will have a walk that has what you’re looking for. Here are, in no particular order, the 11 best walks in Edinburgh!
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Waters of Leith
The Waters of Leith is one of my favourite walks in Edinburgh. The Waters of Leith flow from Balerno, up near the Pentlands, all the way down through Edinburgh and to Leith, where the river meets the ocean. There are countless attractions to visit along the Waters of Leith, and because it’s so long, there’s always something new to discover along the way. My favourite stretches are near Dean Village (more on that below!) and then right at the end, in Leith!
Distance: 35 km (22 miles)
How to get there: There are many spots where you can join the waters of Leith! Stockbridge, Leith, Balerno, Roseburn, or near the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are just a few.
The Union Canal is now a walking and cycling path, but back in 1793, it was designed as a way for the people of Edinburgh to access coal and other material from out West. After opening in 1822, the canal was utilised for nearly 100 years before the railway took over and it closed in 1921.
The Union Canal is a walkway I’ve only just discovered in the past year, but I wish I had made the trip out to the Union Canal sooner. It’s one of the best walks around Edinburgh. The Union Canal stretches all the way from the Falkirk Wheel into Edinburgh and is a great place to both walk and cycle. There are also boat clubs that you can rent canoes from, or if you’re feeling tired, you can even take a boat ride along the canal.
There’s also a section of the canal that meets up with the Waters of Leith, so if you want to explore TWO of the best walks in Edinburgh, this is a great option.
Distance: 51 km (31 miles)
How to Get There: Head to Fountainbridge! Here is the address of the Lochrin Basin, where the Union Canal begins in Edinburgh: Lochrin Basin, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh EH3 9QG
Arthur’s Seat & Holyrood Park
I couldn’t write about the best walks around Edinburgh and NOT include Arthur’s Seat! Arthur’s Seat is Edinburgh’s highest hill, looming over the city. Located right in the heart of Edinburgh, it offers spectacular views of both the city and the sea. There are plenty of trails to explore in Holyrood Park, where Arthur’s Seat is located. It’s also an extinct volcano!
Distance: about a 2.4 mile loop
How to Get There: Start near the Scottish Parliament building and enter Holyrood Park.
The Pentland Hills are an amazing place to find the best walks around Edinburgh. Situated in the Scottish Lowlands, the Pentland Hills offer great views of the rolling hills Scotland is famous for. Although it only takes a short bus ride to get to the Pentlands from Edinburgh, you feel as if you’ve completely escaped the city. My favourite walk in the Pentlands is up Carnethy and Turnhouse Hills, for which I’ve written a guide that you can access here. Another good alternative is this five peaks walk, starting from Nine Mile Burn.
Distance: Depends on the walk you do! See my two posts on the Pentlands linked above for some great walks!
How to get there: From Princes Street, take the 101 Bus to the Flotterstone Inn. Alternatively, take the Bus 44 to Balerno.
Stockbridge & Dean Village
If you don’t want to leave the city, this is one of the best walks in Edinburgh! Stockbridge is such a charming part of Edinburgh, and its history as a town for artists is still reflected in the sweet coffee shops and cobblestone streets. You should also visit Circus Lane if you’re in Stockbridge! There’s so much to see wandering around Stockbridge, but heading along the Waters of Leith to Dean Village is one of the best things to do in this part of Edinburgh.
Dean Village is one of the most picturesque places in Edinburgh, which grand rust and yellow coloured buildings and the waterway flowing straight through it! It’s a great spot to take photos and to get a feel of Edinburgh outside of the Old Town.
Distance: 1 km (0.6 miles)
How to get there: From Waverley, it’s a 20 minute walk to Stockbridge.
If you’re in Edinburgh anywhere from mid-late April to mid May, you MUST walk around the Meadows, as the cherry blossoms will be blooming! The Meadows is located right next to The University of Edinburgh, making it a hub of activity. Grab a cinnamon bun or mazarin from the Soderberg Bakery nearby (a must), take a football to kick around, or a blanket to lie on. The Meadows is a great place to walk around and then bask in the sunshine when you’re done!
How to get there: This is the address that will get you to the beginning of the meadows: N Meadow Walk, Edinburgh EH3 9GE
Portobello is located just outside of central Edinburgh, but it’s worth taking a walk there if you want to see the ocean! The beach has a great esplanade where you can grab a coffee or fish n’ chips with a great view. This is also a really popular spot to cycle (JustEat is Edinburgh’s local bike sharing app and is very affordable!). In the summertime, you’ll see crowds basking in the sunshine, taking a dip into the *refreshing* (i.e. cold) sea, and eating ice cream!
Distance: The promenade stretches nearly 2 miles.
How to get there: The 26 Bus will take you from central Edinburgh to Portobello
Calton Hill is one of the best walks in Edinburgh if you’re looking for a sweeping view of Edinburgh. The Contemporary Art Gallery sits at the top of Calton Hill, but I love coming on nice sunny days for picnics. This is my favourite spot to watch the sunset from. If you’re looking for dinner after catching the sunset, Leith Walk has LOADS of incredible eateries and is just at the bottom of Calton Hill.
Distance: 0.1 miles from the base to the top! Also 0.4 miles from Waverley Train Station.
How to get there: One set of stairs up to Calton Hill sits right on the intersection of Waterloo Place and Calton Hill, EH7 5AA. Here’s a link to it on Google Maps.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens are a great place for a walk. I always take visitors to the Royal Botanic Gardens on a sunny day – these gardens are full of amazing flora and the paths are extensive! There’s a little cafe where you can grab a tea or coffee takeaway, and Stockbridge is just a short walk away if you want to continue your walk after the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Distance: The Royal Botanic Gardens cover 70 acres!
How to get there: From the centre of Edinburgh, take bus 23, 27, 8, or 29 to get to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The journey takes around 20 minutes by bus and 25 minutes on foot.
The Royal Mile
You can’t come to Edinburgh without exploring the Royal Mile. Undoubtedly one of the most iconic spots of Edinburgh, the Royal Mile is also one of the best walks in Edinburgh due to the sheer number of historical spots and things to see along the street. The Royal Mile spans from the Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Park, and along the way, you walk through history, visiting old closes, kilt shops, and St Giles Cathedral, built in 1130!
Things to do along the Royal Mile include
- The Edinburgh Castle
- Camera Obscura
- The Scotch Whiskey Experience
- Mary King’s Close
- St Giles Cathedral
- Holyrood Palace
Distance: 1.81 kilometers (or about 1 Scots mile, though Scots miles haven’t been used in centuries).
How to get there: Right in the centre of old town! You can’t miss it.
Last, but certainly not least, is Inverleith Park! Inverleith Park has wonderful views of Edinburgh’s skyline and is right next to the Royal Botanic Gardens. You’ll always see dogs running around here (big plus) and children playing with toy boats on Inverleith Pond. This is a great park to visit if you’re looking for an expansive place to run or for children to play, and it’s also a great addition to a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens!
Distance: Inverleigh Park spans 54 acres
How to get there: From the Botanic Gardens West Gate, Inverleith Park is just across the street.
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