As one of Europe’s most picturesque capital cities, there is no shortage of scenic spots in Edinburgh. Fortunately, at Invisible Cities, we have the local knowledge to help you get the most out of your city break. Join us today as we explore the 5 most scenic places in Edinburgh. Before you begin, why not take a look at our range of walking tours in Edinburgh.
Looming over the city from Castle Rock, this 12th-century castle acted as a royal residence for around four and a half centuries; its most famous former residents were Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots. A strategic fortress in both a real and symbolic sense, control of the castle historically meant control of the city itself and so this building’s story, perhaps more than any other, is bound to that of the city below. Today, you can get fantastic views over the cityscape and explore the castle’s history with on-site guides. One of the castle’s darker functions over the years has been its use as a military prison, with sometimes hundreds of foreign prisoners being held in its vaults. For those with an interest in some of the more macabre chapters in the city’s past, you may enjoy our local guide Sonny’s Crime and Punishment tour of Edinburgh.
Part of the city’s UNESCO world heritage site, Calton Hill provides one of the best cityscapes across the city. Lying to the east of Princes Street, the hill is a short walk from the centre. The climb to the top is short but steep. At the top of the hill, relax on the grass with a picnic lunch if the weather’s good and explore the many historic monuments situated here. Notable structures at the top of the hill include the City Observatory, the Nelson Monument, and the infamous National Monument — a memorial to the Napoleonic Wars in the style of Athens’ Parthenon that was left half-finished when the council ran out of money in 1829.
The ‘Water of Leith Village’, as it was once known, is a strange time-capsule of a place. Visitors who stumble upon Deane Village by chance would be forgiven for thinking they have stepped through a portal to a distant time. The site of a mill some 800 years ago, this area has been perfectly preserved and offers a peaceful escape from the often busy city centre. It’s one of the most picture-perfect sections of the city, so bring a camera with you for holiday snaps. Walking by the softly flowing water, you are likely to have the place to yourself, apart from the occasional jogger or dog walker. There are no shops or restaurants in the immediate vicinity, but it’s a fairly short walk from the National Gallery of Modern Art which should also make it onto your must-see list. For visitors hoping to explore the city’s arts and culture scene, you will enjoy tours with our guide Angie who explores the hidden and overlooked creative places the city has to offer.
Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano (don’t worry, it hasn’t been active for millions of years) located just outside Edinburgh’s city centre. It offers matchless views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The hill is part of the larger Holyrood Park which includes glens, hills, lochs, and cliffs. Allow a good couple of hours to make the climb and your way back down, adding more time if you wish to explore Holyrood park more widely. A taste of wild Scotland on the doorstep of the capital.
The Royal Mile
Some locals may grumble at any mention of the Royal Mile as it’s, undoubtedly, the street most geared towards tourists in the whole city and it can get very busy — especially during the Edinburgh Festival. However, like most popular tourist spots, it’s included in the guidebooks for a reason. The street is lined on both sides with historic buildings and gives an excellent feel for how the city would have been in bygone eras. At the top, you have the castle and at the bottom, the Scottish parliament, Holyrood House. Enjoy watching the rush of people from all over the globe pass you by, and when it gets too much for you, get lost on the winding lanes that lead off the main drag. Our local guide Angus gives an excellent tour exploring this area: The Royal Mile Tour – From Huts to High Rise.
So ends our whistle-stop tour of the best scenic spots around Edinburgh. If you have any questions for us, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us here.