Walking Edinburgh

Edinburgh. Majestic, ancient and lush. The capital of Scotland and the first UNESCO city of literature in the world. A fascinating city, that offers something for absolutely everyone and a fantastic walking city.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle from Cannongate. Photography by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon. Scotland 2017 All rights reserved

An inspiration to poets, rebels and revolutionaries. Home to kings, writers, rogues, jacobites and saints. Edinburgh is one of a kind.

Water of Leith walkway, Edinburgh
Great walk through King George V park & Rodney Street Tunnel to Water of Leith walkway Photograph by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon All rights reserved

Today the “Athens of the North” is brimming with an eclectic mix of multicultural people, hewn from every social class and drawn from every country.

Truly an international city. Beautiful to behold. Warm and welcoming to visit. Edinburgh is affable and affordable (at certain times of the year), safe and completely walkable.

Princess Street Gardens
Sir Walter Scott Monument. Princess Street Gardens. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon. All rights reserved.

Less exalted and often neglected behind the more romanticized European cities, Edinburgh is a unique gem. Known for its thoughtful layout, diverse architecture and bountiful greenery.  But the greenery is purely seasonal. It can be pretty gray and muddy in colder, wetter months.

“Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be”. Robert Louis Stevenson

Edinburgh Castle, a stone sentinel. Eternally keeps watch from its strategic location, atop the venerable heart of a long extinct volcano. It’s the only castle of its kind that continues to stand its ground in such a way today! You could spend almost an entire day in the bowels of this ancient beast. The photography opportunities are endless.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle upon a bed of volcanic rock.! Photography by Elizabeth Whitener 2017 aka januarymoon.

Rich in culture, with a robust collection of art that spans every corner of the city, and heralds from nearly every point of history, Edinburgh’s also offers an eclectic young artist community, including the culinary arts, with a wealth of excellent food, from fine dining to traditional pubs. Endless are the various museums, churches and various sites, and its is pretty much safe to walk anywhere, at any time of day or night. Expect heaps of Scottish hospitality.

Kedgeree from The Roseleaf
Near Leith, a little bit off of the beaten path is the Roseleaf. EAT THERE! Trust me!

Locals and tourists alike appreciate Edinburgh’s variety of attractions. Scotland’s National Museum, Holyrood Abbey, Arthur’s Seat, The Royal Mile and more obscure and even rather macabre attractions are pretty much all reachable on foot.

Advocates Close
Advocates Close. Believed to be dated from 1544. From the Royal Mile to Cockburn Street. Devil’s Advocate restaurant. Photograph by Elizabeth Whitener 2017 All rights reserved

Beyond Edinburgh’s cultural diversity, vivid landscape and wealth of history, it is the pervasive Scottish wit and charm emanating from every crook and crag, that transcends it far above other more readily heralded ancient cities .

And then of course, there are the bagpipes. Can’t leave out the pipers now can we?

Royal Mile Piper
Royal Mile piper. Please feel free to tip them well. Photograph by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon All rights reserved

New & Old

In general the city is referenced by two (2) sections. Old Town (Auld Toun) built mostly around the 1500s and New Town, built 1767 to the mid 1800s.

Old Town has well preserved much of its reformation era architecture, cleaned up and updated in the late 1990s, it is truly magical to see… yet it also tends to contain a much larger proportion of tourist traps and pre fab Scottish “experiences”.

If you can look beyond the endless tartan shops, Old Town and the Royal Mile offer so much medieval charm, you just need a little imagination to fully appreciate it.

You can find the outrageously post modern Scottish Parliament building at the edge of Old Town. I won’t picture it here. You just have to witness it yourself.

Royal Mile
Just try to avoid anything with the word “experience” or tartan in its shop title along the Royal Mile and you’ll be fine. Photograph by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon All rights reserved

New Town isn’t very new. It is generally Georgian / Victorian era and it is also quite architecturally awe inspiring.

A true marvel of urban planning, it is very simple to navigate. I walked from Leith, across King George V park, through the Rodney Street tunnel, through New Town and up to Edinburgh Castle, then down the entire Royal Mile and back to Leith. Took a wee rest, then headed to Roseleaf for dinner. It was a grand day!

The Royal Circus New Town Edinburgh
The Royal Circus, part of the New Town, built in 1823

I just adore walking a new city. You get to understand it in an entirely different way beyond just being a visitor. I try to walk every new city, town, village, wood to which I travel if at all possible. Edinburgh is really a great walking town, it is really easy to walk it from end to end. I use my phone gps, but its grid is simple and Edinburghers (apparently that is what they are called) are always eager to help you find your way if you get lost.

Arthurs seat has an amazing tunnel running through it (sadly those photographs were lost on my journey) The Innocent Railway.

King George V park is filled with just one discovery after another. From Warriston Cemetery to Rodney Street Tunnel. If I had not taken the time to walk, I would have missed out on so very much. The graffiti in the tunnel is true art in and of itself.

Rodney Street Tunnel. Edinburgh 2017. Photography by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon All rights reserved
Rodney Street Tunnel from the King George V Park Photograph by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon Edinburgh 2017 All rights reserved

The locals (ahem Edinburghers) walk and utilize the very many pathways throughout the city. Sadly, it seems less common for tourists to make such use of them and little mention of what a fine walking city Edinburgh happens to be.

But because of this, walking about allows you to meet so many locals. Walking their dogs, strolling their kids… it brings you so much further inside the heart of a city this way.

So get yourself a map. Grab a sharpie highlighter, put on some comfy sneaks, map it out and there you go.

To Know Before You Go

Although most of this great city can be traversed by foot and much of the streets and walkways are fairly flat, for some, the hillier nature of certain parts, especially if heading to Edinburgh Castle, may prove exceedingly strenuous.

If need be, it’s really quite an easy city to drive, when off season. Parking is rather reasonable. But don’t let your meter run out, even for a minute. Those meter watchers stand as dutifully on guard as the castle itself and it’s REALLY expensive!

What To Wear

Wear comfortable shoes. Heels and platforms are unforgiving on cobblestone paths. Thin bottomed shoes (like my trusty Vans) may lend to feeling every stone underfoot.

If it’s warm, bring a jacket anyway, if it’s cold, wear layers. It may (and likely will) get suddenly warm if chilly or vice versa. Always be prepared for rain. It’s always likely to rain no matter what the weather report says.

The Canongate Royal Mile
It doesn’t look steep, but the continuous incline to some roads can prove trying to some. Canongate / Royal Mile Edinburgh 2017 by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon All rights reserved

Plan to trudge up long and at times deceivingly steep inclines to get to Edinburgh Castle and a few similarly popular locations, especially near The Royal Mile.

When To Go!

Edinburgh is always busy, but the population swells in June, peaking in August due to the International Festival  (the largest arts festival in the world). The streets team with visitors from all over the globe until September’s end and gears up again during the holidays.

Be sure to plan ahead, especially if visiting within these months. Popular eateries can become jam packed. Lines to enter attractions, long and arduous, especially in the more commercially driven hot spots like castles and museums. You can find yourself turned away at some places if not booked in advance.

It easily takes a week to make a decent go of it in Edinburgh. Personally, I’d give it a month… but that’s the way I roll. Plan, plan, plan… so that you can get to see the most important things for you. There just will never be enough time to do everything unless you live there. there is absolutely no possibility you will ever run out of things to do.

Castle Clock tower
Edinburgh Castle Clock Tower

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