By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
Edinburgh is a city steeped in history, but it’s steeped in nature too. Not only is it surrounded by soaring hills, but it’s home to stunning parks and gardens too. And it’s just a short hop from beautiful beaches, fabulous nature reserves and bracing coastal walks. In fact, it ticks so many boxes, you’ll scarcely know where to begin.
Outdoor attractions in Edinburgh
If you’re keen to soak up the wide-open outdoors, the views from Arthur’s Seat – the volcanic plug that looms over Edinburgh – are well worth the effort, as is the scene that greets you after tackling the tougher Pentland Hills to the south of the city.
If something more sedate is on the cards, try a walk through the Royal Botanic Garden in Inverleith, home to some exotic species of plants and fauna. Established in 1670 as a physic garden near the Palace of Holyroodhouse, it’s a super place to relax and soak up the tranquillity and calm.
Edinburgh has more than its fair share of green spaces, and though some are private gardens, like those at Queen Street or Charlotte Square, there are plenty that are open to the public, such as St Andrew Square or the unrivalled Princes Street Gardens.
Try a walk through the Royal Botanic Garden in Inverleith, Established in 1670 – it is home to some exotic species of plants and fauna
Edinburgh Zoo is a huge draw for visitors, and is home to Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the only giant pandas in the UK, who’re due to return to China at the end of 2023. Established more than a century ago, the zoo features everything from lions and tigers to hippos and bears, plus a whole host of species of primate. There’s even a celebrity penguin, Sir Nils Olav, who was knighted by the Norwegian King in 2008.
Attractions around Edinburgh
At the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick, you can see up to 500,000 seabirds in their natural habitat, including puffins, guillemots and gannets, via live camera feeds or by taking a guided boat trip out to the islands to see them in person.
Back along the coast, at Deep Sea World at North Queensferry, stare enthralled at magical seahorses and deadly, red-bellied piranhas, or even dive in and come face to face with sharks. There’s also an underwater tunnel – the longest underwater moving walkway in Europe – where you can get up close and personal with all manner of sea life. Above ground, rescued seals have outdoor pools to sun themselves as they recover from injury.
Here you’ll also find one of Edinburgh’s two World Heritage Sites – the magnificent Forth Bridge. Designated by UNESCO in 2015, the iconic 130-year-old rail bridge is a marvel of modern engineering and was the first large-scale steel structure of its kind. With the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing just a few hundred metres further upriver, the three bridges make for a breathtaking view, and a perfect photo opportunity back along the Firth of Forth.
Down at the waterfront in Leith, the Royal Yacht Britannia, aboard which the former Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) and Diana, Princess of Wales honeymooned in 1981, is permanently docked at Ocean Terminal. The ultimate in ocean-bound luxury, the vessel was used for almost a thousand official engagements from its commission in 1954 until it was retired from service in 1997. Visitors can tour five decks and peek into the lavish state apartments and dining room, the engine room and the crew’s quarters.
The Royal Yacht Britannia, aboard which the former Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) and Diana, Princess of Wales honeymooned in 1981, is permanently docked at Ocean Terminal
You probably didn’t come to Edinburgh for a beach break but get out of the city and you’ll discover fabulous sands along the East Lothian coast, ideal for summer picnics and paddling, or bracing walks in the colder months.
North Berwick has vast expanses of sand, but if you’re looking for something quieter, head for one of the coastline’s hidden coves. Seacliff is perhaps the finest. It also makes for a great base for exploring the area’s local ruins. Auldhame Castle and Tantallon Castle are nearby, as is Seacliff House, complete with one of the smallest and most remarkable harbours you’ll ever see.
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