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Edinburgh Seasonal City Guide: Walks & Stops

6 March 2023

It can be hard to know where to start when visiting a new city, especially one that’s as vibrant and historic as Edinburgh. We’ve curated a selection of recommendations to help guide your stay, so that if your visit to the Townhouse is your first time in Edinburgh, you’ll know what not to miss, and if you’re not new to Edinburgh, you’ll maybe discover a new spot to try. Whether you fancy a fulfilling walk, enriching culture, retail-therapy, or some delicious food and drink – we’ve got you covered. 

Calton Hill & Observatory

Where better to kick off your exploration of Edinburgh than at a hill that boasts a panoramic vista of the entire city? This one climb will tick off prime views of some of the most iconic Edinburgh landmarks including a uniquely full-scale perspective of Arthur’s seat as well as Edinburgh Castle in all its glory. On a clear day you should be able to see all the way across to Fife, but if it’s gloomy you’ll still enjoy an atmospheric view of Edinburgh’s uniquely elegant skyline. But it’s not just the view that makes it worth a visit, the hill is itself peppered with historic monuments – most notably the National Monument that was intended to honour the fallen of the Napoleonic War, but stands famously unfinished, offering a strikingly bleak but beautiful presence on the edge of the hill. If you can handle an early start, it’s a stunning spot to perch and watch the sunrise over the historic landscape. Calton hill is well renowned as the birthplace of astronomy, and the City Observatory that’s located there brings a recently restored, spectacular gallery to this iconic location. It pays homage to the Scottish Enlightenment, whilst curating varied and engaging exhibitions that appeal to a broad audience – there’s also a panoramic restaurant if you fancy a bite with a view. It’s a steep but brief climb to the top of Calton hill, but it grants instant gratification once you reach the top. It’s easily accessible from Princes Street, so it could be the perfect peaceful pause from a day out shopping there. Or if you’ve been spritely enough to make the sunrise, the top of the walk curves round into the Royal Terrace, where you can follow the cobbled street down to the bustling Leith Walk, this picturesque thoroughfare links the docks at Leith with the city and is a bustling and vibrant contrast to the relative quiet of Calton Hill.


Aside from the obvious big players punctuating Multrees Walk and George Street, there’s a more nuanced shopping scene in many corners of this retail-therapy rich city that are worth exploring. If you’ve done a little research already, you’re likely to have heard of Stockbridge, a cobbled hub of independent restaurants and shops unique in their appeal. Although only a short walk north from the bustling city centre, Stockbridge is a distinct and charming neighbourhood with vibrant green parks and beautiful Georgian architecture – the perfect place to peruse and indulge. Wander through the cobbled St Stephen Street to discover an irresistible selection of boutiques like Treen, a shop that prides itself on sustainability, selling stunning apparel to conscious shoppers who don’t want to scrimp on luxury. If Edinburgh’s elegance has sparked some interior inspiration, there’s no better spot than Style Your Spaces to act on it – from tableware to stationary this thoughtful store curates a beautiful selection of unique interior pieces and accessories. If it’s a holiday read you’re after, look no further than Golden Hare Books, like something straight from a Nora Ephron film, you can read a chapter or two whilst warming up by their woodburning stove, the perfect interlude to a brisk stroll through the wintery Edinburgh streets. Adjacent to St Stephen Street is the highly instagrammable Circus Lane – just search the geotag and you’ll see what we mean. It’s a gorgeous road to meander through with a coffee whether you share a picture or not… Continue down to Stockbridge High Street, where you’ll find the notorious The Pastry Section – they make a new selection of irresistible baked goods on site daily, but we’d recommend getting there early as this sweet spot is popular for a reason and you’ll need to seize your treat of choice before they sell out! 

Dean Village & Water of Leith

The Water of Leith is a river that flows through the centre of Edinburgh past Port Leith and through to the Firth of Forth, and the 12 miles of scenic walkway that traces it provides the perfect route for a longer city walk. Shrouded in greenery, you’ll spot swans, ducks and herons, as well as fish through the clear water. More unique features of the walk include Turner-prize winning artist Anthony Gormley’s famous series of sculptures known as ‘6 TIMES’ which strikingly punctuate the river as it curves through the Dean Village towards the sea. A tranquil oasis mere minutes from Edinburgh’s centre, Dean Village is definitely worth a visit; it has all the appeal of a rural hamlet in the heart of the city. Rich with history and blissfully bucolic, strolling through the cobbled streets and admiring the beautiful buildings – some of which date back to the 17th Century – is an authentic way to truly capture Edinburgh’s antiquity. For some culture, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is nearby, comprising two spaces; the first an imposing renaissance building featuring art from between 1900 and present day, you’ll find original exhibitions alongside classic pieces by the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Andy Warhol adorning the walls of this unique space. The second building celebrates Surrealism and Dadaist works, with a reproduction of the pioneering sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio. A fulfilling blend of nature and art, exploring the Water of Leith is a varied and rewarding way to while away an afternoon in Edinburgh.

Old Town & Edinburgh Castle

When you think of Edinburgh, you’re likely to visualise its hallmark Old Town – if you’ve never visited before you’ll have seen images of the striking castle and the winding rustic streets, but no picture can evoke its true grandeur in the same way as exploring it for yourself. A processional route for Kings and Queens for over 500 years, The Royal Mile retains several historic monuments that are worth a visit, from The Writer’s Museum to Mary King’s Close, and of course Edinburgh Castle – widely acknowledged as one of the most breath-taking historic sites in Europe. The castle offers guided tours that can teach you all about its fascinating and varied history, and if you want to make a day of it you can book an afternoon tea which is worth it for the view alone. While the main road of the mile has plenty to pique your curiosity, be sure not to overlook the small closes, wynds and narrow passageways that perhaps most authentically translate the city’s rich history. From Princes Street you can walk up The Mound, a steep hill that divides the East and West of Princes Street gardens with a busy main road linking Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns – a space popular for processions and events. There are a multitude of options when it comes to food and drink, some firm favourites include speciality coffee from The Milkman – previously an old candy shop, this inviting cafe balances cosiness with sophistication to make the perfect peaceful pitstop from exploring the busy mile. When in the Old Town, a visit to one of Edinburgh’s traditional pubs like the fittingly historic Deacon Brodie’s Tavern is a must if you’re in the mood for something a little stronger… 


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