Exploring Holyrood Park: Hidden Secrets Amongst Edinburgh’s Greenery

So many windows in Edinburgh boast a view of Arthur’s Seat. The hilltop is located in Holyrood Park and at 650 acres, it’s the largest green space within Edinburgh’s city limits. The park is home to many treasures, many of which do not share the fame of Arthur’s Seat. Not many cities can say they have church ruins, a secret garden and an extinct volcano all within one space, not to mention an abundance of ducks and swans. Holyrood Park is practically in the city centre, next door to the Queen’s official Scottish residence and the Scottish Parliament; all of which share the same name, Holyrood. As one of my favourite parts in Edinburgh and the perfect place to escape for some exercise during lockdown, here are some things to look out for.

Golden Hour on Arthur’s Seat

The Three Lochs

There are three lochs located within Holyrood Park; St Margaret’s , Duddingston and Dunsapie. They are each home to an abundance of bird life, especially swans. Duddingston Loch in the south is probably the best place to go if you’re a keen ornithologist. If you’d like to feed the ducks (and seagulls), St Margaret’s Loch close to Holyrood Palace is the best place but please don’t feed them bread!

Looking down on St Margaret’s Loch
Swan Friendly

Arthur’s Seat

The crowning glory of Holyrood Park is Arthur’s Seat. At 251m tall, it’s the tallest point in Edinburgh and the views across the city are spectacular. It is one of two extinct volcanoes that can be found in the city centre, the other being Castle Rock where Edinburgh Castle resides. There are several routes to reach the peak, I find the easiest to be across from Dunsapie Loch where the slope is fairly gradual. The top is quite rocky so wear shoes with reasonable grip if you plan on completing the hike up one of Edinburgh’s seven hills.

Edinburgh to the West
Views to the East over Dunsapie Loch and beyond to Portobello

St Margaret’s Well

St Margaret’s Well currently sits just across the road from the car park at Holyrood. It was originally in Meadowbank but was moved stone by stone to make way for a railway. Water can no longer be collected from the well due to some metal grating but it was said that the water is holy. As far as I know, it doesn’t grant any wishes but it could be worth a try!

Duddingston Village

Duddingston Village is one of the small villages that was swallowed up by Edinburgh as the city borders expanded. It has maintained a lot of it’s old school charm and it doesn’t feel like you’re still in the Scottish capital. It’s home to what is considered to be one of the oldest pubs in Scotland, the Sheep Heid Inn where you can play a classic game of skittles whilst enjoying a pint.

Salisbury Crags

If at first you thought that the Salisbury Crags was the famed Arthur’s Seat, you’re forgiven because in my opinion, it looks like the more comforable option for sitting. The long basalt cliff face still hold prominence despite being shorter than Arthur’s Seat. With a less imminent climb and equally wonderful views, the Salisbury Crags can be a wonderful alternative to Arthur’s Seat itself. It is much easier to spot individual landmarks from the summit because you are closer to the Edinburgh skyline.

Dr Neil’s Garden

A true hidden gem in Edinburgh is Dr Neil’s Garden, and one of my personal favourite spots in the city. As it’s not well known and away from the main tourist track, it’s a gorgeous, scenic place to go for peace and quiet. Upon my last visit, I had the entire garden to myself which is as magical as you can imagine. Dr Neil’s Garden is currently closed due to the pandemic but as soon as it is safe to go again, it’s the first place that I’m headed.

Check out my full post on Dr Neil’s Garden, Duddingston

A secret garden

Innocent Railway Line

One of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets are the old railway lines that are mapped across the city. Many of the old tracks and tunnels have been converted into walkways and cycle paths. This includes the Innocent railway line that runs from Newington to Craigmillar, given its name for the minimal fatalities that occurred when it was active. Along the path you can walk/cycle through the Innocent Railway tunnel that was the first of its kind in the UK. The tunnel is over half a kilometre long and is now covered in street art. It’s well lit and provides an atmospheric surrounding because of the echoes.

For more information on the tunnel visit Edinburgh Guide.

St Anthony’s Chapel Ruins

Even with Holyrood Abbey being a mere stone’s throw away, Holyrood Park had its own chapel looking across St Margaret’s Loch. Little is known about the chapel as it is in such ruin but it is believed to be dated from the 14th Century, if not earlier. The walk to the chapel isn’t a particularly difficult one except a few steps that are a tad steep if you’ve got short legs like myself and it’s accessible from St Margaret’s Loch.

Spot the castle
Over to Leith

For more information visit Undiscovered Scotland

I’m lucky to have lived close by to Holyrood Park during the three years that I’ve lived in Edinburgh. It’s such a wonderful area to have next door and I have yet to stumble across greenery that is similar, anywhere else in the world. During lockdown in the UK, I was aiming to go for more walks around Holyrood Park so I could learn about every thing it has to offer and I’m sure there are still some secrets that are yet to be found.

Becca x

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