We have always said that one of the best ways to get to know a place is to walk around. You get a good sense of where the major landmarks are, what is in the space between the tourist attractions and you give yourself time to make the kind of chance discoveries that you never make if you spend all day dashing between photo ops. But it helps to have somewhere to walk to…
Edinburgh in Scotland is not exactly off the beaten path. It is a well known global tourist destination and its major attractions are well known so I am not going to try and tell you that I have some hidden gem to share with you. Instead I am going to suggest a delightful walk connecting a few of Edinburgh's slightly less visited attractions. By all means go to the castle, walk down the Royal Mile and climb Arthur's Seat. Once you have done all that and are wondering what to do next, you might try this.
It will probably take you most of a day once you throw in some snack and meal breaks. Speaking of which, much of the route is dotted with pubs and cafes where you can get a drink, a sandwich or even a whole meal. Or a bowl of soup of course. Everywhere sells soup.
This is one of the main shopping streets in Edinburgh. It offers amazing views of the old city running up to the very famous Edinburgh castle.
Walking east along Princes Street you can either cross the road and wander through the Princes Street Garden or go back a street and explore Rose street which runs parallel to the Princes street.
Once you reach the west end of Princes Street make your way through Edinburgh's New Town north west towards Dean Village.
New Town and Dean Village
The New Town was constructed during the late 1700s and early 1800s and is a huge contrast to the narrow, winding, sometimes canyon-like streets of the old town. The streets are wide, the footpaths are wider and the buildings don't look they have been built on top of one another.
After a pleasant stroll through the neat orderly streets of the New Town you will arrive at Dean Village. Dean Village is an ancient village that has now been absorbed by Edinburgh. A river known as “The Water of Leith” flows through it. For around 800 years, give or take, the river's banks were lined with the grain mills that dominated the area.
From here, walk downstream. It could not be simpler really. Just follow the river on its meandering course towards the ocean. You will occasionally have to move a short distance away from the river but generally there is a footpath running alongside the river for you to make your way along.
While you walk, try to remember that you are actually in a city. At times it is easy to forget that you are not out in the country somewhere.
The river will lead you inexorably to Leith, the major port serving Edinburgh. It is a very photogenic part of a very photogenic city.
Just before the intersection of “The Shore” (a street) and Bernard St there are a few particularly nice places to get something to eat and/or drink. Mimi's Bakehouse and a pub called “The King's Wark” are each worth visiting although there are plenty of good options around.
If you have trouble finding Bernard St on a map that may be because it changes its name at each slight kink in the road. It is also Commercial St, Baltic St and Salamander St.
Returning to Princes Street
Along the stretch of road near Mimi's Bakehouse and The King's Wark alongside the river there are bus stops for buses that will take you back to the west end of Princes St where you started. If you are tired, jump on a bus and enjoy the ride.
However, if your legs still have some energy left turn right onto Bernard St then turn right onto Constitution Road. This road also changes its name, becoming “Leith Walk”. You can follow it all the way back to Princes Street and that fabulous view of the old town and the castle.
If you are paying attention along the way you may spot the offices of Rockstar North. Rockstar North being the company that produces the phenomenally successful Grande Theft Auto series of computer games. It is also the company that made a game called Lemmings although that was a long time ago and the company had a different name at the time.
Once you return to Princes street, that ends the loop and brings you back to where you started.
While Edinburgh's old town attracts most of the tourist attention, not undeservedly, there are large parts of Edinburgh which are often overlooked. Set aside a day, put your walking shoes on and go see some of it.