These shortish walks of under 5 miles began during the lockdown as a serious attempt to get myself out of the house, get some sunshine and explore the area around me for restricted periods. A lot of map gazing has gone into these and the Leith Loping routes as a diversion from other issues. They will probably be familiar to regular walkers in Edinburgh, but might appeal to people who just want to get out of the house starting with some thing short. All can be done as shorter linear walks or as longer walks returning to your starting point. As far as possible, they avoid busy roads and are accessible by public transport.
Princes Street Gardens Circular (2 miles / 3.2 km)
Royal Mile: West to East. Linear (1.5 miles / 2.4 km)
Royal Mile: East to West. Linear (1.6 miles / 2.6 km)
Botanic Gardens to Lochend Park. Linear (2.6 miles / 4.2 km)
Bingham to Musselburgh. Linear (2.7 miles / 4.3 km)
Princes Street Gardens Circular
This short 2 mile / 3.2 km circular walk starts at the entrance to Princes Street Gardens by Waverley Mall. It heads through the gardens, away from Princes Street.
As you go through the East and West Gardens you pass Scotts Monument, the National Gallery of Scotland and the Gardener’s Cottage.
Here you go past the Ross Bandstand and Fountain before heading through St Cuthbert’s Kirkyard to King’s Stable Road where you turn left until you reach Johnston Terrace. Turn left to head up the hill until you reach a set of steps on your left hand side. These take you up to Castle Hill where you take a detour around Edinburgh Castle Grounds (easier when the Tattoo stage is not set up). There is a fee to visit Edinburgh Castle but there is a lot to see there.
You then head back down Castle Hill, Lawnmarket and High Street on the Royal Mile. Just after St Giles’ Cathedral on your right you will see the turning for Cockburn Street on your left hand side, where you wind back down, across the railway bridge and back to your starting point.
Royal Mile: West to East
Another opportunistic walk before the end of lockdown to areas which will soon be thronging with visitors again. Although this will be great for businesses, it is a bit sad for residents, who have seized the chance to reclaim the city over the last year. This 1.5 mile / 2.4 km walk could easily be combined with the walk below to make one longer walk if you have the energy. The route starts at the doors to Edinburgh Castle and explores the closes on the opposite side of the road as it heads eastwards as far as Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament.
The closes contain a huge variety of buildings, courtyards, alleyways and secret gardens which it is easy to miss on your trip to the Royal Mile.
Many of the closes are named after famous residents such as Brodie’s Close, or after the main occupation of the businesses stationed there such as Old Fishmarket Close or Advocates Close. Built to resist invaders and make the town easy to protect these narrow alleys have evolved over hundreds of years.
There are many attractions along the route such as the Castle, the Palace, the Storytelling Centre, the Writer’s Museum and the Camera Obscura to distract you on a first visit but the closes offer a very rewarding walk to those who go off the beaten track.
The walk finishes at the bottom of the hill at the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace adjacent to Arthurs Seat and Holyrood Park.
Royal Mile: East to West
Today the first easing of the lockdown restrictions began and I suddenly realised that this may be my last chance to see the `Royal Mile without the crowds. This walk is a short 1.6 mile / 2.6 km meander along the Royal Mile from East to West starting at the Scottish Parliament and ending at Edinburgh Castle.
The aim of the walk is to explore the many historic closes along the Royal Mile on your left as you head westwards. The route is easy to divert from if something takes your interest.
The Royal Mile is filled with many historic buildings and it is easy to ignore the closes which branch off the main streets. Here you will find characterful buildings, secret gardens and courtyards.
For information, I have created another route which goes in the opposite direction from West to East, but the two walks could be combined if you have the energy. There are many museums, attractions, cafes, restaurants and bars along the Royal Mile so I allowed 2 hours to explore in one direction.
The history of this World Heritage Site is fascinating and I cannot do justice to it here. It was a privilege to enjoy the old town without all the crowds and it enabled me to take some lovely photos of the sites.
Botanic Gardens to Lochend Park
This quiet short walk is a 2.6 mile / 4.2 km linear walk, which uses a combination of cycle / walking paths and quiet streets, apart from two short sections on Leith Walk and Easter Road, which are busy main thoroughfares. The Botanic Gardens have places to eat, a shop and toilets.
The route begins at the East Gate of the marvellous gardens on Inverleith Row.
From the gate you cross the road and slightly to your left is a turning for Eildon Street which leads you to Warriston Path where you turn left. This is one of Edinburghs many pleasant tree lined paths for walkers, runners and cyclists which thread around the city.
Follow this path until you see a sign on the right for St Mark’s Path which leads you through pleasant St Mark’s Park, over the Water of Leith to the head of McDonald Road opposite.
Follow McDonald Road down as far as busy Leith Walk where you turn left for a short distance before turning right onto Albert Street as far as Easter Road. Here turn right for a short way before turning left at Albion Road. After a short distance turn left onto Albion Place which continues as Hawkhill Avenue. Turn right at the cycle path sign posted for Lochend Park
Follow the signs to Restalrig which will take you past the picturesque loch to the park gate on Lochend Road South.
Bingham to Musselburgh.
This route is a short 2.7 mile / 4.3 km linear route from Bingham to Brunton Theatre at Musselburgh on the East Lothian coast. The route follows part of the John Muir Way along Niddrie Burn on tarmac paths designed for walkers and cyclists.
When you reach the railway bridge at Brunstane station, cross over the bridge and take the path slightly to your left on the other side of the road which is signposted for Brunstane Burn Path and the John Muir Way.
This pleasant wooded section follows Brunstane Burn through the Community Woodland until you eventually come out onto the road into Musselburgh where you cross over and turn right.
Follow the road a short way until you see a path on your left onto the promenade. When this promenade path won’t go any further you can either climb the low wall on your left to continue along the beach to the harbour, or rejoin the busy road into the town.
I chose to walk along the beach, around the top of the harbour and follow New Street towards town and turning right at Fisher’s Wynds onto the High Street. This brings you out by Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh Town Centre where there are cafes, bars and shops as well as a good selection of buses.