The Great Outdoors in Edinburgh

Kid Friendly, Things to Do — By Christina Maria Paschyn on September 30, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Don’t ignore Mother Nature until it gets too cold – take a look at our latest travel guide on how to explore Edinburgh’s natural beauty.

Here are the highlights:

Cycle Scotland


Cycle Scotland is based right in the centre of the Old Town – it allows you to explore and escape, whilst keeping you very fit in the process, as Edinburgh has its fair share of hilly streets. There are quality mountain, city and hybrid bikes to hire – you can take them for a half day, full day or a weekly rental. Pick up accessories such as panniers and racks to help you get away into the hills. There are a number of organised trips available including: West Coast Wilderness and Island, Sacred Sites and Secret Places, and Royal Deeside Castles and Whisky Trail.

Princes Street Gardens

Step out amongst the vibrancy of Edinburgh city centre and visit Princes Street Gardens. Take in views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town on one side of this splendid park and the bustle of the New Town on the other. Princes Street Gardens is the gateway to the shopping district beyond, it is a great place to wander through with historic monuments and a fountain. Frequented by families, students and performers Princes Street Gardens is alive with people.

Edinburgh Zoo

Families of all ages are welcomed to Edinburgh Zoo. Hop onto one of the zoo buses and spend the day away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Edinburgh Zoo has lots to offer, with scheduled activities such as petting and feeding and everyone’s favourite highlight- the Penguin Parade.Visit Rainbow Landings to meet and feed the rainbow lorikeets and see Budongo Trail where they can get up close and personal with chimpanzees. Serengeti animals live on the sprawling land at the peak of Edinburgh Zoo. There are Sun bears, Indian one-horned rhinos, Sumatran tigers, Amur leopards, the UK’s only koalas and European wolves.

The Edinburgh Zoo opens at 9am and is located on Corstorphine Road. Admission costs £15.50 for adults and £11.00 for children (kids under 3 get in for free). You can also buy family and group tickets; visit the Edinburgh Zoo website for more information.

Falconry Scotland


Formerly the Birds of Prey Centre, Falconry Scotland continues to introduce the public to the power, agility and beauty of these awesome predators. Get face to face with eagles, kestrels and owls – there are 30 different species of bird to view and aerial displays daily. If you get hooked by these taloned raptors, there is the chance to handle the birds yourself, enjoy a quick introduction, go on a “Hawk Walk” and then take the plunge into the art of falconry. Once you have mastered the falconer’s knot, some basic handling and the essential flying techniques, the sky is the limit. The centre also organises falconry holidays. Demonstrations and handling sessions are available on a pre-booked basis only, please telephone the centre to discuss your needs and their current rates.

Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags

Like Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags were formed by an extinct volcano and carved out by moving glaciers. These hills, lochs (lakes) and cliffs make up Holyrood Park and offer somewhat easy walking trails. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Edinburgh (251 meters high) and is located at the center of the park while the Crags are located west of it. It is not known if the name is truly related to the mythology of King Arthur.

Dr. Neil’s Garden & Thomson’s Tower

On the shores of Duddingston Loch at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, just 2 miles from the City centre, lies one of the most beautiful small gardens in Scotland. It is situated within the grounds of the 12th Century Duddingston Kirk. A colourful series of terraces, sloping down to the bird sancturary loch along with the peace and tranquility of this unique garden makes it an ideal short excursion away from the busy city. The Thomson Tower is an octagonal building, which sits in the grounds of Dr Neil’s Garden. It was designed by William Playfair and built by Duddingston Curling Society in 1825 as a meeting house when they gathered to curl on the frozen loch. The Tower was named after Duddingston Kirk’s most famous minister, Rev John Thomson (1778 – 1840). Thomson was a noted landscape artist, one of the first in Scotland, who used the tower as his studio. His celebrated artist friends Joseph turner and Sir Henry Raeburn used to visit him there, as did Sir Walter Scott, who was an elder of the Kirk at that time. The building has now been restored, its ground floor is dedicated to the sport it created while the upper floor is an interpretation centre to the village and garden, with the opportunity of being used for small exhibitions and functions. At present the Tower is open to the public at weekends during July and August, or by special arrangements. The garden is open to the public at all times. There is no charge for visiting it, but donations would be welcome on the way out.
[Photo credits: Bicyclists by Cycle Scotland; Falconry by Falconry Scotland; garden and scenery by Dr. Neil’s Gardens]
Tags: "Arthur's Seat", "Bike riding in Edinburgh", "bike tours in Edinburgh", "cycle Scotland", "Edinburgh outdoors", "Edinburgh Zoo", "Falconry Scotland", "Princes Street Gardens", "Salisbury Crags", Dr. Neil's Gardens and Thomson's Center"

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