Edinburgh is a city that’s built on several hills, which you’ll discover as you walk around the centre. The great advantage of the hilly landscape, apart from keeping us all fit of course, is that there are some really spectacular views just waiting for you to discover. If you don’t want to climb hills, don’t worry, there are plenty of fabulous vistas from the top of some of the city buildings too!
Here are just a few of my personal favourites and best of all most of them are free!
- Calton Hill
This is definitely top of my list – the main photo at the start of this blog is taken from the top of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill – the other photos are all from various places around Calton Hill. It’s in a central location and it’s only a short walk up the steps and slope to the top. You’ll be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic birdseye view of the city, Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags, New Town, Leith and out over the Firth of Forth and beyond. If you aren’t able to climb the steps, don’t worry, it’s possible now to get a taxi to take you to the top (other cars are not allowed). The added bonus is that there are buildings to explore at the top of the hill too – from the Nelson Monument which you can climb for an even more elevated view, the unfinished Acropolis-inspired National Monument (locally known as Edinburgh’s Disgrace) and the recently opened ‘collective’ featuring contemporary artwork in the City Observatory.
- Arthur’s Seat or Salisbury Crags
If you’re feeling particularly energetic, then take a walk in Holyrood Park and hike up the steep pathway to the top of Arthur’s Seat which is 251m/823ft high. It is a bit of a scramble near the top, so make sure you’ve good footwear. This is the highest point to view the city and surrounding area and on a clear day you can see for miles.
Salisbury Crags, also in the park, are not as high as Arthur’s Seat and closer to town. You can still enjoy amazing elevated views and as the cliffs are closer to the city the photos from here have an excellent vantage point, especially over Holyrood Palace. Be careful near the edge of the cliffs!
- The Roof of the National Museum of Scotland
The museum roof is an excellent place to view the castle, as well as over the city rooftops to the Pentland Hills beyond. It’s easily accessible with a lift right to the top. The museum is completely free and a wonderful place to explore too.
- Edinburgh Castle
Most people include a visit to Edinburgh Castle when they are in the city, it’s the most popular tourist attraction in Scotland. From the castle walls the impressive views take in Princes Street Gardens, Princes Street and the New Town and beyond to the Firth of Forth and over the water to the Lomond Hills in Fife. If you want a view of the castle itself – Princes Street and Gardens are a great location.
- The Vennel
This steep lane with steps leading up from the bottom of the Grassmarket gives you a picturesque backview of Edinburgh Castle once you are near the top of the steps. Unlike the other panoramic outlooks this will give you a dramatic and different picture of the castle.
- Scott Monument
You can’t miss the 61m/196ft high monument to writer Sir Walter Scott in Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh. It makes a terrific vantage point if you want views over the gardens to Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, The Royal Scottish Academy and The Scottish National Gallery.