Edinburgh parks you can escape to for exercise during lockdown

Locals can now exercise more than once a day.

By Elsa Maishman
Monday, 18th May 2020, 7:30 am

New lockdown measures mean that people in Scotland can now leave the house for exercise more than once a day.

While unlike south of the border there has been no move to allow picnics and sunbathing in parks, there are still plenty of opportunities for enjoying the green spaces our capital has to offer on a walk, run or cycle around the city.

There are 163 parks and green spaces operated by Edinburgh City Council, from the huge spaces which define the city like Princes St Gardens, Holyrood Park and the Meadows, to tiny pockets of public land tucked away among rows of houses.

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Parks are open for exercise

Community groups around the city have been encouraging local people to get outside and enjoy exercising in their local area.

Donald Anderson of the Friends of Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park Nature Reserve said: “We often don’t appreciate how lucky we are, and in the case of parks in Liberton and Gilmerton we are very lucky indeed.

“We have on our doorsteps some of the very best parks in Scotland, and there are well over 500 acres of very special green space for us to enjoy and get some exercise in during the lockdown. From the tops of the Braids and Blackford Hill, through to the valley of our own beloved park and to the lush greenery of Inch and Little France Parks there is something for everyone.”

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Edinburgh has many parks.

The Council made the decision to keep public parks open during the lockdown, but car parks have been closed in order to discourage people from visiting parks outside their local area.

Depute Council Leader Cammy Day said: “We’ve got a wealth of beautiful parks and green spaces in Edinburgh for residents to take their local daily exercise in.

“All we’d ask is that they please take their litter and any dog waste home or use the bins provided and also avoid touching structures, benches, out of bounds play and gym equipment and so on.

“In terms of physical distancing, it’s probably a good idea to think about planning park visits to avoid the busiest times, which are usually afternoons and early evening.”

See below for a list of parks and green spaces in your local area.

Braid Hills - Braid Hills Drive, EH10 6JZ

Rising to 675ft, Braid Hills offers stunning views on all sides, and is also the only park in Edinburgh where horse riding is allowed. While the two 18-hole golf courses are currently closed, the park is still open. At the highest point there is an indicator showing landmarks and mountains as far away as Ben Lomond and the Sidlaws near Dundee.

Blackford Hill

This wild, windy area is one of the biggest green spaces controlled by the Council, housing Blackford Pond and the Royal Observatory, along with around 30 acres of woodland. The ancient hill fort on the 163m summit is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Hermitage of Braid, Braid Road, EH10 6JF

The nearby Hermitage of Braid is home to the Old Hermitage House, the Ice House, Doocot and walled garden. While the Visitor Centre may be closed there is plenty to see and explore here, including the burn and wetland as well as woodland and a grassy area. The area is most likely named after its first recorded area, the son of a Belgian knight called De Brad in the 12th century who would have taken his guests hunting for deer in the forest.

Easter Craiglockhart Hill Nature Reserve, Colinton Road, EH14 1AJ

The hill offers views of the Forth, the Trossachs, the Pentlands and East Lothian, as well as the rest of the city. A Nature Trail designed by local residents showcases the different habitats, and an ornamental pond and marsh is home to herons and other water birds.

Hailes Quarry Park, Dumbryden Drive, EH14 2TF

Running along the banks of the Union Canal, there is still plenty of scope for walking in the Hailes Quarry Park even if the outdoor gym is closed. The quarry was active between 1750 and 1900, and at its peak employed 150 men sending stone to the New Town. It became a landfill in the 1970s before being grassed over. Wheelchair access.

Saughton Park, Balgreen Road, EH11 3BQ

While the athletics track and the biggest skateboard park in Scotland may be closed, this 34 acre park has plenty of other things on offer, with a formal garden showcasing the largest herbaceous border in the city, along with an Italian garden, Winter garden and rose garden. Wheelchair access.

River Almond Walkway, Cramond Glebe, EH4 6JN

The walkway passes along a clifftop through a mix of woodland, marsh, ponds and meadows, with an array of wildlife including mallards, moorhens and the Cramond swans. Former industrial mills can be seen along the banks, along with Cramond brig, where the original 15th century bridge stood.

Ravelston Woods, Craigcrook Road, EH4 3PG

Resplendent with bluebells around this time of year, the woods are full of wildlife including woodpeckers, tawny owls and buzzards, along with voles, shrews and badgers. Ravelston used to be a quarry whose sandstone was used to build Holyrood Palace and St Giles Cathedral.

Lauriston Castle, Cramond Road South, EH4 5QD

Walk around the manicured lawns of the castle and enjoy the pond and flowers and shrubs in the planted gardens. There are 14 special trees planted in the woods in memory of the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Bren Gun Carrier Platoon who died in the WWII Burma campaign.

Harrison Park, West Bryson Road, EH11 1EH

This 17 acre park has a formal garden with flowers, a cycle path and wildflower meadow. It runs along the Union Canal, home to swans and several breeds of duck and other water birds, as well as the bats which can be seen in the early evening. Wheelchair access.

Dunbars Close Garden - Canongate, EH8 8BW

This tranquil space was a building site until 1976 when the Mushroom Trust funded the creation of a new garden, designed by landscape architect Seamus Flior. When the garden was finished the Trust handed it over to the Council, though it is still involved in the running of it. Designed in the style of a 17th century garden, stone paths navigate through beds of flowers and manicured shrubbery, with an open grassy space at the back.

Burdiehouse Burn Nature Reserve, Gilmerton Dykes Street, EH17 8LS

This beautiful corridor follows the burn from Old Burdiehouse Road to Gilmerton Road, running through Southhouse, Gilmerton and Ellen’s Glen and taking in meadows, woodlands and old limestone quarries. The clear waters of the burn are home to dippers and herons, while kestrels and woodpeckers can be spotted in the woodland and meadow areas.

Craigmillar Castle Park, Old Dalkeith Road, EH16 4TB

While Craigmillar Castle, the 15th century former home of Mary Queen of Scots, is closed during the lockdown the parkland surrounding it is still open for walking, jogging and cycling. More than 40,000 trees were planted here as part of the millennium forest for Scotland project in 1997.

Abercorn Park, Abercorn Park, EH15 2EF

This small park, lined by holly, elm, hawthorn and whitebeam, also boasts an array of flower displays. The park also has a fountain, built in memory of local doctor Hugh Dewar who cared for residents in the area from 1866 to 1914. It was also the site of air raid shelters during WWII.

Figgate Park, Mountcastle Drive North, EH8 7SE

With a wildflower meadow, a pond and a burn running through the park, Figgate has plenty of features to entertain adults and children alike. The pond also boasts a boardwalk and ducks and other water birds. The land was used as a pasture by local monks in 1763.

Hopetoun Crescent Garden, Hopetoun Crescent, EH7 4AX

This was the original site of the Botanic Gardens, established by John Hope in 1763 as a Physic Garden to showcase the most up to date discoveries in botany at the time. When the Botanic Garden was moved to Inverleith in 1820 part of the 5 acre site was built on, and the remaining area became neglected until a revival by the local community in the 1990s.

Little France Park, Little France Drive, EH16 4WG

More than 7,000 trees have been planted by 239 volunteers in Little France Park, one of the city’s newest green developments reclaimed from unmanaged grassland. A gentle slope uphill offers views of the castle, the Firth of Forth and Arthurs Seat, as well as the rest of the city. Wheelchair access.

Lochend Park, Lochend Road South, EH7 6DQ

The main attraction of the park is the loch, with its wildlife including swans, geese, coots and mallards. There are also two historical buildings on the land, which once belonged to the Earl of Moray who used it for irrigation. One is a pump station used to supply water to Leith, the other a Doocot, which housed pigeons.

Portobello Community Garden, John Street, EH15 2EB

This small garden was originally a bandstand in the early 1900s. It was later converted to a Victorian public park with a paddling pool, but became neglected over time until it was rescued by the community in 2006. Its main features now are the three coade stone pillars dating from the early 19th century and planting inspired by the sea shore. The pillars are listed, and used to stand in the garden of Argyle House on Hope Lane before being restored and erected in the garden by the Portobello Amenity Society.

Starbank Park, Starbank Road, EH5 3BX

Starbank House and gardens were originally home to the Rev. Walter Goalen, a founder and rector of the little Christ Church on Trinity Road. When he died in 1889 the Old Leith Town Council bought the house and grounds, which were later linked with the gardens of Laverockbank House. The park offers stunning views of the Firth of Forth, and flower beds within are shaped as an eight-pointed star and two crescents. This ‘Star of the Sea’ is believed to symbolise a ship’s compass and hark back to when sailors in the Forth navigated using the stars.

Pilrig Park, EH6 5DW

While the play areas and football pitch may be closed there is still open space for exercise at Pilrig Park, as well as meadows of flowers. The park was once part of the grounds of Pilrig House, built in 1638, and came under ownership of the city in 1920.

Leith Links, Links Gardens, EH6 7QR

Leith Links was originally designed as a golf course, but is now an open space for walks and other forms of exercise, crossed by tree-lined avenues and walkways. Local schools and community groups have planted flowers and created a children’s orchard. The area was the site of the Siege of Leith in 1560, and in the 17th and 18th centuries was recognised as the best place in the city to play golf.