Five of the best history walks in Edinburgh

With ancient streets that just ooze history, creepy graveyards, leafy waterways, a bit of beach and an extinct volcano plonked in the middle of it, Edinburgh is packed with variety likely to engage and excite children and adults alike. There's no better way to explore the city than walking it, and these five walks in and around Edinburgh should keep the whole family entertained.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 10:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 10:58 pm
The Dean village. Picture: submitted

Cramond Island

Few things are likely to get children of a certain age as stoked up as the imminent possibility of their whole family being swept away to sea or marooned on an island. A walk out to Cramond Island, a mile out into the Firth of Forth, ticks this box. Stretching out from Drum Sands beach near Cramond Village, the causeway is submerged by a few feet of sea water at high tide. It’s recommended to only cross the path within two hours of low water – it’s worth double checking your timings with the board at the start of the causeway. On the island, there are abandoned military buildings to explore and views of other Forth islands to enjoy. Keep a close eye on young ones and dogs on the island – unfortunately, there’s often a lot of broken glass strewn around.

Holyrood Park

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Portobello Promenade. Picture: TSPL

While Arthur’s Seat is always worth climbing, if only to tire the little ones out, there’s more to Holyrood Park than the extinct volcano. If the cliff edge along Salisbury Crags is a little too much for the blood pressure when walking with adventurous children, the Radical Road further down offers similarly expansive views without the precipitous drops. As well as the superb vistas across Edinburgh to Fife, the Ochils and the Pentlands, you can also keep the children suitably spooked by telling them about the creepy miniature wooden ”fairy coffins” found in one of the crags’ caves and, for a quiet afternoon, encourage them to find some more. Nearby, at Duddingston Loch, there’s a plentiful supply of ducks and swans to feed – frozen peas, chopped grapes, seeds or oats are considered better than bread these days.

Portobello Promenade

Perhaps because Edinburgh is blessed with so much in the way of land-lubbing attractions, it’s sometimes easy to forget that a good old-fashioned British seaside experience is only a short bus ride away from the centre of town. When the weather’s playing ball, it’s hard to beat Portobello Promenade for a family stroll. The beach is clean, so the kids might want to pack a bucket and spade, but there’s no need for a picnic as there are plenty of places to eat. Fish and chips followed by an ice-cream fit the bill here. It’s also worth taking some swimming trunks – if the sea’s a little too cold for you, warmer waters are available at the unique Turkish baths at Portobello Swim Centre.

Dean Cemetery to Dean Village

Portobello Promenade. Picture: TSPL

Just off Queensferry Road, the beautiful Dean Cemetery boasts some of the most impressive tombstones in Edinburgh. It is the final resting place of a host of Scottish poets, scientists, artists and other worthies. The brilliantly eccentric red granite pyramid marking the grave of advocate Lord Andrew Rutherfurd is sure to delight children before pressing on to the Modern 2 and Modern 1 art galleries. Inside and out, there’s plenty to see and do here before heading along the idyllic Water of Leith to beautiful Dean Village, whose beautiful buildings are pleasure to walk among.

Roslin Glen Country Park

With a spooky ruined castle perched on a cliff-side, a disused railway line, a derelict gunpowder mill and the famous Rosslyn Chapel to explore, a walk around Roslin Glen is a winner. The famous 15th-century chapel, made even most famous by Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, is a sumptuous jumble of runes, carvings and gargoyles which will delight the young ones. But exploring the rest of the area is worthwhile, with the tree-lined gorge of Roslin Glen providing a home to Rosslyn Castle, built by the same family that built the chapel. If the old gunpowder mill doesn’t ignite some excitement, a visit to the monument of the inexplicably little-known Battle of Roslin might. Here, in 1303, an army of just 8,000 Scots sent 30,000 English soldiers home to think again.