If you find the hustle and bustle of the city getting all a bit too much, you can always retreat to one of Edinburgh’s most popular public parks: Princes Street Gardens. Marking the division between Old and New Town, this large and luscious green space is a haven for locals, a must-see for visitors and a hub for some of the city’s most exciting concerts and events.
Believe it or not, this beautiful green space was originally called the Nor Loch, and completely submerged in water. It used to be where all the city’s sewage used to fester (well, they didn’t call it ‘Auld Reekie’ for nothing!) until it was drained towards the end of the eighteenth century. Nowadays it is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, although good luck on trying to find a spacious spot on a sunny summer’s day!
East Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens is split into two halves, East and West, by the Mound and the National Gallery of Scotland. East Princes Street Gardens is the end closest to Waverley Station and the annual home to (part of) Edinburgh’s Christmas.
While it is the smaller of the two, East Princes Street Gardens has one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, namely the Scott Monument, and has spectacular views of the Castle, Balmoral Hotel (pictured above), Jenners on Princes Street and the Old Town. If you want to take some decent snaps for your Edinburgh photo album, this is definitely one vantage point you’ll need to visit!
West Princes Street Gardens
Across the Mound you’ll find the West end of Princes Street Gardens, which reaches from opposite Hanover Street right to the edges of St Cuthbert’s church on Lothian Road. You’re far more likely to lose yourself in this end of the Gardens, with lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore and plenty of curious landmarks to discover.
The Floral Clock
As you come down the steps into West Princes Street Gardens from the Mound, keep an eye out for the Floral Clock on your right hand side. Commissioned in 1903, it was the first of its kind in the world and gardeners tend to it all year round.
The photograph above was taken while the flowers were being planted for the summer season, but there are usually giant mechanical hands on the clock, which of course tell the correct time. So, you’ve no excuse to lose track of time in the Gardens (although you probably still will)!
The Gardener’s Cottage
Come down a little bit further and on your left you will spot this charming little cottage. It’s one of these landmarks that you don’t often see in guidebooks, but it enchants everyone who comes across it. The juxtaposition of this sweet little house against the backdrop of the mighty and the modern city centre is really quite something.
This is the West Princes Street Gardener’s Cottage, although some of my younger readers (and their parents!) will probably know this as Great Aunt Lizzie’s house, from the CBeebies show Teacup Travels!
The Ross Bandstand
In the middle of West Princes Street Gardens you’ll find the Ross Bandstand. This stage is the venue for many high profile events and concerts throughout the year. In fact, this was the location of my first proper gig, where I saw the Flaming Lips in 2003 as part of the MTV Europe Awards. That was a long time ago now, though!
Nowadays, the Ross Bandstand is one of the main stages in Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, and will host lots of concerts during the summer festival season.
Head even further West and you’ll come across the Ross Fountain, a beautiful cast-iron piece of work from the 19th century, hailing from a foundry in France.
As well as catching those postcard-perfect pictures of Edinburgh Castle, you’ll also find here a cafe and a children’s playground, perfect for chilling and whiling away an afternoon with the family.
This is just a brief tour of what you’ll find in Princes Street Gardens, but there is so much to explore. So if you find yourself lucky enough to be in Edinburgh’s city centre on a sunny day, have a wander around and see what you can find!
Princes Street Gardens is, as the name suggests, on Princes Street. Go to the shops, cross the road, and you’re there. Simple!