Go outdoors to Edinburgh’s parks and greenspaces this Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week runs 10-16 May and this year’s theme is nature. During the Covid pandemic many of us have turned to nature as never before enjoying our local green spaces for exercise, for sustenance and to meet friends outside in a socially distanced way. Research on the mental health impacts of lockdown have shown that going for walks has been one of our top coping strategies. 

Edinburgh has many greenspaces with a wide variety of both managed and natural heritage environments to enjoy. Connecting with nature is central to our emotional and psychological wellbeing and we want to inspire you with some of our favourite greenspaces managed by the City of Edinburgh Council to get out and open yourself up to connecting with nature.  

Where can I go? 

What’s your favourite park in Edinburgh? Are you looking for new ideas of where to go? Search the directory of parks and greenspaces to find a space or just trawl through the A to Z of records. It’s amazing the variety of size, shape and location of places to visit. Below are some of our favourites. 

Princes Street Gardens 

An ornate fountain is surrounded by flowers in the park beneath Edinburgh Castle.
Ross Fountain and Edinburgh Castle, image from Capital Collections

Don’t we all just love Princes Street Gardens? Nestling in a valley between the Old and the New Town this beautifully manicured garden with floral clock, welcome benches and gentle slopes for sitting out on, shaded with trees, provides welcome respite from the usual hustle and bustle of the city centre and plenty of space for friends and family to meet and walk.
Admire the floral clock – did you know it was first planted in 1903 and each year the planting scheme commemorates a special anniversary? You can enjoy the gardens from home by looking at the Libraries’ collection of images on our online Capital Collections Princes Street Gardens exhibition

Saughton Park and Gardens

A mass of daisies in a formal garden and the roof of a bandstand is visible in the distance.
Saughton Park and Gardens

Situated in Balgreen in the south west of Edinburgh, Saughton Park and Gardens is a hidden gem of a park. Saughton Park combines formal classical gardens featuring Edinburgh’s largest herbaceous border, flower and heather beds and a Scottish Physic garden with playing fields, an athletics track and the biggest skateboard park in Scotland.  There really is something for everyone! If you want to get more involved in the park, join the Friends of Saughton Park and Gardens

Leith Links

Information board at entrance to a park.
Leith Links entrance at Links Gardens. Image from Capital Collections

Situated in the north of the city, Leith Links provides a large open space with tree-lined avenues and walkways well used by families, joggers, dog walkers and the whole community besides! Leith Links is steeped in history as the site of the Siege of Leith in 1560 and during the 17th and 18th centuries was a premier place to play golf. Leith Links became formalised as a public park in 1888 and today is very much a central park for the local community with the Edinburgh Mela and Leith Festival sited there. Enjoy the community orchard, tennis courts, play area or just take a seat and watch the world go by. Search for images of Leith Links on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery. 

Water of Leith

Red painted sign on stone pillar at entrance to a wooded walkway beside a river.
Water of Leith Walkway plaque, Coburg Street. Image from Capital Collections

If you’re looking for a walkway taking through different areas of Edinburgh explore the Water of Leith Walkway. Starting in Balerno at Bridge Road, the walkway winds its way to Leith passing through Balerno, Currie and Juniper Green before reaching Colinton and Craiglockhart Dell. The Dell is a wooded gorge and haven for wildlife. Beyond the Dell the river passes the Water of Leith Conservation Trust before hitting Gorgie, Saughton, the Dean Bridge, Stockbridge and onto Leith. There are plenty of access points to the Walkway along the path of the river. A place of history the river once powered 90 water mills providing paper, snuff, linen and flour and the remnants of these activities can be seen in the weirs and buildings along the river.  Explore on foot and find images of the Walkway illustrating its history on the Libraries’ Capital Collections image gallery. 

Cramond Foreshore

A view of a row of white houses. Large stones and boulders line the road in front.
The foreshore, Cramond, c1895.
Image from Capital Collections

From Joppa to South Queensferry there are many places along the Firth of Forth to enjoy coastal walks and breathe in the sea air. Cramond Foreshore accessed from Cramond Glebe Road takes you down to the shoreline where you can look across to Fife and across to Berwick Law. There’s a café, toilets, an outdoor gym and seating but you can walk along the shoreline or out to Cramond Island at low tide. Cramond is one of Edinburgh’s oldest villages and longest known period of human settlement. Back from the shore you can also explore the more secluded Crammond Walled Garden where you’ll find seating and play equipment for both toddlers and teenagers. Enjoy the exhibition of some 100 photographs illustrating the history of Cramond during the 19th and 20th centuries on Edinburgh Libraries Capital Collections image library.  

Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve

Steps lead up a grassy slope to a stone wall and the remnants of doorway.
Cammo Local Nature Reserve

Not far from Crammond is the natural heritage site Cammo Estate Local Nature Reserve on the western fringes of the city. Cammo is a large estate with woodlands, mature trees, open grassland, a walled garden and ruins of buildings that once formed part of the Estate. There’s a lot of interest in terms of both wildlife and fauna with plenty of space for people to spread out and for dogs to enjoy running about. Cammo House has an interesting history: bequeathed to the National Trust in in 1975 following the death Percival Maitland-Tennant, the last occupier of Cammo House. In 1977 the house was partly destroyed by two separate fires which left only the chimney stack and outside walls standing. The house was considered unsafe and partially demolished. The National Trust feud the estate to the City of Edinburgh Council. Read more about the history of Cammo House and its owners on Edinburgh Libraries Tales of One City blog. 

There is much to do at Cammo with a permanent orienteering course, a QR trail, seating to stop and admire the views and designated walks.  

If natural heritage sites are what you enjoy why not visit the Hermitage of Braid Local Nature Reserve on the southern side of the city?
Or use the Edinburgh Outdoors website to find greenspaces near you.  

Edinburgh is full of parks and greenspaces including those managed by other organisations which are also free to access including Holyrood Park and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  

One tip for enjoying a deeper connection with nature, try taking your shoes and socks off and feel the grass or the sand underneath your feet. Walk about barefoot. This practice of earthing connects us to the Earth’s surface electrons transferring energy from the ground to a body. How good does sand feel beneath your feet and to walk barefoot along the sea shore? 

What’s your favourite park or greenspace?  

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