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It may be the capital, but the wildness of the Scottish landscape feels barely harnessed in Edinburgh. Even in the most urban areas of the city, you’re a brisk walk from steep cliffs, hillsides thick with gorse and rivers crowded with kingfishers and herons. These are Edinburgh’s best outdoor areas to seek out, and the ideal activities to do once you arrive.
This one may be a controversial suggestion, but if you’re looking for the strange serenity of wandering, undisturbed, though a crumbling graveyard in Edinburgh, skip Greyfriars Kirkyard and head to Dean Cemetery instead. Yes, Greyfriars has the little statue of a dog and graves bearing the names of Harry Potter characters. However, it’s also rarely empty as a result, and you shouldn’t rub the dog’s nose anyway. Dean Cemetery, close to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two), is a Victorian graveyard worthy of a Gothic novel. Filled with magnificent sepulchral monuments (including a pyramid), it’s a who’s who of Edinburgh’s elite through the centuries and a beautiful place to spend an hour exploring.
Founded in 1670 as a physics garden (growing plants to use in medicine), Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh now covers 28ha (70 acres) of green space, with sections devoted to alpine plants, Scottish heath plants and a woodland garden. Entry to the garden is free, with a small fee to enter the glasshouses. It’s more than worth it though; some of the glasshouses date back to the Victorian era and are teeming with tropical plant life, such as orchids, ferns and palms. The organisation also runs short courses, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about lichen, discover the fundamental principles of a Japanese garden or keep an orchid alive for more than a week, check out its upcoming events.