The Best Parks in Edinburgh to Watch the Leaves Turn This Autumn

Edinburgh’s green spaces transform into brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow in autumn
Edinburgh’s green spaces transform into brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow in autumn | © DGB / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tori Chalmers
29 September 2020

As the leaves begin to turn and the days grow shorter, Edinburgh turns into a beautiful mix of reds, yellows and oranges, and the city’s green spaces are the perfect places to take in the scenic season. Culture Trip has put together a list of the best parks to watch the leaves turn in the Scottish capital this autumn.

Princes Street Gardens

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Autumn colours in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland
© Angus McComiskey / Alamy Stock Photo
Princes Street Gardens, right in the heart of Edinburgh, are open to everyone year round. This park, built in two phases in the 1770s and 1820s, was once a small body of water called the Nor Loch. Today, the gardens attract many people and offer a perfect place to watch the leaves turn to a mixture of deep reds and rich mahogany. It’s best to visit at the start of November when the winter chill begins to set in, with the grassy knolls in the shadow of the castle offering a relaxing spot to watch the trees prepare for the season ahead.

The Meadows

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Most of the year, the Meadows has a truly buzzing atmosphere, as the park is frequently used by commuters heading to and from their work in the city. However, apart from the crowds, the vast grassland features quaint paths marked by rows of trees on either side. It’s home to some magnificent mature elms – most of them of the Huntingdon and wych varieties – offering vibrant colours come the autumn months. With a mixture of bright yellows and dark browns, the Meadows offers a picture-perfect scene of the season. Near the Chambers Street entrance, you’ll find a majestic Japanese elm with leaves of vibrant green or rusty red, depending on the season.

Holyrood Park

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Trees display autumn colours amongst the buildings and parks of Edinburgh city, including Holyrood Palace and Abbey, the Scottish Parliament buildings
© Joe Dunckley / Alamy Stock Photo
Holyrood Park, which dates back to the 12th century, has been Edinburgh’s very own regal roaming spot. With a 5mi (8km) radius of undulating land, grassy slopes and intriguing historical attractions, this place is definitely worth a visit. From the top of Arthur’s Seat, you can take in panoramic views of Edinburgh and the seasonal colours that envelop the city. The ideal time to visit is around mid-October when most of the trees in the capital will be at their peak autumnal aesthetic.

Dunbar’s Close

Park, Botanical Garden
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Found just near the historic Royal Mile area is a little serene space known as Dunbar’s Close Gardens. Watch as the various shades of jade and hunter green suddenly begin to turn into their autumnal counterparts of rich browns and a distinct rusted colour. In this relatively quiet part of the city, you’ll be able to hear the faint pitter-patter of trees shedding leaves. Presented in the style of a 17th-century garden, the park itself mostly comprises manicured bushes and shady trees. Aim for the latter half of September when the fruit trees should be in full bloom.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Botanical Garden, Park
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dh  ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN EDINBURGH Red autumn leaves tree and Glasshouse botanical gardens park
© Doug Houghton SCO / Alamy Stock Photo
A horticulturist’s dream, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a sanctuary for the area’s rare and diverse flora and fauna. With a plethora of exotic plants on display, autumn provides an excellent treat, as these rare species turn into a fascinating array of colours while heading into the colder season. It’s good to visit as autumn turns to winter, with the greenhouses and restaurant offering a warm break from the icy climate you’ll find outside.

Hermitage of Braid

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Heading over Braid Hills and Blackford Hill, you’ll come across the charming sight of the Hermitage of Braid. This impressive area is a 148-acre (60ha) nature reserve filled with diverse wildlife. Layers of woodland, with beech, sycamore and ash trees, have encompassed this spot for at least 300 years, and during autumn, you’ll find a wondrous mix of crisp greens, bright yellows and darkened browns. Apart from exploring the woodland, Hermitage House is a great way to learn about some of the area’s rich local history.

Additional reporting by Nicholas Grantham

These recommendations were updated on September 29, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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