6 locations for the best views of Edinburgh Castle

It’s funny how, when you grow up somewhere, you some how become immune to its most impressive and inspiring sites. Growing up in Edinburgh, I would regularly get frustrated having to dodge tourists stopping in front of me to snap photos of the Castle from Princes St. It’s just the castle! I would think. You’re blocking my route to TopShop, come on!

But the reality is, Edinburgh Castle is incredible. It perches high above the city on a rocky volcanic plug known as Castle Rock. She is foreboding and often shrouded in bleak grey cloud adding to her mystery. Home to fortifications for almost two thousand years, she now welcomes around 2 million visitors a year.

Whilst most people will take their photo from Princes St, these are my best alternative locations for a shot of Edinburgh Castle! And if you’re going to visit you can find an option to book your fast track tickets & guided tour here.

1. The Vennel

The Vennel

Just before you reach George Heriots school on Lauriston Place (approaching from Edinburgh College of Art), take a left turn along Heriots Place. As you turn into The Vennel you’ll pass The Flodden Wall (built to keep out an English (of course!) invasion after defeat at the battle of Flodden) and then reach the top of The Vennel stairs.

The stairs have recently been renamed the Miss Jean Brodie stairs to celebrate 100 years since the birth of her creator, Muriel Spark. The view of the Castle down these stairs is beautiful and one I have only seen in the last couple of months despite living in Edinburgh for 18 years!

Mary’s Milk Bar – Grassmarket

Top Tip: Head down the stairs into the midst of the Grassmarket and turn to your right to enjoy delicious freshly made ice cream at Mary’s Milk Bar.

2. St Cuthbert’s Churchyard

St Cuthbert’s Churchyard

At the West End of Princes Street, opposite The Caledonian Hotel, stands St Cuthbert’s Church. The burial grounds it is surrounded by are an unusual place to head for a photo but the view to Edinburgh Castle is quite atmospheric. This photo was taken around midday but visit at dusk when the lamps turn on for added ambience.

Edinburgh Castle from St Cuthbert’s churchyard

The churchyard is the resting place of a number of Edinburgh significants including the artist Henry Raeburn and mathematician John Napier.

3. Ross Fountain – Princes St Gardens

Ross Fountain – Princes St Gardens

The Princes Street Gardens didn’t always used to be gardens. Around 250 years ago draining of the Nor Loch began to create the gardens. The Nor Loch was part of Edinburgh Castle’s defence and probably smelled terrible with all of the sewage the flowed into it!

In Princes Street Gardens West you will find the Ross Fountain. Originally added in 1872, it was restored last year. The gold, rich brown and incredible aquamarine stand out against the Castle’s steely grey complexion.

4. Castle Esplanade

Castle Esplanade

So this may not be the most secret place and there are bound to be a lot of other people here (unless you visit early in the morning – the photo above was taken at 8am on a Sunday morning! ) but the Castle Esplanade is still a wonderful place to capture a photo of Edinburgh Castle! The views that you get across the rest of the city as you snap are quite amazing and the perspective of the castle is very different from any of the others on this list. Every Summer, during the Edinburgh Fringe, this space is filled with hundreds of spectators for The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. From the Castle Esplanade, head inside the Castle to learn about Scottish history. Book your ‘skip-the-line’ & guided tour ticket here!

5. Roof Terrace at National Museum of Scotland

The view from the ‘secret’ roof terrace of the National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is a great place to visit on a rainy day in Edinburgh (and let’s be honest, the probability is high you’ll have some rain on a trip to Edinburgh!). It’s full of Scottish history and unusual treasures to search out including Dolly the Sheep.

But the museum also has a secret roof terrace on the top of the building. Search it out to get epic views across Edinburgh and back to the castle. You could also enjoy dinner with a view at The Tower Restuarant which is located at the top of the museum – I took my Dad for brunch a few years ago and it was definitely worth it!

6. Salisbury Crags

Hike up Salisbury Crags for a view over the city

This view of the Castle requires a longer stretch of the legs as you escape into one of Edinburgh’s peaceful city centre parks. You can find Salisbury Crags located in Holyrood Park where their jagged form juts out beneath Arthur’s Seat. The hike up is not as high or as far to climb as Arthur’s Seat but it can be dangerous. Be careful of the steep, sharp drops.

Have you visited Edinburgh? Did you already know about these Edinburgh Castle views?

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Cat x

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