The Edinburgh Festivals are fantastic, but sometimes you need a break, and there’s more to Edinburgh than the festivals. Verity Leigh, Horizon Programme Director (and Edinburgh resident) suggests some ways to escape the festival for a few hours and see a bit more of this amazing city.

Water of Leith path


The Water of Leith rises somewhere in the Pentland Hills to the south-west of the city and runs through Edinburgh until it meets the sea in Leith.  A walking and cycling path runs along the river from Leith to Balerno, 14 miles away in the foothills of the Pentlands.  Walking a section of the path makes for a quick and simple break from festival Edinburgh; although it’s tranquil you are still in the city, so there are plenty of interesting places en route where you can either pause for a cuppa or finish your walk for the day and get the bus back into town.

Cramond Island

Cramond is an island in the Firth of Forth, connected to the mainland via a causeway which is covered at high tide.  Please don’t be the tourist who calls out the coastguard, but the island is a really interesting place to explore.  Check the safe crossing times here, and again before you step on to the causeway!  Take Lothian Bus no 41 to Cramond Village and walk down the hill to the foreshore and the causeway.  Once you are off the island, the Cramond Falls Café, upstream along the River Almond, is a nice stop for a cuppa and cake. Please make sure to check the tide times first!

Forth Bridge/s

Jump on a train to North Queensferry at Edinburgh Waverley and in 20 minutes you will be travelling over the iconic (and it really is) Forth Bridge.  Leave the station at North Queensferry and walk over to the Forth Road Bridge for amazing views of all 3 bridges.  You can walk across the Forth Road Bridge to South Queensferry: a good head for heights is recommended, but now that most traffic goes over the new bridge this is a reasonably tranquil walk.  There is a wide choice of cafes in South Queensferry and the train back is from Dalmeny station.

Jupiter Artland


A stunning outdoor sculpture park 10 miles outside Edinburgh.  Wander around works by Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley, Cornelia Parker and, well, all of your top 20th and 21st century sculptors really.  Take the Lothian Country Bus x27 or the First Bus x23, or I like to cycle there.  £10 entry and a nice café.  If you’ve got a bit of time and want to get properly out of the city and look at some amazing visual art this would be my top pick.

Scottish Parliament – free guided tour

Massively delayed and even more massively over budget, but now probably more liked than not, the Scottish Parliament building was designed by architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue.  It’s full of architectural metaphors and motifs and is well worth a look around.  There are free guided tours on Mondays and Fridays – book in advance here.