Ian has already indicated in his blog that getting around all the planned parks and having time to see what was going on was a real challenge, especially on a beautiful sunny day when the parks were at their busiest. My solution was to leave a lot of the ‘parklife’ to my support team (thank you, Julie and Charlie) and to focus on at least seeing all the parks but that did mean that I missed out on a lot of the fun.
My cycle started at the Swanston entrance to the Pentland Hills Regional Park – as well as being the highest of Edinburgh’s parks (shared with neighbouring Midlothian) it is also the largest Green Flag park in the whole of the UK.
From Swanston, I headed into the south side of the city visiting the neighbourhood parks at Fairmilehead and Colinton Mains and on to another Green Flag park at Braidburn Valley. These parks were all busy with local people taking advantage of the weather – joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and plenty of people playing with their kids.
A slight navigational error resulted in a longer route to the next park and meant that I had to pretty much wave at Easter Craiglockart Hill LNR and Craiglockhart Dell as I cycled past on my way to the Water of Leith.
This peaceful and beautiful linear park was to be my companion for several stretches of the journey. Again, there were people everywhere – using the walkway as a route to other places or simply enjoying being near the water.
The Water of Leith Walkway took me right to the gates of Saughton Park and the first chance to get off the bike. The Friends of Saughton Park were holding a garden party and their teddy bears had all turned out to meet the MyParkScotland teddy! Time for a cuppa and then on for the next 31 parks.
After a brief search for Balgreen Park (it really is ‘hidden’ as it says on the website), it was back to the Water of Leith which neatly joined the next four parks Roseburn (where I stopped to watch the cricket with Murrayfield Stadium in the background), Inverleith, George V and St Mark’s and then a run down to the Forth for the first time taking in Pilrig Park, Victoria Park and Starbank Park. Starbank should have been my next cup of tea but the schedule was really slipping due to detours and perhaps spending too much time admiring the river walkway. Time for a burst of speed; relying on the support team to properly visit the next few parks.
Back onto the Water of Leith then Leith Links and Lochend Park passed in a blur; past a rather subdued Easter Road on my way to the Summer Fair at Montgomery Street Park. What a contrast! Hundreds of people having a whale of a time; bouncy castles; food vans; drummers ….. even a fire engine. The street food beckoned but the clock was still ticking. At least I’d now passed the halfway point.
Into the city centre now. Hopetoun Crescent Gardens (what a transformation since the first time I saw this space in the early 1980s!); Gayfield Square; London Road Gardens and Regent Road Park before cycling up Calton Hill for that classic TV news image of Edinburgh. This was the busiest park yet – great to see that people can get a bite to eat while they enjoy the panoramic views. Next stop, Princes Street Gardens – now that was busy!
To me, nothing sums up Edinburgh as a tourist destination better than Princes Street Gardens on a sunny day with people enjoying greenspace in the heart of the city. A bit of local knowledge took me out through the ‘back’ of Princes Street Gardens to the Grassmarket and Grannies Green and the Geddes Gardens on my way to the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links.
If Princes Street Gardens sums up tourist Edinburgh, then the Meadows are the perfect representation of Edinburgh’s mix of residents, students and visitors. As always, the Meadows and the Links were full of people sunbathing, playing sport, slack wire walking, juggling, blowing bubbles …
Coffee and a cake and on to what was now feeling like the last leg. Holyrood Park (Arthur’s Seat and Duddingston Loch) then along the Innocent Railway cyclepath to Craigmillar. No time to visit Craigmillar Castle but I did have a little while to listen to the birds singing in the woodland in Craigmillar Castle Park before heading on to Hunters Hall Public Park and Bingham Park (again a bit of a challenge to find).
My third proper stop of the day was at the Figgate Park. I probably shouldn’t say this but ‘the Figgie’ is my favourite Edinburgh park. If you don’t know it, check it out (and have a look at their project proposal for bat boxes in the ‘Support Parks’ section of the website). On into Portobello for five parks within the last mile of the ride. Rosefield Park and Brighton Park are really close neighbours which are probably missed by most visitors to Porty. The Sir Harry Lauder Memorial Garden tucked away beside the Town Hall was quiet but it was tea time and the street was quiet too. Abercorn Park had families playing football in the late afternoon sun and then down to the Prom for the triumphant/exhausted close to the day.
The Pentlands Hills may be Edinburgh’s highest park and the UK largest Green Flag park but the Portobello Community Garden must be the lowest (pretty much at sea level) and it is the UK’s smallest Green Flag park.
Hills to the sea; biggest to smallest; 42 parks, 11 Green Flags, 5 Living Landscape projects and 2 National Cycle Network routes – what a great chance to see the diversity of Edinburgh’s parks and the ways that they are used by residents and visitors.
High points of the day? Peaceful cycling on the Water of Leith Walkway; fabulous community event at Montgomery Street; getting to the top of Calton Hill.
Low points? Getting lost between parks 2 and 3 with 40 still to go! Missing out on the soup at Montgomery Street; hitting the cobbles at Brighton Place 36 miles into the cycle!!
Take a look at the projects on MyParkScotland looking for support and get out in to the parks and do your own #myparkexplore.