For any new students starting their first semester at QMU this September 2021, we’ve created a mini-guide to some of the best outdoor spots to visit in and around Edinburgh, based on suggestions from our staff and student body! 

The city of Edinburgh is just a six-minute train ride away from campus or a 35-minute bike ride! The beaches of Portobello and Musselburgh are also easily accessible by public transport for lovely walks along the sea. 

So, before the nights draw in and winter arrives, why not go exploring? 

1. Princes Street Gardens 

Edinburgh’s “green heart” and accessible directly outside Waverley train station, Princes Street Gardens stretches all along the city’s main shopping street (Princes Street) and is a fantastic spot for a picnic. During Christmas and festival seasons (which are slowly returning after COVID), the space is the location for markets, performances, fairgrounds and more.  

Photograph of Princess Street Gardens

Image credit: Forever Edinburgh 

2. Dunsapie Loch (Arthur’s Seat) 

You can’t miss Arthur’s Seat – the extinct volcano that sits in the middle of Holyrood Park and dominates the Edinburgh skyline. Arthur’s Seat and the surrounding hills provide locals with wonderful walking and hiking trails in the middle of the city! Dunsapie Loch is a small lake that sits on the north slopes of the hills and is a tranquil place to relax.  

Photograph of Dunsapie Loch

Image credit: Forever Edinburgh

 3. The Pentland Hills  

Easily accessible from Edinburgh city centre, The Pentlands is great for a day out that feels like a real escape from the city. The gentle, rolling hills provide 100 kms of excellent walking and hiking and includes several reservoirs, home to birdlife and mammals. The Pentland Hills regional park website provides details of trails for all fitness levels as well as hiking safety guidance. 

Photograph of Pentland Hills 

 Image credit: Forever Edinburgh

 4. Portobello and Musselburgh Beaches 

A short bus or bike ride away from QMU, both Portobello and Musselburgh beaches offer picturesque seaside walks and a range of places to eat and drink along the seafront. Portobello beach offers many shops, bars, cafes and watersports facilities and – for the brave – sea swimming (do follow safety guidance!) Musselburgh is a bit quieter, with a good walking coastal path, picnic spots and a pretty harbour.  

Photograph of Portobello Beach

 Image credit: Visit Scotland 

5. Dean Village 

A hidden secret in the north of Edinburgh, Dean Village is just a few minutes' walk from Princes Street, a tiny neighbourhood along the Water of Leith that looks like it came straight out of the Harry Potter books. The village is made up of traditional water mills and 19th century buildings set along the Water of Leith, including the impressive well Court and Dean Bridge. From here you can walk along the Water of Leith or to Edinburgh’s Gallery of Modern Art.  

Photograph of Dean Village

Image credit: Forever Edinburgh

6. Calton Hill  

A great spot for observing the whole of the city, Calton Hill offers views across the Forth of Firth on one side, the centre of Edinburgh on the other and even – on a clear day – over to the Pentland hills. Calton Hill is popular for walking and as a vantage point for watching the New Year and Festival fireworks. The hill boasts several landmarks including the National Monument (based on the Parthenon in Athens) and Nelson’s Monument and also has a contemporary art gallery.  

Photo of Calton Hill

Image credit: Forever Edinburgh

For more suggestions and itineraries – visit


Related Blog Posts

Transport themed pattern
QMU Annual Travel Survey

Every year the university conducts a travel survey, collecting commuting habits of staff and stud... read more

A group of young people, both black and white, wearing casual sports wear, sit in a classroom and are engaged in a friendly conversation.
Critical dialogue - developing confidence in young people

Critical dialogue is helping young Scots and Malawians develop confidence and gain empowerment.... read more

A small group of people talking, facing away from the camera, on a sunny day outside
Making for good

Making for good We are Amy Millar and Amy McCue - more commonly known on our course as “The Amy’s... read more

A small group of people talking, facing away from the camera, on a sunny day outside
A dyslexic student's advice for making a successful time of studies at QMU

“How to make the most of your studies?” is a question that is often asked. What are the best tech... read more

3 girls in winter jackets outside the Queen Margaret University Campus, Edinburgh
Top tips for open day

Prepare before you get to the University. Consider attending an open day event to find out what i... read more

QMU students playing jenga whilst others have tea and biscuits beside them
Top tips for halls

Moving away from home can be daunting whether you are undergraduate or a postgraduate. At Queen M... read more

Students queuing up to order at Maggie's Bar, the QMU student union bar and cafe
Freshers blog

My first day at QMU was a scary one, as I’m sure it was for everyone. Having only just moved from... read more

A busy street
Life as a mature student: why go to university?

For me higher education is about working towards achieving your potential to catapult you into th... read more

Students talking on the benches outside Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Queen Margaret university fresher’s week: 10 tips for student life

Top 10 Tips for student life read more

A small group of people talking, facing away from the camera, on a sunny day outside
University as a mature student

From where I started my academic journey, like many things in life, I have arrived at a very diff... read more