The photographer’s guide to Edinburgh

For anyone exploring the city this summer (or any time of year), take a look at our list of the best places to take a great photo in Edinburgh, written and photographed by Visitor team member Andrew.

“Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital and the second most visited city in the UK, with good reason! Architecture, history, culture, nature and so many other aspects combine to create a thriving and dynamic city that is without a doubt, a photographer’s paradise!

Whether you are a professional, an amateur hobbyist like myself, or simply someone on holiday who likes to impress their friends back home, Edinburgh has more than enough opportunity waiting.

I’ve gathered some of my top tips and locations to spice up that social media feed and explore this beautiful city and the surrounding area.

Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile

Edinburgh Castle (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Edinburgh Castle (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Can you really say you have been to Edinburgh without seeing the iconic castle and famous Royal Mile? They are certainly worth a visit! With the castle’s impressive heritage and the many little alleys, shops and restaurants around the Royal Mile, the whole area can explored  for hours. The problem with such a popular area however is that there are so many people and getting those photos can require a bit of patience. Fear not, for there is a solution! The answer to taking a great photo without any passers by in it is simple: GET UP EARLY.

The Royal Mile (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
The Royal Mile (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Okay, it may not be fun, however the early hours of the morning (around 6-8am) provide a golden window of opportunity (and I mean this quite literally) as the early morning sun brings a beautiful backlight to Arthur’s seat and the buildings of the Royal Mile. The light also shines directly onto Edinburgh Castle providing ample lighting for your photos. What’s more, the majority of Edinburgh’s population are still in bed which means the streets, and most importantly the Castle, are all but deserted, allowing you to take your photos and creating an almost postcard like appearance.

Holyrood (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Holyrood (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Head to the bottom of the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, and you’ll notice a few ponds in the concrete. Some of the ponds have little walkways you can stand on, and with the sun creeping over the extinct volcano it can add a halo-like appearance as you’re ‘walking on water’ (good balance recommended!)

The National Museum of Scotland rooftop

Castle view from the roof of NMS (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Castle view from the roof of NMS (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Okay, so these days the rooftop of Scotland’s most popular visitor attraction is quite widely known for being a great photo opportunity, nevertheless the panoramic views of the city make it worth mentioning. It also gives you another opportunity to photograph Edinburgh Castle (the local pigeons can make quite interesting subjects with the city backdrop, too).

The National Museum of Scotland (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
The National Museum of Scotland (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

The National Museum of Scotland is free to visit and only a stone’s throw away from the Royal Mile. The galleries and exhibits will provide inspiration for all: natural history, geology, arts and science are all displayed spectacularly under one roof.

Sunshine on Leith

The Shore, Leith (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
The Shore, Leith (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Leith has had quite a reputation for a number of years (made very apparent in Danny Boyle’s production of Trainspotting), but this part of Edinburgh is up and coming with more than a few hidden gems for those willing to look around.

The Water of Leith, a 22 mile water system that flows from the Pentlands to the shores of Leith, transports you to an urban garden within the heart of Edinburgh. This green highway provides plenty of habitats for Edinburgh’s urban wildlife and the lush backdrops mixed with hidden art and architecture create a wonderful symbioses to that top Insta-friendly photo formula. The Water of Leith walkway also runs through Stockbridge and Dean Village which are both photogenic areas in their own right.

Other hotspots include the old Leith railway which cuts underneath Easter Road. The trains no longer use this track but the rails surrounded by buildings and vegetation make an awesome canvas. If you’re lucky you may spot some of the city’s red foxes, too.

Red foxes, Edinburgh (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Red foxes, Edinburgh (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

The Leith Docks in the golden hours are certainly worth a stop, and the often overlooked London Road Gardens will be a burst of colour during the spring and summer seasons.

London Road Gardens (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
London Road Gardens (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Instafood

After all that exploring you will need to stop and have a bite to eat or to refuel your caffeine levels. Thankfully there are certainly no shortage of independent cafes and eateries throughout the city of Edinburgh. This also means that there are plenty of places to photograph your meals if that’s your cup of tea… no pun intended.

Best places for 'gram-worthy food in Edinburgh (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Best places for ‘gram-worthy food in Edinburgh (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

My top recommendation is Meltmongers in Brunstfield, an independent little cafe that does the most amazing toasties and sweet potato fries. Each meal is presented beautifully in its own little paper box and, you guessed it, is Instagram gold! Why not add a finishing touch to the photos by heading out to the neighbouring Brunstfield Links to give you a background of beautiful sunshine, green grass and blue skies to make your followers gasp with food envy.

Other recommendations for cafes to visit in Edinburgh are:

Holyrood Park

Swans

Holyrood Park is one of the top tourist destinations in Edinburgh and you can see why! It’s not often you have an extinct volcano next to the city centre. But besides the obvious hike up Arthur’s Seat or the Salisbury Crags, there are a few other areas worth mentioning.

Duddingston Loch (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Duddingston Loch (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

When you head on Duddingston Low Road, which goes around Holyrood Park towards Duddingston Village, you will find the beautiful Duddingston Loch and Dr Neil’s Secret Garden, an area that transports you out of the city and into a peaceful Eden. Head west towards Meadowbank and you will find the St Margaret’s Loch. From here you’ll see the only ruin found in the park, St Anthony’s Chapel, watching over the many swans and waterfowl that inhabit the water feature, interesting subjects to add to your portfolio.

As for hiking Arthur’s Seat or the Salisbury Crags, there is no correct time of day to visit or take the perfect photograph. However the golden hours of sunrise and sunset again provide the most ideal lighting of the park, and should you choose to venture out in the unsociable hours of dusk, the Salisbury Crags provide the potential for spectacular light trails for those using a DSLR camera (tripod, torch and a friend most definitely needed!)

Edinburgh by night (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Edinburgh by night (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

Calton Hill

Of course, no self-respecting photographer would leave out a mention of photographing the Balmoral Hotel and Princes Street from Calton Hill. At night it is the perfect area to capture spectacular light trails. I’ll let this photo do the talking.

Balmoral and Princes Street by night Edinburgh by night (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)
Balmoral and Princes Street by night Edinburgh by night (credit and copywright: Andrew Palmer)

A City for All

As you can see Edinburgh has so many places to explore and take the perfect photo. I have barely scratched the surface with this blog, and whether you have a professional camera, a simple bridge camera, or are just using your phone, your social media followers are going to fall in love with the city and its wonders just as much as you will. Watch out for these photo points dotted around the city, but feel free to let your creative mind wonder and no matter what you do or where you go. Just remember to take time to enjoy it and soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s most vibrant and beautiful places.”

Have you taken the perfect shot in any of these places? We’d love to see your efforts, why not check in on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?


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