Why locals love Princes St Gardens

Continuing the Travel to Edinburgh series on Edinburgh’s green spaces, this week we look at Princes Street Gardens. Running along the south side of Princes Street, the city’s main shopping street, the 37 acres have a special place in the hearts of many visitors and locals.

More years ago than I care to remember, Princes Street Gardens was the venue for my first ever date. We were too broke to afford a cafe and too young to be allowed in a pub. Sadly, the date was not a great success. We did not repeat the experience.

Fondness for gardens

Two decades later came another personal first in the gardens – debut outdoors nappy change. That was not much of a triumph either (daughter and I were both terrified). But I retain a fondness for Princes Street Gardens.

Like many others in the city, I have spent hours strolling along its paths, pushing a buggy, chatting to friends, while drinking scalding coffee from a polystyrene cup. It is a good place to listen to the gun that fires one o'clock from nearby Edinburgh Castle.

Fireworks concert

Last summer, I lay on the grass in Princes Street Gardens, sipping wine and watching the Fireworks Concert to mark the end of the International Festival. The park’s Ross Bandstand plays host to regular concerts and is a big feature of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.

The Ross Fountain, located at the west end of the gardens, caused controversy when it arrived in the gardens in 1872. The sight of its mermaids and naked female figures upset¬† the Dean of nearby St John’s Episcopal Church so much he described the fountain as “grossly indecent and disgusting”.

Say hello to driver

Less controversially, kids enjoy standing on the park’s viewing bridges over the neighbouring railway line to watch trains go past. Drivers will often make a child’s day by tooting their horn and waving.

A state-of-the-art playpark at the west end of the park will keep older kids (five plus) occupied for long stretches. Be warned, though. Its business can be daunting to younger children.

Statues and floral clock

The park is dissected by the stretch of hill known as the Mound. On the west side is the Ross Bandstand and Fountain, as well as statues of poet Allan Ramsay, reformer Thomas Guthrie and obstetric pioneer James Young Simpson. A floral clock there also draws visitors.

On the east side, are statues of explorer David Livingstone (smaller than anyone expects), publisher Adam Black and essayist Professor John Wilson.  And, of course, the Scott Monument.

The east side might sound impoverished compared to the attractions boasted by its westerly neighbour. But it comes into its own at Christmas time, when it transforms into a Winter Wonderland.

Next Thursday (13 May): part three of Edinburgh’s green spaces

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