Five of the best places to have a picnic during the Edinburgh Festival

There's nothing better than a picnic, and in Edinburgh, there's plenty of places to enjoy a spot of outdoor eating during the Festival.

Published 31st Jul 2017
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

With all the hustle, bustle and excitement of the festival it can be hard to take a few minutes to stop and relax, to escape the colourful crowds or even simply enjoy a little bite to eat.

Sometimes (weather permitting) there's no better way to do this than to escape with a picnic to a quiet(er), greener part of the city.

With that in mind, we've picked out five of the best places to enjoy a picnic while in Edinburgh for the Festival:

Holyrood Park (Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags)

Ok, so perhaps this one involves a bit more of a trek than the others but as anyone who has visited the city will tell you, there's few better places to enjoy a walk and a picnic in Edinburgh.

The capital's (thankfully) now dormant volcano Arthur's Seat, which lies to the east of the castle, is situated in the city's Holyrood Park, and has a range of walks for those of all abilities.

The most rewarding views are obviously at the peak, but if that seems like too much trouble (particularly for finding a seat to actually have something to eat) there's plenty of places lower down that are just as good.

Pick the right spot and the view can be truly fantastic, with the Festival and its performers being reduced to just a few brightly coloured specks in the distance.

READ MORE: Seven facts you may not know about Arthur’s Seat

The Meadows

A group of friends enjoying a barbecue in The Meadows. Picture: TSPL

A group of friends enjoying a barbecue in The Meadows. Picture: TSPL

Situated to the south of the city centre is perhaps one of Edinburgh's most famous green spaces, the Meadows - a hugely popular public park that is the perfect setting for a picnic.

Not only is it a beautiful green space with plenty of history - The park was once the site of the wind-swept Borough-Loch, one of the main water supplies for Edinburgh's old town - but the park also offers plenty of facilities.

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From Cricket pitches and Tennis courts to an active croquet club and an adventure playground of epic proportions, the Meadows has plenty of fun things to do. It also has public toilets and a café (should you wish to supplement your picnic).

Best of all the Meadows welcomes barbecues, so long as you use them in one of the designated areas provided.

This year the Circus Hub is also back on the Meadows, meaning once you've eaten you can visit the Hub for two dazzling circus tents – Lafayette and Beauty – and a charming bar.

Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach. Picture: TSPL

Portobello Beach. Picture: TSPL

West coasters and east coasters will often argue about which of their cities is better and while it is true both have their advantages - and disadvantages - it'd be a very bitter Glaswegian indeed who wouldn't admit to a hint of jealousy at the proximity of Portobello beach to Edinburgh's city centre.

Portobello is a charming little seaside suburb, with a pretty beach that stretches for almost two miles. On warm days, Edinburgh's residents flock in their droves to enjoy this beautiful setting.

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Perfect for a picnic on a sunny day and you can always finish off with a refreshing ice cream.

Be warned though, on sunny days it tends to get busy, fast.

Water of Leith

Water Of Leith at Dean Village. Picture: TSPL

With its almost 13 mile walkway along its banks - lovingly maintained and preserved by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust - there's more than a few picturesque places to picnic nearby.

Cited as one of the the Independent's top 50 UK urban picnic spots,  the walk along the banks makes for a relaxing way to while away an afternoon and offers plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy a bite to eat.

If you're lucky enough you may even spot one of the river's resident Kingfishers, little flashes of bright blue and orange usually signifying this magnificent bird's presence.

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Princes St Gardens

Picture: Ulayiti\Wikimedia

One of the easiest and most accessible parks to get to on this list it is also one of the prettiest. Well kept and always clean, the park offers a quiet place to relax and enjoy what's left of the summer.

Offering a nice view of the castle as well as being close to several of the city's major shopping areas and Festival venues.

Perfect for stepping out for a little break before re-embracing the fun of the Festival.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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