There are very few places that can tick as many boxes as Edinburgh.
Beautiful - tick.
Historic - tick.
Gorgeous accent - tick (obviously!)
Historically, dogs have been welcomed in Edinburgh - as evidenced by the world-famous Greyfriars Bobby. In fact, some say that one of the best things Edinburgh has going for it is it’s dog friendly culture. So let's refine this idea as we explain why you should bring your dog to Edinburgh!
Dog Friendly, Not Just Dog Tolerant
Many pubs and bars in the UK claim to be dog friendly these days, because it’s good for business. In reality though, some are merely dog tolerant. They might let you sit at a small bar with your pup so you can order peanuts, or allow you to sit in their windy beer garden with all the smokers, but if you want anything more substantial to eat, or a more comfortable seat to eat it in, you’ll have to hope there’s a burger van nearby or you’ll both be going home hungry.
Edinburgh offers a truly dog friendly atmosphere, with your dog accepted into many places you would never have expected.
I can take my two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Sprocket and Indiana, to more cafes and eateries than I can count.
This ranges from beachside pubs like The Espy in Portobello (Edinburgh’s seaside town) to city centre gastropubs like the Scran and Scallie, run by the Michelin starred Tom Kitchin.
Such is the number for dog friendly places in Edinburgh that a site has been specifically set up to keep track and advise you on where you can happily take your pup.
Dugs 'n Pubs started in 2009 and has exploded in popularity since then. It is an invaluable resource for anyone in the city who simply wants to go out for a nice day with your best friend and not have to worry about where they can go for a drink.
Dog Friendly Events
The city also hosts a variety of dog friendly events throughout the year, including the Foodies Festival, which tours the UK celebrating great food and drink, and the more local Meadows Festival.
The Meadows Festival, as you can see from the images below, is an annual weekend event of music, food and stalls selling everything from artwork to jewellry. Held in a central park only moments from the Royal Mile, it's also a wonderfully dog friendly event, with dog shows and events run by the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home - you might even walk away with a rosette!
For more photos from this and previous years' Meadows Festival, check out the Edinburgh Dog Photography Facebook page.
Edinburgh's Stunning Outdoor Spaces
Over and above all of this, Edinburgh has so much outdoors space to play with your pup on a visit. 49.2% of Edinburgh is green space, and has recently been named the UK’s greenest city.
Of course, the biggest green space - and one that is hard to miss - is Arthur’s Seat, a hill which towers over the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace near the city centre.
This remnant of an extinct volcano welcomes tourists and residents alike to walk and run up its sides, providing a massive playground for dogs of all sizes and capabilities.
The opportunities to explore Edinburgh from above don’t end there. You can enjoy a walk up Blackford Hill, where you can take in the view of the castle, Arthur’s Seat and further into East Lothian and an unusual looking hill around the coast, North Berwick Law.
Then there’s Calton Hill, five minutes walk from the city centre.
On it, you can see a great deal of eclectic architecture, including the National Monument. This was built in the 1820s to remember the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars, in the style of Greece’s Parthenon. Unfortunately, it ran out of funding midway through and sits unfinished to this day, giving Edinburgh the beautifully sarcastic name, ‘Athens of the North’.
The Dog Friendly City Folk
But here’s the biggest tick of all. Here’s why you need to bring your dog to Edinburgh.
Strolling around with your wee pal through the winding, gorgeous, cobbled streets can often take longer than planned because of the community spirit amongst fellow dog owners.
Don’t be surprised if you are stopped so your dogs can fuss each other - or so you can fuss a new puppy pal! You never quite know who you are going to end up chatting with, and during the Edinburgh Festival, you never know - could get a pleasant surprise!
To finish, here's a list of some more of our favourite dog friendly places to go with your dog in Edinburgh:
Holyrood 9a - a wonderful pub not far from the Scottish Parliament that adores dogs.
The Espy - we can't get enough of this place!
Cloisters - a lovely traditional real-ale pub with a fireplace to stay snug in winter.
City Cafe - travel back in time with this funky diner by day, drinks by night!
The Southern - this used to be our regular haunt, and was also visited by Nirvana once!
What other places would you suggest visitors with their dogs go to in Edinburgh?
We'd been to the historic Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian many times before, but not since their recent £7million revamp. We didn't know how dog friendly it would remain - would it be taken over by prams and pushchairs, leaving little room for families and their dogs to enjoy this wonderful setting?
It's safe to say we were suitably impressed at the hard work that has - and still is - going on to redevelop the park.
The roads have been improved, the catering facilities - although we didn't go in - looked classy, and everything just looked very professional, clean and welcoming.
There is plenty of parking near all the facilities, and a one-way system ensures there are no scary head-on moments on the narrow roads.
Yet again we were so proud of the dog friendly spirit in Scotland, as most of the park is accessible to your dog.
Online advice states "dogs are not allowed in Restoration Yard or Fort Douglas and are kept on a lead in the Palace Field area until across Montagu Bridge." That seems pretty reasonable to me, as there are many countries (some not too far away!) where dogs would not be made as welcome like this.
The River North Esk runs through the park, and is where we went with the dogs straight away to give them a swim and tire them out.
There hasn't been much rain recently (amazingly) so the water levels were low and we easily found a few safe spots to throw the ball into. As usual, we saw minimal wildlife due to the Barkly Twins, but did see some Dippers with their chicks.
Oh and a duck. We saw a duck. There's loads of signs telling you about the wonderful flora and fauna in the park, but that's pretty much as close as we came to any of it. I didn't take a picture of the duck.
EDIT** some commentators have mentioned this can be part fo the overflow carpark during busy times, so best keep your wits about you. When quiet, it can be a great place for your dog, but be aware of moving vehicles.**
I hadn't seen this before - a field fenced off and specifically welcomes dogs to be let off their leads.
I think it's a rather good idea - a safe space. Do note, however, that it is not a 100% secure field, so dogs that are a high flight risk will still need to be watched very carefully.
Fort Douglas is a new adventure area for kids, and I mean the non-furry kind of kid. We were with a friend who went in with her (human) offspring, and she said it was a good, fun place.
I'm sure there are reviews of it elsewhere online, and I bet they are positive. All I know for sure is that although dogs are, sensibly, not allowed inside the Fort, they tell you this using one of the best dog images possible.
And to be fair, Fort Douglas does look excellent from the outside, making me wish I was a small child instead of a six foot tall one.
Worth taking the dogs?
There was a worry before re-development began here that it would commercialise too much in the direction of families with children over families with dogs, but that simply hasn't happened.
Whilst some of the roads are a bit busier with cars than before, that's a small price to pay for a vastly improved park, and I'd rather have it that way and have it used by the community than let it slip into disrepair. We barely touched the number of walks you could go on here, each one different from the next. You dog will surely love all the smells and new sights in a park that is also a working farm. We really do recommend you spend time here.
Here's a few shots we took to encourage you to visit and have a look around this new jewel in the crown of Midlothian's parks.
And as ever, we're always looking out for new walks in the Lothians, so if you have any you think we would love and could review, leave a comment below.
To read more on our blog about cool places to take your dog, try this article for surprising things you can do with your dog throughout Scotland or this article for more dog walking areas in Edinburgh that are pawesome!
The course of human history would be very different without dogs. What if Boatswain the Newfoundland had not rescued Napoleon Bonaparte when he fell overboard? What if Pickles the Collie had never found the World Cup?! We’ll catch up with those two in future posts, but it’s safe to say our history would be much less interesting without dogs sprinkled through time.
But sometimes it’s the little things that dogs do that really tug on the heartstrings, and affect us in a deeper way we thought possible. We see their actions which can spawn legends, books, stories and even a Disney film. Just like wee Greyfriars Bobby.
The truth behind the story is somewhat disputed, so let’s start with the story most people are told.
The Story of Greyfriars Bobby
There was once a man called Auld Jock who was a night watchman in 1850s Edinburgh. For company, he took on a little Skye Terrier who he named Bobby. The two were inseparable, going to pubs together, walking the streets of the capital on Auld Jock’s rounds every night of the year, and being best of pals.
So when Jock died of tuberculosis on 15 February 1858, wee Bobby was distraught. Rather than finding another owner to take care of him, however, he snuck into the graveyard and lay by Jock’s grave for the next 14 years, eventually becoming something of an attraction to tourists and residents alike.
So great was his fame and importance to Edinburgh that when a dog tax came into law, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, William Chambers (who gave his name to Chambers Street), paid the license fee and even supplied the cheeky chappie with a shiny new collar, which read “Greyfriars Bobby, from the Lord Provost, 1867 licensed”.
The city’s fondness for the dog meant that he was well fed and taken care of until his own eventual death in 1872. The two are buried in the same graveyard, and you can go see their graves next time you are in Edinburgh.
It’s a charming story, and one which warms the cockles. But if you want your cockles to remain a nice temperature, perhaps read no further and look at these photos of lovely dogs instead.
The Truth of Greyfriars Bobby?
Over the years, doubts have arisen about the authenticity and accuracy of this story, even as far back as Councillor Wilson McLaren in a 1934 article in the Scotsman.
It’s not the fact that there was a dog and a grave that is argued about. Dogs returning to the same spot year after year is not uncommon. A recent story from Japan highlighted a similar incident with an Akita Inu dog returning each day to greet his owner at a train station, 9 years after the owner had died.
One of the reasons many people raise a suspicious eyebrow to the tale of Bobby is that the wee dog would have been at least 16 when he died. The average age for a Skye Terrier - if that is indeed what Bobby was - today is, according to www.petguide.com, 12 to 14 years. When Bobby died, he must have been, at the very least, 16 years old. Not bad a for a stray dog on the cold Victorian Edinburgh streets.
This has led some to consider that there were at least two “Bobbys”, one secretly replacing the other after death.
This may have happened because of the value Bobby was to the local economy. As a tourist attraction, he brought a fair bit of money into that part of the town. And as far as the dog is concerned, the more he kept going to the grave, the more he was fed and looked after.
Historian Dr Jan Bondeson, in his book Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World, believes that for Bobby, it wasn’t grief that kept him coming back to the grave, but hunger and the knowledge he’d be fed by returning each day.
Ultimately, we’ll never know the exact truth and maybe that’s for the best. Who would want to rip apart such a heartwarming story?
Bobby was so loved that, in 1873, a statue of the dog was revealed to the public.
It’s a lovely, simple commemoration that stands feet away from the graves of Jock and Bobby.
The story of Greyfriars Bobby is still told and sung about today. So much does the city still love him that there is an annual commemoration event on the 14th January - the date he died. It's a lovely service but wrap up warm - it can be a bracing experience standing in an Edinburgh graveyard in January!
Whether you want to believe the story in its entirety or not, it’s a wonderful reminder of how dogs – even totsy ones like Bobby – can find a way to survive in a harsh human environment.
In recent years, idiotic tourist guides have started encouraging their groups to rub the statue of Bobby on the nose.
This has had the unfortunate result in turning it gold, making it look like Bobby has a gold cold. It has never been considered good luck to rub his nose, not to any Edinburgh resident ever, as it is clearly destructive on such a small statue.
If you plan on touching his nose, please don’t. It’s now considered bad luck anyway, because if you touch the nose an angry wee Edinburgh wifie will chase you down the street with a stick, and nobody wants that!