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?
If I were super clever, I’d probably start this post with a poem about beaches, and how awesome they are, and how they cleanse the soul and refresh the body. But does this look like a blog that reads poetry? No, we spend our time picking up poop and discussing it. Instead, let me begin with this shot of Gullane Bents, on East Lothian’s beautiful coast.
You Crazy Beach
It's a wide beach with dunes protecting the land - dunes that are bountiful in birds and other wildlife. And then there are the rockpools which are fantastic for all ages - catch a crab, a fish or, on a cold day, a cold - it's up to you!
And luckily, chances are your dog will love the beach too - there’s something about sand coursing through their paws that they just love.
Here at Happy Home Dog Boarding, we love our day trips to the beach, and want to share our adventures and tips with you. We’re starting with Gullane Bents, a large strip of beach nestled in between Aberlady and Yellowcraigs in East Lothian. It offers a stunning place to walk and wonder at all times of the year, and the beach, along with most of this coastline, is a favourite for geologists too because of the layers of history underneath your feet.
We favour going to beaches at low tides to get more bang for your buck, and you can look at when the next low tide will occur here.
Getting There, Car Parking & Accessibility
If you don’t have a car, First Bus operate the X5 and 124 buses from Edinburgh and North Berwick which stop at Gullane.
There are enough recycling bins for all your BBQing needs, as well as toilets for the post-picnic wee and the children who never seem to empty their bladders in one go.
Usually, there is a ice cream van by the cars for all your ice creamery needs, with soft drinks available too.
The Beach Road
As you walk down the gentle slope to the sand, you’ll pass loads of spiny bushes, often with red or pink berries clinging tightly to the branches. These are Sea Buckthorn, and are delicious - if you know what you are doing.
If you want a quick blast of mouthal sensation (is that a thing?) carefully tease one off, making sure it doesn’t pop in your fingers, and stick it in your gob. BOOM! It’s like eating ten Haribo Tangfastics at once, and will make your mouth say oooooooooaaaaaaah. #Guaranteed.
Obviously, only eat if you know that’s what it is - don’t munch on a hunch!
When you hit the sand itself it curves widely to the west and east, with only the tide dictating how far you can go, as opposed to cliffs or walls.
As ever with beaches, people seem to cram themselves into the meter square directly in front of and to the sides of the entrance, so if your pup has a tendency to race for the nearest burger or sandwich, it might be best to keep him on lead until you are closer to the sea.
The wide beach is great for the dog who likes to run, swim, paddle, any or all of the above! The sand gives way to layers of rock, which themselves let us go rock pooling, and there's one or two bigger pools that are perfect for the little dogs who like a safe swim.
The water is as clean as you could hope for. Since Keep Scotland Beautiful began the Scottish Seaside Awards some quarter of a century ago, Gullane has been a winner every single year. This means that it is one of the cleanest and best managed beaches in the country.
You can get fantastic views over the Firth of Forth to Fife towards Kirkcaldy, and even on a good day the Forth bridges are seen just before the horizon.
Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve
If you continue walking westward, you will come across this sign, which made Sprocket a sad dog.
A nature reserve since 1952, Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve offers a varied range of habitats for animals, including nesting birds. It is for this reason that dogs are not welcome, for fear of disturbing ground dwelling birds.
If you keep your dog on the beach or in the sea, you'll have no concerns, other than they may feel sad...
Images of Gullane
There are only so many words that can describe a beach, but pictures tell the whole story. Here are a few, and let us know if we have inspired you to take a trip to Gullane.
And do let us know about your favourite beach, our dogs would love you for it!
Dog owners in Edinburgh are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding somewhere good to walk their dog. Here at Happy Home Dog Boarding we have the whole Esk Valley to play with, offering river walks, open parkland, hills and forests. Remember you can keep up to date with our adventures on our Facebook page.
But even if you live slap bang in the city centre, there are amazing walks just on your doorstep, or a quick bus ride away (Lothian busses are dog friendly, so long as you have them on a lead).
Over the years of living in the city centre, we narrowed down the areas we liked the best, and where we thought the dogs were having as much fun as possible. When we asked ourselves what the best places for dog walks in Edinburgh are, this is what we decided on.
Thank you to Edinburgh Dog Photography who let me use some of her photos!
10 Cramond Beach
The seaside village of Cramond on the north west of Edinburgh can be an ethereal and thoughtful place to spend time in. If you were to come at high tide, you would see nothing more than a bit of sandy beach and a small island just out into the Firth of Forth.
The views across the water to Fife and beyond can be stunning, and on a good day, you might be treated to a view of the Forth bridges.
However, come at low tide and you can get all that and much more.
Underneath the water you will see a causeway emerge as the tide retreats, giving you access to Cramond Island. This is a small, uninhabited scrap of land that allows you to look back on Edinburgh. Often, you will be the only person on the island, giving you a sense of space and isolation you can’t often get in a capital city.
This beach is quite a muddy one when the tide is out, meaning your white dog may well come back black. Bring a towel!
Word of warning though, when they say “time and tide wait for no man” they mean it. Check tide timetables or take advantage of a text service to alert you to tides.
If you do go across to the island, make sure you leave plenty of time to walk back. People can and do get stuck when they don’t plan properly!
9 Braidburn Valley Park
Nestled towards the south of Edinburgh is a park which many commuters drive past each day, but very few seem to have walked along this beautiful little valley.
Braidburn Valley Park has been visited by the public since 1933, and even boasts its own outside amphitheatre.
It's bigger than one might initially think at 11 hectares, allowing plenty of space for your dog to roam. It has also been awarded a Green Flag for excellence in parks - the first such award to be given in Scotland.
It’s reasonably secure, so is a good place to take your dog when they are getting used to exploring the world, and offers a nice steep bank you can walk along, and a river at the bottom if anyone needs to cool off and have a paddle. It’s fully accessible along a tarmac path, but with plenty of options to go off road!
This is a good walk if you want to take it easy and let your dog do all the running.
8 Corstorphine Hill
Corstorphine Hill is a 340 million year old wooded ridge that sits to the west of Edinburgh city centre. Not only has it been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS), it is also a Local Nature Reserve.
The focal point of the hill is Corstorphine Hill Tower, a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, one of Edinburgh’s most well loved sons. The hill also shares some space with Edinburgh Zoo, and on a good day you might get a free peek at some animals.
The hill is a great place to let your dogs run free and have adventures in a wooded, dog friendly setting. To find out more, here's the Friends of Corstorphine Hill.
7 Blackford Hill
Getting to the hill is straightforward, so long as you are happy with a climb (although being a hill, the clue is in the name!).
Getting to the top is your priority, where you can take in the surroundings with a deep breath and admire the city laid out before you.
The climb isn’t too arduous – I’ve seen toddlers and OAPs tackle it – but there is no laid path all the way to the top so be aware of any accessibility issues, especially if it has been wet recently.
6 Hermitage of Braid
Hermitage of Braid is the valley to Blackford’s Hill, all existing in one area but I’m going to class them as separate walks as they can be done in isolation of each other.
As you walk down to the bottom of the valley you will soon find yourself parallel with the river, and can walk alongside it on a reasonably level path, with beautiful trees growing up either side of you.
Soon, you will come across theOld Hermitage House, the history of which goes back to the 12th Century.
The Hermitage has many paths at levels up and down the valley sides, concealing wonderful secrets like the recently restored walled garden.
Such a wonderful and calm place to walk in, with a cooling stream for you and your dog’s hot feet to cool down in.
5 Pentland Hills
Just a short bus ride out from the city centre are the Pentland Hills.
It’s very hard to nominate just one area of the Pentlands to talk about – Bonaly Country Park, Harlaw Reservoir and Flotterstone are all fantastic areas to walk.
However a lovely and little known walk can be taken from the wee village of Carlops, walking up along the River north Esk into the hills and towards the reason we went this way in the first place – the source of the river that runs past our house, the North Esk Reservoir.
Being off the beaten track, you often have all this space to yourself, giving you the chance to take in the wonderful flora and fauna in peace (assuming you don’t have a barky dog!). Fishing is possible here by arrangement, and it is a lovely place to just sit and contemplate the world.
It should be noted that when in the hills, sheep are common and in areas where they are, remember to keep control your dog on a lead. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, a farmer can legally kill a dog in cases of sheep worrying and the owner can be prosecuted and fined up to £1000.
But don’t let this put you off. If you see livestock, put your dog on a lead and walk through – simple, really.
And if that doesn’t convince you to give this walk a shot - here’s what we did last time we were up there in the snow…!
4 Calton Hill
Back in the centre of city is Calton Hill, a wonderful and quirky hill with a ton of history and unique buildings.
I mean, where to start? The hill holds many important monuments and buildings, including the National Monument, a Parthenon-inspired but never finished monument which has sat, incomplete, for nearly 200 years. It has inspired many names for Edinburgh – not all of them complimentary – but my favourite is ‘Athens of the North’. Sounds better than ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’, at least…
The hill is fairly steep to climb but most people in good health should have no issues going up the path.
Other buildings worth checking out include the Nelson Monument, the old Royal High School and the Dugald Stewart monument – the round construction with pillars that you see in most photos taken from the hill.
Calton Hill is also the centre of attention for the Beltane Fire Festival, which welcomes in the summer. This is a crazy night, and well worth a visit, but probably not with your dog - lots of fire, noise and crowds don’t often do well.
And by the way, if you were looking for somewhere to leave your dog for a night, I might know someone *ahem*.
3 Arthur's Seat
Folk from Edinburgh are pretty relaxed about having a volcano smack bang in the middle of the city.
I mean sure, it’s extinct and incapable of erupting, but I’ve seen enough Hollywood movies to be worried about stuff like that.
Arthur's Seat is, however, one of the best areas to both see Edinburgh, and get away from the city so much that you’ll feel like you are in the Highlands. Such a wonderful feeling, only minutes walk from Princes Street, this is something every resident and visitor of Edinburgh should do.
There are a ton of routes you can take, from going up to see St Anthony’s Chapel, or along the Crags, or go all the way to the top for a windy view of the city.
I once went up with some friends in order to watch the sunrise and enjoy a wee tipple. I was all ready, sat in the perfect spot, when I realised how bright it had become and the sun still hadn’t risen! I then turned around and realised I had been facing the wrong way and the sun was well up in the sky.
Kids, don’t do this, you’ll feel like a fool.
2 Craig House
Between Craiglockart and Morningside sits a fantastic dog walking area with woods, historic buildings, grassy meadows and a stunning view over the city that many people don’t know about.
Napier University’s old Craighouse Campus sits, at time of writing, in a bit of a no man’s land between protection and development, but remains, for now, open to the public and their dogs.
The history of the site dates back to at least 1528, with buildings on the site dating from 1565, and over the years have been used as a private residence, a hospital and a university campus. Napier University moved out and sold up by 2013, the site now being owned by developers, with the Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood set up to ensure it’s lasting legacy for the community.
There are still legacies of a much busier campus, including this memorial to William Kinnimond Burton, an Edinburgh engineer worshipped as a hero in Japan who designed the country's first skyscraper and clean water systems for its cities in the 1800s.
This old campus is a beautiful area to visit all year round and there are paths throughout, although not all of them have been maintained in recent years. The future of the area remains unclear, so best get there whilst you still can!
1 Portobello Beach
Oh Porty, such a lovely place. Edinburgh’s beach is one of our all time favourite places, mainly because Sprocket loves the beach more than anything else in the world.
Even when the tide is in, Portobello is a perfectly gorgeous place, but when it is out the dogs can go wild and spend their energy beans! A popular place for dogs, there’s always new puppy pals to be made, and you’re getting some nice fresh sea air in the bargain too.
When I was a student in Edinburgh, I never knew there was a beach a mere 20-minute ride away from me. I’ve made up for lost time now though, and we take every opportunity to visit here, and also drop into the Espy for a burger!
The beach tends to be more dog friendly towards Seafield on the western side. This is also where the headquarters for the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home sits, so if you don’t have a dog and would like one, make it your first call! They also offer free microchipping for your pet, and remember mandatory microchipping for dogs was introduced in the UK in April 2016.
On the eastern stretch of the beach towards Joppa - more usually in the summer - is where families will sit and enjoy the summer (which is normally a day sometime in August!).
You are free to roam the whole stretch of the beach at any time of the year with your dog, unlike some beaches in the rest of the UK.
Portobello also hosts festivals and events throughout the year that you might want your visit to coincide with.
A shop worth paying a visit to is the exceedingly dog friendly Harry’s Treats on Portobello High Street. Pick up some lovely home-made dog snacks to treat your favourite pal on your walk.
Do you have a favourite walk in Edinburgh you would like to share? Drop us a note in the comments!
Scotland is a superbly dog friendly country, so it should come as no surprise that you can take your dog into more places than other countries. Here are 7 of the more surprising things you can do with your dog in Scotland!
1. Go to the Cinema
We can cuddle up with our dogs on the sofa to watch a good film, so why not at the cinema too?
Glasgow’s Grosvenor Cinema in Ashton Lane lets you do just that in selected screenings. So far these have included Rock Dog, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Girl on the Train, with more planned for the future.
Taking your dogs to the cinema might just blow their minds - especially if they see a forty feet tall fantastic beast hunkering down on them! But what a lovely way to spend a couple of hours together.
Check out the Grosvenor’s Facebook page for details of upcoming dog friendly viewings. In the meantime, I am looking forward to:
2. Take your Dog to Jail
3. Go to the Pub
Going to the pub is a pretty standard activity, I’ll admit to that, and in Scotland, going with your dog is becoming increasingly common too.
Many visitors to the country however are often amazed at how many pubs and eateries allow dogs onto their premises, but it just helps to create a warm, cosy atmosphere, and can be the best thing in the world after a long walk!
You have so many dog friendly options in Scotland that the ever-useful Dugs n Pubs should be your first call to finding out what local drinkeries, eateries and other -eries you can visit with your four legged friend across the UK.
Most pubs won't let your pup pal on their seats, but laps and jackets tend to be okay. Always best to check with the bar first - they might even have doggy treats back there!
And if you are looking for somewhere to have a pint whilst bettering yourself, look no further than:
4. Appreciate some Modern Art (whilst having a pint)
In the funky Newington district of Edinburgh sits Summerhall. This gallery/performance space/brewery/pub used to be Edinburgh University’s Dick Vet School, where students training to be vets would come for some top notch education.
However after the vet school moved location, Summerhall became one of the most vibrant art scenes in the city, opening in 2011 and welcoming visitors all year round - but particularly exploding with popularity during most of Edinburgh’s festivals and their own events, like this one for gin lovers.
Dogs are made very welcome throughout the site. You can stroll around a gallery exhibition, take a coffee or even a burger and a pint in the bar with your pup, and the staff might even offer up a few doggie treats! A fantastic place to chill out after a walk around the Meadows park area, which is just on its doorstep.
5. Visit a Garden Centre
There was a time - and it wasn’t that long ago - when the idea of taking your dog into a garden centre was unheard of.
But times have moved on and along with large dog friendly garden centre chains like Dobbies, smaller independent retailers like Pentland Plants and Dunbar Garden Centre have started to allow well behaved dogs on leads into their stores. You will probably not be allowed into any food areas, but it’s still nice to be able to pop in for a quick garden shop.
Do keep an eye on anything accidentally spilled on the ground though - you wouldn’t want pup to snaffle something untoward.
6. Climb a Lighthouse
the town of Tucked away in the southwest of Scotland sits the town of Stranraer, on the shores of Loch Ryan. 15 minutes along from here is one of the most unusual hotels in the world - an old converted lighthouse that still works.
Dogs are welcome at the Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel, where you can live out your old dreams of being a lighthouse keeper (perhaps with a puppet dog?), if that’s your thing.
Personally, I would be quoting Chewin’ the Fat sketches and shouting “goanny no dae that” the whole time, so would be an ultimately unbearable guest.
Looks like a stunning place to spend time with the dog though! If you have been, let us know what you thought at the bottom of the page.
7. Take a Trip on the Hogwarts Express
Some of Scotland’s scenery can only be truly appreciated in style, and such is the case of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. A stunning sight to behold form any angle, it spans 1,000 feet and sits 100 feet off the ground taking in 21 arches. To see it from the ground is one thing, but to view it from inside a stream engine, however, is a whole new level of excitement.
The viaduct is well known by Harry Potter aficionados as it is a bridge the would-be witches and wizards have to cross on their steam train to get to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
It is possible to have a “medium family dog” on The Jacobite and travel in style over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, known to most of the world as the bridge seen in Harry Potter as the kids travel to Hogwarts. If you believe hard enough, you might be lucky and not get an earwax flavoured jelly bean in your packet.
Find out more about booking onto this train at West Coast Railways.
Have you got any tips for us on where we can take our dogs? Show off your knowledge and let us know in the comments for future blog posts.