Edinburgh Photography Guide :
Edinburgh, Scotland is no secret. And there is good reason for that. Visiting the Scottish capital is like jumping off a diving board into a pool of history, drama and architecture. From the Old Town to the New Town, from Arthur’s Seat to Calton Hill, Edinburgh is a feast for the eyes and the senses.
In a city as beautiful as Edinburgh, there are so many incredible places to take photographs. And while you won’t be the first person to visit these locations with a camera, you will have the opportunity to interpret Edinburgh through you’re your own lens and that’s all any of us can ask for.
And what’s extra awesome, the locations discussed in this blog post are all within striking distance by foot for a reasonably fit person.
The Royal Mile actually consists of four connecting streets that gently slope downwards from an extinct volcano. If you start your walk along Royal Mile at its highest point (Edinburgh Castle) and continue down towards Holyrood Palace at its eastern end, you will pass down Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and finally Canongate.
There are many unique and very drool worthy photograph locations along the Royal Mile, as well as opportunities to photograph the many street entertainers.
Tip: Don’t forget to explore the “Closes” or alleys along the Royal Mile. My favourtie is Lady Stairs Close where the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum is located.
Princes Street Views
Princes Street is the major thoroughfare in central Edinburgh and runs between the Old Town and the New Town to the North of Princes Street Gardens. There is no one photography spot along Princes Street, but rather a series of amazing locations, amazing sights and amazing architecture. The views of the Old Town and the Edinburgh Castle are there best from Princes Street.
Tip: During the day, climb the Walter Scott Monument with your camera. The views are unbeatable. Plus it’s pretty cool climbing the narrow stairs. But if you don’t like tight spots, then this may not be the place for you.
The New Town is a central area of Edinburgh and located on the north side of Princes Street Gardens. A masterpiece of city planning it, along with the Old Town, are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. George Street provides the grandest set of buildings in the New Town and it is well worth a walk in the evening when the buildings are lit up for the night.
Tip: Café Royal is one of the most beautiful pubs in Scotland. It is located close to the Balmoral Hotel just up an alley from the Scottish Records Centre.
The Mound is an artificial hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland, which connects Edinburgh’s New and Old Towns. It is the location of the National Gallery of Scotland and its terrace café. The spot has fantastic views of Princes Street Gardens and the Walter Scott Monument and is a good place to photograph these sights.
Tip: Princes Street Gardens are closed at night so it’s best to photograph in the park area first and then head up to the Mound last as this location remains open all night.
Calton Hill is located in central Edinburgh at the east end of Princes Street. Some of the most famous photographs of Edinburgh are taken from Calton Hill with its expansive sightlines towards the Old Town. But what’s unique about Calton Hill is the number of historical buildings and monuments on or around the hill which really provide an amazing foreground anchors for those city vista images. The Dugald Stewart Monument may be the most famous of these. Use them to your advantage.
Tip: While shooting towards the Old Town at sunset don’t forget to turn around and look at the scene behind you. Photographers often get dialed in on a particular view and don’t realize amazing things might be happening right over their shoulders.
Victoria Street was built in the early 1800s to improve access to the Old Town. Now it’s probably prohibiting access as its jam packed full of photographers. Its curving architecture and colourful shopfronts make it the perfect place to get a sore neck by just taking it all in!
Tip: Try photographing from Victoria Terrace to get an elevated view, and while you’re there grab a pint.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the main place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Surrounded by a larger square, St Giles’ Cathedral is also a meeting spot for tourists to gather and street performers to sell their unique performances. Visit St Giles’ Cathedral to view its beautiful interior and its amazing blue roof. The good news is that for a two pound fee, you can use your tripod inside.
Tip: Don’t miss the amazing Thistle Chapel that is tucked in at the far corner. Its easy to miss, but if you have a camera in your hand you don’t want that to happen.
Circus Lane is a destination of choice for many photographers. Its quaint cobbled streets leading in a slow arch with a church spire in the distance make this uniquely photographable.
Tip: I have been told that there is no parking here weekdays. I found this out after I was here, so chose your day wisely if you don’t want cars in your shot.
Dean Village is a former village immediately northwest of the city centre of Edinburgh close to the New Town. It is a former milling centre and sits on the Water of Leith, a small stream that runs out to the ocean.
Tip: Spend some time walking around and shooting multiple locations. This is a place where you may find some unique angles. The main spot is along the small foot bridge.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is more commonly known as Holyrood Palace. It remains the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Holyrood Palace is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh at the opposite end of the Royal Mile as Edinburgh Castle.
Tip: If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee you can shoot through the gates on the left of the Queen’s Gallery looking toward Holyrood Palace.
Edinburgh Castle is a massive fortress which sits on the Castle Rock and dominates the skyline of Edinburgh, Scotland. Unless your facing away from Edinburgh Castle, its almost certain to be in any photography you take.
Tip: The best way to photograph Edinburgh Castle is outside rather than inside and usually at night when the castle is lit for a short period of time.
The Vennel off the Grassmarket in Edinburgh is another beautiful location. It’s European charm and dramatic view of Edinburgh Castle make this a popular destination for photographers.
Tip: I have been told its best visited at sunset. Unfortunately, I have yet to get that opportunity. But hey, that’s my reason to go back to Edinburgh right!
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
When we visit Edinburgh, we stay at the Apex Waterloo Place. It’s a great hotel but perfectly located at the bottom of Calton Hill, close to both the New Town and the Old Town and only steps from Waverly Station. It is a great location to base yourself if you are interested in getting the most of your photography in Edinburg.