As an Edinburgh photographer born and bred, I am 100% biased… But this city is hard to beat. Full of old-world charm, there is no shortage of vibrant Edinburgh photography spots. You’ll rarely find mysterious alleyways and stone cottages encased in crags, waterways, and mountains anywhere else.
It’s a city that will keep any photographer busy for years. There are so many subjects and vantage points to choose from, not to mention the changing weather and vast opportunities that each sunrise and sunset brings into your composition.
What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you’re into landscape or street photography, Edinburgh can do it all. In this article, I’m going to cover the best Edinburgh photo locations you don’t want to miss out on.
Calton Hill offers up one of the best views in Edinburgh.
It’s also the postcard representation of the city. The hill overlooks the entire town, including Princess Street, which is the direction of the castle. Within that view is the Dugald Stewart monument, which makes for a wonderful shot.
Calton Hill is particularly breathtaking at sunset. You don’t want to miss that perfect shot of the sun disappearing behind the Edinburgh Castle as the day turns into night.
Dean Village is a brief stroll past the city centre yet it feels far removed from the bustle. The village offers up an enchanting and picturesque scene of colourful buildings resembling that of a fairytale. It truly is a place that time has forgotten.
The street that leads down to the Water of Leith river is known as Hawthornbank Lane. It’s recognisable by its cobbled street and beautiful yellow buildings. Across the river bank is a substantial 19th-century bridge that shuttles traffic to and from, and if you follow the stream far enough, you’ll reach a waterfall.
If you’re looking to capture some super Instagrammable content, you’ve got to stop off in Circus Lane. Despite it being so central, there’s a feeling of escape when you wander down here.
Circus Lane, just a few minutes from Stockbridge, is an old cobbled street with beautiful mews at either side. The iconic shot here is facing down the street toward St Stephen’s Cathedral. In the summer months, there are lots of beautiful plants and flowers decorating the street.
Princes Street Gardens lies beneath Edinburgh Castle. The gardens serve as a large public park that runs parallel to Princes Street, divided into east and west by the castle’s mound.
Before it was the garden grounds, it was the Nor Loch defensive lake. The Nor Loch sat before the castle until the 18th century. It was, unfortunately, severely polluted lake thanks to the medieval sewage and waste during the period.
Today the Princes Street Gardens provide a peaceful and beautiful aesthetic, hosting both the castle and the Ross Fountain for your photographic pleasure. The Gardens are incredibly photogenic during the New Year as fireworks are launched over the castle in celebration, but the ambience nearly any time of year makes the Gardens a worthwhile visit.
The Royal Mile is one of Edinburgh’s most famous streets. It runs from the Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is just under a mile. It’s also made up of five streets that come together rather than only one straightforward street.
There are a ton of photo opportunities here that you don’t want to miss out on, including the White Horse Close, the castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse—which is the official residence of the Queen of Scotland. You can take photos from outside the castle and the palace’s gates, but it’s better to purchase tickets and get a closer look (and a tour!).
The Scott Monument is situated directly above the Princes Street Gardens and on Princess Street. The monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, and it’s the largest monument that’s ever been dedicated to a writer in the entire world.
The monument comes with a lot of frame potential. You can use the arches’ curves to frame the statue of Sir Scott or the trees around it to frame the entire monument. There’s a fairground set up in front of the monument with rides, games, and lights during Christmas time, providing an excellent opportunity for long exposure.
The Salisbury Crags are located in Holyrood Park, which is a large royal park just south of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You’ll find an endless number of vantage points from here—not to mention a breathtaking view of the city.
You’ll encounter three lochs, the extinct volcanic peak known as Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. The Crags are a series of 150-foot basalt column cliffs that give you the perfect view of the Edinburgh skyline. It’s safe to say that sunrise and sunset will lend the necessary magic to your photographs from here.
Victoria Street is probably the most colourful of all Edinburgh’s colourful streets. Victoria Street curves around the Grassmarket, taking you from the lowest point in the city up to the George IV Bridge and the Royal Mile.
Towering above and behind the colourful shops that curve around the cobblestone streets are Edinburgh’s old stone buildings, making for a beautiful contrast in your photos. It’s also believed that Victoria Street was the inspiration behind Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
The Vennel Steps serve as the passageway between the gables of two buildings leading up to the Edinburgh Castle. They lead you away from the Grassmarket up to Heriot Place, away from the castle.
However, if you turn around from the top of the steps, you’re offered a unique vantage point of the castle, complemented by the alleyway. It’s a great location both day and night, but it’s especially photogenic during the night under the street lights.
Blackford Hill is just south of the city centre and is home to the Edinburgh Royal Observatory, an ancient hill fort, and a spectacular view of the city. If you want to get that perfect postcard shot of the entire city, including the castle, this is where you want to go.
Any time of the day is suitable to get a shot of Edinburgh from Blackford Hill. However, sunset offers up a priceless glow as the city begins to light up. Sunrise is also particularly breathtaking as you capture the quiet moments of Arthur’s Seat in the city’s background.
Edinburgh is an incredibly popular city. If you’re planning a trip there, be sure to give yourself enough time to explore and bring the right gear to capture those unforgettable moments at their fullest potential.
There is no shortage of amazing spots to take photos in Edinburgh. Have I missed a favourite of yours? If so, leave a comment below and I’ll take a look at adding it to the list.