Scotland’s capital city is best known for its rolling, green hills; ancient Old Town architecture; and gracious New Town gardens. Home to Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and the Royal Mile, Edinburgh is as picturesque a place as any. Explore the city with us, and don’t forget your camera!
The Royal Mile
Traverse Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, which runs down the city’s main thoroughfare and comprises the backbone of its Old Town. The road connects Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is an iconic introduction to this famous city. Visit in the early morning as the sun rises over the cobblestones, before the crowds descend. Photograph down the center of the street and be sure to capture the area’s architecture and spires. If you can, photograph from the window of a nearby building to catch a bird’s-eye view for a different perspective.
Located on the east end of Princes Street, Calton Hill is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a viewpoint from which to survey the splendor of Edinburgh. The most well-known view of the city, often immortalized on paintings and postcards, can be captured from this iconic location, so don’t miss it!
Calton Hill is home to a number of monuments influenced by Greek architecture, and is especially photogenic while the sun is setting. An hour before sunset, climb the hill (it’ll take you about 15 minutes) and set up a tripod to capture the ancient buildings of Edinburgh glowing in the early-evening light.
Located on the craggy cliffs of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle has been a presence in the city’s skyline since ancient times — the 1100s, to be exact. The castle has weathered many of Scotland’s most famous conflicts and is emblematic of the city itself.
Photograph the castle from afar, using a wide-angle lens to capture its sprawling grandeur, or climb up to Castle Rock yourself for a close-up view of the castle’s architectural features. We recommend that you shoot in the early morning or late afternoon for beautiful lighting and an absence of harsh shadows that creep up during midday.
This tiny village, located northwest of Edinburgh’s city centre, was also known as the “Water of Leith Village” because it was home to a grain-milling operation for nearly 1,000 years. Propelled by the Water of Leith, the village prospered until the development of larger and more powerful mills. Now, Dean Village is a picturesque town, just waiting to be photographed. Stroll through its narrow streets and take photos from varying angles to capture the old architecture. Be sure to photograph the Water of Leith, which still flows through the village. If you can, find a higher vantage point to capture the village’s red roofs, which are covered in moss.
Victoria Street is one of the most popular photography sights in Edinburgh — and for good reason! The curve of the street and its pastel-colored storefronts make it a fun photography location.
Put a unique twist on your photos of Victoria Street by varying your perspective — get down low to capture the curve of the street or shoot in the early morning or early evening to get the prettiest hues of light on the colorful buildings. The possibilities are endless when photographing this historic Edinburgh landmark, and you’re bound to end up with a handful of gorgeous shots.
Old Town closes
Edinburgh’s Old Town features a single main road (now commonly called the Royal Mile) with many small alleyways that branch off and lead to residential areas. These alleyways, referred to by Scots as “closes,” are both charming reminders of Edinburgh’s medieval past and fantastic photo opportunities.
Photograph the view of the city through the doorway of a close, or capture the sunset or sunrise in the same way. Use the closes to frame a specific scene, or even a portrait. Always use the light to your advantage and get the best shot!
Gardens and graveyards
For some shots of Scotland’s most gorgeous gardens and graveyards, head to Warriston Cemetery, Old Calton Burial Ground, or Greyfriars Kirkyard, which are among the many sites open to visitors (and their cameras). Explore the lush, green gardens and the ancient stone crypts of Edinburgh’s cemeteries while paying attention to the intricate Celtic carvings on the tombstones and the statues that accompany the graves. Visit in the early morning to catch the first rays of sun and the mist that hang in the foggy, Scottish air. As always, be respectful while photographing.
Pubs and storefronts
If there’s one thing you’ll see a lot of in Edinburgh, it’s good-old Scottish pubs. Be sure to photograph the charming exteriors of pubs like the White Hart Inn or the Black Bull, which have beautifully painted faces, traditional leaded-glass windows, and hanging flower baskets.
Duck inside for a pint — or two — and be sure to calibrate your camera to accommodate the low lighting. You won’t want to miss photographing the dark, wood-paneled interiors, or the tiled floors, taps, and general atmosphere of each unique pub.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Also referred to as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St Giles’ Cathedral is not to be excluded from your visit to the city. You won’t be able to miss it, either; the cathedral’s steeple is a staple of Edinburgh’s skyline. Stroll down the Royal Mile and admire the 14th century Gothic architecture while photographing from afar with a wide-angle lens.
Enter the cathedral and prepare to be entranced by its stunning interior: cavernous vaulted ceilings, magnificent stained glass, and incredible lighting. Calibrate your camera to shoot in low light and be sure to capture the view down the central corridor of the church with a wide-angle lens. Tilt your camera up to capture the architecture above. Note that you may have to make a small donation in order to photograph the cathedral’s interior.
The view from Arthur’s Seat
Outdoor adventurers should head to Holyrood Park, where Arthur’s Seat (a large hill) is the biggest of an extinct volcano site of the same name. The area holds protected geology, grassland habitats, rare animal species, and unique plants.
Arthur’s Seat is also the perfect location to view the rest of Edinburgh. Head to the hill early in the morning or late in the afternoon to catch photos of the sun shining on the wild grasslands and the city beneath. Be sure to utilize a wide-angle lens to capture the view in its entirety!
Often referred to as Edinburgh’s prettiest street, Circus Lane lives up to its reputation with its gently curving street and quaint, vine-covered houses. Photograph from varying perspectives to snap different views of the street, road, and tower beyond. Capture the area in the early morning to avoid harsh shadows that will fall during midday, or when people are out and about to add some human interest into your frames. Whichever way you choose to photograph this scenic location, you’re bound to capture its charm.
Head to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area, an ancient market and present-day town square, then make your way to the Vennel. After climbing a short set of stairs, you’ll find yourself in an entirely unique part of Edinburgh with one of the best views in the city.
Gaze back over the steps you’ve just climbed, and see a picture-perfect view of the square and Edinburgh Castle. Turn your camera and get some long, vertical shots of the compressed view. Utilize perspective, depth of field, and focus — capture smaller details up close or highlight the breathtaking castle backdrop. Visit as the sun sets to photograph the castle in a magnificent glow.