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The grass and trees among the stone and brick

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Princes Street Garden
Holyrood Park
Royal Botanic Garden
Altogether Edinburgh has 144 different parks, adding up to almost 15 square kilometres of green space. The most immediately obvious of these is the Princes Street Garden, as it takes up an entire half of the city's busiest boulevard. It's also one of the first things people see as they step out of the train station. Once upon a time this area used to be a lake, but it has since been filled in, and stuffed full of lawns, flowers, statues and monuments. All this is within the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
Just a mile up the road is Holyrood Palace, another major landmark. This too is next door to one of the city's green spaces. It's called Holyrood Park, although the name "Queen's Park" is also sometimes used as the land is owned by the monarchy. Despite being in a relatively central location, this is an absolutely huge place, with 2-and-a-half square kilometres of hills, cliffs and lakes. The most arresting sight is Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that towers over the city. At 251 metres tall, it's the highest point in Edinburgh. From certain angles it supposedly looks like a lion. Don't be scared about approaching though - it's a relatively easy climb, and the views from the top are worth it.

Arthur's Seat from the castle
Photo blondyimp
The most well organised of the capital's parks is the Royal Botanic Garden. To find it you have to go a kilometre or two out of the centre, but that journey is rewarded with a slice of greenery to rival anywhere in Britain. It grows nearly 15,000 different species, which is around 5% of the world's total. The many highlights include the Rock Garden, the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden and the biggest collection of Chinese plants outside of China. The Palm House is the tallest in Britain, despite being over 150 years old. Inside, the balmy temperature provides home for all sorts of unusual species.

Royal Botanic Garden
Photo chakchouka
The further out of the city you go, the more plant life you can find. Three kilometres south of the centre is Blackford Hill, which offers a superb view back over Edinburgh's chimneys and rooftops. This is the location of the Royal Observatory, an institution that's responsible for the discovery of 7 different asteroids.
Just next to Blackford is the Hermitage of Braid, a charming area with plenty of walking opportunities. In the 18th century Hermitage House, there's a visitor centre with information and maps of the local surroundings. Curious explorers will find interesting sights, such as an icehouse and an old water pump.
On the western side of the city is Corstorphine Hill, a quiet space in the suburbs. On its southern slope is Edinburgh Zoo, the second-most popular attraction in Scotland after the castle. It was the first zoo in the world to breed penguins, and is still the only one in Britain to house koala bears. These creatures are usually found in the trees of Australia - but if one were to escape, there's probably enough greenery in Edinburgh for it to feel right at home.
Visitor Information
The Royal Botanic Garden is open daily from 10am to 6pm (4pm in Winter). Entry is FREE (Glasshouses entry costs around £5 for adults, £2 children). Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR. Tel: 0131 552 7171

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