Like most beautiful, bustling, waggly-tail-populated cities, Edinburgh is packed with dog-friendly activities right on your doorstep. Yet sometimes you want to go further, see more, and, well, sniff more. With both a coastline and hilly regional parks at your disposal, Edinburgh is a sweetshop of potential days out with your little buddy. So, where to go? The following six dog-friendly attractions are our pick of beach, hidden urban finds, and blow-away-the-cobwebs country walks. Leads, ready!
1. South Queensferry to Cramond walk
Address & map: Hawes Pier, South Queensferry EH30 9TB
A gorgeous shoreside walk for dogs who start wiggling the second they see a pair of Wellies. This 4.5-mile route takes you from Hawes Pier in South Queensferry to the seaside village of Cramond, passing by the Forth Bridge and two key points of interest. The first is Hound Point–a headland that’s said to be haunted by the ghost of a dog, following its owner’s death during a crusade in the Middle East. (Listen on a stormy day and rumour has it that sad canine cries will be heard). A less spooky, but no less dramatic vintage point is Dalmeny House–a stunning estate that allows dogs into its manicured grounds. Finish this dog-friendly day out at Cramond Beach, which is especially striking at low tide when you can walk out to Cramond Island. Allow enough time to get back (text CRAMOND to 81400 for tidal information), and pack a towel: these sandy mud flats have a dirty mind when it comes to fluffy dog fur.
2. Harlaw Reservoir
Address & Map: Harlaw House Visitor Centre, 27 Marchbank Gardens, Balerno EH14 7AS
Funny how dogs are interested in all water except for your shower, isn’t it? Harlaw Reservoir is classic paw-splashing territory, suitable for open-water swimming for dogs and dog-parents, alike. Just be careful for bouts of poisonous blue-green algae during the summer months. Outside of the water, it’s not just about who can soak the most people when they shake. There are accessible, flat paths that deviate off into the surrounding forest: filling your lungs full of fresh air, and offering up some sneaky squirrel-chasing opportunities for your soggy pal. Overall, this quick-to-get-to patch of nature offers welcome respite from city life. Continue the countryside vibes with a refreshment stop in dog-friendly pub, The Riccarton Inn in nearby Currie. Dogs are allowed in the bar provided they’re kept on a lead, and don’t try to serve themselves a pint. As if you’d teach them that, right. Er, right?
3. Portobello Beach
Address & map: 1 Promenade, Portobello, Edinburgh EH15 2DX
Locals may be biased, but the word (and woof) on Portobello’s seafront promenade is that it’s the most dog-friendly place in Scotland. Look at, well, anybody’s hand, and it’s likely to have at least one dog lead in it. If the swathes of golden sand don’t swing it for you, then Portobello’s high street will. Many independent shops allow well-behaved doggos inside and have bowls of water outside. There’s even a dog bakery called Harry’s Treats, selling toys and gourmet nibbles such as game sausage and biscuits made of haggis, neeps and tatties. Back on the seafront, the popular food truck, Crumbs of Portobello, sells liver cake for pups alongside human goodies including crepes, waffles and bacon baguettes. Fancy something stiffer? Drop into dog-friendly pub, The Esplanade Bar & Restaurant (known locally as “The Espy”), for a beer, a burger and some dog banter with your new canine crew. As far as dog-friendly family days out go, Edinburgh’s eastern suburb of Portobello is like the Crufts of coastlines.
4. Glencorse Reservoir
Address & map: Flotterstone EH26 0PP
Over the other side of the Pentland Hills Park from Harlaw Reservoir lies Glencorse Reservoir, a great dog-friendly attraction that’s around a 40-minute drive from Edinburgh city centre. Start the walk by the Ranger Centre in Flotterstone, where there’s a free car park and a traditional, dog-welcoming pub called the Flotterstone Inn. Getting to the reservoir itself requires a bit of exercise, but it’s worth it: the surrounding hills are spectacular–all open, rolling moorland–meaning there’s lots of room for off-lead running. Dogs love rolling in the heather (well, let’s call it “heather”…sometimes code for “sheep poo”); while in winter, expect snow. With lots of little paths crisscrossing the area, shake up your dog walks each visit, or use it for ever-changing running routes. Glencorse has fantastic jogging tracks, where you can clock up anything from a few miles to around 20 if you loop all the way round to Harlaw, or access the hills in between. Sightseeing tip: look out for the Iron Age fort on Castlelaw Hill.
5. Murals at Colinton Tunnel
Address & map: Edinburgh EH13 0JX
There was once a time when you’d do your best to avoid a day out that involved Colinton Tunnel–an area that had fallen out of favour since its railway line closed in the 1960s. But an exciting urban regeneration project is now completely transforming the derelict space into an art attraction in its own right. Inspired by a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, a team of muralists are turning over 80 metres of tunnel wall into bright and vibrant street art that tells the story of a child’s excitement when travelling by rail. When completed in 2020, it will be Scotland’s largest historical mural: packed with references to Colinton’s past, and the perfect spot for a muddy riverside dog walk with an Instagram-worthy backdrop to boot. LED lighting has been added, and early surveys show that footfall has already increased by 10%. It’s a memorable city stroll for dog lovers, art fans and photography geeks.
6. Yellowcraig Beach
Address & map: Ware Rd, North Berwick EH39
Yellowcraig Beach (also known as Broad Sands Bay) is one of East Lothian’s best beaches for dogs–a wide natural cove, with a long stretch of golden-syrup-coloured sand, just east of North Berwick. It’s popular for human dips in summer, and epic dog strolls in winter; there’s even a designated dog route with waste bins. Pups might be oblivious to any view beyond the inside of the hole they’re digging, but the skyline is a treat for humans: you’ll spot a lighthouse on a little island called Fidra that was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. There are also shallow rock pools, footpaths that form part of the John Muir Way (an impressive 134-mile route created in commemoration of conservationist John Muir), and a BBQ area. Got sand everywhere you could imagine, and then some? Dust off in the village of Dirleton. Dogs are allowed in the 13th-century castle there, as long as they steer clear of roofed areas. Then grab lunch in the dog-friendly Castle Inn, where pooches can hang out in the garden room and beer garden. Just give those paws a shake first.
Edinburgh’s vast array of parks and out-of-town activities is enough to make your dog twitch in their sleep. But life isn’t all chasing rabbits: sometimes there are day trips when the pooch simply can’t come along. On those occasions, let Rover.com’s reliable dog sitters and dog walkers in Edinburgh step in. They are excited to spend time by your dog’s side, providing company and exercise when you can’t be in two places at once.
Featured image: @fin_fundog