If you’re looking for a unique experience in the Scottish capital, read on to discover more about Edinburgh’s historic cemeteries.
Tucked away in Edinburgh are five beautiful & unique spaces.
Places where you are moved by the beauty of sculpted monuments and charmed by inscriptions.
Open-air pockets of quiet in an otherwise bustling city. Spaces where you can reflect in silence. And surprisingly enough, they just happen to be graveyards!
Come and experience the tranquility of Edinburgh’s historic graveyards.
I’m fascinated by old graveyards and love to seek them out when traveling.
Especially in The UK, where there are some atmospheric spaces to experience.
There are lots of other gems across Europe too; like The Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow, Vienna’s Central Cemetery, The Certosa di Bologna Monumental Cemetery, and Milan’s Monumental Cemetery…just to name a few.
Reasons to Explore Edinburgh’s Historic Graveyards
What is unique and appealing about Edinburgh, is that there are so many historic grounds within walking distance of each other.
Right in the heart of it all, are greens spaces waiting for you to unplug and explore.
While they are each worthy of exploration, visiting them as a group gives you the opportunity to appreciate the history of Edinburgh as it moved from Medieval times into the Enlightened Georgian Era.
This contrast is one of the defining aspects of the landscape of Edinburgh and part of what makes the city unique in its World Heritage status.
Finding Inspiration in Edinburgh
I’m a huge advocate for well-being and passionately champion that travel is perfectly placed to enhance health & well-being.
And given the demands of today’s fast-paced world, it seems like everyone would use a bit more wellness travel.
A visit to Edinburgh’s historic cemeteries is the kind of contemplative experience that mixes the best a destination has to offer with wellness elements.
Things like the opportunity to expand your personal perspective, spend time in nature, and walk a few miles… all as you explore the local history.
Every trip to Edinburgh, I make some time to wander these beauties.
To escape to another time & place for a few hours and find some of the best views in the city.
So, here’s all you need to know to explore Edinburgh’s historic cemeteries on your next trip.
Exploring Edinburgh’s Historic Graveyards
This post explores the five graveyards of historic importance that are a part of the Edinburgh Graveyards Project.
Which is a community-lead revitalization project to promote and preserve the historic burial grounds.
These are ideal places to explore history, take a mindful photo walk, or simply break away from the crowds to be present as you enjoy the peace & quiet. It’s also an ideal activity for a slow travel weekend in Edinburgh.
St. Cuthbert’s Kirkyard
St. Cuthbert’s is the oldest of these five historic cemeteries.
It’s believed that there has been a church here for over 1300 years and burials have been taking place for over 1,000 years.
It’s largely hidden by trees and surprisingly quiet given its location in the city center.
The tree-lined paths provide a green oasis and it’s hauntingly beautiful and eerily peaceful.
But, perhaps the best feature here is the Edinburgh Castle that’s defensively perched on the volcanic rock above.
Be sure to take a moment, gaze up, and take in the atmospheric feel of it all. Let all of that history wash through you.
The “Royal Kirk” graveyard was established in 1687. It’s a lush green space that wraps around the Canongate Church.
Be sure to take a moment and marvel at the Medieval presence on one side of you, versus The Georgian & Victorian on the other side. And if you can, pass by at night when the church is all lit up. It’s quite stunning.
The Canongate Kirk Church offers free tours as well as trails & podcasts for your explorations. I liked the Enlightenment version.
Overcrowding in the 16th century lead to the establishment of Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Restrictions at the time meant that only the wealthiest families could erect memorials, leading to one of the best collections of funerary monuments in Scotland.
It’s also full of Harry Potter inspiration.
There are several graves here with character names from Harry Potter, to include Thomas Riddle and Cruikshanks.
And towering over the backside of the cemetery, are the turrets of George Heriot’s private school. Which are believed to have influenced JK Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts.
Panning across the landscape from the school to Edinburgh castle you feel that Harry Potter vibe.
It’s actually one of my favorite views in the city.
A springtime walk with the daffodils in bloom, the sun shining, and the birds chirping is mindful travel at its best.
Calton Old Burial Ground
Established in 1718, this walled cemetery is a small yet interesting treat.
Packed with large architecture and plenty of history, this quiet space is a thing of beauty.
The unexpected focal point is a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the corner.
Curiously, it’s the only monument to The American Civil War outside of the United States.
There are also fascinating headstones that belong to local tradesmen. Full of symbols and coded meaning, these gravestones draw your interest into another time & place. A world you can only imagine.
Calton New Burial Ground
New Calton was established in 1817, at the beginning of the Georgian Era.
This terraced space contains over 1,000 headstones, monuments, and tombs.
So, there are lots of detail for mindful exploration spanning this large area.
The well-designed landscape encompasses a gradual slope down a hill. Which along with a watchtower, is the unique feature of the graveyard.
New Calton is lush, green, and provides commanding views of Holyrood Park, The Palace of Holyroodhouse & The Parliament.
Besides curiously exploring the many structures here, definitely make a point to stop and revel in the views!
These cemeteries are tranquil green oases that harmoniously mix life and death.
The contrast of the lush green landscape alongside the weathered tombstones provides a truly unique opportunity to explore history and reflect on our place in that continuing story.
You can find free illustrated trail maps for all of Edinburgh’s historic cemeteries at Edinburgh Graveyards Project.
until the next time…
…live well – travel well – be well
More Scottish Inspiration…
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Explore The Necropolis: A Victorian Era Garden Cemetery
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10 Wellness Things To Do In London
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