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Green Spaces

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EDINBURGH. Green Spaces

One of the most attractive features of Edinburgh is that the countryside comes right into the city. Trees, flowers, hills, lochs are all there within the city boundaries, which extend from sea level to 450 m (1,500 feet).

Water of Leith

Edinburgh, surprisingly, has a trout stream, the Water of Leith, flowing through the city, from the Pentland Hills, where it rises, to the sea at Leith Docks. The river is 32 km (20 miles) long, and, at one time, no fewer than seventy mills were operated by its water. In 1621 the standard pint in Scotland, for all liquids, was the measure of ''three pounds Scots of water from the Water of Leith''.

Dean Village

One of the most picturesque parts of the river's course is at Dean Village, about five minutes walk from the west end of Princes Street. Here, the City have reconstructed some of the old houses, and there is a river walk to Stockbridge, past St Bernard's Well, a favourite retreat for sipping the mineral water in former times.

Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano, rises over 250 m (822 feet) from Holyrood Park. The ascent to its summit on springy turf, easier than it looks, is rewarding. The climber sees a wonderful panorama of Edinburgh and its immediate surroundings including the Pentland Hills and the Firth of Forth. A more leisurely way to enjoy the view is to take one of the City Coach Tours around the crags, past the three lochs, St Margaret's, Dunsapie and Duddingston. The origin of the name Arthur's Seat is obscure. It may have been derived from the name of Prince Arthur, who reigned over Strathclyde from 508 to 542; other theories are that it was derived from the Gaelic, Ard-na-Said, ''height of arrows'', or Ard-Thor, ''height of the god, Thunder''.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill, Waterloo Place, is another good viewpoint. The whole ridge of the Old Town as well as the whole length of Princes Street can be seen from this hill, which is 108 m (355 feet) above sea level. The Nelson Monument (17), shaped like a telescope, was erected during the years 1806-16 in memory of the famous Admiral. On top of the monument, which is 33 m (108 feet) high, the time ball ascends and descends at one o'clock (GMT) 13.00 hrs.

Other items of interest are the unfinished National Monument, begun as a copy of the Parthenon in Greece, the City Observatory and the monuments to Professor John Playfair, the mathematician, and Dugald Stewart, the philosopher. In the Old Calton Burial Ground, opposite the Calton Hill, stands a statue of Abraham Lincoln, a tribute to the President and the Scottish soldiers who died in the American Civil War. Nearby, at Regent Road (19), is the monument erected as a tribute to Robert Burns, the famous poet.

Duddingston Village

Duddingston Village has an old-world charm. The church, manse and churchyard lie tranquilly on the banks of Duddingston Loch, which is a bird sanctuary, at the foot of Arthur's Seat. At the gate of the 12th century church can be seen jougs (the iron collar and chain used centuries ago to punish evil-doers), a loupin-on stave (to help old or obese horsemen in the old days), and a resurrectionist watch tower (to guard against body-snatchers in the graveyard, another ancient precaution).

Princes Street Gardens

East and West Princes Street Gardens provide attractive open spaces in the heart of the city. At the Ross Open Air Theatre, in West Princes Street Gardens, entertainment is provided during the summer season. This ranges from variety shows and band performances to exhibitions of piping and Scottish dancing. There are frequent open-air dancing sessions when the visitor can take part in Scottish and other dancing.

Norwegian Boulder

An eight-ton, 900-million-year-old commemorative boulder from Vassfaret, Southern Norway, is positioned in the Gardens between the Ross Fountain and the Open Air Theatre. It was provided in 1978 by the Norwegian Army as a memorial to the hospitality they received while based in Britain during the Second World War.

Floral Clock

The Floral Clock, at the east end of West princes Gardens, is the oldest floral clock in the world, having been built in 1903. A cuckoo pops out to mark every quarter-hour, and the flowers are frequently changed, the arrangements often indicating some important current event in the city. The hands measure approximately 2.4 m (8 ft) and 1.5 m (5 ft) respectively. The circumference of the clock is 10.8 m (36 ft); diameter 3.5 m (11 ft 10 in). When filled with plants the large hand weighs about 36 kg (80 Ib) and the small one 23 kg 50 Ib). A variety of flower and foliage plants, approximately 24,000 altogether, are used in the design.

In West Princes Street Gardens are two impressive war memorials, one ''The Royal Scots'', a modern tribute in sculpture to the oldest Regiment of the Line in the British Army. The other, the Scottish-American War Memorial, was erected by Americans of Scottish blood and sympathies as a tribute to Scottish soldiers who died in the 1914-18 war.

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden, at Inverleith Row has a world-famous rock garden, unique exhibition plant houses showing a great range of exotic plants displayed as indoor landscapes and a plant exhibition hall displaying many aspects of botany and horticulture. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is in the Royal Botanic Garden and displays of modern sculpture add interest to the lawns in front of the Gallery. From the Botanic Garden (Arboretum Road exit) the visitor can cross to the extensive Inverleith Park, where attractions include a pond for model boats, a children's playground, tennis courts and bowling greens.

Saughton Rose Garden

The Saughton Rose Garden, in the western suburbs of Edinburgh at the corner of Gorgie Road and Balgreen Road, is well worth a visit. In addition to a magnificent display of roses in season, there are, also, a large dahlia garden, an Italian garden, a scented garden (for the benefit of blind people), and many varied herbaceous borders.

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