Circular Walk to Duddingston Village

This circular walk to Duddingston Village will take you approximately three hours. Easy walking along established footpaths with a few hidden gems along the way. This route is highly recommended.

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village – Start of the Walk

My walk today starts in the High Street outside St Giles Cathedral. I live close to the centre of town and decided to walk through the Grassmarket and up Victoria Street to start the walk. As I was about to cross the road I noticed a man standing with a stick. Obviously struggling to get across the busy road. I asked him if he would like some assistance. “Aye I wouldn’t mind” he said. As I helped him across the road he told me that he had recently had a hip operation. He had come all the way from Balerno, parked his car in Johnson Terrace car park and was trying to get to St Giles where he was a volunteer. I admired his determination to get back to full fitness after his operation

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
St Giles Cathedral and the start of the walk
Heart of Midlothian
The Heart of Midlothian

Just outside St Giles Cathedral you will find the “Heart Of Midlothian”. This mosaic outside St Giles marks the location of the old Tolbooth demolished in 1817. Locals will often spit on the heart as they think it brings them good luck. However it was originally a sign of disdain for the executions which took place in the Tolbooth. Behind St Giles is the Court of Session and Old Parliament Hall

Court of session Building and Old Parliament Hall
Court of Session and Old Parliament Hall

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village – Onwards down the Royal Mile

Continue down the Royal Mile with the Tron Kirk on your right. Cross the road at the traffic lights and continue down past John Knox’s House on your left. Walk toward the next set of traffic lights with the World’s End Pub on your right.

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Continue down the Royal Mile with the Tron Kirk on the right
John Knox's House Royal Mile
John Knox’s House

At the lights take a right and continue down St Mary’s Street to the next set of lights. Cross the road and proceed up the hill. Look out for the remains of the old Flodden Wall on your right.

At the top of the hill you will come to the Pleasance. This is part of Edinburgh University Sports Gym during term time. However the Pleasance is also a comedy venue during the annual Edinburgh Fringe. Many a successful comedy career has been launched here, or crashed and burned.

Pleasance Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
The Pleasance
Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Look for this sign

At this point I have to agree that up past the Pleasance and St Leonards is not the most attractive part of Edinburgh but stick with me as you are in for a few treats. Keep walking up this road until you come to a sign marked ‘Crags Sports Centre, Pollock Halls and Holyrood’. Take a left down Bowmont Place which is a cobbled street. at the bottom of the street take a right following the sign for Pollock Halls and Musselburgh. On the way you will pass Holyrood Distillery one of many small independent distilleries which have set up in the Edinburgh area. Beer drinkers may want to stop at the distillery shop.

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Follow the sign for Pollock Halls

Follow the path along Hermits Croft and then vere left under the three bridges and down through the Innocent Railway Tunnel. The tunnel is well lit and is used daily by walkers and cyclists.

Circular walk to Duddingston Village
Walk under the bridges and into the tunnel

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village – The Innocent Railway

The innocent Railway was one of the first railways to be built in Scotland. ‘Innocent’ was a nickname as the carriages were originally horse drawn. The tunnel was the first railway tunnel to be built in Scotland. Edinburgh in the 18th and 19th centuries consumed large amounts of coal mined in Midlothian. The railway was constructed to bring the coal to the coal yards at St Leonards. This was used to heat the homes of the city’s residents and to power the industries such as brewing, distilling, printing and rubber. The effect of so much coal led to smog. Edinburgh was known as “Auld Reekie” or old smoky. The name came from poems written by the poet Allan Ramsay.

Innocent Railway tunnel
Innocent Railway Tunnel

If you would like to know more about the history of the railway then click this link

As you exit the tunnel, continue down the path through a wooded area. With the crags above on the left, yellow gorse and sheep in the field, you could easily be in the north of Scotland. Instead you are actually only a half hour walk from the city centre. If you look to the left you get your first glimpse of Duddingston Loch.

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
To your left the crags rise above you and there are sheep in the field

At the end of the track you come to an original cast iron bridge taking the railway over a small burn.

Old Iron Bridge Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
The Old Cast Iron Bridge from the railway

Circular Walk – Duddingston Village

At the end of the track cross the road at the crossing and take a left. Proceed up the road towards Duddingston Village. Although the road is busy there is a good pavement to walk on. As you turn the corner you will see the shores of the loch on your left.

The old part of the village is accessed by a road turning off to the left (Old Church Lane). Look for a large blue sign for Duddingston Kirk. The church is at the end of the street on your left.

Duddingston Kirk

The old kirk dates from the 12th century. The fine original romanesque doorway and chancel arch still remain today. There is a 17th century ‘loupin-on-stane which was designed to help horsemen mount. Walter Scott an elder of the kirk wrote ‘Heart of Midlothian’ in the manse garden.

Duddingston Kirk Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Duddingston Kirk

Dr Neil’s Garden

Dr Neil’s garden is well worth a visit. it is at the back of the church and entrance is through a gate in the wall just before you come to the church. It is now maintained by a trust and you are asked for a donation of £3 at the gate. It is well worth the small fee.

Dr Neil's Garden Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Dr Neil’s Garden

Dr Andrew Neil and Dr Nancy Neil were my GP’s when I first came to Edinburgh. He was a very nice guy with a good bedside manner. I couldn’t say the same for his wife.

The Sheep Heid Pub

Every walk should have the option of some liquid refreshment or some good food. If you are looking for a pint in a traditional scottish pub then you have come to the right place. The Sheep Heid is one of the oldest pubs in Scotland dating back to the 14th century. In 1580 King James V1 presented the landlord with an embellished rams head. Rumour has it that its the local for the royal family when in residence at Holyrood.

Sheep Heid Pub
The Sheep Heid Pub

I spent an enjoyable night playing skittles in the skittles ally with work colleagues when I worked for ASA back in 2010. They were a great bunch of people. We had a real needle match between two very competitive teams. I left the company a month later to take up another appointment. Shame we couldn’t have a rematch.

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village
Path from the Sheep Heid
Steps from Duddingston to Holyrood Park
A climb up these steps is a good work out after a few pints

From the pub walk down the narrow lane with high walls on either side. at the bottom of the lane you will find a path with steps up on your right. Proceed up the steps. I always think this is an excellent work out after you have consumed a few pints at the Sheep Heid! Don’t forget to look back. You will be treated to an excellent view of the loch and the church.

Duddingston Kirk and Duddingston Loch
Don’t forget to look back for the view of Duddingston Kirk and the loch

At the top of the steps you will come to the roadway round Holyrood Park. Take a right and walk down toward Dunsapie Loch. Dunsapie Loch was featured on BBC Springwatch as an otter had been spotted swimming in the loch. I have been to the loch a few times since and haven’t managed to spot it yet. Maybe the thought of Chris Packham and a camera crew scared the animal off!

Dunsapie Loch
Dunsapie Loch

If you look to your left there are a number of paths taking you up the hill. If you want to climb Arthur’s Seat this is the best route. Every year I see a constant procession of people climbing up the narrow path on west side. I am not surprised that accidents occur. Its senseless when there is a far easier route.

From Dunsapie Loch continue down the path. As you walk you are treated to a splendid view right down the Firth of Forth towards Berwick Law. The island you see is Inchkeith.

St Margaret Loch and St Anthony’s Chapel

At the bottom of the path you come to St Margarets Loch. The loch always has a number of Swans, Geese and Ducks who seem to live on the old mouldy bread thrown to them by endless numbers of children.

St Margarets Loch and St Anthony's Chapel
St Margaret’s Loch and St Anthony’s Chapel

Above the loch is the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel. Very little is known about the chapel. It is thought that the orginal building could date back to the 1300’s. References were found to grants paid for repairs by the pope in 1426.

More recently it has been a favoured spot for wedding ceremonies. When we had our self catering cottage we were contacted by two Americans who were park rangers. They were attracted to our place because of its vicinity to Holyrood Park. They said they were getting married and the ceremony was to take place at St Anthony’s Chapel. What a great idea, I thought. The couple returned to stay with us a year later and said they were coming to Edinburgh to get married. I was confused, I was under the impression that they had been married the previous year. I later found that the ceremony had taken place but they could not officially get married as the groom was still married to someone else!

Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament

Follow the path along the main park road toward Holyrood Palace. This is the monarchs main residence when she comes to Scotland (once a year in July). Other members of the royal family use the apartments when they are on official visits to Scotland.

Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace H M Queen’s official residence in Scotland

On the opposite side of the road is the parliament building.

Scottish Parliament Building
Scottish Parliament

Circular Walk to Duddingston Village – End of the Walk

At the roundabout proceed up the Royal Mile toward St Giles and the ned of the walk.

I do hope you have enjoyed this walk. Below are some links to other walks you might like to try.

Edinburgh Walk for First Time Visitors is a free walking tour round the historical parts of the city. To download click this link

Blog Post updated March 2024

2 thoughts on “Circular Walk to Duddingston Village

  • 21 May 2024 at 6:57 pm

    Yes Janet I know the steps you are talking about. I found them challenging when I did the walk. However I am glad your walking group enjoyed the walk and hope you got a good day.

  • 10 May 2024 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you so much for this guide. My walking group followed it today and it was really helpful! The only thing it might be worth pointing out is the number of steps to climb after leaving Duddingston – they were formidable!

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