Princes Street Gardens offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and outdoor fun for families. On a sunny May day, I took Kate (11) and Thomas (8), on an adventure through this historic park. Despite the play park being closed for refurbishment (contrary to reports on X, formerly Twitter, promising a Spring 2024 reopening), there is still plenty to explore and enjoy. Here’s a guide to help you make the most of your visit.

Starting the Trail

We began our journey by heading down Frederick Street onto Princes Street, crossing the road to take a look at the Royal Scots Greys Monument. This imposing statue is a tribute to the Royal Scots Greys cavalry regiment, and its dramatic depiction of a soldier on horseback immediately grabbed the kids’ attention.

Bear Monument and Ross Fountain

Our next stop was the Wojtek the Bear Statue. This statue commemorates Wojtek, the bear who served with the Polish Army during World War II. Kate and Thomas were fascinated by the story of Wojtek, who helped carry ammunition and became a symbol of bravery and friendship and rather enjoyed the addition of a polish scarf!

Continuing towards the Ross Fountain, we noted the variety of cafes now open in the area (thinking it would be nice for a visit without kids too!) This beautifully restored Victorian fountain is a highlight of the gardens. The intricate design and sparkling water are mesmerizing, making it a perfect spot for a family photo. The kids enjoyed watching the water cascade down and spotting the various mythical figures depicted on the fountain.

Two children stand in front of the Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens. The right hand image is of the gardeners cottage from CBBC.

Statues and Memorials Along the Path

As we walked along the path, we encountered several more interesting landmarks:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial: A tribute to the famous author, this memorial prompted a discussion about his adventures and literary works.
  • Norwegian Stone Memorial: This stone commemorates the enduring friendship between Norway and Scotland, established during World War II.
  • Ross Band Stand and Royal Scots Memorial: These stops offered a glimpse into the cultural and historical significance of the gardens.
  • Elephant Statue: This 8ft (2.4m) baby elephant sculpture is a memorial to the children affected by the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal. The statue is a nod to the adage “elephants never forget” and serves as a permanent reminder of the 250 babies and their families affected by the scandal.
  • Genius of Architecture Statue: This statue celebrates the art and skill of architecture, an inspiration for any budding builders in the family – but actually is a bit twee and I was surprised it was for architecture rather than Mary Poppins or something!

Further Discoveries

We continued our journey to see the Monument to the Royal Scots and the Gardener’s Cottage. The cottage, which appeared on the CBBC program “The Secret Garden,” added a magical touch to our walk. The kids loved imagining it as part of the story.

We then walked up to the Floral Clock and the Allan Ramsay Monument. The floral clock, with its intricate design made entirely of flowers, was a favorite for a quick photo. The Allan Ramsay Monument offered a chance to discuss Scottish literature and history – although Kate was less than impressed with my efforts giving the perfect 11 year-old eye roll.

A her insistence, we crossed the street to check out the new Uniqlo store – she looked around whilst Thomas made the most of the sofas – after which we crossed back over to East Princes Street Gardens. Here, we spied Sir Walter’s Cafe, famous for its crepes, but resisted as had plans for a lunch at Loudons!

We passed the Adam Black Monument and finally reached the most striking of all, the Scott Monument. This towering Gothic structure is a tribute to Sir Walter Scott and dominates the East Gardens. The East Gardens feel more structured than the West, perhaps due to the National Gallery overlooking them or maybe because it just feels a bit more open?

East Princes Street Gardens. The left hand image shows the pancake house and Scott monument. The right hand side image shows the national gallery.

Wrapping Up the Adventure

By this time, the kids were flagging, so we decided to head up to the Apple Store for a quick recharge of headphones and a chance for Thomas to have a break from the crowds and noise (upstairs is much quieter, has stools, and noise cancelling headphones)!! Despite not seeing every monument, our adventure through Princes Street Gardens was a memorable one, and means there lots of find on a repeat visit. I love finding budget options on our doorstep and this has a huge amount of potential.

For more details on the statues and monuments in Princes Street Gardens, check out Edinburgh Outdoors.

Practical Information

Getting There: Princes Street Gardens are easily accessible by public transport, with numerous bus and tram stops along Princes Street. If you’re driving, there are several car parks within walking distance.

Facilities: Restrooms are available in the gardens, and there are plenty of benches and grassy areas for taking a break.

Tips for Visiting: Bring a camera to capture the beautiful statues and the stunning views of Edinburgh Castle from the gardens. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as you’ll be doing a fair bit of strolling.

Our sunny day exploring the Statue Trail in Princes Street Gardens was a fantastic family outing filled with history, culture, and natural beauty. Despite the play park being closed, we found plenty to keep us engaged and entertained. If you’re planning a visit to Edinburgh, I highly recommend adding this charming trail to your itinerary. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours learning about Scotland’s rich heritage while enjoying the great outdoors.

For more family-friendly adventures in Edinburgh, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @edinburghwithkids. We’d love to hear about your experiences and any suggestions you have for our next outing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *