Ruff Guide to… Edinburgh

The Scottish capital is regularly voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world – and it’s not hard to see why. From the imposing castle high on a hill to the medieval Old Town, with its narrow, winding streets, there is a lot to love about Edinburgh. With world-class festivals, fantastic parks and traditional inns where you can enjoy a wee dram, this unique city has plenty to see and do – and much of it is dog-friendly. So whether you’re planning a cultured city break or are using Edinburgh as a gateway to the rest of the Scotland, there’s never been a better time to explore ‘Auld Reekie’.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Dog-friendly Edinburgh: the must-sees

Edinburgh Castle, perched atop Castle Rock, is one of the city’s most enduring sights. The ancient castle houses many important artefacts, such as the Honours of Scotland – the oldest crown jewels in the UK – and the ancient Stone of Destiny. It’s well worth a visit and although dogs are not allowed inside the castle, you can still get pretty close to it for photo opportunities. If you’re keen to see inside though, be sure to visit the dog cemetery which pays tribute to fallen military dogs. Adult tickets cost £15.50.

At the top of the historic Royal Mile – which connects Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace – you’ll find the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions. With five floors of interactive exhibits such as mirror mazes and mind-bending illusions, this is a great place to visit on a rainy day. It’s also an entirely dog-friendly attraction, which is fantastic. Adult tickets cost £18. Make sure you get an allocated show time to see the Victorian Camera Obscura in action.

Sami and Sawyer from Wee Walking Tours, Edinburgh
Sami and Sawyer from Wee Walking Tours

If you’re into your history – and Edinburgh has a LOT of it – sign up for one the Wee Walking Tours led by Sami and his Golden Retriever, Sawyer. History professor Sami is Finnish but now calls Edinburgh home and together, the pair offer two different group tours through the city (weather depending for Sawyer). These take place every day from Wednesday to Sunday – and visiting dogs are welcome to join in the fun, too.

On our walking tour, we learned a lot about Edinburgh’s gruesome history as well as the buildings that inspired Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and the colourful characters that have shaped the city, such as Deacon Brodie. We also found out that Edinburgh had the world’s first ‘skyscrapers’ – or buildings that were more than 10 storeys high – visited locations used in one of the Avengers movies and paid our respects to Greyfriars Bobby and his master.

St Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile
St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile © VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Sami is really passionate about Edinburgh and during our two-hour tour, we learned loads about the city. As dog lovers, we were also thrilled to be able to meet six-year-old Sawyer in ‘pawson’. He’s gorgeous! The Wee Walks cost £15 per person. Alternatively, you can book private tours for £10 per person per hour.

Dogs are also welcome on any of the four tours operated by Edinburgh Bus Tours. These include the hop-on, hop-off city sightseeing buses, where adult tickets start from £8. The company also offers a fantastic 3 Bridges Tour, which includes a trip to Queensferry, travel across the Forth Bridge and Queensferry Crossing and a boat cruise on the Firth of Forth. The three-hour tour costs £25 per adult. There is no charge for pets.

Greyfriars Bobby statue, Edinburgh
The famous statue of Greyfriars Bobby

The statue of Greyfriars Bobby – opposite the dog-friendly Greyfriars Bobby pub – is, of course, one of the must-sees when in Edinburgh. The loyal Skye terrier, who famously sat beside by his owner’s grave for 14 years, has his own headstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard and people often leave sticks and tins of dog food in tribute. Dogs are not technically allowed in the churchyard but Bobby, who died in 1872, was granted a special permit so he could stay close to his owner. Sawyer, of Wee Walking Tours, is the only other dog to be granted that same permit – but you will see plenty of people paying tribute to Bobby with their four-legged friends in tow.

Bobby isn’t the only famous Edinburgh dog, though. Look out for Bum, who went round picking fights, stealing food and even drinking alcohol in San Diego. When Edinburgh was twinned with the city in 1978, Bum was declared Bobby’s ‘brother’ and a statue of him was sent to Scotland. You’ll find him lying by the entrance to Princes Street Gardens – which is where you’ll also find the 200ft-high Scott Monument. This Gothic sculpture shows novelist Sir Walter Scott with his beloved deerhound Maida at his feet. And in George Street, you’ll find a statue of scientist James Clerk Maxwell with Irish terrier Toby by his side.

City view from Calton Hill, Edinburgh
The city as seen from Calton Hill

Dog-friendly Edinburgh: the best walks

One of the best views of Edinburgh can be enjoyed from Calton Hill, a short, steep walk from the city centre. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a collection of historic monuments, including the National Monument – inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. A gravel pathway, roughly a mile long, connects them all so it makes for a lovely stroll. There are several grassy areas where dogs can run free and from the top of the hill, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Firth of Forth and the Forth bridges.

Edinburgh is home to some lovely parks too – and one of the most popular is Princes Street Gardens. The park, which spans 37 acres, was created in 1820 when the Nor Loch was drained. That’s why it appears almost sunken! It separates the old town from the new and is split into two parts by an artificial hill called The Mound. This is where the Scottish National Gallery is located. The park buzzes with activity all year round and is a popular meeting spot for both locals and tourists alike. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on-lead.

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Princes Street Gardens appears sunken because it actually used to be a lake!

Holyrood Park is also incredibly popular with dog walkers and has some excellent opportunities for hill hiking. When you think about it, it’s crazy that this kind of landscape exists so close to the heart of the city! Arthur’s Seat – one of Edinburgh’s most famous sights – is located within the 640-acre royal park and it takes around two hours to scale the ancient volcano and get back down again. The summit of Arthur’s Seat, which is 251m above sea level, offers amazing views of Edinburgh. But if you don’t fancy the long hike up, there are plenty of other park trails you can follow. A gentle option is the path to St Margaret’s Loch, which is suitable for all ages and abilities.

If your dog is a beach baby though, head on over to the charming seaside suburb of Portobello. Here, you’ll find two miles of gorgeous sandy beaches and best of all, both the beach and promenade are dog-friendly all year round. Portobello is a 20-minute bus ride from Edinburgh city centre – you’ll need to take the No.15 towards Joppa. There are several dog-friendly pubs and cafes here too for when you need to refuel. They include The Beach House and The Esplanade, or Espy, which are both right on the prom.

Vegetarian Haggis Burger and chips at The Holyrood 9A, Edinburgh
My vegetarian haggis burger at The Holyrood 9A

Dog-friendly Edinburgh: the best pubs and cafes

You can’t come to Scotland and not try some haggis – the national dish made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. While it’s not to everyone’s taste, The Holyrood 9A is a good place to give it a go. The bar, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, serves some of the city’s best burgers – and its haggis version is particularly popular. These days though, the traditional dish isn’t just for carnivores as vegetarian haggis is also available. The Holyrood 9A, on Holyrood Road, is super dog-friendly and pets are given bowls of water and treats served on silver platters. When we visited, one dog was even sitting at a table with his owners. It was lovely to see!

Dogs are also guaranteed a warm welcome at The Stockbridge Tap in Raeburn Place. Here, you’ll find a great selection of cask and keg beers, plus more than 60 single malts, 30 rums and 20 Scottish gins. Beer lovers will also be in heaven at the Bellfield Brewery Taproom & Beer Garden in Stanley Place. Bellfield is the first UK brewery dedicated to purely gluten-free beer and the trendy taproom, which is adorned with fairy lights, has regular pop-up food events. Dogs are also treated to biscuits made from spent grain and the brewery even hosts an annual Dogtoberfest event, which is great fun.

Bars and cafes in Grassmarket, Edinburgh
There are plenty of dog-friendly places to eat and drink in Grassmarket

There are a whole host of pet-friendly places to eat and drink in the Grassmarket area, which is where horses and cattle were once sold at market. Many of the pubs and restaurants here have outdoor seating but dogs are also allowed inside a number of venues, such as The Last Drop and The Beehive Inn. We loved Cold Town House, which is located in an old church below Edinburgh Castle. The three-storey bar, which has a great pizza menu, is incredibly Instagrammable. It’s also home to one of the city’s coolest roof terraces – but dogs are only allowed in the ground floor.

The Bow Bar, in nearby West Bow, is a no-frills pub specialising in real ale and whisky. Dogs are guaranteed a warm welcome here – the bar’s website even has a section dedicated to its furry friends. Another great place to enjoy a wee dram with your dog is The Devil’s Advocate, tucked away in Advocate’s Close. This trendy bar is housed in an old Victorian pump house and has more than 300 whiskies available to try, as well as an ever-changing food menu packed with seasonal Scottish produce.

Sign for the Oxford Bar, Edinburgh
Pop in to Rebus’ favourite pub for a pint

Ian Rankin fans must make the pilgrimage to The Oxford Bar, which is John Rebus’s pub of choice in Rankin’s crime novels. The pub, in Young Street, isn’t traditionally on the tourist trail but it is dog-friendly so pop in, order yourself a pint of Deuchars IPA and imagine the curmudgeonly detective propping up the bar. There are several other dog-friendly pubs and bars on nearby Rose Street, but another characterful venue for a drink is the Cameo Picturehouse, in Home Street. This stylish little cinema dates back to 1914 and dogs are welcome in the bar, which has a real Art Deco vibe and retro film posters adorning the walls. The cinema often puts on dog-friendly screenings so be sure to keep an eye on the listings.

For coffee, cakes and sandwiches, head to colourful cafe Piecebox, in Polwarth Crescent. In Scotland, a ‘piece’ is what the locals call a sandwich and a ‘piecebox’ is a lunchbox so that explains the name! Visiting dogs are generally treated to their own sausages, too. Bross Bagels is also a great place to take dogs in Edinburgh – and it has five branches across the city, in the West End, Portobello, Leith, Bruntsfield and Stockbridge.

Baked eggs at the Blue Bear Cafe, Edinburgh
One of the tasty options at the Blue Bear Cafe © Blue Bear Cafe

The further you get outside of the city centre though, the more dog-friendly places you will find. The buzzing port district of Leith is home to the Bad Tempered Baker, Hideout Cafe and the Blue Bear Cafe, which is a great weekend brunch spot. In Newhaven, the Starbank Inn always has dog treats behind the bar while in Queensferry, the award-winning Manna House Bakery is a big hit with dog owners.

Be sure to visit The Sheep Heid Inn, on the way to Musselburgh, too. The pub, which dates back to the 14th Century, is one of the oldest in Scotland and the Queen has been known to pop in for a drink when she’s staying at the nearby Palace of Holyroodhouse. The pub, which also has a traditional Skittles Alley, is on the far side of Holyrood Park so it’s a fine place to visit after walking up Arthur’s Seat. If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s certainly good enough for our four-legged friends!

Stylish bedroom with freestanding bath at B+B Edinburgh
One of the stylish bedrooms at B+B Edinburgh © B+B Edinburgh

Dog-friendly Edinburgh: where to stay

B+B Edinburgh, in Rothesay Terrace, is ideally located for exploring all the delights of the city. The hotel, which used to be a private family home, has lots of original Victorian features and is around a 20-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle. Pets are warmly welcomed with their own beds, bowls and treats. And the hotel doesn’t just serve dogs sausages for breakfast – it has a whole Paw Menu with everything from eggs to oatmeal. Click here to read the hotel’s Paw Policy and to see its guide for dog-friendly things to see and do nearby.

Most of the big-name hotels in Edinburgh allow dogs to stay for an additional fee. These include the Novotel, the Hotel du Vin, the Kimpton Charlotte Square and the Malmaison, which is right on the seafront in Leith. The grand Intercontinental Edinburgh The George also has a special Canine Courtesy package for pet owners – and dog-friendly coffee shop, Burr & Co, right next-door.

If you’d prefer to stay in your own apartment or house, however, there are plenty of dog-friendly options available. The Edinburgh Self-Catering Co has everything from city centre flats to cutesy cottages while Dickins, which has been letting properties in Edinburgh since 1998, has some lovely places on its books – several of which have their own gardens. Alternatively, check out the latest Airbnb listings or the Visit Scotland website.

Colourful shops and restaurants in Victoria Street, Edinburgh
Colourful shops and restaurants in Victoria Street

How do I get to Edinburgh?

From London, it takes around 7.5hrs to drive to Edinburgh, via the M1 and A1. LNER train services take around 4.5hrs from London Kings Cross but several other train lines serve the city from the north of England and Scotland. For more details, visit the ScotRail website. National Express and Megabus also operate regular coach services. Edinburgh Airport is approximately 25 minutes from the city centre, which can be reached by bus, train or tram. See all the options by clicking here. Dogs are welcome on all local public transport services.

Where can I find out more?

Check out Forever Edinburgh – the official guide to the city. For more suggestions for dog-friendly pubs and cafes, have a look at Dugs n’ Pubs. Alternatively, for more general tourist information, visit Introducing Edinburgh or Visit Scotland.

Steps in Edinburgh
Be aware that Edinburgh is very hilly and there are lots of steps to climb!

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