West Princes Street Gardens is the larger of the two tracts of green space (the other being East Princes Street Gardens) that run parallel to Princes Street in the heart of the city. The gardens are separated by a main road up The Mound, but are often referred to simply as Princes Street Gardens.
The gardens were formerly the Nor' Loch, a body of water at the foot of Castlehill that provided added defence on the North face of Edinburgh Castle. The famously stinky loch was drained and ornamental gardens put in their place from 1816 onwards.
West Princes Street Garden, the larger section of the two gardens, extends West from the Mound to St John's Church at the West End of Princes Street. The hilly gardens are bounded to South by the railway line between Edinburgh's two train stations, Waverley and Haymarket.
A small footbridge across the railway allows you to watch trains passing back and forth and cross to the Castle Gardens which wrap around the Edinburgh Castle rock and connect with the Castle Esplanade by way of a steep, zigzag path. The path is often closed due to apparent concern about rock fall.
As well as a good place to look up to the castle perched imposingly on its rugged, volcanic rock, Princes Street Gardens provide a scenic route for traversing the city centre East-West.
There is also a children's play park in the West End near the large, refurbished Ross Fountain.
Ross Band Stand
West Princes Street Garden is a venue for many public festivals and events and many of these are centred on the Ross Band stand. This is the main outdoor venue for all types of live music from cha cha cha for old folks to ceilidh, world music at Carnival to gigs by up-and-coming Edinburgh bands.
The Garden hosts large scale Edinburgh International Festival events, including massively popular, live concerts in the gardens at Hogmanay and the fireworks display at the end of the Festival in August.
Floral Clock and Monuments
Princes Street Gardens has many monuments dating from the 1840s to 1990s. Some commemorate 18th and 19th influential Scots from over the years - like the Scott Monument and the Robert Louis Stevenson statue.
There are some significant war memorials. At the east end of West Princes Street Garden, beneath the Mound, you can find the Royal Scots Monument and the Scots American War Memorial above the Ross Band Stand.
Look out too for the famous floral clock display on the staircase at the entrance to West Princes Street Garden at the foot of the Mound. The floral clock is not just a pretty face. It's a reliable time-keeper too.
Christmas and Hogmanay
Edinburgh's Christmas sets up its festive attractions in both West and East Princes Street Gardens in November and December. The Christmas attractions have included Santa's Grotto, Christmas Tree maze, and fun fair aimed younger children at the west end of West Princes Street Garden. East Princes Street Garden usually hosts the larger Christmas market, big wheel, and fun fair.
Princes Street Gardens Opening Hours
Closed: Gates close about 1 hour before closing time to safely clear the gardens.
West Princes Street Garden closes half an hour before East Princes Street Garden.
- 1 Jan - 26 Mar: 6pm (west from 5:15pm, east from 5:35pm).
- 27 Mar - 23 Apr: 7pm (west from 6:15pm, east from 6:35pm).
- 24 Apr - 28 May: 8pm (west from 7:15pm, east from 7:35pm).
- 29 May - 27 Aug: 10pm (west from 9:15pm, east from 9:35pm).
- 28 Aug - 24 Sept: 8pm (west from 7:15pm, east from 7:35pm).
- 25 Sept - 29 Oct: 7pm (west from 6:15pm, east from 6:35pm).
- 30 Oct - 31 Dec: 6pm (west from 5:15pm, east from 5:35pm).