Circus Lane, Edinburgh is my new favourite spot in the city for a quiet walk and some lovely photographs. It’s no wonder every Edinburgh photographer seems to be in love with it. I’d seen Circus Lane SO many times on Instagram before I made a point to mooch down it on my last visit to Edinburgh that I was kind of expecting it to not be that pretty in real life. But it was. Believe the hype. All the terraced mews houses have pots and hanging baskets outside so it’s all colourful and floral. Some great front doors, too. Magical. There’s not much else to say really – is is just a lane. But a very attractive one.
This is one thing I really love about Edinburgh and one of the many reasons I keep going back over the years: no matter how many times I’ve been, there’s always another little hidden gem to discover.
How to find Circus Lane, Edinburgh
Circus Lane can be found here on Google Maps
It’s easy to find Circus Lane from the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh. It lies just behind St Stephen Street, which is one of the main bar-filled areas in Stockbridge. You can incorporate a visit to Circus Lane for a few snaps with a walk through Dean Village and along the Water of Leith.
The nearest major train station is Edinburgh Waverley: an easy mile’s walk away through Queen Street gardens and over George Street.
You’ll only need to spend a maximum of 15 minutes on Circus Lane to be honest (unless you’re really slow at taking photos). It takes a few minutes to walk down but you don’t need ages for this. It’s just a nice place to do a bit of a detour while you’re in the area.
When to visit Circus Lane, Edinburgh
Early morning is obviously usually the quietest time to visit anywhere if you want to be alone. But if like me you’re 100% not a morning person, I’ve also found it quite quiet late afternoon (about 4ish).
The last time I was there, it was overcast and drizzling and we were the only people around. This is how I managed to get all the photos in this post with only us in them very easily. Miraculous – usually all the photos on this travel blog involve me standing around in the middle of a road of speeding traffic waiting for people to go past so I can get THE empty shot.
This particular visit we did was in September, when it happened to be quite rainy for the time of year. But it’s never hard to find a grey drizzly day in Edinburgh, so you’ll probably be in luck if you want the lane to yourself on one of those classic Scottish days.
Where to go and what to do around Circus Lane
So you’ve trotted over to Circus Lane, taken 85,561 photographs and vowed to grow roses round your front door when you get home. Now what?
Circus Lane is nice and handy for the Stockbridge area. I have a whole blog post about how to spend a day in Stockbridge and neighbouring Dean Village here.
In brief, here are some things to do:
- If it’s a rainy day, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is not too far a walk away and is an exceptionally good way to spend your time. It’s set across two gorgeous old buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, in a sculpture park. As long as you get a wriggle on between the two, you’ll avoid a soaking and only soak up the modern art (soz, couldn’t resist that awful pun).
- The brilliant and interesting Dean Village is also very close by. You could walk through it to head to the art gallery. Dean Village is a green oasis in the city and a huge contrast to the rest of Edinburgh. It’s like stepping back in time. All the old mill buildings and the Water of Leith transport you to another era.
- You might need a drink to calm your serious house envy after eyeing up all the beauties on Circus Lane. There are plenty of places to have a pint in Stockbridge. The Stockbridge Tap has a decent selection of craft ales and is also good for a rest and a bit of a people watch.
- Food-wise, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Stockbridge. Our personal favourite is the Scran and Scallie, famous chef Tom Kitchin’s gastro pub. It’s a good way to experience food from a celebrity chef without having to re-mortgage your house. Starters are around £9 and mains £15 on average. It’s all delicious and the place itself is very cosy inside.
If you really like Circus Lane, Edinburgh…
Can you stay there?
If (like me) Circus Lane is the kind of place you’d like to wake up in, you’ll be pleased to here that you can stay there. I spotted a few self-catering apartments that I’ve now earmarked for our next trip to Edinburgh. If you use AirBNB, there are likely some on there too. I’m quite sad and overexcited by the prospect of pretending it’s my actual home. Ahem.
What’s its history?
It was once used as a service street to keep coaches and horses. It’s clear that many of the garages were once stables. Regular readers will know that I’m horsey, so maybe that’s another reason I’m so drawn to it.
St. Stephen’s Church, the church overlooking Circus Lane, is allegedly home of the longest pendulum in Europe in its clocktower. It’s no longer a working church though, but has become a community arts hub and venue for festivals.
What other similar places can you visit around the UK?
If you like wandering round this kind of quaint, pretty area, I can recommend a few other places in the UK that you’ll probably enjoy:
- North Berwick, Scotland – this is an excellent town to stay in if you want to mix some city time in Edinburgh with a seaside holiday. It’s an easy train ride into Edinburgh but you can get back there to escape the hustle and bustle and be on the beach within minutes. We’ve been a few times and it’s now a firm favourite.
- Kirkcudbright, Scotland – this is my favourite town in Scotland. It’s in the south west part of the country in the much-underrated Dumfries and Galloway area. It’s known as the artists’ town due to its rich history of art and being a mecca for Scottish creative types. But it’s also known for being really bloody cute. It’s full of gorgeous flower-lined streets, a picture-perfect harbour and pastel-coloured houses. I’ve been going since I was little and I still love it now I’m in my 30s. And that leads me nicely onto my other childhood favourite…
- Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England – this is the other town I spent my childhood holidays in and it’s similarly quaint. Kirkby Lonsdale is often overlooked because it’s on the edge of both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales and those two tend to attract the tourists. But it’s better than both in my definitely-not-biased opinion. It has a very old and pretty churchyard boasting Ruskin’s View (known as the best view in England), scenic river walks and a traditional market.
- Shrewsbury, England – finally, this is a fairly new one to me that I only discovered as an adult. But since then, we’ve visited loads of times and I’m fully in love with it. Shrewsbury is larger than the rest but still has a lot of olde-worlde charm. It’s a market town on the banks of the River Severn, full of cosy pubs and independent shops. It’s a bit like Chester or York but without the crowds.
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