Around Edinburgh

Free Activities



Bob Sinclair

Queensland, Australia

Thank you to Bob Sinclair who wrote about free activities that he remembers around Edinburgh.

-   Please click here to read Bob's memories of his free activities around the Caledonian Station.

-   Please scroll down to read Bob's memories of  his free activities around other parts of Edinburgh.

Free Activities

Waverly Steps

"The main differences to me in the Waverly were, the Waverly steps ,the southbound trains, and the taxi ranks

 The Waverly Steps, leading to Waverley Station, were  a great source of fun. You could lie into the wind at an angle of 45 degrees and try to go up the steps or down depending on the prevailing wind.

Usually when I was there it tended to blow you up. Going up backwards was regarded as a real accomplishment."

Waverly Stations

"The southbound trains were held in a bit of awe because, as we thought, you could get to London on one of these trains.

I got my one and only penny platform ticket so that I could go and have a look at one of these trains, though the ticket seller did explain it was really only for seeing people off."

Station Taxi Rank

"It was a source of awe, at that time, to think that people could afford to take a Taxi.  In my mind this was only for people who were really rich.

Some that I saw getting into taxis did, indeed, have quite luxurious luggage, but others only had what they stood up in.  I could not quite figure that out, at my age then."

Chambers Street Museum

"This was a great place to meet or weigh up the talent.  Apart from males and females eyeing each other up, it was a great place to pass a bit of time on a cold winter's day.

We did have a look at some of the exhibits  -  mainly the animals and the working models of engines where you could press a button and the model would operate."

Queen Street Museum

"I went there only to see a different type of museum, but really I think it was more for older people.  But it was free."

Princess Street Gardens

This was a great free place in many ways:

-   We climbed the hill.  We always hoped, but never did find a way into the Castle.  But it was a lot of fun trying.

-   We listened to the bands and the singing, and watched the dancing. This was great entertainment. You had band competitions with band like the SCWS, Shots and Dykehead, Manchester CWS or many of the Pit bands.

I saw Jimmy Logan, Kenneth McKellar, Jimmy Shand and his Band and many a Scottish Country Dance Group there. Great entertainment!

-  There was also a 'Children's Time' on a Saturday, I think, where acts were put on for the younger members of the community.  If you wanted a break you could always go to the railway bridge and watch the trains going to or coming from the Waverly Station.

-  The floral clock must also rate a mention.  We used to stand there for a few minutes just waiting for the cuckoo to come out. Once it had appeared, the moment faded.

If you were old enough, and it was a Sunday, you could move to the side of the Art Galleries (one was free) and listen to the preachers, or John Cormack or Wendy Wood."

The Seaside

"From Cramond right round to Joppa, people were doing all sorts of things down by the sea.  Some, you would not want to know about.

We went to look for crabs or see if we could find semi-precious stones.  (I'm still looking!) or see if we could see a fish.  Or, with shoes in hand, we would walk along the shallows looking for fish(Again, I'm still looking.)

Those who had them may have taken a bucket and spade to make a sandcastle.  We used our hands, but there were no budding potters amongst us."


"At Porty, you could go for a swim provided you were willing to walk half a mile out into the sea to find water deep enough to swim in. By the time I got out there it was time to come back in again for a portion of make-believe buckies or whelks.

You could walk round the Fairground and watch others enjoying themselves on the Big Dipper and then go a walk along the front."

The Tally Tower

"Going and watching the boats in the harbours also cost nothing, whether it was at Granton or at Leith in any of the Docks.

For the young ones in Leith, a trip to the Tally Tower was a turn out. I know my wife used to get taken a walk to the Tower by her parents."

The Parks

"The parks were a great place for free entertainment.  Take a tennis ball with you and play football, rounders, or cricket if you had a ball and stumps  -  or any one of a number of made-up games.

Arthur's Seat was not really a park, but it was sort of treated as one, quite apart from being a challenge to climb."

Hermitage of Braid

"This was a great place, for a time, to appreciate the natural world. My wife and a mate of hers used to go up there and spend a fair time wandering from one end to the other."

The Botanics

"The Botanical Gardens were a good place to see what grew in other parts of the world, though we made it a one-off summer activity".

Bruntsfield Par Three

"This little golf course was where I spent a bit of time when I inherited two clubs - a driver and a putter.  It was a real challenge.  But again, it was free.

In the winter, if the snow lay, the slopes near there were used for what we called slides.  We hard packed the snow and slid down it in our shoes. One slide I remember was about forty yards long."

Sledging and Skating

"Doubtless others used different slopes, but our run went from the top of the station hill at Pilton to the Junction of Pilton Avenue.

The winner was the one who went on furthest down Pilton Drive towards Boswall Parkway.  I remember one time, I was going at good speed when I met a truck coming up Pilton Avenue, and went underneath it.  It was very scary..

I just missed the front wheels on the way in and just missed the back wheels on the way out. The driver shouted something, but I just kept going as fast as I could.

Inverleith pond used to freeze over occasionally, and those with skates used to go skating.  We 'skated' on our shoes.  I was never brave enough to go very far from the edge of the bank."

Bob Sinclair Queensland, Australia:  January 6, 2010


Edinburgh Recollections