Holyrood Park

(The Queen's Park)

'Fringe Sunday' in Holyrood Park, part of Edinburgh's Festival
©2020 Gazetteer for Scotland

'Fringe Sunday' in Holyrood Park, part of Edinburgh's Festival

A remarkable area of greenspace in the centre of Edinburgh, Holyrood Park extends to 260 ha (650 acres) next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, to the southeast of the Old Town. Originally a royal hunting estate, it was enclosed by King James V around 1540.

Known also as the Queen's Park, because it is still owned by the monarch, it is almost always open for the public to enjoy. Although entirely surrounded by the city, the park offers solitude and stimulating walking. Between locals and tourists, the park could receive as many as 5 million visitors annually. It represents a nationally-important resource for the study of geology and archaeology. Hutton's Section, on Salisbury Crags, is of international importance to geologists. In addition, the park represents an important greenspace that defines the character of the city, on the edge of the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site.

The park contains Arthur's Seat, the remains of an ancient volcano, together with the dramatic Salisbury Crags and three lochs, the largest of which is Duddingston Loch, a bird sanctuary, together with Dunsapie Loch and St. Margaret's Loch. Only Duddingston is natural; the others were artificially-created in the middle of the 19th Century, following a plan drawn up by Prince Albert to make the park more accessible, which also included laying out the roads that we see today.

Dolerite (or whinstone) was quarried from Salisbury Crags as setts for Edinburgh's cobbled streets, while sandstone was extracted from the Park to be used to build houses. Trace fossils, together with ancient ripple-marks and preserved mud-cracks can be found in the Camstone Quarry to the rear of Salisbury Crags.

The complex geology of the park has led to rich and diverse plant communities and, although grazed by sheep until 1979, with over 350 plant species being recorded, with a number of species that are rare in Scotland. Duddingston Loch supports a number of breeding waterfowl.

The park also contains evidence of several Iron-Age forts and farm-steads, together with well-preserved cultivation terraces, and St. Anthony's Chapel and Well. In 1832, the Holyrood Park was seriously considered as the site of a grand garden-cemetery, although this was never built. On the night of the 2nd April 1916, a German Zeppelin airship dropped the remainder of its bombs in the Park when it was attacked following the only air-raid on Edinburgh during the First World War. The entire park is now protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest. However it remains the focus for national events, together with formal sporting events and all many forms of informal recreation.

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