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Edinburgh in autumn is a lovely time to visit. Crowds disperse after the madness of the August Festival Fringe and leaves turn from lush green to warm yellows, oranges and striking red which is a stunning contrast against white skies and grey historic buildings.
By the end of September there is a fresh sting in the morning air and spooky season kicks in mid-October. We truly adore fall in Edinburgh!
Our guide, things to do in autumn in Edinburgh, includes what to expect weather wise, autumn packing list, popular activities, what seasonal food to enjoy from restaurant menus, the best events in September and October, photo spots showing off Edinburgh’s nature and decor, and the loveliest of day trips where you can see the best foliage Scotland has to offer during autumn.
Note: We don’t tend to use the term ‘fall’ in Scotland, referring to it as autumn instead.
Things to do in Edinburgh in Autumn
The Best Foliage in Edinburgh
1. Enjoy Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens is a huge green space in the centre of the city and home to many attractions such as the Scott Monument, the Gardener’s Cottage and the Floral Clock.
While the Gardener’s Cottage starts to look a little bare in September, the Floral Clock is still in full swing with its budding hand ticking away.
One of the most photographed spots during autumn is the lone red tree which sits underneath Edinburgh Castle on Castlehill close to the West End.
The trees along Princes Street create lovely frames for the castle too, well worth a look in through your lens!
2. See The Ivy Autumn Display
Some of the best foliage in Edinburgh is actually created by the Wild Flowers team who install the most beautiful floral decorations around the city.
The Ivy is an upmarket restaurant and bar located on the swanky St Andrew’s Square in the New Town and it goes all out with its seasonal decor.
Expect dramatic cartoon-like arches, pumpkins and some kind of Insta-worthy feature such as a seat for fall outfit posing!
3. Check Out Kick Ass Hostel’s Ivy
A lesser-known spot for ivy is Kick-Ass Hostel Grassmarket at West Port.
See the creeping red ivy clinging to the building from the Geddes Garden side.
Pick up a brownie from Tasty Buns while you are in the area, you can thank us later.
4. Snap The Plush New Town Fall Decor
The West End and its delightful Georgian architecture is worth a wander during autumn.
House goals can be seen in the fall wreaths hanging from expensive doors.
Iconic ivy turning from green into deep red can also be found near Dean Bridge which takes you over to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art or, if you prefer, the dreamy Dean Village just before you cross over it.
From Dean Village you can do the leisurely walk along the Waters of Leith to Stockbridge.
5. Capture Carlowrie Castle’s Signature Ivy
Every autumn, Carlowrie Castle’s Scottish baronial architecture is engulfed in red ivy and a select few local photographers have been invited to document it!
If you’re a guest at a wedding or special event you might just get to see experience this fairytale autumn scene near Edinburgh Airport on the outskirts of Kirkliston.
6. Liberton Kirk Red Ivy
A more accessible photogenic autumn muse is Liberton Kirk in the south of Edinburgh
Its congregation and locals enjoy watching the ivy turn from green to red around October.
Remember to be respectful when visiting, Liberton Kirk is an active place of worship.
Edinburgh Autumn Activities – Food & Drink
6. Pay a Visit to The Marshmallow Lady
The Marshmallow Lady cooks up monster marshmallows and serves them in extravagant hot chocolate cups for takeout enjoyment.
Warm up with a toasted gourmet marshmallow the size of your palm plopped into a warm pool of hot chocolate.
There are also packs of marshmallows available at the shop in Bonnington (14 Rodney Street).
You will not regret this purchase, 10/10!
7. Sip on a Pumpkin Spice Latte
Is it even autumn if you’ve not taken a photo of a pumpkin spice latte and put it on social media?
Skip Starbucks, there’s plenty of choice between independent cafes in Edinburgh with Stockbridge being the perfect location for a lazy Sunday stroll and spiced coffee stop.
Or if you can only make it to the City Centre, head to Black Medicine (2 Nicolson Street) for a liquid fall fix.
If coffee isn’t your thing, check out the cinnamon smoothies at Seven at Tollcross (7 Home Street), one of our recommended brunch spots in Edinburgh.
8. Slurp Some Soup
Salads and bucket hats are out, layers and comfort soup is in.
Expect seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin, squash, carrot or pea soup on the menu. Mmm.
Buy a bowl at Rose Street Theatre Cafe or Edinburgh Larder.
9. Warm Up With Whisky
The Scotch Whisky Experience, Scotch Malt Society or the Johnny Walker Experience, Edinburgh is the city whisky fans will feel most at home.
There is no denying that the water of life provides a fiery feeling down your throat, perfect for the decreasing temperatures by the end of September.
If you’re still not sure which whisky is for you, try a hot toddy at Albanach on the Royal Mile (Old Town pub) or a whisky flight.
10. Fill Up on Sunday Roast
After a day in the crisp autumn air, fill your belly full with a Sunday roast at a welcoming pub such as The Queens Arms (49 Frederick Street).
Expect towering plates of beef, roasted vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and ladles of gravy.
Finish off with seasonal apple pie or rhubarb crumble – custard, cream or ice cream?
For a special occasion check out Kyloe’s posh Sunday roast platter.
11. Pumpkin Patch at Craigie’s Farm
Book your slot, hop in the car and head along to Craigie’s Farm to Pick Your Own pumpkin!
Pumpkins are prime for picking from early September to late October, just in time for carving for Hallowe’en.
Prices range from £2 to £15 depending on pumpkin size.
Apples, rhubarb and sunflowers are also available at this South Queensferry PYO farm.
All that manual labour will create hungry bellies.
Luckily, there is a cafe on-site for breakfast, lunch, and cakes.
12. Go Apple Picking a Donkeyfield Community Orchard
Join locals at Portobello’s orchard for Apple Day at the end of October.
Pickers can press apples to make juice and play games on the orchard located between Brunstane Road South and Gilberston, just opposite Brunstane Station.
Updates on events can be found on this website.
13. Join an Edinburgh Ghost Walking Tour
Through its walking tours, Edinburgh’s haunted past is celebrated all year round!
Learn about local legends such as Deacon Brodie and Half Hangit Maggie, visit the cemeteries where gravediggers stole fresh bodies in exchange for money and find out about the history of the Old Town closes and wynds during group walking tours such as this one.
14. Take the Ghost Bus Through Town
The Comedy Ghost Bus has to be one of the funniest ways to learn about Edinburgh’s dark side.
It is haunted but will also give you lots of hoots with its mix of frights and theatre.
Highly recommended by Everything Edinburgh.
Here’s our guide to the best ghost tours in Edinburgh for more info.
15. Head Underground to Edinburgh’s South Bridge Vaults
Standing on the South Bridge you’d never know that there was once a sordid and sorry world underneath your feet and to find out more about that era in Edinburgh you need to join an underground tour.
We’ve been on a few and recommend this one for the right balance of information and entertainment.
Tour operators own separate parts of the vaults and this tour’s slice has a temple and rock circle set up by The Source Coven Of The Blue Dragon.
You can read our full review and learn more about the underground vaults here.
16. Have a Drink in a Haunted Pub
The Banshee Labyrinth (29-35 Niddry Street) is one of those pubs you won’t believe exists until you see it for yourself.
The myriad of caves has three bars, a live stage for gigs and a cinema!
Yes, an actual cinema with movies on the screen.
17. Watch a Spooky Drive-In Movie
Keep cosy in your car while you watch a popular scary movie ranging from PGs to 18s.
While there have been pop up drive-in movie locations closer to the city in the past, the most consistent events are held at M&D’s which is 1 hour 15 minutes drive from the City Centre.
Things to do in the Rain in Edinburgh
You won’t be surprised to hear that it rains often during autumn so it is best to have a few indoor ideas up your sleeve for when the downpours come.
Here are a couple of recommendations but we also have our full list of things to do in the rain in Edinburgh for you to check out.
18. Visit Edinburgh’s Museums
Many of Edinburgh’s museums are free to enter and cover a range of topics from history, culture, geography, science, art and economics.
Many of the museums are located in the Old Town so you can move between them easily.
19. Enjoy Fun Sports Indoors
Rock climbing, bowling, swimming, ice skating, rollerblading, ninja warriors, there is a huge variety of indoor sports facilities in the city and if you don’t like breaking sweat you could always play vintage games at NQ64 or learn how to make chocolate instead.
20. Catch a Show
Edinburgh has a selection of vintage movie houses, modern cinema theatres, pubs with big screens and broadway stages so there is always an eclectic mix on the line up.
Festivals in Edinburgh in Autumn
21. Doors Open Scotland
Doors Open Scotland is a nation-wide event which allows plebs like us to see behind normally closed doors.
Regions have a set date in September where old and new buildings are open to the public and free to visit.
Some spaces put on tours.
22. Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival or Mooncake Festival may not be overly visible in Edinburgh but there will be families celebrating it around the city.
Thanks to our fave Chinese restaurant, Hua Han for sharing this information with us!
23. The Scottish Storytelling Festival
While August is ‘the’ month to visit Edinburgh for festivals, including the world’s biggest art festival, the Fringe, some prefer the autumn shoulder season events as they mean fewer crowds, calmer shows, easier hangovers and less litter!
Culture fans enjoy the Scottish International Storytelling Festival which has been running since 1989.
Local and international storytellers set up home at the Netherbow Theatre in the Scottish Storytelling Centre which is located on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Other locations include Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland.
Acts share stories, play instruments and some encourage audience participation.
Shows include daily keynote stories, talks, discussions and workshops.
Every year there is a different theme so if you’ve been before there is a reason to return!
24. Black History Month
Black History Month takes place in October in the UK with in-person and virtual events based around Edinburgh kicking off during the first week.
Events include talks, music, comedy and dance.
A a series of lectures and debates can be attended at The University of Edinburgh and the Black liberation flag will fly at Old College.
Of course you don’t have to wait until the month of October to learn more about Edinburgh’s Black history.
Lisa Williams, founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association and Honorary Fellow in the department of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh discusses the links between Scotland, Africa and Caribbean during this 2-hour walking tour.
A number of venues hop on the hops for the international event, Oktoberfest in October.
So look out your Lederhosen and get ready for some Bavarian food, drink and music.
26. Samhuinn Fire Festival
Samhuinn Fire Festival celebrates the transition from summer to winter with an evening of fire-play, drumming, and immersive performance at Calton Hill on the 31st October.
You may also like our guide to Bonfire Night in Edinburgh which takes place around 5th November.
Days Trip From Edinburgh in Autumn
While Edinburgh is a lovely location to spend time in this autumn there are day trips close to the city which are undoubtedly the best way to see the best foliage in Scotland.
27. House of Binns, Near Linlithgow
House of Binns can be reached in under one hour by car from Edinburgh’s City Centre or under 2 hours by public transport.
This National Trust Scotland historic building is located near Linlithgow and was home to the Dalyells for 400 years.
The laird’s home was built in 1612 by Thomas Dalyell, a local Merchant.
It has a pocket of ivy on one side of the building that glows red in autumn.
Linlithgow is also home to Linlithgow Palace which has a lovely walk around its loch and there are plenty of cafes to dine at on the main street.
Cragie’s Farm is 20 minutes drive from the House of Binns, a perfect full fall day out from Edinburgh!
28. Dalkeith Country Park in West Lothian
Dalkeith Country Park is a welcoming and colourful park located on a historical estate.
It’s kids’ adventure park, seasonal events, cafe and a gift shop, Restoration Yard, make it a great spot for families.
There are easy walking trails throughout the park which are perfect for strolls with crunchy leaves underfoot!
Dalkeith is 30 minutes drive from the City Centre or an hour trip by public transport.
You may also like our guide to day trips from Edinburgh by bus.
29. Balgone Estate, North Berwick
Pick a pumpkin from the patch or get lost in the maize maze at Balgone Estate!
30. Pitlochry and Perthshire
There is no denying that Perthshire holds the crown for the best foliage in Scotland, it is called Big Tree Country after all!
Pitlochry, Dunkeld, Alyth, Aberfeldy, Kenmore and Perth make up some of the popular places to visit in Perthshire.
During your day trip or extended stay, there are rivers to explore, nature walks to enjoy and salmon to spot.
Autumn is also when Scots flock to Faskally Wood in Pitlochry to be wowed by the Enchanted Forest light exhibitions.
31. Gloagburn Farm Shop Sunflower Trail
Gloagburn Farm Shop is located in Perth (Tibbermore, Perth PH1 1QL) but it deserves its own section for its stunning family and dog friendly sunflower trails!
Pick your own sunflowers and walk through the winding routes carved into the farm.
Edinburgh in Autumn Weather
September temperatures see highs of 21C/69.8F and lows of 7C/44.6F and averages of 16C/59F and 9C/482F while October see highs of 17C/62.6F and lows of 4C/39.2F with averages of 16C/F60.8 and 9C/48.2F.
By the end of September, sunrise peeps through around 07:00 and by the end of October, 08:15.
Sunsets start from 21:00 at the start of autumn to dinner time around 17:30 by October 31st, ideal for trick or treating which we call guising in Scotland!
As always, we recommend layers for your autumn packing list.
You will feel a very cold breeze by the end of September but will be sweaty hopping in and out of attractions, shops and pubs!
Pack a pair of reliable, comfortable and waterproof shoes and a waterproof coat.
Read our full Edinburgh packing list for more details.
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