Writing in The Herald greenspace scotland Chief Executive Julie Procter takes a look at some of Scotland’s most notable parks.

As a nation of park lovers, the early September heatwave sent many out into their local greenspaces, eager to bask in the rays of the Scottish sunshine...and now as autumn approaches, parks can give us all a daylight boost.   

Where better to enjoy the great outdoors than in one of Scotland’s many parks? The heart of our communities, parks are incredible assetsFree to use and available for everyone, Scotland’s parks receive over 162 million visits every year.  

Whether it be an urban park - a slice of greenery in amongst the cityscape – or a rural greenspace with dramatic scenery, there are myriad uses for parks which welcome young and old, those who keep fit and those looking for a moment of quiet contemplation. greenspace scotland recognises the importance of parks and the need for them to be cherished and nurtured for current and future generations to enjoy.  

Its Parks4Life campaign, in association with The Herald, has been launched with a goal to raise £1m by the end of 2023 to help support Scotland’s parks with a sustainable fund for the future.  

As part of the campaign, greenspace scotland has created Park Portraits: a digital photo exhibition bringing to life the stories of a dozen Scottish people and the ways that parks have enriched their lives.  

The series celebrates people from a wide range of backgrounds and uncovers just how important their parks are to them - like Willie Mungall, a veteran Royal Marine Commando who has improved his health with a weekly walking group in Edinburgh’s Saughton Park as part of the ‘Walk with a Doc’ programme led by Health All Round.  

Other subjects in the series include Iga, the ‘fire spinner’ learning her craft, a Team Great Britain Paralympian with a pre-competition ritual to clear his head, and three generations of family that visit the park which holds special childhood memories for each of them.  

Here Chief Executive of greenspace scotland Julie Procter takes a look at some of Scotland’s most notable parks.   

  • Glasgow GreenThe original ‘dear green place’ is Scotland’s oldest park. Established in the fifteenth century, the Green has been used grazing, washing and bleaching linen, drying fishing nets, and recreational activities. In 1732, Glasgow's first steamie, called the Washhouse, opened on the banks of the Camlachie Burn. Today, the Green hosts major events including the annual Pipe Band Championships. 

  • King’s Park, StirlingWalk in the footsteps of Scotland’s kings and queens and look up for magnificent views of Stirling Castle towering above. King's Park is one Scotland’s oldest Royal Parks and was originally used as a hunting ground for the Royal Court. 

  • King George V Park, EdinburghKeeping fit in the park isn’t a new idea, the Victorians got there first. In 1865, when the Royal Patent Gymnasium opened, with its giant rotary boat and "Sea-Saw", it was heralded as “The New Wonder of Edinburgh”. The Great Sea Serpent was a huge rotary boat, 471 feet round, situated in a pool of water and pinned to a central shaft by wire spokes. Six hundred people at a time could sit in the boat and row. It was said to achieve speeds worthy of a small steam vessel. The park gymnasium was the brainchild of John Cox, an Edinburgh philanthropist who decided Edinburgh citizens needed somewhere to exercise and improve their physical fitness. 

  • Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline - Another famous Scottish philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, gifted ‘The Glen’ (as it’s known locally) to the people of Dunfermline. The resident peacocks are a popular attraction, as well as the stunning Art Deco pavilion and gardens. 

  • The Kelpies at The Helix No list of Scotland’s parks would be complete without the Kelpies. The world’s largest equine sculpture towers above the park. Opened in 2013, this eco-park transformed 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth and connects 16 local communities through an extensive path network stretching over 27km. Take a walk or cycle along the canal, and the kids will love the Adventure Zone and Splash Play. 

  • Auldcathie Park, Winchburgh - Along with expanding the village comes essential new green infrastructure. 2022 saw the first of 4 new parks created. Auldcathie District Park was designed by the community and has 31,000 new trees, paths and fitness trail, adventure play and boulder area, community woodland, bike park, fenced free dog park and at its heart a 1.5acre Community Growing Area operated by amazing volunteers growing food and creating community wellbeing.  

  • Duthie Park, Aberdeen - Gifted to the city by philanthropist Elizabeth Crombie Duthie in 1880 for the ‘wellbeing and recreation of Aberdeen inhabitants’, Duthie Park is loved by locals and visitors with its wonderfully restored Victorian features such as the bandstand, fountains, and boating ponds. The park is home to the David Welch Winter Gardens, one of Europes largest indoor gardens. 

  • Whin Park, Inverness On the banks of River Ness, Whin Park is the perfect park to visit and enjoy a family day out. With not one but four adventure play zones for children to enjoy, there is also a trim trail assault course so teenagers and adults can get involved too! A miniature railway will take you on a fun adventure round the park and a boating pond has rowing and paddleboats to hire. 

  • Dock Park, Dumfries – This riverside park has a rich and varied history. From the 1500s there are records of ships being unloaded here and barrels of herring being washed away by a flood. The park has a memorial to two local men who lost their lives with the sinking of the Titanic – John Law Home was a violinist in the band that continued to play as the ship went down. Today the park comes alive every Sunday morning for the Junior parkrun.  

  • Arcadia Park, Kirkwall, Orkney - This new community-designed greenspace in Kirkwall is a place where locals can walk, wheel, cycle and spend time outdoors. Officially opened in September 2022, Arcadia Park is home to ponds, wildflower meadows, woodlands, and sculptures.  

  • Pollok Country Park, Glasgow – The city’s largest park and only Country Park within Glasgow has extensive woodlands and gardens which provide a quiet sanctuary for both visitors and wildlife. The recently reopened magnificent Burrell Collection is nestled right in the middle of the park, almost like a hidden treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Pollok Country Park is also home to Scotland’s Covid Memorial, created by Scottish artist Alec Finlay, following a national campaign led by The Herald. 

Donations to Parks4Life can be made online or by texting PARK to 70450 to make a one-off donation of £5. People across Scotland who would like to share their own Park Portrait and park story are invited to post on social media using the hashtag #Parks4LifePortraits and submit to the greenspace scotland page here. 

Our parks make our lives better. Help keep them this way by donating to Parks4Life, Scotland’s first endowment to support local parks. 

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First published in The Herald Magazine, Saturday 23 September 2023