Scotland's capital has many parks, but the largest, Holyrood, boasts 650 acres of gorse-strewn glens, ridges, volcanic cliffs, three lochs, Edinburgh's loftiest point (823-feet high Arthur's Seat), and Scotland's earliest railway tunnel. Marshland to the east of the park was flooded to create an artificial loch, St Margaret's, in 1856. This is now home to a sizeable colony of mute swans, as well as other waterfowl, mainly mallards, coots, moorhens, tufted ducks, and greylag geese. To get those feel-good hormones flooding your system and help flush away stresses, there are many scenic walks to be enjoyed through these tranquil surroundings.
Entering the park from the Meadowbank end, the first landmark you might notice is a cairn (pile of stones) overlooking the road. 'Maggie's Cairn' was constructed by locals to commemorate Margaret Hall, the 17-year-old murdered by her physician husband, Nicol Muschat, near this spot in 1720. This was the culmination of months of inept attempts to take her life by Muschat, who'd run up debts and wanted to start a new life abroad. He'd tried poisoning Maggie with mercury dichloride (a noxious substance used as an insecticide and also in the treatment of syphilis), administered in whisky drams and ale over a period. Maggie gamely recovered, prompting Muschat to take more direct action. After a long day on the peeve, Muschat persuaded Maggie to accompany him on a walk to Duddingston Kirk, then sliced her throat with a breadknife. Throughout this scheme, he had plotted with accomplices, his cousin James and James's wife, Grizel. Both grassed him up (referred to as turning King's Evidence back then). Muschat went to the gallows in the Grassmarket in 1721. A third accomplice, James Campbell, was deported to the West Indies to work as a plantation slave.
Heading to the loch, a pathway peeling to the left winds above the calm waters, leading to stairs rising towards the ruins of the early 15th century St Anthony's Chapel. You can continue up the scree-ridden slopes towards Arthur's Seat, head through Hunter's Bog to Salisbury Crags, or climb back down to the loch.
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