The Magnificent Seven Walks In and Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh has a lot to offer for outdoor lovers and there are many great walking trails. We’ve highlighted seven of the best in this article, suitable for a wide range of people, for different reasons; there’s something for everyone.
1. Arthurs Seat
Image Source: Shawnchin on Flickr
Difficulty Level : moderate
Suitable for : everyone from seasoned walkers, hikers and joggers to casual walkers of all ages, and on-leash dog walkers. There’s also a separate path for walkers and joggers.
Arthurs Seat is an iconic landmark; a dormant volcano standing at 251m above sea level - it’s the highest peak in Edinburgh. Situated in the centre of Edinburgh about a mile east of the castle, the views from the summit are breathtaking and on a clear day you can see as far afield as Fife.
There are different routes you can choose to walk up to the summit. The easiest and most direct route is from Dunsapie Loch and approach the summit from the east along either of the two paths starting at the car park. This is an easy stroll that takes only 15 minutes to reach the summit if you’re reasonably fit.
Alternatively you can start from Palace of Holyrood and follow the Radical Road and footpath to St. Anthony's Chapel before heading up the well marked path to link with the paths coming from the east side of the hill. From there continue over the volcanic rock to the summit of Arthur's Seat.
Other routes around Arthur's Seat include Whinny Hill, Crow Hill and Nether Hill, which offer quieter and more leisurely walks.
2. Water of Leith Walkway
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Difficulty Level : moderate
Suitable for : regular walkers or anyone fit enough to walk a few miles. On-leash dog walkers also welcome and the route is accessible in part by wheelchairs.
The Water of Leith Walkway is a beautiful 12 and three quarter mile walk through the heart of Edinburgh with the River Leith as your companion.
Once host to over 70 mills in Edinburgh’s industrial heartland, today the river Leith is home to a wide diversity of plants and wildlife including trout, herons, and otters.
The walkway passes through many areas of interest including: Colinton Village, the Union Canal, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village, Stockbridge, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Perfect for family walks, the walkway is an enjoyable stroll away from the noise and the crowds.
The route is well signposted and a walkway map is available from the Visitor Centre. As a rough guide to distances along the walkway :
Balerno to Slateford is 5 miles - 2 hours walk
Slateford to Leith is 7.5 miles - 3 hour walk
Roseburn to Stockbridge is 2 miles - 45mins walk
3. Blackford Hill
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Difficulty level : easy to moderate
Suitable for : all walkers of all ages, families with young children and dog walkers.
Blackford is one of the seven hills on which Edinburgh is famously built and its view is a match for any of the better-known hills. With the summit standing at 164m above sea-level, its one of the highest peaks in Edinburgh.
Blackford Hill is wild and wind-swept. It’s a large slice of countryside within the city. The terrain consists of woodland and grassy paths, and can be quite muddy in places. But walkers are rewarded by the surrounding scenery and in particular the views from the top which are outstanding. Blackford Hill is also very popular with dog walkers.
With limited car parking available, this walk is best reached by public transport. Take a bus to Comiston Road and get off by the church near the junction with Braidburn Terrace. Head along Braidburn Terrace and then turn right onto Braid Road. The walk itself then begins on a path on the left into the wooded glen of the Hermitage of Braid.
4. Braid Hills
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Difficulty Level : easy to moderate
Suitable for : all walkers of all ages although there are some steep sections. Dog walkers are also welcome here.
Braid Hills is the southernmost of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills. Largely occupied by golf courses, the Braid Hills is situated in the South of the city near Comiston Road. There are several paths and tracks around this hill including a horseriding trail, but its mostly popular with walkers.
Walking here is mostly easy with only comfortable shoes required and waterproofs in case the weather turns quickly. You are permitted to walk across the golf courses but not on the greens of course.
It’s a long steady climb to reach the highest summit of the Braid Hills 213m above sea level. The summit of The Braids is one of Edinburgh’s highest points boasting a fascinating panorama from the new Seven Hills Outlook view indicator.
5. Inverleith Park
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Difficulty level : easy
Suitable for : everyone - walkers of all ages, on-leash dog walkers, families with younger children.
Situated beside the Royal Botanic Gardens in the northern part of the city, Inverleith Park is described as “An oasis of green in the heart of Edinburgh.” As with Arthur’s Seat, the park is on high ground so boasts some great views of the city.
You can enjoy a picturesque stroll down the tree-lined paths, stop and watch a sports game at one of the many pitches or sit by the pond and watch the swans. There’s also a great kids play park. Many locals also say that Inverleith Park is the best place to watch the fireworks from the Castle at Hogmanay or during the Festival.
6. Dean Village
Image Source: Johnomason on Flickr
Difficulty Level : easy
Suitable for : everyone of all ages.
Dean Village is situated along the Water of Leith and a short stroll from Stockbridge and the New town.
A gentle walk from Stockbridge takes you through the New Town and past some beautiful Georgian architecture to reach the National Galleries of Scotland. The walk returns along the Water of Leith, passing through a deep gorge and the beautiful Dean Village.
The village itself is stunning and features a beautiful bridge, which takes you back in time to the days when the village was the centre of the grain milling trade. There were once as many as 11 working mills here driven by the force of the strong currents of the water of Leith. Beautiful, peaceful and tranquil, walking through the Dean Village you will feel far removed from the city.
7. Pentland Hills
Image Source: downatthezoo on Flickr
Difficulty level : moderate to challenging
Suitable for : reasonably fit walkers of all ages, stamina required if tackling the longer sections. Dog walkers also welcome.
The Pentlands are a range of 5 hills or peaks to the south-west of Edinburgh. The range is around 20 miles in length, and runs south west from Edinburgh towards Biggar.
The Pentland Hills Regional Park covers an area of 35 square miles at the northern end of the hills. The park, together with the rest of the hills, are used for a variety of recreational activities including hillwalking, mountain biking, horse riding, golf and skiing on the artificial ski slope at Hillend - the Midlothian Snowsports Centre.
With over 100km of sign posted routes that are suitable for all levels of fitness, there is something for everyone on the Pentland Hills. The Pentland Hills Ranger Service leads a number of guided walks and other events throughout the year.
One of the best walks starts at the picturesque Swanston Village, and you can choose your route depending on your fitness. The easiest walk is from the car park at the Flotterstone Inn.
When planning your trip to the Pentlands be aware that many places become busy very quickly, in particular, Flotterstone, Harlaw and Threipmuir car parks so get there early. And if you’re walking your dog, watch out for sheep and make sure it’s on a leash especially during the lambing season.
So that’s our roundup of seven of the best walks around Edinburgh. Maybe you have a favourite on this list or another walk entirely. Let us know about your walking experiences.