Did you know that like the city of Rome, Edinburgh is said to have been ‘built on seven hills’? People still debate over which hills this refers to, as there are certainly more than seven, but it’s pretty clear that the Scottish capital is a hiker’s paradise. The best thing is that you don’t even have to leave the city to find some decent trails.
We’re not saying that we’re settling the debate, but we have picked out seven hills that you can walk up from the city centre. Walking outside might be the last thing you think of doing in the wintertime, or maybe it’s the first? Edinburgh is a magical place during the colder months, especially from up high, so don’t let the cold stop you getting outdoors and exploring the 7 hills of Edinburgh.
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1. Arthur’s Seat
Location: Holyrood Park
Getting there: Holyrood Park is a short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile - from the train station it takes just 10 minutes to reach the park.
One of the most well-known walks in Edinburgh, climbing up Arthur’s Seat is a rite of passage on a trip to Scotland’s capital. The famous extinct volcano in Holyrood Park offers stunning panoramic views across the cityscape and you can choose between longer, gentler routes, or a steeper climb to the top. It’s windy at the summit, particularly in winter, so make sure you wrap up warm!
From the top, there are many different paths you can meander down; consider exploring the Salisbury Crags and keep an eye out for the remains of St. Anthony’s chapel.
2. Calton Hill
Location: Regent Road
Getting there: The walk starts at the western end of the hill, next to Regent Road. Walk here from Edinburgh Waverly in 10 minutes.
If climbing Arthur’s Seat seems a little daunting, then head to Calton Hill where you’ll find a smaller climb and superior views. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the hill sits opposite Edinburgh Castle, with the ancient structures of the Old Town separating the two. At the top of the hill, you’ll find the National Monument of Scotland, a distinctive part of the city skyline and a memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died in the Napoleonic Wars.
Arguably, Calton Hill is the city’s best photo spot, offering views of the Castle, the Old Town skyline, and the distant mountains all in one shot.
3. Castle Rock
Location: Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve
Getting there: Castle Rock is a short 10-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverly.
Castle Rock is probably the most photographed of them all, even if it’s not the hill itself that is the main attraction to many. Topped by the spectacular Castle itself, the rock rises through the heart of Edinburgh, carrying the Royal Mile along its classic crag-and-tail formation right down to the Palace of Holyrood. You will walk through the Royal Mile towards the Castle, with many alleys you can venture off to explore en route.
At the end of the Mile, keep right at an old church (now, the Hub). You will pass several attractions on your way to the Castle, including the Camera Obscura – a brilliant experience that will thrill the whole family with five floors jam packed with over 100 illusions. If it’s a cold day (or even if it’s not!), we also recommend a stop off at The Scotch Whisky Experience for a quick tipple to keep warm. Once you reach the Castle, you can either pay to enter or roam around the outside, enjoying its beauty and the surrounding city views.
4. Blackford Hill
Location: Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill nature reserve
Getting there: Walking to the nature reserve will take just under an hour from the train station. Alternatively, the best bus route is the number 41 from the Mound at its junction with Princes Street.
Blackford Hill offers a large slice of countryside within a bustling city. It’s a muddy woodland walk in the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill nature reserve. From the top, you’ll get a beautiful 360-degree view over the city skyline, Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills.
You’ll find the climb is easier than Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill and the hill has a more local feel to it, whilst offering just as good views. Remember, it gets muddy, so pack your wellies!
5. Braid Hills
Location: Braid Hills Golf Course
Getting there: Walk to the golf course in just over an hour or take the Lothian Bus services 11, 15 or 15A to Comiston Road. From here, follow the Braid Hills Road and then Braid Hills Approach to the car park of the Braid Golf Club.
Out beyond Blackford, the Braid Hills really are a small range rather than a single hill. The highest summit - Buckstone Snab - has a view indicator pointing to all seven hills of Edinburgh. If you’re climbing all seven, leave this one till last if you want to see what you’ve achieved!
The Braid Hills are largely occupied by golf courses and the main trail goes all the way around the hills, skirting the edge of them. The views from Braid Hills are simply stunning, offering panoramic views over the city, Blackford Hill, the Pentlands, Arthur’s Seat and all the way out to sea. A walk around the Braids can easily be combined with Blackford Hill as it is directly opposite.
6. Craiglockhart Hill
Location: Morningside Clock
Getting there: Walking to Craiglockhart will take around 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can jump on Lothian Bus service 4, 10, 27 or 45 and depart at the Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart Campus stop.
Craiglockhart Hill is really two hills - Easter and Wester - but together the two are generally referred to as the singular Craiglockhart Hill. It is easy to climb both in the same excursion.
From the Morningside Clock, you will walk along to Craighouse grounds and through woodlands to Craiglockhart pond. The woods are magical, particularly in winter, when the beautiful trees and wild mushrooms have a touch of frost and the winter wildlife comes out to play. From the pond, you can take a steady climb up both Wester and Easter Craiglockhart Hills to enjoy views across the city to Fife, the Pentlands, East Lothian and beyond.
It only takes around 20 minutes to climb either hill, so you can definitely do both together. What better way to keep warm this winter?
7. Corstorphine Hill
Location: Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve
Getting there: It’s a 50-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverly to Queensferry Road where you can enter the nature reserve.
The most westerly of Edinburgh’s seven hills, Corstorphine Hill provides an enjoyable woodland walk with superb views looking out over the city and across the Forth. The park is one of the largest green spaces in Edinburgh and has been awarded a Green Flag since 2010. Edinburgh Zoo makes use of the steep southern slopes of the hill, so you may spot some more exotic wildlife than you first thought. If not, there is a famous colony of approximately 30 badgers on the hill, so keep an eye out!
At the summit is Corstorphine Hill Tower (also known as Clermiston Tower or Scott Tower) - a memorial to Edinburgh’s romantic novelist Walter Scott. When the tower is open to the public, it offers magnificent all-round views from the top. In wintertime, locals flock to the hill to sled – ask nicely and they might let you have a go.
Are you planning on staying in Edinburgh for a few days? Check out these free things to do in Edinburgh and start planning your itinerary.
CrossCountry runs services to Edinburgh from all over the country and there are plenty more trails to get your walking boots on for. Whenever you decide to visit, remember to buy an Advance ticket to Edinburgh via our Train Tickets app.
Written by Julia