Edinburgh: One Day, Seven Hills

And just like that, it’s September and this wee corner of the internet has been (as was perhaps inevitable) neglected for the best part of a month. I’m five weeks into my year as a newly-qualified teacher in a new-to-me school, and it has been equal parts enjoyable and exhausting. But I digress. Today’s blog is a space for one of Edinburgh’s best urban walks: Seven Hills.

Yes, just like Rome (and countless other cities around the globe, if Wikipedia is to be believed), Edinburgh is built on seven hills. At some point between moving to Edinburgh last February and this past July, I decided I fancied walking all seven of them in a day. For those wishing to take on the challenge of running the route (i.e. not me), there’s an official event held in June and more information can be found at www.seven-hills.org.uk.

Corstorphine Hill

We live in Corstorphine, so I made Corstorphine Hill the first hill of the day. I headed up Clermiston Road, then zig-zagged upwards through the residential streets. Where Kaimes Road and Cairnmuir Road meet, there’s a footpath into Corstorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve. When the path split a hundred or so metres in, I turned left and wandered up through the woodland to reach The Tower.

The Tower

Although The Tower marks the summit of Corstorphine Hill, it’s rarely open to the public (though if you’re in Edinburgh next weekend, you can visit it as part of Doors Open Days 2022) so the best views are found elsewhere. I retraced my footsteps and then picked up the path to Rest and Be Thankful, which commands beautiful views towards Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill.

Calton Hill from Rest and Be Thankful

From Rest and Be Thankful, the path sweeps across the southern edge of Corstorphine Hill. I got my fix of views of the Pentland Hills Regional Park, and then continued down the hill to exit onto Corstorphine Road/Balgreen Road.

Pentland Hills Regional Park from Corstorphine Hill

Craiglockhart Hill East

What follows is perhaps the least scenic stretch of the route. I walked the length of Balgreen Road  and then turned right onto Gorgie Road. Fortunately, I turned off this busy trunk road before too long and onto Chesser Avenue. What this stretch lacks in scenic views, it more than makes up for in amenities. If you’ve forgotten anything and/or come to the realisation that you need more snacks/drinks than anticipated, stock up here.

Jenners’ Depository, Balgreen Road
Slateford Station

After a quick detour to Aldi for sunblock and more fruit, I continued onto Hutchison Terrace and crossed the railway line at Slateford Station. Craiglockhart Hill finally felt within striking distance: down Meggetgate, along the A70, then left onto Craiglockhart Avenue. (If you pass the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, you’ve gone too far: turn back, and Craiglockhart Avenue will be on your right.)

Craiglockhart Castle

I passed the remains of Craiglockhart Castle (above) on the edge of Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart Campus, and shortly after turned onto a footpath into Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve. After a short distance, I took a path on the right that climbed up through woodland towards the summit.

Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve

From the top of Craiglockhart Hill East, I had views across to Corstorphine Hill (the tree-clad hill on the left, below) and Fife. I had a snack at the top, and then followed the path beside the golf course fence to come off the hill.

View from Craiglockhart Hill East

Braid Hill

When compared to the distance between Corstorphine Hill and Craiglockhart Hill East, the next few hills come in quick succession. I exited Easter Craiglockhart Hill Local Nature Reserve onto Craiglea Place, then turned onto Morningside Grove. I then followed Greenbank Drive (which, true to its name, is very lush and green in the summer months) to the A702, and turned onto Braid Road at the earliest opportunity. A wrought-iron archway on the right-hand side marks the entrance to Braid Hills.

Into Braid Hills

When the narrow path forked, I turned right. I reckon Braid Hill has the best panoramic views of the city… but don’t tell the hordes who converge on Arthur’s Seat that.

Craiglockhart Hill West (left), Craiglockhart Hill East (the grassy one in the middle) and Corstorphine Hill (the tree-clad one right of centre)
Castle Rock (left), Calton Hill (barely discernible, but roughly halfway between Castle Rock and Salisbury Crags), Arthur’s Seat and Blackford Hill (in front of Arthur’s Seat and topped with a large pylon)

Blackford Hill

After a bite to eat at the top of Braid Hill, I headed N/NE through the gorse and the golf course towards Braid Hills Drive. Be alert for flying golf balls – I happened to be there on the day of a golf competition, which meant there were more golfers converging on one part of the course than there are usually!

Lang Linn Path

I followed the Lang Linn Path into Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill Local Nature Reserve. Whether you turn left or right (as I did) at the end is neither here nor there: either route will eventually lead you to the top of Blackford Hill.

Looking back towards Braid Hill (marked with a pylon) and the Pentland Hills Regional Park
Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat (the wee blob on the horizon to the right is North Berwick Law)
Castle Rock (complete with staging for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo) and St. Giles’ Cathedral

Arthur’s Seat

I descended Blackford Hill via Blackford Pond, then followed Charterhall Road towards West Savile Terrace. Blackford and Newington are a bit of a maze to me, as I don’t know this part of town so well, so I wiggled up Mayfield Road (via Tesco Express for a Lipton Peach Ice Tea), along Salisbury Road, past the Royal Commonwealth Pool and into Holyrood Park. There may well be a more direct route.

Arthur’s Seat from Queen’s Drive, Holyrood Park

There are various routes up Arthur’s Seat. On this occasion I turned right onto Queen’s Drive, took the footpath off to the left and then turned onto the second path on the right to ascend via Crow Hill.

Salisbury Crags
Arthur’s Seat, viewed from a much quieter Crow Hill

As is always the case on a bright, sunny day, there were lots of people at the top, so I stayed just long enough to take a couple of photos and then made my way down to Holyrood Gate.

Dunsapie Loch, Portobello and Musselburgh from Arthur’s Seat (and yes, that pointy triangle on the horizon is North Berwick Law putting in another appearance)
Calton Hill, viewed from behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Scottish Parliament Building

Calton Hill

I didn’t take the most direct route to Calton Hill, as a detour via the University of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Campus (where I did my PGDE) would enable me to fill my water bottle up on the way. Bottle filled, I turned left onto Canongate and then turned right onto New Street, which links up with Calton Road. Had I clocked them at the time, I could have taken the steps via Jacob’s Ladder to reach Calton Hill… but I didn’t, so I turned left onto Calton Road and then right onto Calton Hill (a street which shares its name with the hill). From here, it was only a short walk to the top of Calton Hill.

Nelson Monument, Calton Hill

Calton Hill is perhaps the ultimate low-effort, high-reward hill. There are various monuments scattered across it, from the Nelson Monument (above) to the iconic Dugald Stewart Monument and the National Monument of Scotland (both below).

Dugald Stewart Monument
National Monument of Scotland

From the top, there are views of the city centre (above), Arthur’s Seat and across the Firth of Forth to Fife (below).

Looking north from Calton Hill

Castle Rock

One last hill: Castle Rock. I passed a few of the Giraffe About Town sculptures on my way along Princes Street and over North Bridge, and was rewarded with zero views from Castle Rock due to the seating installed for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. As I’d had views from six of the seven hills (and had seen the view from Castle Rock numerous times before) this didn’t put a dampener on the day. I made a detour via McDonald’s for a Smarties McFlurry, and then walked the three miles or so home along the A8.

Castle Rock
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Probably not.


  • Maps and guides | There’s no official route per se, but I found the rough guide outlined at www.seven-hills.org.uk/course.asp a helpful starting point.
  • Distance | 30.9km/ 19.3 miles; 847m of elevation gain. Note: I didn’t succeed in finding the optimal route (which is said to be c. 14 miles), so if you did then this would be a fair bit shorter. You’ll want a reasonably early start; this took me the best part of eight hours (including photo stops and a detour to Aldi for sunblock).
  • Misc. | Wear comfortable shoes, as this route includes both pavements and woodland trails. Pack plenty of water and snacks: sections of the route pass through residential areas with little in the way of amenities.

7 thoughts on “Edinburgh: One Day, Seven Hills

    1. I think I often make the mistake of thinking city walks are easier, but my feet weren’t overly happy with that amount of walking on concrete! There was something very satisfying about finishing it, though 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Glad to see you back on here! La rentrée is a busy time of year, but I hope things are going well. Seven Hills sounds like a daunting task, at over 19 miles…based on my fitness level, I’d probably split it up into two days, at least! Hope you have a great school year ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Feels like busy has taken on a whole new meaning this year (probably the amount of “new” things all in one go: school building to navigate, colleagues, pupils, different timings of the school day, etc.!) but it’s off to a good start 🙂 I definitely didn’t find the optimal route (which is apparently c. 14 miles), but that was partly due to me not wanting to get lost in the maze of residential streets that all look the same. I had tired legs for a couple of days afterwards, but it was worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

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