We might still be stuck in our local areas for the next few weeks, but the one thing I am thankful for is that Edinburgh is full to the brim with great walks commanding beautiful views.
Lockdown has meant getting out and exploring a bit closer to home, which isn’t always a bad thing – and now that the weather is getting better, it’s a great time to be outdoors before the crowds hit again.
I’ve always loved how walkable Edinburgh is in general – walking around the Old Town is still one of my favourite things to do, discovering nooks and crannies on the Royal Mile in closes tucked away behind the main strip. I’m not including the Old Town walk on here, although I’ve actually written about it for Ordnance Surveys here. If you’re here, you’re probably looking for a bit more than a traipse around the Mile.
And boy, has Edinburgh got more. In this post I’m covering hills, beaches, islands and coastline. You might even see a zebra or two!
I’m only including walks within the Edinburgh council area, or within a couple of miles of it, as these are the ones we’re allowed to do legally at the moment, and I also like the idea of promoting ones you can get to easily. You don’t need a car to get to any of these from the city centre!
Possibly Edinburgh’s most famous walk – up a volcano!
The best part? It’s right in the city centre. From the bottom of the Royal Mile, the start of the trail is just around the corner behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, making it Edinburgh’s most accessible and iconic hike.
If you’re a hiker, you’ll find this easy; if you’re not, you might find it pretty tough. The first time I did it, I found it a lot harder than I thought I would. The last time I went up, it took me half an hour to get to the top. So allow a minimum of an hour return, and of course you’ll want some time at the top too! I love working out where everywhere is, as you can see literally the whole of Edinburgh and beyond from up here. It’s pretty incredible!
P.S. if you want photos of Arthur’s Seat itself, there are at least three more in this post! You can see it from most places in Edinburgh!
Water Of Leith
Another very accessible walk is the Water Of Leith. The good thing about the Water Of Leith is it stretches for miles, so you can essentially do any part of it that you like. I highly recommend the short stretch between Dean Village (pictured above, and only a ten minute walk from Princes Street) and Stockbridge – this is easily the most scenic part of it, and in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s one (or two!) of the most scenic parts of Edinburgh as a whole.
If you fancy a longer walk, then carry on all the way to Leith, which is around a three mile walk and incredibly peaceful. Leith is my favourite area of Edinburgh, so I can always recommend stopping off when you get to the Shore to have a drink in Teuchter’s Landing or a meal in The King’s Wark, once they’re open again!
You could also stop on the way at the Botanic Gardens, which features a tropical glasshouse and is well worth a visit.
I’ve got an entire post covering more of the Water Of Leith walk here!
Read more: How To Spend The Perfect Sunday In Edinburgh
If you don’t want to climb all the way up Arthur’s Seat, a fantastic alternative is Calton Hill. This is probably my favourite place to come for sunset, although you get sensational views over the city any time of day.
Calton Hill is a hop, skip & jump away from the city centre; a five minute walk from Princes Street followed by a load of steps and a very brief steep climb. It’s the perfect way to end the day!
Plus there’s actually a fair amount to see up there, including a curious half-finished Parthenon, a towering monument to commemorate Admiral Nelson, and an observatory. It’s known as the three failures – the Parthenon was never completed, an observatory is all very well in the centre a highly populated well-lit city, and the monument has a ball on top which was intended to drop at 1pm to help passing ships with their navigation… which is perfect on a foggy day. Interestingly, I didn’t realise this is why the 1 o’clock gun is fired at Edinburgh Castle.
(Fun anecdote: I said the other day that I haven’t heard the 1 o’clock gun in a long time. Then last week we were sat by the castle with some lunch and almost pooped ourselves!!)
One walk that took me way too long to discover was Blackford Hill. I still haven’t been up the Braid Hills behind them, but Blackford Hill has really incredible views over to the castle and it’s a pleasant walk up from the beautiful (and very upmarket) Morningside area.
After perusing some of your dream houses and moaning about how disgustingly rich some people are, take a wander through the Hermitage of Braid along the burn, and up the hill to find a fantastic view over the city.
This is also one of my favourite viewpoints for the castle!
Getting there: Several buses run through Morningside, so take your pick from the 5, 11, 15 and 16. There’s a car park by the Observatory, but you can also get the 38 or 41. We took the bus to Morningside which meant an added 10 minute walk to Midmar Drive where the walk starts.
Not all of Edinburgh’s walks are up hills, I promise! So here’s something a bit different – did you know Edinburgh has a tidal island packed with WW2 fortifications?
Neither did I until I moved here!
As it’s a tidal island, you can only cross twice a day, so the most important thing here is make sure you check the tide times and aim your visit for some time before low tide, to give you some time over on the island before the tide comes in again. Otherwise it could be long old night!
Still, at least there are some bunkers to shelter from the elements! I wonder how many people have camped in those, whether they’ve meant to or not.
Getting there: Hop on the 41 bus to Cramond, or there’s free parking.
Another hill walk with some of the best views in Edinburgh, this lies to the west of the city centre and takes you up through woodland to the back of Edinburgh Zoo. So watch out for zebras! (Yes, really!)
There are a few things to explore on Corstorphine Hill, most notably an unused Cold War nuclear bunker which was placed there in the event that the Royal Family may need it while in residence in Edinburgh. Now in disrepair, it became a popular place for urban exploring, although from what I gather it’s pretty hard to get in now (you’ll be surprised to know I haven’t even tried!!! Even though it’s 100% up my alley). However, they are in the process of renovating it to turn into a museum, which is pretty cool!
There’s also Corstorphine Hill Tower which is impossible to miss, a surprising memorial tower to Sir Walter Scott. Surprising because I never knew that’s what it was there for!
But the real piece de resistance up here is the phenomenal view from the Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint. Having been to the incredible namesake in Argyll, I can’t say I thought this would live up to expectations – but it really did!
Getting there: We parked in the small car park along Clermiston Road, but you can also walk up from next to Edinburgh Zoo or from Queensferry Road. There are absolutely loads of buses you can catch for either of the latter two – for the zoo entrance, you can get the 12, 26, 31 or 100 (airport bus). For Queensferry Road, the 21, 41 or 43.
Capital View walk, Pentlands
Another hill walk, but not as much of a hill walk as most Pentlands hikes! The Pentland hills overlook Edinburgh from the southwest, though technically the first couple of miles of it are actually in the Edinburgh council area (I only found this out recently!). So the Capital View walk is completely within Edinburgh.
Did you know there’s a ski slope in Edinburgh?! It’s actually the second biggest dry ski slope in Europe, which I find… very surprising!
From the ski slope, it’s a straight run down to the extremely charming village of Swanston, which you wouldn’t believe is part of Edinburgh. Hands up who wants to live here?!
Maybe don’t sit on that bench though.
We parked at the Hillend Lower Car Park, but you can also get the bus out there. I forgot to time how long this walk took us, but probably around an hour and a half? You could also park at Swanston to do the same loop.
You can also carry on up Allermuir Hill if you want more of a hike, which I plan to do next time.
Getting there: catch the #4 bus to Hillend from the city centre.
Dalmeny Estate loop, South Queensferry
South Queensferry is right on the edge of Edinburgh, and there are a handful of really nice walks. The best one, apart from simply walking down the lovely high street and seeing the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, is the Dalmeny Estate loop around the coast, from which you could also carry on to Cramond.
The walk officially starts from Hawes Pier, so you can still stop for those views of the bridge before starting the walk through the estate.
One thing I didn’t know was that there’s a castle en route, too!
After a coastal path taking you past several beaches, we came across a castle I never knew existed. This is Barnbougle Castle, and it’s private but you get good views of it along the coastline.
From the castle, you can either carry on to Cramond (which we’ll do at some point) or turn up through Dalmeny Estate, where you can see the elegant house as well as some deer and even Highland coos! All in all, a very pleasant walk.
There are various paths you can take, and various start & end points, so it’s hard to say how long you should allow for the walk, but at least a couple of hours. It was longer than we expected, but we did a loop from our house, which added almost an hour to our walk!
Getting there: You can get the 43 bus to Queensferry and get off at the end of the high street. You’ll need to walk along the high street to Hawes Pier. Alternatively, you could get off where the bus turns in towards Dalmeny village, and start the walk from the gates to the estate to take the coastal path round to the pier. If you’re driving, there’s plenty of parking at the pier (although it does get busy!).
Colinton Tunnel into the city centre
One of my favourite fairly off-the-beaten-path places to visit in Edinburgh is Colinton Tunnel. An unassuming ex-railway tunnel has more recently turned into an entire art exhibition.
The whole tunnel depicts the poem From A Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson, the second nod to him in this post! He gets around Edinburgh, does our Robert.
Each time we come here, more of the work has been completed, and it looks virtually complete now, although they replied to my Twitter post, saying that there’s still work to be done yet! It just means we’ll have to keep going back.
You can read more about the stunning project here.
From the tunnel, you can follow the path all the way into the city centre, which follows the Water of Leith – but hop over to the Union Canal around Slateford for a more direct route into town. It’ll still take a couple of hours, so it’s a decent walk!
Getting there: Catch the 10, 16 or 44 buses to Colinton from the city centre.
Flotterstone, Glencorse Reservoir, Pentlands
I am sort of cheating with this one, but you’re allowed to travel five miles out of your council area for exercise, so you’re technically allowed to do this one. We went during the first lockdown.
This is an easy ramble along Glencorse Reservoir and up Castlelaw Hill and back through an army training ground where there are lots of scary signs, and lots of sheep (*klaxon sound* WE ALSO SAW BABY DEER!!!). Just be aware that that part may not be open if they’re actually using it as a training ground. The road carries on to the end of the reservoir and there are more walks you can do in this area, but this is the only one we’ve done!
Check out other Pentland Hills walks on WalkHighlands – my favourite walking resource for Scotland!
Getting there: The #4 bus to Hillend stops before here I think, so it looks like the only option is the 101 Stagecoach bus. There is lots of parking behind Flotterstone Inn.
There are a few more lovely walks around Edinburgh, like Portobello beach and the pier at Newhaven, but these are more just short strolls. I think it’s safe to say that there are plenty of places to walk in Edinburgh though, and I’m really grateful to live in a city that has so much green space and also a huge diversity of walks from urban to hills to the coast. This isn’t even including public parks (of which there are loads).
Only three weeks of lockdown to go… but at least we’re in lockdown here.
Have you been for many walks in your local area during lockdown?
Read more about Edinburgh here:
⭐ My Highlights Of Edinburgh
⭐ 50 Photos To Make You Want To Visit Edinburgh
⭐ How To Spend The Perfect Sunday In Edinburgh
⭐ 15 Quirky & Unique Places To Eat & Drink In Edinburgh
⭐ A Local’s Guide To Leith, Edinburgh’s Coolest Neighbourhood
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