In an allusion to Rome, Edinburgh is said to be built on seven hills – though it’s not hard to come up with a few more if you know the city well. Nonetheless the seven has stuck, and there’s even an annual race – a combination of hill-running, road-running and urban orienteering – to climb them all, with the winners getting round in an amazing 1 hour 40 minutes. For most of the rest of us, it’s enough to climb the hills as a series of walks, all of them being featured on Walkhighlands routes within the city.
Perhaps the most photographed of them all, even if it’s not the hill itself that is the main event in the eyes of most. 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. Our Old Town walk takes in the highest parts, a spectacular warren of twisting alleyways and ancient buildings.
Across the opposite end of Princes’ Street Gardens is Calton Hill, rising over the New Town. Although the lowest of the seven summits, this offers one of the finest views over the heart of the city. It’s also topped by a fascinating array of monuments, well repaying the short ascent.
Ask someone to name one of Edinburgh’s hills and likely the first answer you get will be Arthur’s Seat. And no wonder – this ancient volcano is the highest of the seven and rises above Holyrood Park in spectacular fashion, surely one of the best hills in a city centre you’ll find anywhere. But Holyrood Park really deserves to have more than one of the official hills – we reckon you’d be mad to miss out a walk over Salisbury Crags and so we include both in our Arthur’s Seat route.
Lying slightly further from the centre of the city, Blackford Hill is – like the other hills – well within reach with a short bus ride. With the Royal Observatory just below the summit, some reckon the view from here is the best of the lot… and our Blackford Hill route also includes a visit to the lovely Hermitage of Braid.
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, and is the worthy destination of our Braid Hills circuit.
The most westerly of Edinburgh’s Seven Hills, Corstorphine Hill is different in that much of it is fine woodland, though its northern slopes house Edinburgh Zoo. The ascent of Corstorphine Hill provides an enjoyable woodland walk with superb views looking out over the city and across the Forth.
There are really two hills here, with the highest summit – Wester Craiglockhart – giving the grandest views. Both summits are visited on our Craiglockhart Hills walk, which also passes the buildings which once housed the Craiglockhart War Hospital where shell-shocked military officers from the First World War – including Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon – were treated.
Once you’ve climbed the seven, you don’t need to go much further afield to find bigger hills – the Pentland Hills provide superb walking just beyond the city bypass. If casting your net a little wider, we’ve also an Our Picks gallery of Scotland’s best wee hills.