You’ll find when walking around Edinburgh that it’s not a particularly flat city. No matter where you’re going, you’ll find yourself panting from the sloped streets and many, many staircases. Edinburgh is located within seven distinct hills that play into the city’s landscape. It is in homage to Rome which is also built on seven hills. Edinburgh is often compared to other European capitals such as Athens because of the National Monument that sits upon Calton Hill, one of the seven.
Inspired by other Edinburgh bloggers and Instagrammers, it was one of my New Year’s resolutions to climb each hill before the end of 2020. I was certainly not planning on tackling them all in one day, like the yearly race but is perhaps a goal to set myself for the future. I had climbed a few of them already since I moved to Edinburgh in 2017 but this challenge was a way of introducing myself to new areas of the city that I had never explored before. I loved climbing each one despite occasionally getting lost and often being out of breath. It’s likely that I’ll climb them all again before I finish my time at university, especially because it allowed me to discover new favourite places for a moment of calm or somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of the Scottish capital.
Castle Rock is a plug to a now extinct volcano, something that Edinburgh is famed for. From the name of this hill, you’ll be utterly surprised to discover that Edinburgh Castle sits at the top. Most of the hill is made up of steep cliffs but the top is easily accessible from the Royal Mile where the slope is much more gradual. It takes you up the castle promenade and into the complex that is owned by Historic Environment Scotland. Castle Rock is the most central of all the hills and will therefore provide the best views into the heart of Edinburgh that’s what you’d like to see. However as it is not particularly tall and surrounded by buildings such as the Hub (the tallest point in Edinburgh) for better views perhaps climb another hill.
Calton Hill the smallest of the seven at 103m but one of my favourites due to the monuments that sit atop. It’s only a 5 minute walk from Edinburgh’s main shopping street, Princes Street, meaning it’s the perfect central location and very climbable if you’re only in Edinburgh for a short period of time. Calton Hill has one of the most famous views in Edinburgh that features the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground, backed by the Balmoral hotel, Scott Monument and Edinburgh Castle; an image that is plastered to many Scottish tourism boards. As well as admiring the fantastic views across all areas of the city, be sure to visit some of the monuments and the city observatory. I mentioned earlier the National Monument of Scotland, where Edinburgh received the nickname of, ‘Athens of the North,’ but it is also possible to climb the Nelson Monument or see the Portuguese Canon.
Along with Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat is the second of two extinct volcanoes that are in the heart of Edinburgh. It has the highest point within the city limits at 251m tall and, in my opinion, the hardest climb of the seven. You’ll find Arthur’s Seat within Holyrood Park amongst, basalt cliffs and lochs. There are many different routes to the summit, some easier and less rockier than others but there are maps dotted around the park to help you find your way. It’s very windy at the top but the view doesn’t just cover Edinburgh, but far beyond. If I’m on the train coming through Fife, Arthur’s Seat is so easy to spot from the other side of the Firth of Forth.
What a gem Blackford Hill is. I don’t know why it took me so long to visit because I had a lovely afternoon wandering around Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Pond and up the hill. I took my book with me and sat in the sun relaxing whilst having a gorgeous view straight down to the castle. There are a couple of ways up to the summit but I took the steps from the west as I had spent some time walking around the foot of the hill. Blackford Hill has an unmatched view of Edinburgh castle. There is nothing in to obscure the monument as it sits proudly upon Castle Rock above the rest of the city skyline.
If you travel out west of Edinburgh’s City Centre, you’ll come to Corstorphine Hill, a nature reserve known for the resident badgers. Whilst Corstorphine Hill is considered to be one of Edinburgh’s seven, much of the area has been built upon with houses and most notable, Edinburgh Zoo. The woodland walks are lovely and the trees provide shelter from the sun or rain depending on the weather when you visit. One thing I was delighted to discover was the Rest and be Thankful viewpoint. I sat on a bench at around 8am and ate my breakfast whilst the sun shone over the city which felt like a lovely moment. If the name seems familiar to you, it was mentioned in the book Kidnapped by Robert Luis Stevenson. The summit of Corstorphine Hill is marked with Clermiston Tower, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and feels like a place where you may find Rapunzel.
Since climbing Craiglockhart Hill, I’ve learned that the ‘h’ is not pronounced as I said it wrong in my first ever TikTok, mortifying. For climbing Craiglockhart Hill, I went on a 12km hike from my flat, followed a route around the East and West peaks, the boating pond and the nature reserve and back again. I’d highly recommend checking out this route by WalkHighlands if you’re interested. The thing I loved the most about Craiglockhart Hill was that it was my first time clearly seeing all seven hills of Edinburgh at once. As the penultimate hill on my list, it was nice to look around and see where I had been so far and scout out the last summit to climb, Braid Hills.
You can check out my TikTok out here!
I was a bit of a disaster climbing Braid Hills. It started with one wrong turn just after Blackford Hill and then I ended up getting lost trying to find the trig-point at the top. I managed to end up on the golf course at one point and was a tad concerned that I’d get a concussion before reaching the summit. But with my skull still intact, I made it to the top on a late Summer’s evening, a couple of days before I started my fourth and final year of university.
I was weirdly emotional about the whole situation. I don’t often complete my New Year’s Resolutions and the fact that I managed to do this one and that it involved exercise made me very proud of myself. There was a great lookout point across the other six hills that I climbed and it was a lovely way to end it, looking over what I had achieved. I didn’t stay for very long at the top as it was windy and cold but I am happy to go into my fourth year of university knowing I’ve completed this wee milestone. Next stop: Everest