The Magnificent Seven Walks In and Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh has a lot to offer for outdoor lovers and there are many great walking trails. We’ve highlighted seven of the best in this article, suitable for a wide range of people, for different reasons; there’s something for everyone.
1. Arthurs Seat
Image Source: Shawnchin on Flickr
Difficulty Level: moderate
Suitable for: everyone from seasoned walkers, hikers and joggers to casual walkers of all ages, and on-leash dog walkers. There’s also a separate path for walkers and joggers.
Arthurs Seat is an iconic landmark; a dormant volcano standing at 251m above sea level - it’s the highest peak in Edinburgh. Situated in the centre of Edinburgh about a mile east of the castle, the views from the summit are breathtaking and on a clear day you can see as far afield as Fife.
There are different routes you can choose to walk up to the summit. The easiest and most direct route is from Dunsapie Loch and approach the summit from the east along either of the two paths starting at the car park. This is an easy stroll that takes only 15 minutes to reach the summit if you’re reasonably fit.
Alternatively you can start from Palace of Holyrood and follow the Radical Road and footpath to St. Anthony's Chapel before heading up the well marked path to link with the paths coming from the east side of the hill. From there continue over the volcanic rock to the summit of Arthur's Seat.
Other routes around Arthur's Seat include Whinny Hill, Crow Hill and Nether Hill, which offer quieter and more leisurely walks.
After your walk - the best cafés near Arthur's Seat:
Café at the Palace. Set in the historic courtyard of Holyrood Palace, this stylish café serves a great selection of homemade soups, hot courses, salads and freshly baked cakes. The perfect way to relax after a walk up or around Arthur's Seat!
The Royal Mile, 98 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX | view map | 0131 652 3685
Clarinda's Tearoom. Clarinda's charmingly kitsch interior features china plates and tables draped in crisp white linen. Enjoy the cosy ambience with a home baked cake or delicious sandwich in a Victorian-inspired setting.
69 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BS | view map | 0131 557 1888
2. Water of Leith Walkway
Image Source: butterflysuicide on Instagram
Difficulty Level: moderate
Suitable for: regular walkers or anyone fit enough to walk a few miles. On-leash dog walkers also welcome and the route is accessible in part by wheelchairs.
The Water of Leith Walkway is a beautiful 12 and three quarter mile walk through the heart of Edinburgh with the River Leith as your companion.
Once host to over 70 mills in Edinburgh’s industrial heartland, today the river Leith is home to a wide diversity of plants and wildlife including trout, herons, and otters.
The walkway passes through many areas of interest including: Colinton Village, the Union Canal, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village, Stockbridge, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Perfect for family walks, the walkway is an enjoyable stroll away from the noise and the crowds.
The route is well signposted and a walkway map is available from the Visitor Centre. As a rough guide to distances along the walkway :
Balerno to Slateford is 5 miles - 2 hours walk
Slateford to Leith is 7.5 miles - 3 hour walk
Roseburn to Stockbridge is 2 miles - 45mins walk
After your walk - the best cafés along the Water of Leith:
The Water of Leith Café Bistro. A family-run bistro serving breakfast, sandwiches, cakes and a selection of wholesome mains made from seasonal, local ingredients.
1 Howard St, UK, Edinburgh EH3 5JP | view map | 0131 556 6887
Bluebird Café. Tennessee-inspired dining with locally sourced Scottish produce, the Bluebird Café serves great coffee, a wide range of sweet treats and a hearty Scottish Breakfast complete with haggis and black pudding.
5 Canonmills, Edinburgh EH3 5HA | view map | 07749 971847
3. Blackford Hill
Image Source: khortii on Instagram
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Suitable for: all walkers of all ages, families with young children and dog walkers.
Blackford is one of the seven hills on which Edinburgh is famously built and its view is a match for any of the better-known hills. With the summit standing at 164m above sea-level, its one of the highest peaks in Edinburgh.
Blackford Hill is wild and wind-swept. It’s a large slice of countryside within the city. The terrain consists of woodland and grassy paths, and can be quite muddy in places. But walkers are rewarded by the surrounding scenery and in particular the views from the top which are outstanding. Blackford Hill is also very popular with dog walkers.
With limited car parking available, this walk is best reached by public transport. Take a bus to Comiston Road and get off by the church near the junction with Braidburn Terrace. Head along Braidburn Terrace and then turn right onto Braid Road. The walk itself then begins on a path on the left into the wooded glen of the Hermitage of Braid.
After your walk - the best cafés near Blackford Hill:
The Lodge Coffee House. With freshly baked cakes and a range of delicious scones, crepes and sandwiches on offer, the Lodge House provides a well-deserved coffee stop for hungry walkers of all ages.
69B Braid Rd, Edinburgh EH10 6JF | view map | 07468 530909
Leaf and Bean Café. A vibrant, child-friendly café serving a wide selection of paninis, toasties, cakes and soup, all made from fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
12-14 Comiston Rd, Edinburgh EH10 5QE | view map | 0131 447 5613
4. Braid Hills
Image Source: sreeve25 on Instagram
Difficulty Level: easy to moderate
Suitable for: all walkers of all ages although there are some steep sections. Dog walkers are also welcome here.
Braid Hills is the southernmost of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills. Largely occupied by golf courses, the Braid Hills is situated in the South of the city near Comiston Road. There are several paths and tracks around this hill including a horseriding trail, but its mostly popular with walkers.
Walking here is mostly easy with only comfortable shoes required and waterproofs in case the weather turns quickly. You are permitted to walk across the golf courses but not on the greens of course.
It’s a long steady climb to reach the highest summit of the Braid Hills 213m above sea level. The summit of The Braids is one of Edinburgh’s highest points boasting a fascinating panorama from the new Seven Hills Outlook view indicator.
After your walk - the best cafés near the Braid Hills:
Braid Hills Golf Centre Coffee Shop. The perfect spot to relax after a bracing walk over the Braids. Choose from a wide selection of hot and cold drinks, snacks, cakes, pastries and main meals.
Braid Hills Golf Centre, 91 Liberton Dr, Edinburgh EH16 6NS | view map | 0131 516 3573
Braid Hills Hotel Bar & Lounge. Open to residents and non-residents alike, the Braid Hills Hotel Bar & Lounge serves light bites and bar meals from 9am to 9pm daily.
134 Braid Rd, Edinburgh EH10 6JD | view map | 0131 447 8888
5. Inverleith Park
Image Source: raniaserifi on Instagram
Difficulty level: easy
Suitable for: everyone - walkers of all ages, on-leash dog walkers, families with younger children.
Situated beside the Royal Botanic Gardens in the northern part of the city, Inverleith Park is described as “An oasis of green in the heart of Edinburgh.” As with Arthur’s Seat, the park is on high ground so boasts some great views of the city.
You can enjoy a picturesque stroll down the tree-lined paths, stop and watch a sports game at one of the many pitches or sit by the pond and watch the swans. There’s also a great kids play park. Many locals also say that Inverleith Park is the best place to watch the fireworks from the Castle at Hogmanay or during the Festival.
After your walk - the best cafés near Inverleith Park:
Artisan Roast Stockbridge. This bright and spacious café offers an extended food menu alongside the biggest selection of single origin coffee beans in Scotland.
100A Raeburn Pl, Edinburgh EH4 1HH | view map | 0131 332 8834
The Pastry Section. As the name might suggest, this contemporary bakehouse specialises in all things sweet, from cookies and cinnamon buns to lemon meringue tarts and the 'ultimate brownie'.
86 Raeburn Pl, Edinburgh EH4 1HH | view map | 07484 923544
6. Dean Village
Image Source: Johnomason on Flickr
Difficulty Level: easy
Suitable for: everyone of all ages.
Dean Village is situated along the Water of Leith and a short stroll from Stockbridge and the New town.
A gentle walk from Stockbridge takes you through the New Town and past some beautiful Georgian architecture to reach the National Galleries of Scotland. The walk returns along the Water of Leith, passing through a deep gorge and the beautiful Dean Village.
The village itself is stunning and features a beautiful bridge, which takes you back in time to the days when the village was the centre of the grain milling trade. There were once as many as 11 working mills here driven by the force of the strong currents of the water of Leith. Beautiful, peaceful and tranquil, walking through the Dean Village you will feel far removed from the city.
After your walk - the best cafés near Dean Village:
Cairngorm Coffee. Following a leisurely stroll around Dean Village, indulge yourself in an all-day breakfast, brunch or lunch at this cosy but stylish city-centre establishment. Roasted weekly in the Cairngorms, their signature coffee comes highly recommended.
1 Melville Pl, Edinburgh EH3 7PR | view map | 0131 225 7222
Söderberg Bakery Shop. The Scandinavian-inspired menu at Söderberg includes open sandwiches, bread, smorrebrod and pastry as well as popular treats such as the raspberry and vanilla cinnamon bun.
31 Queensferry St, Edinburgh EH2 4QS | view map | 0131 225 8286
7. Pentland Hills
Image Source: downatthezoo on Flickr
Difficulty level: moderate to challenging
Suitable for: reasonably fit walkers of all ages, stamina required if tackling the longer sections. Dog walkers also welcome.
The Pentlands are a range of 5 hills or peaks to the south-west of Edinburgh. The range is around 20 miles in length, and runs south west from Edinburgh towards Biggar.
The Pentland Hills Regional Park covers an area of 35 square miles at the northern end of the hills. The park, together with the rest of the hills, are used for a variety of recreational activities including hillwalking, mountain biking, horse riding, golf and skiing on the artificial ski slope at Hillend - the Midlothian Snowsports Centre.
With over 100km of sign posted routes that are suitable for all levels of fitness, there is something for everyone on the Pentland Hills. The Pentland Hills Ranger Service leads a number of guided walks and other events throughout the year.
One of the best walks starts at the picturesque Swanston Village, and you can choose your route depending on your fitness. The easiest walk is from the car park at the Flotterstone Inn.
When planning your trip to the Pentlands be aware that many places become busy very quickly, in particular, Flotterstone, Harlaw and Threipmuir car parks so get there early. And if you’re walking your dog, watch out for sheep and make sure it’s on a leash especially during the lambing season.
After your walk - the best cafés near the Pentland Hills:
Pentland Hills Café Express. Located at the foot of the Pentland Hills, this family-run café serves light lunches, wholesome soup and a fantastic selection of home baked cakes.
Penicuik EH26 0PR | view map | 01968 670533
Swanston Brasserie. The Brasserie serves everything from a hearty breakfast to a pre-stroll lunch. Its location on the edge of the city offers stunning views across the rolling countryside towards Edinburgh and the distant beaches of East Lothian.
111 Swanston Rd, Edinburgh EH10 7DS | view map | 0131 445 2239
So that’s our roundup of seven of the best walks around Edinburgh. Maybe you have a favourite on this list or another walk entirely. Let us know about your walking experiences.
[Originally written March 2016; updated September 2019]