Very much in the same way as London, a trip to any European capital, “trail running paradise” does not necessarily spring to mind… more like too much tarmac, city fumes and tourists.
That said, Edinburgh is unique. So one-of-a-kind that it is, in fact, the perfect balance of exciting and fun-filled city, along with nature, hills and endless trails. Runners paradise some might say…
With the fringe festival just around the corner, use this guide as the second partner to discovering what the city has to offer. The seven hills by day… cultural indulgence by night.
Edinburgh is awash with natural landscape, the home of cross country running and wonderful rolling hills. Hilly? You question. Don’t be fooled. No run is complete without tackling one… or seven. Edinburgh has seven officially recognised hills, but really, even just up the links is worthy of note as a mild incline. The imposing peak of Arthur’s Seat is paradise. Leaving the busy city takes only a matter of minutes. The routes are easily accessible without transport to get there, incorporating all sides to the city in one explorative loop.
The View from Blackford Hill and Braids
(B & B – be sure to bring a mate)
- Starting in the iconic old town, the castle looms overhead and there’s no better place to start a run. The Meadows: a fundamental part of the city, however they are merely the stepping stone, serving to pave the way to a more exciting, scenic route. From here, heading directly south, no sooner do you arrive at Blackford Hill – the national observatory point and a brutal incline. To extend this route, head up and over the hill following the river through the Hermitage of Braid, the city far in the distance by this stage. Even further you say? Shadow the bridle path around Braids Golf Course: be prepared for hills, but be rewarded with the views.
Getting here is no trouble. Run from the meadows along Marchmont Road (South). You know when you arrive.
- Equally as beautiful, the New Town (although not particularly new given the cobbled streets and traditional buildings) boasts the Botanic Gardens and Inverleith Park. Although set slightly lower than the rest of the city (get ready for the uphill back up onto Prince’s Street), the view is unique.
There is a fitness trail around the circumference of the park and both trail and paved routes.
The Canal / Water of Leith Walkway
- Out to the West, starting at Fountainbridge area, follow the Union Canal all the way out as far as you can. Navigate the aqueducts and admire the rowers from local Edinburgh schools as they use the canal for training as well.
There is an alternative route following the water – The Water of Leith Walkway runs from Balerno to Leith, winding its way through the more quiet and secret pathways of the city. Follow the signs – start anywhere along the route. The river used to power mills in the Dean Village and contend imports and exports at Leith port. Travel in time and discover Edinburgh’s history.
Arthur and Chill
4. The most iconic: Arthur’s Seat. There are two options here – depending on the thrills you seek. Queen’s Drive is a 5km loop that encompasses the entirety of Holyrood Park. Two fairly steep hills on either side of the route make it no easy run, however, the tarmac surface isn’t particularly technical. The best part; running the loop clockwise and approaching the top of the hill, as each grand Edinburgh attraction comes slowly into view, a smile may also appear from ear to ear.
If this mountainous loop isn’t enough of a challenge, there’s always what is known as MFD by local hill enthusiasts. The bottom to the very top. Start in Duddingston and go up as far as you can. Then descend into the centre of the park and follow the trails for some more excitement.
Portobello Plage and Cramond
- I do like to be beside the seaside: Edinburgh is situated on the Firth of Forth and the East of the city is adjacent to the North Sea. When the wind is not blowing too hard, Portobello beach promenade allows a Mediterranean feel in the heart of Scotland. Maybe even encouraging a Chariots of Fire style beach run episode. Additionally, for those seeking to channel their competitive edge, take to the North West of the city, where a short bus journey leads to Cramond beach front and the iconic Edinburgh Silverknowes parkrun. A quick out and back route, flat as a pancake in comparison to the other routes around the city. Put the hill training to good use and go and smash your PB as a parkrun tourist.
The 41 bus will be your best friend.
Share with us your stories of running in Edinburgh. Capture #WhyWeRun and tell us anything we’re yet to explore in the capital! Bonus points if you spot a runner in a green and white vest – Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds run this city.