RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

Urban Rough Stuff - 35 miles around and about Edinburgh

by Calum McRoberts


Waverley Station, Edinburgh


With an impending marriage the opportunity for 'real' rough-stuff was limited so I had to use some imagination and this imagination was given a helping hand when I glimpsed a copy of the map, Edinburgh Seven Hills published by Harvey's Maps of Doune.

I've lived in Edinburgh for almost fifteen years but can't really claim to know it that well, with my preference always being to point my wheel in the direction of the more remote parts. This therefore was the ideal opportunity to get to know this beautiful city and it was at 7am one August morning that I took my usual route into work by cycling along the busy Corstorphine Road.

This time, though, as I approached the zoo I branched off left and headed steeply up Kaimes Road, which at the top became a path that I followed through lovely woodland to the summit of Corstorphine Hill (161 metres) complete with the Scott Tower, which was built as a memorial to Sir Walter Scott in 1872. Returned by the route of ascent to descend very sharply to Corstorphine Road which I followed all the way into the city centre and the world-famous Princes Street.

Dodging the anti-cyclist tram tracks I headed to the East End and carried my bike up a short flight of steps before a cycle of a few hundred yards to the top of Calton Hill (108 metres), a popular venue and one time place of executions.

My next top was the highest of the seven hills at 251 metres above sea-level. Arthur's Seat is a popular walk and I got some strange looks as I carried my bike up the steep eastern slopes having taken the Queen's Drive up to Dunsapie Loch. As you would expect, the views are fantastic and well worth the effort of the climb.

Returning to Dunsapie it was a very fast descent round the south side of the hill and then north to pass the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament buildings, which I actually don't mind despite the fuss often heard about the design and expense involved. I was on the pavé now as I headed up the High Street towards Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock (120 metres), which was thronged with the ever present tourists.

Resting my bike on railings at Castle Esplanade, a security guard was quick to ask me to remove it as it was causing an obstruction apparently.

It was on to busy roads now as I headed south through the city on Clerk Street where I struggled to find the route I wanted up Blackford Hill (164 metres) complete with its shrouded Royal Observatory.

A short distance south was Braid Hills (206 metres) with its trig point and viewing indicator located on the edge of a golf course, where I rested on a bench for a few minutes to ponder how I was going to get to my final top of Craiglockhart Hill.

Any visit to this part of the city wouldn't be complete without a visit to Loopy Lorna's, the wonderful tearoom on Morningside Road and so it was that a few minutes later I was enjoying fresh strawberry scones with a nice pot of tea, surrounded by students and city types. Slightly uphill towards Napier University, where I joined the busy and narrow Glenlockhart Road before nipping off and onto the deserted golf course to the summit of Wester Craiglockhart Hill (175 metres) and my final top for the day.

I sat by the trig point for a bit and looked over to the other tops I had visited and feeling quite happy with myself felt that I had improved my knowledge of this beautiful city. From the summit it was a short downhill cycle to the Union Canal and its cycle path, which I followed out of the city towards the world headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is just about home for me.

A great day of 35 miles, mostly along roads certainly, but not all of them busy. All the hills with the exception of Arthur's Seat were perfectly reasonable to cycle up. If you're in Edinburgh with five hours or fifteen years to spare then I would heartily recommend this route.

Calum McRoberts