6 of the best running routes in Edinburgh – an ideal way to see the city

Running in Edinburgh has everything you could hope for, from Arthur’s Seat to amazing forest trails. Here are six great routes to enjoy.

With its impressive architecture and history, not to mention restaurants and pubs, there’s very little not to like about Edinburgh. Throw in the legendary Scottish friendliness and its allure is clear. But did you know the city is also home to an extraordinary network of running routes?  

Edinburgh is very proud of it green spaces, and the city feels more like a massive village than anything resembling a concrete mass. Meanwhile the Pentlands Hills are close by, and provide a superb outdoor experience.

However, you don’t have to venture far from the city centre itself to find some brilliant circuits. Packing your running kit takes up little room, so here is our top six selection of areas to run through – each of them close enough to the heart of the city that you could even tackle them in between shows. And, of course, if you really fall in love with the city, there’s always the Edinburgh Marathon in the spring.  

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh at sunsetCredit: Anna Mayumi/Shutterstock
Runners scaling Arthur’s Seat are rewarded with stunning views of Edinburgh

1. Arthur’s Seat

Located in Holyrood Park (there’s a freetoenter Parkrun here every Saturday at 9.30am), Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that forms a particularly distinctive peak in a central location. It is a very well-trodden site and the route options here are many, with solid main paths and several smaller tracks perfect for an explore. The 360-degree views from the top are unmissable and, on a good day, a sizeable chunk of Scotland is on display.

There’s an irresistible combination of the country’s eastern coastline, alongside the North Sea and Scotland’s stunning capital. It can be muddy, steep in places and is largely offroad, so do take appropriate footwear. If you prefer Tarmac, a full circuit around the hill itself and alongside the road is just over 5k and a very worthwhile option 

2. Water of Leith Walkway

Probably Edinburgh’s most famous path, this excellent track runs from Balerno in the southwest outskirts of the city to Leith in the northeast. It follows the river called the Water of Leith as it does so. With a mainly off-road surface, the path has plenty of wildlife, and the northeast section from Roseburn punches through the heart of the city. It can be accessed from several points along the way.

And, while it gives you a real sense of escape from all the hustle and bustle, you can easily pop up some steps or short slopes at regular intervals to get your bearings and remind yourself that, believe it or not you really are in a major city.

An out and back circuit, perhaps with a coffee at the far end, is a good idea. Or why not combine it with the cycle path (see below) to form a circuit?  Alternatively, head southwest and do a circuit through the lovely trails at Craiglockhart Dell, with Craiglockhart Hill a very worthwhile extension.  

A man running along the canal path in EdinburghCredit: Carlos G Lopez/Shutterstock
Running is the perfect way to explore Edinburgh

3. Northern Cycle Path

Edinburgh is the envy of other Scottish cities when it comes to cycle paths. It has an incredible network of them and many of these routes take you much further afield from the city itself. Most of them are Tarmac and separate from roads, and provide a safe environment for multi-use.

They are great for running and wide enough to do so alongside other users, but do pay attention and try not to veer across them. Bikes do, of course, use them at varying speeds. It would be a good idea to avoid them at rush hour when urban commuters use them regularly.

The treelined routes on the north side of the city are a particular favourite, from Roseburn to Leith. There are plenty of options here and a great deal to explore. The blue Sustrans signage is well placed and means there’s little chance of getting properly lost. Use online maps to assist as well.  

4. The Meadows

The Meadows is an appropriately named very large area of well-maintained grass, slap bang in the middle of festival town. If you’re particularly short of time, you can’t go wrong with a lap or two here, with the festival and particularly its performers providing many interesting sights along your route.

The Tarmac tracks go around The Meadows, as well as through them, so twist, turn and plot your way as far as you like. It can be busy, though, so pick your times accordingly. Things don’t really get moving much before breakfast during festival time, so consider a dawn raid on this one. If you fancy joining others, this is a common spot for various local running clubs to meet, so check online to see if you fancy anything.  

5. Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill

The Hermitage is an area with cracking trails between Braid and Blackford Hill. So, with the opportunity to combine all sorts of activities here, this is a fantastic area for running, with something for everyone. The Hermitage has offroad windy paths, many of which are under trees, and that contrasts perfectly with the wide-open landscape of the Braid and Blackford Hills. It also has a good cafe. There is a golf course on the Braids, so stick to the paths around rather than across that.  

6. Corstorphine Hill

To the west of the city lies Corstorphine Hill. At more than 160 metres (524ft), it gives great views of the city. Its trails are well maintained and tend to be less busy than the other more centrally located areas. There are 21 red and silver marker posts here, which denote a permanent orienteering course, with more information online.  

Edinburgh’s wonderful green spaces are celebrated in the Seven Hills of Edinburgh race, which takes place in June each year. Perhaps the most urban of any hill race, the course takes in Arthur’s Seat and the hills of Craiglockhart, Braid, Blackford and Corstorphine (all mentioned above), as well as Calton Hill and – last but by no means least – the Castle. There can be no doubt that the festival provides a great way of enjoying Edinburgh, but for a full and proper immersion, get your running shoes on and get out. 

Sean McFarlane

Written by Sean McFarlane

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Sean is an established journalist and a film producer for This Way Up Media. He is one of Scotland’s most successful ever long-distance triathletes and adventure racers and whilst age has inevitably tried to slow him down, he’s doing a good job of keeping old father time at bay. He spends a lot of his time promoting Scotland’s great outdoors but does feel the English countryside is hugely underrated – he’s a particular fan of its well-kept-ness and does rather like its pubs. He’s seen much of what would be considered the most glorious countryside on earth, but he firmly believes a hamlet with a pub somewhere like the North Pennines is hard to beat.