April 2021: Edinburgh’s Seven Hills (Part 1)

Introduction

Open almost any guidebook to Edinburgh and it won’t be long before you encounter these or similar words: Edinburgh, like Rome, is built on seven hills. My reaction tends to be one of skepticism. The concept strikes me as somewhat flawed, and one gets the impression that the proposition was put together on the basis that the number simply had to come out as seven. Closer to the truth is a simple statement that Edinburgh is built on hills – many hills. Other issues include the fact that many southern parts of the city have an elevation which exceeds that of the smaller members of the seven, while one entry on the list (Craiglockhart) is quite clearly two separate hills!

Despite the controversy, there is a generally agreed list of the ‘classic seven’, and they provide an agreeable challenge for residents and visitors alike. Here is the list, in the order that I intend to tackle them:

1 Braid Hills 213m
2 Blackford Hill164m
3 Craiglockhart Hill 175m
4 Corstorphine Hill162m
5 Castle Rock128m
6 Calton Hill103m
7 Arthur’s Seat251m
The classic Seven Hills of Edinburgh

I’m hoping to complete the series during the course of 2021, but realistically, the reports won’t be posted consecutively. As such, I have created the tag Edinburgh’s 7 Hills to tie the group together. This tag should appear on the Most Used Tags list once it has been used twice. Once it reaches a count of 7, it will realistically show for the foreseeable future.

Braid Hills

I decided to begin with the Braid Hills, which actually included much virgin territory for me, although I had seen the area several times from nearby Blackford Hill. My main problem with ‘the Braids’ is that I have never regarded it/them as being a particularly well defined hill (or hills). Viewed from some directions at least, it doesn’t dramatically protrude from its surroundings. The western slopes are heavily built on, making the hill tend to disappear into the general suburban sprawl. Also, its elevation has little correspondence with the fairly minimal effort involved on the walking route. Braid is the most southerly of the seven hills and elevation in Edinburgh generally increases as you travel from north to south. In making my way to the walking trail, much of the climbing was done by the bus, and much of the rest was by walking on suburban streets.

By the time you’ve abandoned suburbia and got onto the trail, what’s left is a broadly rectangular area of gently undulating, open upland, with a golf course in the middle. This is bounded on the northern side by Braid Hills Drive. A footpath of varying quality lies just inside the perimeter of this area, and this goes ‘around’ rather than ‘up’. Nevertheless, the path does reach a maximum elevation, at the Seven Hills Viewpoint. At this location, the idea is that you can see all members of the ‘classic seven’. (Presumably you either count Wester Craiglockhart and Easter Craiglockhart separately, or else glance down at what you’re standing on, to ensure that your ‘hill count’ gets to the right answer!) The viewpoint also has a ‘trig point’ (or summit marker) to make the whole thing official and give walkers something to aim for.