If you are looking for some off-road runs in and around Edinburgh, here are some routes that Carnethy members enjoy. We’ve included some hills that are within an hour’s drive of Edinburgh
Runs in Edinburgh
Jeff’s “7 Hills Marathon” challenge – 45km 8km – Arthurs Seat (and handicap route) 10km – Blackford-Braids 19km – Canal/Water of Leith
The Carnethy 1 The Carnethy 3 19km – Flotterstone 8km – Boghall 7km – Swanston 32km – Pentlands long 13km – Balerno (Red Moss)
8km – Penicuik Estate Phil’s routes
23km – Ochils 30km – Aberlady Bay – the long and the short (6 miles) of it 19km – Lomonds of Fife Fife Coastal Path Relay
If the navigational fun and traffic dodging of the regular 7 Hills isn’t enough for you, or you just want something a little bit longer, then here is a challenge that you might enjoy. It may also lend itself to some sort of relay or social run.
Step 1: Choose a Start/Finish point anywhere in Edinburgh.
Step 2: Run out and back to one of the Seven Hills of Edinburgh.
Step 3: Repeat Step 2 until you have been to all 7 hills.
Step 4 (optional): Go and enjoy a beer, you deserve it!
Last weekend I went for a recce of this challenge, splitting it into two half(ish) marathons. Total distance of 45km and 850m of ascent. Sure my route choice isn’t quite optimal, but I’d be impressed if you got it done in less than a marathon! I started with Castle Hill and worked my way round the normal sequence of hills, but I see no reason why you couldn’t do it in any order as you have to come back to the same point each time. Have fun, stay safe, and look forward to discussing your route during Step 4!
Let Jeff know if you are interested, and/or let us know how you got on.
Arthurs Seat, Holyrood School Playing Fields and the Innocent Railway
by Hilary Spenceley
This is a 5 mile run varied terrain that I’ve been doing for years with some variations.
Start from the roundabout in Holyrood Park near the Commonwealth Pool exit. Run up round the top of Salisbury Crags and down to St Margaret’s loch (variations, run round the radical road or round the bottom of the crags).
From the loch take the little path that hugs the wall up the hill until you get to a gate leading into Meadowfield Park( about 0.5km before you get to Dunsappie Loch). Run diagonally (SE) across the park , joining Meadowfield Drive, then down to Duddingston Rd West.
Cross the main road into the grounds of Holyrood school and run round the perimeter of the playing fields, hugging Duddingston Golf Course & the Braid Burn to re-emerge on Duddingston Rd West opposite the entrance to the Innocent railway. Run along this disused railway line, branching left at the tunnel entrance, back into Holyrood Park and then back to the roundabout where you started.
All of this is on the Edinburgh Street map. I wouldn’t advise the Innocent railway alone after dark.
The run can be extended by turning Left on first reaching Duddingston Rd West, going straight over at Duddingston Cross Roads and left into the Figgate Burn Park, out at the end of the park-Hamilton terrace, turn left then 2nd right up Stanley Street, up( S) the side of Portobello Golf course and then along Milton Rd West (or side roads) to the Duddingston House entrance to Duddingston Golf Course where Milton Rd West bends sharply right.
Follow this road to Duddingston House, skirt round the RHS and enter Holyrood School playing fields through a wee gate in the fence, then resume.
The red dashed line shows a 4-mile route over Arthur’s Seat taking in all the summits. Hilary’s route description extends the run to the east and Duddingston Park.
Arthur’s Seat handicap route
Blackford – Braids
This is a 6 mile loop incorporating the summits of Blackford Hill and the Braids. It is a good off-road run which can be tackled from many different starting points in the south of Edinburgh.
I usually enter at Blackford duckpond or the west end of the Hermitage. From the side of Blackford Hill you can enter the Hermitage through the ‘hole in the wall’ at the high point of the path.
Take the non-tarmac high trails through the trees on either side of the river. The paths drop down to the Braid Burn at the west entrance.
Take the high path on the south side of the Tarmac road and then the Lang Ling footpath through the fields to the Braids. You can get onto the bridle path directly opposite the gate and go either way round the golf course.
You can either come back to the Lang Ling and then turn right to go down and over the bridge at the back of Blackford, or take the other path, Howe Dean, down to the Braid Burn.
Union Canal – Water of Leith
This 20 km run is a flat circular route on the Union Canal towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway with only about 1.5 km on tarmac.
Start at the car park at Boroughmuir Rugby Ground, Meggetland and follow the towpath over the aquaducts, past Wester Hailes’ turquoise ‘skyscrapers’ and over the bypass. Then go under 4 bridges and come off at the fifth (6.5 km). Run over the canal and 100m up the road (no pavement) till you come to Calder Road. Cross it carefully and enter Heriot Watt University entrance which is just about opposite. There is a tree-lined path through the campus to the car parks at the main entrance. You now have 50 metres on the busy Riccarton Mains Road (there is a pavement) until you reach the quiet farm road up to Baberton Golf Course. Slow down to cross the railway line at the level crossing. The track up the west side of the golf course is straight on at the top of the road. Keep heading in this direction till you come to Lanark Road. There is a way down to the Water of Leith Walkway a few metres left on the other side of the road. It’s now a slightly downhill run back to the canal and where you started from. A shortened run (under 5km) can be got by coming off the canal at the Colinton Dell bridge and dropping down to the other side of the Water of Leith and back along to the Tickled Trout at the Lanark Road entrance to Craiglockhart Dell. Cross the road and up the steps back onto the canal towpath and ‘home’.
A selection of Pentland Runs below
The Carnethy 1
3.37 miles, 900ft
All the fun, views and hill experience of the Carnethy 5 without the suffering. From the layby head up the valley between Scald Law and Carnethy. Turn right at the col. Go up and over Carnethy admiring the scenery and descend to the col and gate. Don’t go through the gate but turn right doubling back on an obvious traversing trod. Follow around the hill and down to the col beside Fala Knowe and a stile at NT210606. Follow the trod on a lovely fast descent back to the signpost and your track up. Great on a day when perhaps where you fancy a hill but not a long run.
The Carnethy 3
5 miles, 1300ft
All the fun, views and hill experience of the Carnethy 1 but better! From the layby head towards Charlie’s Loup. Take a faint trod before it diagonally to the fence junction and cross this to find track going up which goes around the quarry. Spy out the faint trod going up South Black Hill as it’s easy to miss. It leaves the main track soon after it starts winding upwards and passes a small old quarry. From SBH either be lazy and head straight for Scald Law reversing the C5 route, or take the C5 route to find the main path between Scald Law and the Kips (or contour round the hill to find it). Turn right to Scald Law, then Carnethy, and down to the gate.
Finish as previous route.
11 miles, 2½ hours, Ordnance Survey map 66
Follow the road towards Glencorse Reservoir for a few hundred yards to the end of the stone wall then turn left through the gate. Follow the path for 100 yds then turn left over a small bridge. Bear right, crossing a subsidiary burn and follow the obvious path up Turnhouse Hill. Follow the undulating path to Carnethy Hill and Scald Law. Coming off Scald Law, take the rightmost path down the flank of the hill to East Kip and West Kip. Descend W off West Kip to the old Drove Road. Turn right and follow the road for about a mile to where it crosses a stone wall. A few yards before the wall, swing to the right onto a grassy path. Almost immediately bear right again where the path splits. Follow the path NE for about a mile, parallel with the Logan Burn, until it descends steeply into the deep valley of the Green Cleuch near the Waterfalls. Go NW through the Cleuch and just before the stile, climb steeply up to the right. Follow the obvious path round the W foot of Black Hill, keeping to the higher path whenever there is a choice. The path swings round to cross the burn between Black Hill and Bells Hill. Cross the burn and climb up to the left to meet a wall which goes up the NW flank of Bells Hill. Follow the wall and fence until it drops into the valley between Bells Hill and Harbour Hill. Turn right and follow the path down to Glencorse Reservoir Turn left onto the road and follow it back down to the start. Finish off with a celebratory pint in the Flotterstone Inn. So many variations on this route are possible!
5.1 miles, 1¼ hours, Ordnance Survey map 66
This route is sometimes used for our club handicap races. Go to the car park beside Boghall Farm (grid ref 245653). Follow the fenced and gated path around the N side of the farm buildings. Follow the farm track WNW past more buildings and out onto the open hillside, running just above the Boghall Burn. Follow the path up to the col between Allermuir and Caerketton Hills. Turn left at the top of the col and follow the obvious path to the top of Allermuir. From the summit, follow the fence SSW down to “the red brick road”. Turn left onto the road and follow it for about ½ mile. Bear off to the right on a faint path and follow it to the top of Castlelaw Hill. At the summit of the hill, DO NOT cross the fence into the Army firing range, especially when there is a red flag flying. Descend through heather due E, crossing “the red brick road” and follow occasional paths to the top of Woodhouselee Hill, passing a white kitchen sink on the way. From the top of the hill, descend NE across rough ground to cross the Boghall Burn and regain the farm track. Turn right and return the way you came out.
This route is sometimes used for our club handicap races, through the picturesque Swanston Village where Robert Louis Stevenson used to live. Start at the car park at the foot of the ski road (grid ref 249670). Go back onto the main road and run N for ¼ mile. Turn left onto the footpath just after the golf club house. Follow the path to Swanston Village and turn left to pass the thatched cottages where Goldilocks lives. Beyond the cottages, bear off to the right and climb SW by paths to the summit of Allermuir Hill. Pause for a while to look at the indicator and identify hills in the distance. Descend from Allermuir the same way initially then follow the obvious path along the ridge to Caerketton Hill. From the summit cairn there is a ¼ mile level run to the east top. Follow the fence, initially eastwards, off the hill steeply down to a stile. Continue N on grassy paths then descend NNE on paths through the gorse bushes back to the start. Just round the corner from the car park, The Steading has good beer and good food.
Pentlands long run
21 miles, 5¾ hours, Ordnance Survey maps 65, 66
This is one of Nigel’s routes for the longer distance hill runner. The description is less detailed because if you can run this far you should be able to find your own way. Start at the public car park behind the Flotterstone Inn (grid ref 233632). Ascend Turnhouse Hill and follow the ridge path by Carnethy, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip. Cross the drove road and follow the faint paths to Green Law and Spittal Hill. Drop off to cross the North Esk Reservoir dam then climb W up The Mount. Follow the ridge fence S to Mount Maw. Descend W to cross the Baddingsgill Reservoir dam. Follow the Old Drove Road N for 2½ miles to the Cauldstane Slap wall. This is a wilder and little-visited end of the Pentlands. Climb NE to the summit of East Cairn Hill, marked by a very large cairn! Follow the good track E to the Bore Stane. Go SSE on the path to the stile then climb Cock Rig. Descend SE to the hidden ford at grid ref 157587. Climb NE to the top of Green Law then go back along the ridge the way you came. The ridge looks quite different and dramatic from this direction. By the time you finish, you will be ready for food and drink at the Flotterstone Inn.
7½ miles, 1½ hours, Ordnance Survey map 66
This route is sometimes used for our club handicap races, with a couple of steep climbs and plenty of fast running. Go to the car park 2 miles S of Balerno, at grid ref 167639. Follow the tarmac road S over Threipmuir Reservoir. At the top of the hill turn right then 50 yds later turn left. Cross the stile and follow the old drove road S for 2 miles. Climb steeply E to the top of West Kip and follow the obvious path over East Kip. The wide path then traverses up the W side of Scald Law to the summit. Continue ENE down to the col, turn left and follow the fence NW down to The Howe. Turn left and go through the deep valley between Hare Hill and Black Hill. At the far end, cross the stile and follow the main path W through the valley. At the end of the path, bear slightly right across the field towards the gate near Bavelaw Castle. Cross the stile and follow the road N back down to the car park. After your run, there are excellent bar meals to be had in the Johnsburn Hotel on the W side of Balerno.
Penicuik Estate Run
Ok it’s not a hill run, but if your legs are tired the estate is a good place for a run on a network of paths through beautiful woodlands (though rather fewer following felling), ponds and by the river Esk. The winter ESKapade run follows the river through the estate. There is also the ruin of Penicuik House to contemplate.
Update – the residents have blocked off the exit to the road and bridge in Penicuik. The council are working to have access restored, but it could take a long time, if at all. There is another way around marked in light blue on the map.
Larger map with more space to view photos.
Pentland A to B
A nondescript track on the minor road between Dolphinton and Newbigging leads you straight into the empty quarter of the southern Pentlands. Apart from the first 2.5 miles of track and a 200m stretch of track near Darlees Rig it’s all pathless compass bearing or fence following stuff. After Wolf Craigs a path of sorts appears on the way to to West Cairn, but it’s still boggy (even after 2 weeks of very dry weather) until Red Gate on the Drove Road at 15.7 miles. From here on it’s a 7.5 home-run along the familiar second half of the Skyline, with paths, people and sun (at least yesterday). A total of 23.3 miles in total in 6.5 hours, finishing with a final descent down Hillend to the Steading and a beer.
Starting from the upper car park at Hillend and going anti-clockwise at low level outside the Skyline route, but still with over 3000ft of climbing.
Some runs further afield
The Ochils from Dollar
There is excellent hill running to be had in the Ochils – only 40 minute’s drive from Edinburgh, a huge area of quiet hills and plenty of grassy paths. For this run you need to be competent with map and compass. Drive to Dollar and park by the public convenience where the main road crosses the burn (grid ref 963978). Go N to the top of the road on the W side of the burn. Turn left and after a few hundred yards take the gravelled road to the right, past the golf course. At the top of the rise, turn N through a line of trees. At the top of the trees, go through the gate and follow the wide grassy path E round the foot of the hill. When Castle Campbell comes into view, climb straight up the hillside to meet another path coming over the top of Bank Hill. Turn W and follow the obvious path to the summit cairn of King’s Seat. Follow a direct bearing NW for the source of the Gannel Burn. This goes initially on a path then down the hillside. Follow the obvious path about ½ mile NW to a wrought-iron stile. Turn NE and follow the fence for a short way. Follow a direct bearing for the summit of Skythorn Hill; use your compass as it is very easy to take the wrong line. Follow the obvious ridge for 3 miles NE over Scad Hill and Ben Shee. Drop straight down the hillside to the end of Glensherup Reservoir. Cross the dam and go straight on into the forest. After a few yards you should come onto a forest road. Turn right up the road and shortly afterwards take the left fork. Near the top of the road turn right through a firebreak. If you come to the end of the road you have overshot the firebreak by 100 yds. At the other side of the forest, follow the fence SW along the ridge for 2 miles towards Whitewisp Hill. At the junction of three fences take a direct bearing for the small summit cairn of Whitewisp Hill. Be warned that you are ill-advised to go anywhere near this hill without a compass! From the cairn, go ¼ mile SE then turn SW to go down onto Saddle Hill. Come straight SW off the end of the hill down to the Burn of Sorrow. Follow the path down the burn towards Castle Campbell. You may have to follow the signposted route down the W side of Dollar Glen as several sections of the original path have recently been washed away in storms. Follow the burn all the way back down to you motor car. On the opposite side of the main road you can obtain refreshment at the Dollar Tea room.
Aberlady Bay – the long and the short of it
One of Keith Burns’ local routes takes him on 30km of outstanding beach, surf, boulders, cliffs, geology and ornithology. Start at Aberlady Bay footbridge on a falling tide and follow the high tide line. Good chippie and pubs in North Berwick. Continue along the shore at the foot of rising cliffs. There are two tide traps before and after Tantallon Castle that will need a swim if you misjudge them. Finish at Ravensheugh Beach, home of the annual handicap and barbecue. Choose a warm spring day.
OS 1:50,000 sheets 66 + 67.
6 miles – A short circular route from the same parking circles the golf course and takes in the ruin of Saltcoats Castle. Delightful on a crisp sunny day.
Keep left on the path to cross the dunes for a run along the beach to the headland. Skirt the golf course following the waymarkers to a small hill at the start of the houses. Admire the view. Descend south near the wall and run past the club house after crossing the main road. Follow the access road down to some cottages and take the path right for a very short distance. Leave it after the last cottage taking a farm track (which is not the waymarked path) to the castle ruins. Explore. Then cut across the fields to rejoin the path which is actually the John Muir Way. When it meets the main road again you can either follow the road around to the start or go around the edge of the golf course. This gets a bit rough and trackless for a short distance at the end before rejoining the path out.
Lomonds of Fife
12 miles, 4 hours
This is one of Nigel Rose’s journeyruns. It starts at the car park with the big radio mast to the south of Falkland, giving a nice ‘gentle’ ascent of East Lomond to start you off. Follow the path to West Lomond and continue over to the Devil’s Burdens, a wall of huge boulders. Drop down into Glen Burn, a pretty valley with a couple of lovely hidden waterfalls. When you run out of the glen climb up the ridge to the summit plateau and run south towards Bishop Hill. The myriad paths all make for good running. Aim for the forest gate and then follow the trail to the farm and road. Go straight across at the cross roads and skirt the end of Holl reservoir before climbing up through the fire break in the woods. This takes you out to the south end of Ballo reservoir. There is a track down to a fishing hut which you can follow up to the road at Wester Glasslie and from there you can see the mast at the car park. Hop over the stile at the corner of the field on the other side of the road and make a beeline for the mast!
Tearoom in Falkland is recommended!
Lomonds of Fife journeyrun article from 2004 here, and a more recent one here