Tia Tours of Edinburgh part 1

Laura Williamson Student Services Officer


March 8, 2021

Tia Tours of Edinburgh's 7 hills

Edinburgh has always been a fascinating city with many wonderful places to explore. However, I have recently found that all of this is so much better with a four legged companion.

September marked eleven years since I arrived in Edinburgh, both as a student and now a fully functioning adult! I definitely have my favourite places dotted around the city, so to those who are visiting, just arrived or who are looking for some new places to add to your own collection please read on :)

I’ve a real passion for hiking and exploring the outdoors, most of the time I’m aiming to get into the Highlands of Scotland for some adventures, however the pandemic and the travel restrictions have shown me that you don’t need to leave the city of Edinburgh to immerse yourself in nature or find beautiful Scottish places.

Recently, we got a rescue dog called Tia. She is a year old, German shepherd – spaniel cross and loves being outside as much as I do! This is where Tia tours came about, to explore the city with my four-legged best friend while taking pictures and discovering the hidden gems in Edinburgh, as well as visiting some well-known places. 

I thought I would start with the Seven Hills of Edinburgh. Geographically, Edinburgh is located in the ring of seven small hills created by ancient volcanic eruptions. In no real order these are Castle Rock, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill.

Castle Rock AKA Edinburgh Castle

Perhaps the most famous of them all is Castle Rock. The iconic Edinburgh Castle overlooking the West End of Princes Street is perched on top of a volcanic plug, aptly called Castle Rock. The castle was originally built as a royal residence in 1058, and has fantastic views to the Firth of the Forth and the New Town from its fortified interior. There’s two main routes up to it, either taking the steep steps up the sides, or a more leisurely wander up the Royal Mile. 

Tia’s insatiable appetite for all kinds of discarded food, bin juice and other non-approved pavement snacks mean that walking up the popular Royal Mile can be a gourmet tour for her and a constant game of ‘What’s in your mouth?!’ for me.




Corstorphine Hill

Corstorphine Hill is the most westerly of Edinburgh's Seven Hills, and there are many routes you can take that will give you lots of return trip options. Corstorphine Hill has not only been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS), it is also a Local Nature Reserve. It’s a fascinating place with lots of interesting features such as a little spot called the Rest and be Thankful’ which gives a beautiful view of the city with a much welcomed seat. The hill is also thought to have given inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson for his book ‘Kidnapped’. A really cool aspect of this hill is that it’s right next to Edinburgh Zoo, so bizarrely you can both hear and see some of the animals from off the fence as you explore.

There’s a particularly good spot to see the wallabies, which Tia I assume views as some form of overfed rabbit that is now too fat to squeeze into its burrow, and so can only exist on the surface. In any case, she’ll happily sit by the fence and watch them hop around, occasionally mimicking them by eating the grass on Corstorphine Hill when I’ve ran out of treats.

Craiglockhart Hill

Craiglockhart hill is actually made up of two smaller peaks, comprising of the east and west sides, but together are generally simply referred to as Craiglockhart Hill. Craighouse is an interesting building on the Easter Craiglockhart side. It is a historic, listed building and has been the home to many

 different families and uses over time, probably the most famous is as the war hospital where Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry was inspired and written. Now being redeveloped into plush residential properties, but Napier University have an excellent exhibition on the war poets if you are passing during the day.

Tia unfortunately cannot read, so instead of mulling over Sassoon’s writings, she races through the woodlands to ensure that the local squirrels are kept in peak fitness and invariably decides to have an end-of-walk drink at chest height in the muddy waters in the pond at the base. A glutton for punishment perhaps, as she loathes the inevitable hose-down when we return home.



Braid Hills

This hill has a huge golf course along the top of this hill, which is great if you love golf but make sure to keep an eye out for balls in the way if you are just passing. Nevertheless, the main trail goes all the way around the hills by skirting the edge, so with the golf course being in the middle you only really need to cross over it once as you cycle around the other side. There’s some great picnic table spots here too (bring a hard hat?!) The trail is also popular with horse riders so be aware that you may suddenly turn a corner into a long face!  At the summit, there is a viewpoint areas and information about the 7 hills too.


Tia, I think looks on at the golfers with disdain (they hit balls with sticks rather than using the ball launcher??) and so is uninterested in this activity. What is interesting though is crawling through the numerous gorse bushes whilst on a lead, meaning that I get to see up close how spiky they are. Thanks Tia.

Blackford Hill

I often claim that this vantage point offers the best view of Edinburgh, because over the rooftops of the city you can see the castle, Arthurs Seat and Calton Hill, and on a good day over to Fife. The hill and the valley below (The Hermitage of Braid) has a  diverse terrain, from open grassland to dense woodland- great for walking, running and of course, walking the dog. Near the summit is Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, a large radio transmitter and meteorological station.


The small stream in the valley is a favourite haunt for Edinburgh University’s ecological programmes, and Tia once joined in with the data collection of an aquatic invertebrate survey. Despite her best efforts in investigating the nets, she never made it into their results. She was disappointed, but ultimately accepted that she was indeed a dog, and therefore couldn’t be placed in the ‘other’ category.

Arthurs Seat

Arthur's seat at 250m is the highest of the seven hills which forms Holyrood Park. Arthur’s Seat was the largest volcanic feature in the area, although now eroded down by subsequent glaciers, creating a highly varied environment in such a small space. The panoramic views from Arthur's seat are truly spectacular and certainly worth the ascent to the top.

There are many routes to reach the summit, from almost any direction in Holyrood Park- however the most direct I think is past St Margaret’s well and the ruins of St Anthony Chapel.

Arthur’s Seat is truly an adventure playground for Tia, with wide open spaces, ponds and bushes galore. The best part for Tia, I discovered was to chase the pigeons near St Margaret’s Loch. A predator at heart I suppose, but the abandoned bread she is actually after never puts up much of fight (see Castle rock for my general reaction). 


Calton Hill

Back in the centre of city is Calton Hill, a wonderful and quirky mound with a tonne of history and unique buildings. The hill holds many intriguing monuments and buildings, earning it’s paces as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and phenomenal photogenic landscapes of the local architecture.

The most striking piece could be the National Monument of Scotland, reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens which was intended to commemorate Scottish soldiers. However, it was left unfinished in 1829 and now has its own quirks. A favourite fact of mine is the ball on top of the Nelson Monument, which was added to commemorate the one o’clock gun that goes off on Edinburgh Castle.

Sadly, Tia has no taste or enthusiasm in the fantastic artwork, but is delighted by the hustle and bustle of the area and enjoys meeting people and the dogs that frequent the area. Actually, there’s a café on-site now, so I’m sure that will be one building she’ll be moderately interested in visiting.  

That is all for this blog, it has been a lot of walking for sure! Now time to sleep and have a cup of tea! Even Tia is tired and dreaming of squirrels!