Edinburgh oozes beauty from every pore and its dazzling architecture, stunning landmarks and lush green spaces make it a superb city to run around. I’m lucky enough to call Edinburgh home and the splendour of the city never ceases to amaze me.
As daylight hours shorten, many runners would happily hang up their trainers for the winter but the rush of endorphins I get while running is the best thing to stave off seasonal sadness. When anxiety hits, I find the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the pavement and focusing on my breath calms my mind. The city is full of terrific running spots – from punishing peaks, to parks, to the gentle beauty of the beach. The only real difficulty you’ll have is deciding which one to tackle first.
City centre sightseeing
Running is a brilliant way to see Edinburgh’s main historical landmarks and a jog through the city centre’s hilly streets really works up a sweat. For a pavement-heavy run, start at Waverley station and run west along the city’s main shopping thoroughfare past the famous Scott Monument, through the picturesque Princes Street Gardens, crunching through fallen leaves as you head towards Lothian Road. Swing left on to Kings Stables Road, then feel the gradient increase sharply at Johnston Terrace, marvelling as Edinburgh Castle looms above you.
The brave can scale the 187 steps at Castle Wynd in a sprint to the castle esplanade, home to the annual military tattoo. After the uphill effort, I like to take a moment to catch my breath as I soak up the view of my beautiful birthplace, before running from the castle down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse passing St Giles’ Cathedral; this is a welcome downhill jog after the castle ascent.
Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat
Adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament building is one of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks – Arthur’s Seat. The extinct volcano dominates Edinburgh’s skyline and if you scale the peak, which sits 251m above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and neighbouring Fife. Arthur’s Seat sits at the centre of Holyrood Park and the whole area holds a special place in my heart – it was the scene of my first ever 5K race and where I really caught the running bug.
Just 3 miles (5km) from the city centre lies Portobello, a popular seaside destination for Edinburgh residents since the 19th century. I’ve been coming here since I was a child and find there’s nothing quite like the invigorating power of sea air to boost your mood and a beach run is the perfect antidote to the bustle of the city centre. A popular destination with runners, particularly following its inclusion in the Edinburgh Marathon route, the section of the promenade towards Musselburgh gives you the stunning view of the Firth of Forth on one side and elegant Georgian and Victorian architecture on the other. I usually choose to sprint along the smooth Victorian boardwalk but in colder weather find myself drawn to runs along the beach which glistens with frost in the winter, enjoying the sensation of sand moving underfoot. Once I work up an appetite, I visit one of the great selection of independent bars and cafes on the promenade for post-run refuelling.
Water of Leith walkway
A combination of paved path and gravel track, this 12-mile (19km) walkway snakes through the city from the foot of the Pentland Hills to the port of Leith and is great for runners who enjoy off-road, traffic-free running, as I do. The route takes you through some of Edinburgh’s most attractive neighbourhoods and my favourite stretch of the path runs from the Shore in Leith to the Gallery of Modern Art via the Royal Botanic Gardens, swanky Stockbridge and the delightful Dean village. The area around the Dean village is particularly charming and features a fast-flowing, roaring current, tree-lined paths and bridges across the water.
The running trail can sometimes get a bit muddy, so an all-terrain shoe is very much needed, and the waterway is home to lush vegetation, an abundance of wildlife and six life-size humanoid sculptures by award-winning artist Antony Gormley. As well as being a popular path for runners, you’ll also find the route frequented by friendly dog walkers, cyclists and even the occasional horse rider.
Just to the north of the New Town and Stockbridge, you’ll find Inverleith Park – a sanctuary of green space in the heart of the capital and one of Scotland’s largest urban parks at 22 hectares (54 acres). Inverleith boasts a wonderful view of Edinburgh Castle and is a favourite spot for locals to assemble to watch the various firework displays that take place towards the end of the year.
I love Inverleith because it’s a park that’s got something for everyone, including sports pitches, allotments, a pond and a children’s play area. The tree-lined park splits into four near equal parts by a combination of concrete path and muddy trail – and my favourite running routes takes the form of a figure of eight circuit of the grounds. I always make a point of visiting the recently installed wet garden, which includes a range of plant species that will help reduce blue-green algae in the water. A wooden boardwalk provides access to the area to view the flora and fauna that now inhabit the pond.