Get Fit: Edinburgh Running Trails
If getting fit was one of your New Year’s resolutions, we’ve got some top tips for running trails where you can get back in shape during your next visit to Edinburgh. Scotland has very good air quality compared to other parts of the world, and given we have so many wonderful parks and outdoor spaces, a good long run in Auld Reekie might be the highlight of your trip!
Why these recommendations? Edinburgh drivers aren’t the most friendly to pedestrian traffic (and don’t get me started about taxis!) so if you aren’t familiar with the area, it really is best to choose one of these paths where you can get away from the traffic and focus on getting your rhythm. Here’s some of the best places to go, and why.
We start with the most difficult first; no matter what way you look at it, a run around Holyrood Park is going to burn some major calories. It depends on where you are staying, but more than likely you’ll begin your run somewhere around the Parliament building. The thing is, whether you go up through the park (towards Arthurs Seat), head up and around the trail that curves underneath the Salisbury Crags, left past the swan pond, or right onto the grassy knoll, soon you will find a steep incline. Yup, I said STEEP and I mean it. I regularly run both directions around the park, and can never work out how it is so steep both directions. One of those things.
Queens Drive, the road that circles the park, is very good because it offers a wide running path and bikers are often on the main road instead. Plus you get some fantastic views, which makes up for the fact that it is often windy up here.
Caution: Many paths on the inner hills of Holyrood Park (particularly just around Arthur’s seat) are wet and slippery even on a dry sunny day. Always use caution, wear proper footwear up here
Duddingston & the Innocent Railway
I became familiar with the Innocent Railway tunnel path after writing about it in the Historic Walking Guide to Edinburgh – and I still am astounded that despite being right in the city, nobody is ever here. This is a flat route, so for those of you terrified by the climbs of Holyrood Park might prefer this option. You can access the path from the foot of Holyrood Park; it is very convenient for those staying in Newington or near the Bridges.
The path is lined by fences on both sides and is very peaceful, though straight as an arrow. When you reach the crossroads, you can make a left and you’ll end up in Duddingston, where you can double-back on yourself or run along the main road at the bottom of Holyrood Park which will take you back across the top of the railway tunnel. If you are really up for a challenge, you can keep heading straight ahead, and if you make it to the 10k mark you’ll reach the sea! It’s a long way but very enjoyable.
As Edinburgh’s ‘green lung’, we’d be remiss not to mention the Meadows as a great running spot. It’s also very convenient for those staying in Tollcross or Bruntsfield. It naturally has a great trail that runs a circumference around the park, but there are also paths criss-crossing the park in various parts so you can easily mix it up. The park also connects to Bruntsfield Links, one of the oldest golf courses in Scotland (but don’t worry – it is tame, mostly tourists so no flying balls!). On nice weather days, the meadows can get very crowded but there is always plenty of room for a jog.
At one point in time there was a lot of worries about crime when running at night here in this park. That problem seems to have gone away, though I’d always exercise caution when running in unfamiliar places after dark.
The Water of Leith
As one of my favourite places in Edinburgh, I couldn’t leave this off the running list. I have to be honest, though, the Water of Leith is always a bit mucky and muddy, so don’t wear your nice expensive running shoes if that will bother you – and be careful as it can be slippery in places. But wow what a great space to run. If you’re wanting a long workout you can take a bus to the beginning of the trail, but probably a more reasonable idea is to head for Murrayfield in the west side of town, and join the river at Roseburn Terrace where you can relax and speed your way along, all the way to Leith if you like.
Our last stop on Edinburgh’s jogging trails is Inverleith Park on the north edge of Edinburgh. It’s accessible easily from the Water of Leith and probably a top choice for anyone staying in the New Town. There is a lot of ground to cover here (I just found a new little section of this park the other day that I didn’t know existed.) My favourite is the duck pond, where sometimes you can find grandfathers floating toy boats with their grandchildren. Either way, be sure to look to the south while you’re hear, because this is one place you can actually see a view of the “Edinburgh skyline” – it’s a really interesting perspective on the city.
A Closing Note on Safety
If you aren’t used to traffic being on the left side of the road, be careful at road crossings. Pedestrians don’t always have the right away and you can easily look the wrong way and assume it’s safe. Easy to do when your ipod is blasting and your heart is racing.