Key information: Edinburgh

  • An account of joyous winter wanderings, climbing the UK's largest crag and tail to regal Edinburgh castle.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating76
  • Beauty26
  • Natural interest5
  • Human interest17
  • Charisma28
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating76

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Day or less
  • Level of Difficulty: Straightforward



The following is Tendai Nyabango's piece on walking here, which was an entry we much enjoyed for our 2011 Travel Writing Competition. Thank you, Tendai, for bringing this walk to our attention!

A Northern Winter

It's my second day in Edinburgh, in the middle of Britain's coldest winter - that is, the coldest winter on record in the past three decades, this the official news. A carpet of snow covers the wide roads, the flakes settling on the high rise window ledges and drizzling down the many statues dotting this strange city, mostly of royalty, a history lesson if not intimidating. The statues are coloured a pale blue, grey and black marble, still and enchanting, placed in the most prominent places, near banks, galleries, museums, perched spectacularly across bridges, some seated and others, a trio on chariots. Who are they? They are of famous writers, bankers, explorers, still wet and cold from last night's chill. They are visible along with the city's many markets, rivers, galleries and two promenades, with no north and south sign, from the forty-eight metre high Leith Street bridge of Saint James shopping centre where yesterday I found myself holding the smallest bottle of whisky in the world.

On my second day, I head up the city's steep pathways and cobbled streets, passing these famed figures and braving the elements, together with a little bit of Dutch courage and still savouring yesterday's Angus beef burger accompanied by a single lettuce leaf which was meaty, hearty but tasteless and chip-shop brought deep fried mars bar, a melting duo of batter and chocolate, and amongst these other treasures I found in my walks, a rare Scottish note and delights from the Christmas fairs where they sold foreign alcohol, cakes, breads and stollen. After crossing a bridge characteristic of this city, two or three roads wide, I take a short trek up a curiously steep, narrow pathway, the top of which gives a spectacular over the city and then shortly reach Edinburgh castle. I'm not at all done in by the exertion.

The castle, I find, is a magnificent grayish-blue stone structure surrounded by stone walling, characteristically with a stony entrance, facing a vast mountain range swallowing the skyline. Tiny specks of light decorate the mountain range, blue specks adorning the tips and piles of black earth are perched on its ledges. It is quite breathtaking. The air here is still and there is a strange tranquillity and yet unearthliness. As I get closer to the castle, I catch a wedding, the bride is dressed in simple white standing proudly on the castle steps next to her kilted groom. I'm not a guest but I'm allowed to take photographs. I remember a Scottish wedding blessing translated in English, "A thousand welcomes to you with your marriage. May you be healthy all your days. May you be blessed with long life and peace, may you grow old with goodness, and with riches". Scottish weddings have their history steeped in ancient Celtic times and this does seem like a very royal affair!

I decide to continue down the road away from the castle which leads out to many other side roads and bars and taverns and am soon distracted by a Scots piper on the road vying for our attention. The noise he makes is loud and continuous. In wedding tradition a piper or group of pipers would lead the guests down the street normally for more feasting and celebration but I guessed today here was here for a little street entertainment and maybe not formalities.

I stop by the many shops on the main road and buy algae and whisky soap and chocolate fudge rolled out on a table. What a drunken adventure this is turning out to be ! The road gets narrower, the mountain range gets closer, another castle, its Holyroodhouse palace, trains hurtle past nearby, their built to high specification, shiny and thrilling, opposite it, the Scottish parliament. It's got sticks on the wall and roof, is it decoration, does it help the building stand up or a ghostly reminder of its past? There are many ponds of frozen ice nearby, I'm careful not to walk near them, soon finding myself up close to the mountain range, Arthur's Seat. It's a mass of brown and black rock covered in shrubs. Strange how the urban city is so close to the beauty of the countryside. Do I have time to go further as cars and camper vans hurtle past me? I know on my way home, I have more treasures with me, chalky castle rock, the Scottish note, clan whisky, Christmas cake fudge and a special issue, the original Barr's Irn Bru edition...

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