This was the last hill, nearly there, nearly finished. Up a flight of very big steps and it must be said very serious steps made from railway sleepers, with loose unstable grey gravel between and many canting at an alarming angle. This was hill 7 of 7. Sounds like a Borg designation from Star Trek. Wish I was a cybernetically enhanced Borg right now as my legs are complaining like nobody’s business as is my shoulder as I’m carrying the Swifty Air kick scooter. But it’s the last hill. I’ll soon be finished. The steps end eventually but there’s still more up to do, a grass slope to climb. Bugger, I thought I was finished.
I’ve been on the Swifty Air since 6.00 am this morning. It’s now 11.00 am, 5 hours of hard slog kick scooting across the streets of Edinburgh. And the reason for all this self-inflicted turfing daftness, I’m tacking the fabled Seven Hills of Edinburgh. Or rather the seven zones located on the fabled Seven Hills of Edinburgh. And I’m doing it the hard way, on a Swifty Air kick scooter. Though it must be said also the fun way. The seven said hills, and their zones in order of take, are:
- ArthursSeat, on Arthurs Seat in Holyrood Park.
- HillGate, on Edinburgh Castle esplanade, top of the Royal Mile.
- CaltonHill, on Calton Hill at the Ordnance Survey trig point.
- TheHillTower, on Corstorphine Hill, in the wild west.
- Craighill, on Craiglockhart Hill.
- BraidView, in the Braid Hills.
- BlackfordHill, on Blackford Hill by the Royal Observatory.
I thought an early start would be wise. Not only to avoid the crowds but also to make good use of the cooler early mornings as the day was forecast to heat up by noon. My route was going to be anti-clockwise, starting with the most challenging, and highest zone, ArthursSeat in Holyrood Park while my legs, and mind, were still fresh. My actual start point was beside the University of Edinburgh King’s Buildings, both for ease of parking and also that it’s near the final hill of the day, Braid Hill. I’ll likely be totally knackered by then so an easy downhill scoot back to the car will be welcome.
Zone 1 of 7, ArthursSeat
Quiet streets and empty pavements meant an quiet relaxed scoot to Holyrood Park, then a long slow climb up the Queen’s Drive – against the one-way system I might add, naughty me – to Dunsapie Loch. I’ve been taking a few additional zones along the way; zones close to my intended route but I wasn’t too bothered about zones other than the seven on the hills. Tackling the Seven Hills was going to be challenge enough. There was a grasshopper warbler calling in the long grass. The climb up to Arthurs Seat is a long one, slow and steady with frequent rests to catch my breath. It’s not easy pushing an 8 Kg plus kick scooter uphill against the lie of the grass but way easier than hauling a bicycle.
The final section at the summit is bare volcanic rock, polished smooth by hundreds of years of foot traffic. Only option here is to carry the Swifty over my shoulder. You can carry it in front but it makes it difficult to see where you are walking. Need to be careful though, lots of loose sharp gravel and the smooth polished rock is slippery, even when dry. Each footfall is carefully assessed and tested. I’m wearing sandals which might seem folly to some but I’ve been climbing hills in them for years and the only time I’ve had a mishap, a lightly sprained ankle, was when wearing proper hiking boots. I think when you wear boots you take less care where you place your feet. With sandals, you take more time and more care. They also let your feet breathe and I find them much more comfortable. And no, I don’t wear thick woolly socks, thank you very much! After some pictures at the trig point, zone ArthursSeat was in the bag. Even at this early hour there was four visitors at the summit. One down, six to go.
Zone 2 of 7, HillGate
I decided that zone HillGate, on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle would be next, rather than zone CaltonHill on Calton Hill. If I went to Calton Hill, I’d lose a lot of height and have to climb all the way up the castle. This seemed to make better use of the height I already had from Holyrood Park. My scoot took be back past the Commonwealth Pool, across the Meadows and up the Royal Mile. Cobbles are horrible things to try kick scooting on. Contractors were hard at work erecting the seating on the castle esplanade, probably for the coming Edinburgh International Festival. There was also a security guard at the barrier and I was hoping that I’d get access. But what I did was say hello and carried on scooting past. He didn’t stop me. After a photo of Swifty at the zone, that was another hill in the bag. Two down, five to go. The security guard seemed to be beckoning me to stop as I departed but I acted the daft laddie, said cheerio and scooted away doon the Royal Mile.
Zone 3 of 7, CaltonHill
The streets were beginning to get busy, even now at 7.30 am. Groups of noisy tourists gathering, waiting for tour buses, delivery vehicles dropping off the day’s supplies and early-start office and shop workers on their way to work. I dropped down Cockburn Street, across Waverly Bridge, then right along Princess Street. I did try and take a few zones along the way but the GPS was doing that Mexican jumping bean thing, moving about all over the place, probably due to the high buildings all around. Normally, I’d take some time to try and sort things out but decided to concentrate on the main mission, the Seven Hills of Edinburgh. Zone BuyBridge was an easy take on Waterloo Place, then I took the easy way to the trig point on Calton Hill, looping up the main access road, grabbing zone RegentGarden in the passing. Calton Hill was deserted, none of the usual tourists. No doubt they would be here soon. A quick photo shoot at the trig and another zone taken. Three down, four to go.
Zone 4 of 7, TheHillTower
Corstorphine Hill is a good 4-miles from Calton Hill but it’s mostly flat all the way, at least until you start climbing up Corstorphine Hill itself. Picked off a few easy zones on the way and popped into Sainsburys’ Local for supplies. Decided to wheel the Swifty in with me as I didn’t have a bike lock. It was great just scooting along, dodging and weaving between pedestrians (on the street, not in the shop). Aiming for gaps, slowing slightly until a gap open then a single kick and I’m away again. Looking ahead, planning my route, predicting where the pedestrians will be and when, then being there at just the right time and right speed. Great fun. Might start up the Institute of Advanced Kick Scooterists. Most people seemed not to bother though a few looked a bit grumpy. Perhaps they got out of the wrong side of bed this morning or they always look like that. I love it when children say “Mummy, look at that man’s scooter. Can I have one?” Perhaps I might not be so popular with their parents. The Swifty IXI, the children’s version, is £349.00
Finding access to Corstorphine Hill was easy enough. The turf map has a handy clue, it states “Entrance to Corstorphine Hill” I worked that one out all by myself! Actually, this was the hard way, up steep dirt and gravel paths, overgrown in places, through the trees. If I’d kept on going, past the zoo and right up Kaimes Road, I’d have encountered the surfaced access road for the telecommunications mast which is right beside the zone. But not to worry, I came out that way afterwards.
There’s a serious iron fence to the left as I climbed the trail which had me wondering what was on the other side. Then I remembered it was Edinburgh Zoo. Better not try any short cuts that way! Imagine the headlines. Turfer killed and eaten by irate lions. Turfer snorted on my llama. Turfer held captive by amorous female mountain gorilla. The zone is easy to spot at the summit, located beside a stone tower, built 150 years ago as a memorial to Sir Walter Scott. Had a short break on the bench there. Four down, three to go.
Zone 5 of 7, Craighill
Next another long section of kick scooting, across Corstorphine, Carrick Knowe, Saughton and Longstone. By now Mr Legs was beginning to complain. I was also getting rather weary. Why did I decide to tackle all seven hills in one go? Would I not be better going for something easier, like the Seven Flat Areas of Edinburgh? But one digs deep and keeps on going. No other option really. I’m miles from the car. However, soon, the Biscuit & Raisin Yorkie I scoffed on Corstorphine Hill was starting to take effect and I seemed to have fresh energy for the climb up to Edinburgh Napier University. I found the path to zone Craighill, located on Craiglockhart Hill East, opposite the University parking area. There’s also sign posts directing to the hill top. The path eventually opens out into a flat grass area with benches and cairns. Zone taken, five down, two to go.
Zone 6 of 7, BraidView
To reach the next zone, BraidView, and not being familiar with the area at all, I simply headed east and soon found myself in the Greenbank area. Then I aimed for Mortonhall Golf Club where I recalled there was an access path for the Braidhill Trails, seen from the car when I commuted to work this way. I was certainly flagging now, especially my legs but with only two hills to go, no stopping now. Another steep climb gave me the trig point and zone taken. Saw a roe deer and fawn crossing the golf course. Six down, one to go.
Zone 7 of 7, BlackfordHill
With dozens of paths on Braid Hill, none of which I’d ever followed before, my best option to reach the final hill, Blackford Hill, was to backtrack and head along the streets I was familiar with. I knew there was paths along the Braid Burn beside the tennis courts. There I would be able to cross the burn and climb to the summit.
On the way back down the path from Braid Hill I heard someone behind me and turned to find a cyclist on a drop-bar gravel bike approaching fast and only a few meters away from me. He wasn’t even slowing down and the path here certainly wasn’t wide enough for him to pass. In addition, the loose gravel along with his speed, meant he would never have stopped in time to avoid me. I don’t know what he was thinking. Probably not I suspect. Luckily, I was able to step into the bushes and get out of the way.
Blackford Hill was probably the most popular area I’d been to this morning, lots of dog walkers, joggers, women with prams and so on. At the visitor centre I kept left, crossed the burn and started ascending. And after a final flight of giant steps and a short climb, zone Blackfordhill was in the bag. Mission accomplished. Finished. The Seven Hills of Edinburgh have been conquered, probably by the first Swifty Air kick scooter in ever.
I must say I was well chuffed with myself for completing this route in a single session. I took the first zone ArthursSeat at 6.38 am and took the final zone Blackfordhill, at 10.51 am, a good four hours of effort. Overall, about 22 miles (20 miles from Google maps plus 10% for gradients) travelled and 24 zones taken in addition to the seven hills zones. Would have been quicker using the bicycle between zones but would not have liked to lug a bicycle up to most of the summits. I’ve added the Seven Hills of Edinburgh to my after dark turfing adventures list.
There’s an interesting webpage with some stats on the Seven Hills of Edinburgh at TurfBridge ESOC Best time to date is Cruachan with 1h 52m 41s. My time is listed as 4h 13m 27s which means second place. Yippie! No way, even on a bike would I better Cruachan, he’s a Turfinator! Perhaps this page with encourage more turfers to take up the challenge of the Seven Hills of Edinburgh. Back soon for more exciting turf adventures.
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