Dog owners in Edinburgh are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding somewhere good to walk their dog. Here at Happy Home Dog Boarding we have the whole Esk Valley to play with, offering river walks, open parkland, hills and forests. Remember you can keep up to date with our adventures on our Facebook page.
But even if you live slap bang in the city centre, there are amazing walks just on your doorstep, or a quick bus ride away (Lothian busses are dog friendly, so long as you have them on a lead).
Over the years of living in the city centre, we narrowed down the areas we liked the best, and where we thought the dogs were having as much fun as possible. When we asked ourselves what the best places for dog walks in Edinburgh are, this is what we decided on.
Thank you to Edinburgh Dog Photography who let me use some of her photos!
10 Cramond Beach
The seaside village of Cramond on the north west of Edinburgh can be an ethereal and thoughtful place to spend time in. If you were to come at high tide, you would see nothing more than a bit of sandy beach and a small island just out into the Firth of Forth.
The views across the water to Fife and beyond can be stunning, and on a good day, you might be treated to a view of the Forth bridges.
However, come at low tide and you can get all that and much more.
Underneath the water you will see a causeway emerge as the tide retreats, giving you access to Cramond Island. This is a small, uninhabited scrap of land that allows you to look back on Edinburgh. Often, you will be the only person on the island, giving you a sense of space and isolation you can’t often get in a capital city.
This beach is quite a muddy one when the tide is out, meaning your white dog may well come back black. Bring a towel!
Word of warning though, when they say “time and tide wait for no man” they mean it. Check tide timetables or take advantage of a text service to alert you to tides.
If you do go across to the island, make sure you leave plenty of time to walk back. People can and do get stuck when they don’t plan properly!
9 Braidburn Valley Park
Nestled towards the south of Edinburgh is a park which many commuters drive past each day, but very few seem to have walked along this beautiful little valley.
Braidburn Valley Park has been visited by the public since 1933, and even boasts its own outside amphitheatre.
It's bigger than one might initially think at 11 hectares, allowing plenty of space for your dog to roam. It has also been awarded a Green Flag for excellence in parks - the first such award to be given in Scotland.
It’s reasonably secure, so is a good place to take your dog when they are getting used to exploring the world, and offers a nice steep bank you can walk along, and a river at the bottom if anyone needs to cool off and have a paddle. It’s fully accessible along a tarmac path, but with plenty of options to go off road!
This is a good walk if you want to take it easy and let your dog do all the running.
8 Corstorphine Hill
Corstorphine Hill is a 340 million year old wooded ridge that sits to the west of Edinburgh city centre. Not only has it been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS), it is also a Local Nature Reserve.
The focal point of the hill is Corstorphine Hill Tower, a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, one of Edinburgh’s most well loved sons. The hill also shares some space with Edinburgh Zoo, and on a good day you might get a free peek at some animals.
The hill is a great place to let your dogs run free and have adventures in a wooded, dog friendly setting. To find out more, here's the Friends of Corstorphine Hill.
7 Blackford Hill
Getting to the hill is straightforward, so long as you are happy with a climb (although being a hill, the clue is in the name!).
Getting to the top is your priority, where you can take in the surroundings with a deep breath and admire the city laid out before you.
The climb isn’t too arduous – I’ve seen toddlers and OAPs tackle it – but there is no laid path all the way to the top so be aware of any accessibility issues, especially if it has been wet recently.
6 Hermitage of Braid
Hermitage of Braid is the valley to Blackford’s Hill, all existing in one area but I’m going to class them as separate walks as they can be done in isolation of each other.
As you walk down to the bottom of the valley you will soon find yourself parallel with the river, and can walk alongside it on a reasonably level path, with beautiful trees growing up either side of you.
Soon, you will come across theOld Hermitage House, the history of which goes back to the 12th Century.
The Hermitage has many paths at levels up and down the valley sides, concealing wonderful secrets like the recently restored walled garden.
Such a wonderful and calm place to walk in, with a cooling stream for you and your dog’s hot feet to cool down in.
5 Pentland Hills
Just a short bus ride out from the city centre are the Pentland Hills.
It’s very hard to nominate just one area of the Pentlands to talk about – Bonaly Country Park, Harlaw Reservoir and Flotterstone are all fantastic areas to walk.
However a lovely and little known walk can be taken from the wee village of Carlops, walking up along the River north Esk into the hills and towards the reason we went this way in the first place – the source of the river that runs past our house, the North Esk Reservoir.
Being off the beaten track, you often have all this space to yourself, giving you the chance to take in the wonderful flora and fauna in peace (assuming you don’t have a barky dog!). Fishing is possible here by arrangement, and it is a lovely place to just sit and contemplate the world.
It should be noted that when in the hills, sheep are common and in areas where they are, remember to keep control your dog on a lead. Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, a farmer can legally kill a dog in cases of sheep worrying and the owner can be prosecuted and fined up to £1000.
But don’t let this put you off. If you see livestock, put your dog on a lead and walk through – simple, really.
And if that doesn’t convince you to give this walk a shot - here’s what we did last time we were up there in the snow…!
4 Calton Hill
Back in the centre of city is Calton Hill, a wonderful and quirky hill with a ton of history and unique buildings.
I mean, where to start? The hill holds many important monuments and buildings, including the National Monument, a Parthenon-inspired but never finished monument which has sat, incomplete, for nearly 200 years. It has inspired many names for Edinburgh – not all of them complimentary – but my favourite is ‘Athens of the North’. Sounds better than ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’, at least…
The hill is fairly steep to climb but most people in good health should have no issues going up the path.
Other buildings worth checking out include the Nelson Monument, the old Royal High School and the Dugald Stewart monument – the round construction with pillars that you see in most photos taken from the hill.
Calton Hill is also the centre of attention for the Beltane Fire Festival, which welcomes in the summer. This is a crazy night, and well worth a visit, but probably not with your dog - lots of fire, noise and crowds don’t often do well.
And by the way, if you were looking for somewhere to leave your dog for a night, I might know someone *ahem*.
3 Arthur's Seat
Folk from Edinburgh are pretty relaxed about having a volcano smack bang in the middle of the city.
I mean sure, it’s extinct and incapable of erupting, but I’ve seen enough Hollywood movies to be worried about stuff like that.
Arthur's Seat is, however, one of the best areas to both see Edinburgh, and get away from the city so much that you’ll feel like you are in the Highlands. Such a wonderful feeling, only minutes walk from Princes Street, this is something every resident and visitor of Edinburgh should do.
There are a ton of routes you can take, from going up to see St Anthony’s Chapel, or along the Crags, or go all the way to the top for a windy view of the city.
I once went up with some friends in order to watch the sunrise and enjoy a wee tipple. I was all ready, sat in the perfect spot, when I realised how bright it had become and the sun still hadn’t risen! I then turned around and realised I had been facing the wrong way and the sun was well up in the sky.
Kids, don’t do this, you’ll feel like a fool.
2 Craig House
Between Craiglockart and Morningside sits a fantastic dog walking area with woods, historic buildings, grassy meadows and a stunning view over the city that many people don’t know about.
Napier University’s old Craighouse Campus sits, at time of writing, in a bit of a no man’s land between protection and development, but remains, for now, open to the public and their dogs.
The history of the site dates back to at least 1528, with buildings on the site dating from 1565, and over the years have been used as a private residence, a hospital and a university campus. Napier University moved out and sold up by 2013, the site now being owned by developers, with the Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood set up to ensure it’s lasting legacy for the community.
There are still legacies of a much busier campus, including this memorial to William Kinnimond Burton, an Edinburgh engineer worshipped as a hero in Japan who designed the country's first skyscraper and clean water systems for its cities in the 1800s.
This old campus is a beautiful area to visit all year round and there are paths throughout, although not all of them have been maintained in recent years. The future of the area remains unclear, so best get there whilst you still can!
1 Portobello Beach
Oh Porty, such a lovely place. Edinburgh’s beach is one of our all time favourite places, mainly because Sprocket loves the beach more than anything else in the world.
Even when the tide is in, Portobello is a perfectly gorgeous place, but when it is out the dogs can go wild and spend their energy beans! A popular place for dogs, there’s always new puppy pals to be made, and you’re getting some nice fresh sea air in the bargain too.
When I was a student in Edinburgh, I never knew there was a beach a mere 20-minute ride away from me. I’ve made up for lost time now though, and we take every opportunity to visit here, and also drop into the Espy for a burger!
The beach tends to be more dog friendly towards Seafield on the western side. This is also where the headquarters for the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home sits, so if you don’t have a dog and would like one, make it your first call! They also offer free microchipping for your pet, and remember mandatory microchipping for dogs was introduced in the UK in April 2016.
On the eastern stretch of the beach towards Joppa - more usually in the summer - is where families will sit and enjoy the summer (which is normally a day sometime in August!).
You are free to roam the whole stretch of the beach at any time of the year with your dog, unlike some beaches in the rest of the UK.
Portobello also hosts festivals and events throughout the year that you might want your visit to coincide with.
A shop worth paying a visit to is the exceedingly dog friendly Harry’s Treats on Portobello High Street. Pick up some lovely home-made dog snacks to treat your favourite pal on your walk.
Do you have a favourite walk in Edinburgh you would like to share? Drop us a note in the comments!