17.5 km Historic Edinburgh Castles Cycle
This route is mostly traffic-free where possible and follows National Cycle Routes 75 and 1. Step back in time when you visit each of these castles and catch a glimpse into the history that contributed to the Scotland you see today.
If you plan to visit more than one historic site including the ones on this route and elsewhere in Scotland, England, and Wales during your stay, it may be worth considering a membership to Historic Scotland. This membership includes free entry or a discount to some sites and events on entry, and discounts at shops and cafes. If you have a short stay in Scotland, there’s an Explorer Pass option valid for up to 7 consecutive days you can purchase here. Otherwise, you can read more and sign up for a membership here.
Our first stop is Lauriston Castle.
Lauriston Castle’s grounds are free to enter and you can pre-book a guided tour if you wish on their website. Additionally, they offer events such as lectures and special tours. If you choose to take a tour, see beautiful architecture, 17th-century furniture pieces (some older than that), and catch a glimpse into what life was like for the 20th century middle-class owners, The Reids. However, the grounds are just as marvellous to walk around and admire including a Kyoto Friendship Garden.
Leave Lauriston Castle turning left onto Cramond Road South then left again onto Silverknowes Avenue. Turn right onto Silverknowes Drive then exit onto Blackhall Path.
Continue all the way straight then exit onto Maidencraig Crescent. Turn right at the main road onto Seaforth Terrace then immediately left onto Keith Row which becomes Craigcrook Road leading you to Craigcrook Castle on your left. The entrance is between two stone-walled pillars.
Craigcrook Castle was largely built and reconstructed in the 17th Century, Craigcrook Castle has had a long list of owners as well as guests including Sir Walter Scott, Henry Cockburn, and Lord Cockburn. Additionally, frequent literary soirees were held here welcoming guests such as Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Anderson, George Eliot, and Lord Tennyson. Inside, and parts of the exterior, consist of various styles as a result of the additions and reconstructions over the years. The castle was put on sale in 2014 but failed to sell. Therefore, there are plans to convert it into a care home.
Exit the castle turning right back onto Craigcrook Road. Then right onto Seaforth Terrace and immediately left back onto Maidencraig Crescent. Then left and right onto the Blackhall Path which becomes the Roseburn Path.
Continue this path straight to turn right and exit onto Balbirnie Place. At the end of the road, turn left then right to stay on Balbirnie Place. At the end of the tar road is the start of a pathway through a gate, continue down the pathway which is National Cycle Route 1 leading you onto Haymarket Yards along the railway lines on your right. Follow the curve of Haymarket Yards to turn left onto Haymarket Terrace then immediately right onto Coates Gardens.
At the three-way intersection, slightly turn right or sharp right onto Eglinton or Glencairn Crescent respectively. Turn right onto Palmerston Place then immediately left onto Chester Street.
At the second main street (Walker Street), turn right then left onto Melville Street.
Cross over the main road into Randolph Place then left and right around the National Records of Scotland to stay on National Cycle Route 1. Turn left or right to go around Charlotte Square onto George Street at the other end.
Continue straight to turn right down Hanover Street/National Cycle Route 75. Cross over Princes Street onto The Mound to the left of Princes Street Gardens.
Follow the curve of the road and turn right onto Bank Street then right onto Lawnmarket into Castlehill and Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle, the most well-known Castle you’ll be seeing on this route, has a history dating back even to prehistoric times. Around the castle are several other attractions such as St Margaret’s Chapel (Edinburgh’s oldest building, built around 1130), The Royal Palace, The Great Hall, and the Honours of Scotland, the oldest Crown Jewels of Britain. Some fun facts about the castle, it was once captured in just 30 minutes in 1639, and during the Rising of 1715 the castle was unable to be captured because… their ladder was too short, how embarrassing!
Another fun fact, the Stone of Destiny in the Crown Room, strongly believed to be of Scottish origin, has been ceremoniously used for coronations for centuries and weighs 151kg. In 1950, a group of four students stole the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in London and returned it to Scotland. After centuries of the stone being stolen between England and Scotland and much debate after 1950, it was decided to let the stone reside in Edinburgh Castle when it is not being used for Coronations. Book your tickets online in advance here.
Exit the castle onto Castlehill then Lawnmarket turning right onto George IV Bridge.
Pass the National Museum of Scotland on your left then turn right onto Teviot/Lauriston Place then left onto the pathway lined with trees, Middle Meadow Walk/National Cycle Route 75. Turn left at the Meadows Compass onto North Meadow Walk. Follow the path to turn left onto Buccleuch Street then right onto Gifford Park and over onto Rankeillor Street.
Turn right onto St Leonard’s Street then third left onto Hermit’s Croft. Follow the curve of the road and continue straight onto East Parkside. Turn left and right to go under three short pedestrian bridges and into the Innocent Railway Tunnel. Although this tunnel is popular among cyclists, runners, and tourists, please use this tunnel at your own discretion.
If you prefer not to use the tunnel, continue straight down East Parkside, turn left onto Holyrood Park Road, and then go around the circle onto Duddingston Low Road. Continue around Duddingston Loch onto Old Church Lane then right onto Duddingston Road West. At the end of the tunnel, turn right onto Duddingston Road West.
The Innocent Railway Tunnel was the first of its kind in Scotland as well as its railway station in Edinburgh. Although no longer used as a railway tunnel, it is a popular path for cycling and is part of National Cycle Route 1. It is well-paved and smooth with a slight but noticeable incline. You can also admire the various artworks along the way on the walls of the tunnel.
Follow this road until it becomes Craigmiller Castle Road. When you reach Castlebrae Avenue (on your right), follow the pathway into the green park area to the right of the houses. There is a small blue circular sign on a lamp post showing the pathway is for cyclists and pedestrians. Follow this path to the car park for Craigmiller Castle.
Craigmiller Castle was once Mary Queen of Scots’ place of safety in 1566. In 1567 after her capture, her jailer would be the owner of this castle she once used as a safe haven. The original tower house dates back to the 1300s with newer additions and renovations made over the years around it. Thus, there are many alcoves and crevices to explore throughout the Castle. The tower house is 17m tall, with 3m thick walls, and a great hall on the first floor. You can enjoy a 25% discount on your ticket when you book online and if you arrive by bike, train or bus using the code on their website here.
If you enjoyed this route, see our 11km Tranquil Duddingston, Fisherrow Sands Edinburgh Cycle.