Mountain Bike Trails in Edinburgh – Going Urban – Craiglockart Hill

So far all the trail guides I’ve written have been traditional trails around Scotland, but what if you’re itching for a quick ride and can’t really be bothered getting out in the car? Well, I live in Edinburgh and there’s a few options in and around the town that you can get to with nothing more than pedal power! Sorry for the folks elsewhere but feel free to post in urban circuits of your own and I can include them.

The first one I’m going to cover is Craiglockart hill, a nice little circuit about a mile and a half long which seems far more out in the country than it should considering it’s in the heart of Edinburgh. The trail circles the Craiglockart nature reserve which, to be honest, I had no idea was there until I worked briefly at the Napier Craighouse campus. Part of the circuit goes through the campus itself but most of it is in the forest just out the back of the great Napier buildings.

Obviously there’s no waymarkings here so I’m going to have to attempt a pretty detailed set of directions. Hopefully the google map above will help too, but most of the trail’s hidden by the trees so it’s slightly on the useless side! A quick warning first though, obviously this isn’t a bike only trail so you’ll meet people and their dogs on the way. Just beware and don’t go railing round corners you can’t see beyond, you’ll only end up with a dog in the face!

The steepest part of the uphill, the only part on tarmac at least! (Flickr, MikeMurry)

Looking up the hill towards Edinburgh Napier’s Buildings

Anyway, you start at the gate at the bottom of the hill on Craighouse Road. Go through the gate and you’re faced with three paths – one follows the wall straight up, one heads diagonally into the trees and the other heads on a level towards the houses. You want the diagonally upwards one, where the big climb begins. Follow this trail right up to the main building of Napier Craighouse Campus and then head uphill past the main building. How you do this doesn’t really matter, but you’ll see the hill I mean. It’s a steep, steep little git heading past Bevan Villa and South Craig and up into the trees. The tarmac runs out at the top of the hill as it leads into a car park between an old and a new building (South Craig and the Learning Resource Centre) but if you keep on in the direction the road heads, past the car park on the right then you’ll see a trail heading into the trees. Follow this just past the big modern building and turn right so you circle behind it – now just follow the trail as it heads up more hill into the trees. If you’re not breathing through your ass by this point then you’re a better man than I!

The trail will veer right and then you’ll see a wall with a gate in it, which you could follow to the top of Craiglockart hill if you like. That’s not what we want tho, we’ve earned a little downhill by now! Follow the trail along the wall, so the wall’s on your left and you’ll get a little bit of traditional singletrack with a few wee stoney obstacles, nothing amazing but good fun all the same! Keep following the wall until you meet a t-junction in the paths and the wall runs out. You’ll see another of the Napier buildings here, Queen’s Craig. Turn left and follow the path which leads onto the first really fun bit which is a series of widely spaced steps. I go up and down this quite often just for the practise, it’s great for perfecting your step-ups and drop-offs and you can see if anyone’s coming from miles away so you can take plenty of speed.

The top of the tarmacced section - bit more up to go… (Flickr, MikeMurry)

About 2/3 of the way up – worth stopping for the amazing view across the city.

There’s some upwards steps just after this point that are some challenge – too close together to do seperately and too far apart for a quick blast over. If you manage them then send me the tips, I’ve not done it yet! After this there’s the steepest bit of singtrack which could be taken in a few different ways. It’s wide and slippy with steps running down the centre, and you can go left or right for a different route down. It’s a great little descent which you could spend a while on trying to find the perfect line, and at the sharp right turn half way down there’s a little stump that offers a great wee kicker back onto the steps ready for the turn and the last half.

After this bit of fun it’s really just a flat trail back towards the start. It comes right along behind the Craiglockart Tennis Centre and the only place where you need directions is a little right turn just after the end of the rowing lake. There’s a path on your left just after the lake that leads to some steps up to the houses, but you head past that take the next right instead. It heads up around a tall wooden fence protecting a bunch of back gardens and joins the main path that leads back towards Craighouse Road. Just make sure you head in the direction so that the houses are on your left and you’ll be fine.

It’s a short route, but great for a quick wee blast if you’ve not got the time for a trip out in the car. It also gives you plenty of practice in a lot of the key mountain biking skills, especially drop-offs and step-ups, and if you do that circuit 3 or 4 times then you’ll burn off plenty of beer-calories with the nasty up. I’d love to hear from anyone that tries it so give me a shout. And let me know if you find any little alternatives because there’s plenty of little offshoots up there that I haven’t explored yet. Have fun!

[tags]Mountain Bike, Mountain Biking, Trail, Edinburgh, Scotland, Craiglockart[/tags]


Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

2 Responses

  1. derm says:

    there are some nice fast trails from the s bends at the main craighouse building down to the return path from the pond. have a look when returning along the path to the gate on your right

    lots of little routes in this area to practice on.


  2. Colin says:

    I’ve noticed a couple of little trails starting down that direction but never explored them much, I’ll have to have a look.

    There looked like there were some steep little options coming down from the back of Queen’s Craig too!

    Cheers Derm


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