Blackford Hill, in the area of Blackford between Morningside and the Braid Hills, is 164m (538ft) high, and together with the Braid Hills and the Hermitage of Braid comprises a 149 acre Local Nature Reserve called, funnily enough, the “Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill Local Nature Reserve“.
The hill was formed 400 million years ago by volcanic rocks in a similar fashion to it’s buddy the Braids, but differently from the volcanic plugs and intrusions which created the other 5 hills of Edinburgh. Agassiz Rock, close to the disused Quarry below to the hill (within the nature reserve) is also of geological and historical interest as it was the first evidence of the action of glaciers to be found in Scotland, and is named after the Swiss-American geologist Louis Agassiz after he made the discovery in 1840 on a trip to study Scotland’s hills. Pretty cool!
Blackford is a great little hill to climb as it isn’t very high or particularly difficult but is full of gorgeous and diverse terrain – from open grassland with wild flora and fauna to dense woodland (30 acres of it!) – and offers lovely views of Edinburgh, the Braid Hills, Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands (bigger hills/mountains south of the city). It has many great and well maintained tracks and trails some of which are paved, and there are also steps which go up to the summit (check wheelchair accessibility here on this trail map). You can do this hill easily in trainers if you stick to the tracks.
On the hill is the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, a large radio transmitter and a meteorological station. The Royal Observatory buildings are architecturally lovely but they can’t be accessed unless you book onto one of their visiting events – check here for more information on what’s on at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre.
Close by is the Blackford Pond, a lovely little spot with benches, ducks and swans and a small play area for kids.
The Hermitage of Braid – a pretty little walk along the river Braid Burn – can also be taken and leads to Blackford Hill, with some cool sites on the way such as a walled garden with gorgeous flowers, doocot, ice house and Hermitage House, built in 1785 and designed by architect Robert Burn, which gives the area it’s name (I see a pattern here…). There is also a Visitor Centre and a permanent orienteering course and you can buy maps there for £2 or print your own.
How to get there:
To get to the Hermitage of Braid, take Lothian Bus services 11, 15 or 15A to Comiston Road and start at the entrance to the Hermitage on Braid Road (just past a little coffee shop). To get to Blackford Pond, take Lothian Bus service 41 to Cluny Gardens.