Calton Hill, Edinburgh
National Monument and Nelson Monument atop Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The year, 1724. In a land where most of the landscape was held by the gentry, the town council of Edinburgh did a curious thing: they bought a hill.

Volcano in Edinburgh
Edinburgh sits between a series of volcanic hills

One of the seven volcanic hills within the city limits, Calton Hill is an ancient cinder cone, steep-sided, with fabulous views of the Firth of Forth, Arthur’s Seat, and the city of Edinburgh itself. It became one of Britain’s first public parks, a curiosity of its time.

Edinburgh, Scotland
View of the Firth of Forth across Edinburgh

Known as Hume’s Walk, it was Scotland’s – and Britain’s – first public footpath, the precursor to a vast network of public paths, walks, and ways throughout the whole of Britain.

Calton Hill geology
Calton Hill shows its volcanic origins wherever rock is exposed

We were fortunate to be staying right next to Calton Hill while in Edinburgh and stumbled across this historic site, one of the most significant in the history of modern footpaths, while – appropriately – out for a walk.

Calton Hill entrance
The original entrance to Calton Hill, now sealed

Edinburgh is crowded with sites of historic importance, so Hume’s Walk doesn’t take major billing in tourist brochures and guidebooks. But for nearly 240 years, it’s been well worth the walk.

Trail map for Calton Hill
Trail map for Calton Hill

Reader Interactions


  1. My Maternal Grandmother Mary McCord was born on the Isle of Skye. She came to America and married my maternal grandfather Samuel Levi Branson of Irish descent, who was a rancher in Kansas. I was told that the name CALTON was old Scots for “Calf Farm” to designate the area in Edinburgh during the middle ages, were beef was raised to feed the people of Edinburgh, When I was born in 1929 in Syracuse Kansas, I was given the name CALTON McCord LEWIS. The Doctor who delivered me was CALTON GRISSOM M.D. My mother’s maiden name was Fern Alma Branson, and my father’s name was Seigel Thomas Lewis, son of Kansas ranchers.