If you’re planning a family trip to Edinburgh, Calton Hill is a must-visit destination that offers breathtaking views, historic monuments, and an enjoyable outdoor experience for children of all ages. We’ve been up the Hill is all seasons and I’d always advise that it’s worth the climb:

Why Visit Calton Hill with Kids?

Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks, offering a blend of natural beauty and historical significance. It’s a relatively short climb, making it an accessible and rewarding activity for families. The hill provides expansive views of the city, allowing kids to spot famous landmarks and understand the layout of Edinburgh from above. Additionally, there are several interesting monuments and buildings at the summit that can spark curiosity and learning.

Best Routes up Calton Hill

1. Regent Road Path

The Regent Road Path is the most popular and straightforward route to the top. Starting from Regent Road, this path is well-paved and suitable for young children and strollers. The gentle incline makes it an easy walk, allowing families to enjoy the journey without too much exertion.


  • Head to the Waverly end of Princes Street and then keep walking straight to Regent Road.
  • Look out on the left for the path to Calton Hill.
  • Follow the clearly marked path, which winds up the hill.
  • The walk takes approximately 10-15 minutes at a leisurely pace.

2. Royal Terrace Path

For those looking for a slightly more challenging climb, the Royal Terrace Path offers a steeper ascent with equally rewarding views. This route provides a bit more of a workout and a sense of adventure for older kids.


  • Begin at Royal Terrace, just up the hill from Toppings Bookshop.
  • Ascend the stone path leading up the hill – or choose to scramble up sections that are slightly muddier!
  • Follow the path upwards, reaching the summit in about 15-20 minutes.

3. Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder is an ancient public pathway and one of Edinburgh’s many steep wynds. It provides a quick route from Calton Road to Regent Road, opposite the old Royal High School. While it doesn’t go directly to the top of Calton Hill, it offers a unique and adventurous way to start your climb. If you’ve got energy to burn off or a more ambitious teen – this is the route for you!


  • Start at the entrance on Calton Road, near the Calton Road exit of Waverley Station, beneath the Waverley Station approaches bridges.
  • Climb the steep staircase, which twists and turns with flat sections for rest.
  • Reach Regent Road, then continue your walk up Calton Road to the top of Calton Hill.
  • The climb takes about 15 minutes with rest stops and offers superb views of Waverley Station, Arthur’s Seat, and the Old and New Towns.
a road sign showing Jacobs ladder with a view of edinburgh in the background. A small child sits on top of the trig point at the top of Calton Hill.

Notable Sights from the Top

Once you reach the summit of Calton Hill, you’ll be greeted with stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh and several notable landmarks. Here are some sights you shouldn’t miss:

1. Nelson Monument

The Nelson Monument, a tall tower built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, offers an additional climb for those who want an even higher vantage point. Families can ascend the spiral staircase inside the monument for a small fee of £7, although the museum on the ground floor is free.

2. National Monument of Scotland

Inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, the National Monument of Scotland is an unfinished structure that offers a great spot for kids to explore and for family photos. Its columns provide an impressive backdrop against the Edinburgh skyline.

The national monument and the dugald stewart monument at the top of Calton Hill.

3. Dugald Stewart Monument

This elegant structure, dedicated to the philosopher Dugald Stewart, is one of the most photographed monuments in Edinburgh. It’s a great spot to teach kids about history and take in the beautiful architecture.

4. City Views

From Calton Hill, you can see the Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, and the bustling streets of the Old and New Towns. The view is especially magical at sunset, when the city is bathed in golden light.

5. Observing Nature

Calton Hill is not just about monuments and views; it’s also a place where children can connect with nature. The grassy areas are perfect for picnics and running around, while the hill itself is home to various bird species and plant life.

Tips for a Great Visit

  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The paths can be uneven, so ensure everyone has sturdy footwear.
  • Bring Snacks and Water: Although the climb is short, having refreshments on hand can keep energy levels up, especially for younger children. There is a coffee booth in the grounds of the observatory but it isn’t always open. There is also the ‘Look Out’ restaurant, it offers a seasonal tasting menu and is a great pre-theatre shout if you’re looking for a special location – but I wouldn’t suggest it for a family meal.
  • Check the Weather: Calton Hill is exposed to the elements, so dress appropriately and bring layers.
  • Plan Your Visit: Early mornings or late afternoons can be less crowded and offer the best lighting for photos. Do also check out what is on at ‘Collective Art‘ which also has a home in the Observatory. They offer free Friday play sessions for 5-12 year olds through the year that are very popular.
  • Extend your adventure: select one of the places that you can see from the top for your next adventure – we’d suggest Holyroodhouse or the castle itself!

Walking up Calton Hill with kids is an enriching and fun experience that combines exercise, education, and spectacular views. Whether you choose the gentle Regent Road Path, the slightly more challenging Royal Terrace Path, or the adventurous start via Jacob’s Ladder, your family will enjoy every step of the journey. Remember to explore the historical monuments at the top and take in the panoramic views that make Edinburgh such a unique and beautiful city.

Happy hiking!

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