Edinburgh is surrounded by seven hills - Castle Rock, Corstorphine, Blackford, Braid, Craiglockhart, Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat.
Edinburgh has one of the most spectacular urban landscapes in the world, shaped by volcanoes, ice and humans. Over 300 million years ago volcanic eruptions created bands of hard rocks, such as in Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock.
Erosion in the Ice Age wore away softer rocks, carving out valleys, such as in Cowgate today. Humans added the final touch with dramatic architecture, most spectacularly seen in the Georgian terraces of the New Town. Built between 1765 and 1850, the New Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a classic example of early city planning.
The highly distinctive Castle Rock was formed by an exploding volcano and its lava flows. During the Ice Age, these hard volcanic rocks were shaped by ice, creating the ‘crag-and-tail’ shape' that proved to be a perfect location for settlement from prehistoric times.
The earliest evidence of occupation on Castle Rock dates back to the Bronze Age, around 900 BC. Even today its steep, rocky slopes have ensured that a visible ‘island’ of natural landscape has been retained right in the heart of the city.
A famous skyline
It is sometimes said that nature is Edinburgh’s chief architect. Hills and valleys shape the city’s spectacular townscape and create dramati views, both from within Edinburgh and from a distance. From Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill there are panoramic views across the city and beyond. Even standing in the middle of the city it is possible to see far out to the surrounding countryside, and approaching Edinburgh from any direction presents a striking and memorable image.