Walks through the Craiglockhart hills were a popular way of exercising and relaxing for the shell- shocked soldiers who were treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital.
This trail starts at Napier University Craiglockhart campus, and is about three miles in total. It’s divided into two loops, so if you are short of time you can do either one of them in less than an hour. The slopes are steep in places and the paths can be muddy so wear sensible shoes. Before you set off, why not take the opportunity to visit the War Poets collection within Napier University? It is on permanent display and is open to the public for self-guided visits during normal Craiglockhart Campus Library opening times, see www.napier.ac.uk/warpoets.
Leave the campus by the main entrance and pass the ruins of Craiglockhart Castle (a 5th century tower house) on your left. Cross Glenlockhart Road and turn right. After 200 yards cross the road again and enter woodland through a wooden gate marked ‘Golf Course Caution’. Turn left and follow a steep path uphill through a stand of pine trees branching right then right again at a three way junction. The path meanders through gorse thickets for 300 yards to a trig point on the summit. An Iron Age fort stood here in Roman times though the archaeology has been disrupted by WW1 gun emplacements built to protect Edinburgh after the Zeppelin raids of 1916. There are stunning 360 degree views. Above you, buzzards
may be circling and kestrels hovering. Return to the junction, turn right and follow the path round the flank of the hill for 350 yards looking left to check the position of golfers on the Merchants Golf Course.
When the path ends, check again to your left and give priority to any golfers playing to the green in front of you. Listen for shouts of ‘Fore’ and take care not to interfere with play or distract players. Follow the fringe of the rough to your right and walk towards the low stone wall ahead. Check again to your left for golfers playing to the green on your right. When safe to do so, walk along the wall and cross a gap. On the left hand side of the wall, a plaque, erected by the Golf Club, includes excerpts from Sassoon’s ‘Dreamers’ and Owen’s ‘Requiem for Doomed Youth’. Exit the golf course by turning right down steps and walk for 500 yards along the side of the University campus to the gate where you entered the woods.
You can now return to the University or turn right after 80 yards to start the Northern loop.
Leave the University, cross the road and turn right as before but then turn left after 100 yards down a signposted path between two houses. Continue downhill for 800 yards through mature beech, ash and chestnut trees. You may see or hear woodpeckers. Behind the Tennis Centre, pass a wall of graffiti art before reaching Craiglockhart Pond, a haven for ducks, swans and water birds. At the foot of the pond, a Social History Board includes photographs of the War Poets and some information about the work of the Hospital. Cross the stone causeway in front of the pond and leave by the stone steps. Turn left then right
then left again at the main Colinton Road.After 300 yards, you will see the shops of Happy Valley. Cross at the pedestrian lights to view the ‘Hillside’ statue commissioned by Craiglockhart Community Council. The quotes from ‘Spring Offensive’ on the statue are testament to Owen’s love of nature.
A short diversion round the corner into Craiglockhart Road North takes you to a stone cairn marking the spot where a Wellington bomber crashed in 1942. Go back to Colinton Road, cross at the lights again and continue right for 800 yards to return to the University. Alternatively, turn left then immediately right towards the Leisure Centre and pass through a gate on your left to the top of the pond. From here you can return to the University by the woodland path.
The walk information is an abridged version of a trail leaflet produced by the Friends of Craiglockhart Woods and Napier University to commemorate the connection with the war poets. It is used with their permission. Why not pick up the full leaflet with maps more details while you are in at the War Poets collection. www.craiglockhartwoods.org.
First published in Konect November 2017
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer