A guide to climbing Arthur's Seat

Picture: Wikimedia
Picture: Wikimedia
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All you need for a good day's hiking in the city is a pair of boots and clear skies. This is a fantastic place for panoramic views of the city and to watch the sunrise or the sunset. Just watch your step in the dark.

The spectacular landscape of Arthur's Seat and Holyrood Park is the backdrop to the capital and best enjoyed in summer when there's good visibility and the landscape is dotted with heather and wild flowers.

Picture: Wkimedia

Picture: Wkimedia

Volcanic outcrop

Arthur's Seat is an extinct volcano. You can find evidence of this in the remains of a crater area. James Hutton, the father modern geology, first made his discovery at Salisbury Crags that igneous and sedimentary rocks were made at different times and the earth was much older than previously thought. His ideas influenced Darwin. Hutton's Section is a geological feature that shows igneous rock overlaying and intertwining with sedimentary rock.

Routes

One of the most popular routes is a circular route via Salisbury Crags with fantastic views. The summit reaches a height of 251 metres with some unpaved paths and some steep and rocky sections.

You begin at the carpark by Holyrood. As you climb the first section you can see Edinburgh's Old Town, the Pentland Hills and East Lothian and North Berwick. Avoid the diagonal path and take the main walkway that's slightly left for the route up and over the Salisbury Crags, with a fantastic view out towards the castle. This route passes the Radical Road and zigzags up the steps of Guttit Haddie. The ascent of Arthur's Seat is very steep and rocky.

Alternatively, there's also a lazy man's route is up from Queen's Drive to Dunaspie Loch and then straight up. Heading up to the summit from Dunaspie Loch you'll find the paths cross ancient agricultural terraces carved out by early farmers. Further up there's a rocky knoll which is a favourite resting spot and viewpoint for locals.

From the summit you can either continue round in a circular route or veer off to the east down the hill to the Dunaspie Loch where you turn right to head to Duddingston for a visit to The Sheep Heid Inn.

You can also drive the Queen's Drive in a one-way circular tour but part of the route is closed on Sundays.

Historical monuments and landmarks

From a distance St Anthony's Chapel looks like more of a ruined castle. It stands high on a rocky outcrop above St Margaret's Loch with stunning views over north Edinburgh, Leith and the Forth.

Resembling a prehistoric rock toilet is St Anthony's Well, a spring and carved stone bowl. It can be found on the well worn track between St Anthony's Chapel and Holyrood Abbey. Flint arrow heads have been found on Arthur's Seat, scattered there by hunter gatherers.

On the south side of Arthur's Seat is Duddingston Loch, the setting of Scotland's most famous painting, The Skating Minister.

Wildlife

Holyrood Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a good place to find wild flowers including some rare ones. There are many interesting plants in the marshy area of Hunter's Bog including Northern Marsh-orchid, Yellow-rattle and Hairy Sedge. Heading from the Bog towards Salisbury Crags you can find colourful summer displays of yellow Mouse-ear hawkweed, white Heath Bedstraw and pink Wild Thyme. The Radical Road holds some of the park's rarest plants, Spring Cinquefoil, Fern-grass and Sticky Catchfly.

Organised tours

Historic Scotland Ranger Service run guided walks and Historic Environment Scotland offer a guided tour called 'Arthur's Secrets', as well as a dog-friendly walk, Paws in the Park. Geowalks offer guided walks, a red route to the summit or a blue route staying on the lower levels.

Alternative activities

The truly mad runners of Edinburgh risk life and limb to run all the way to the top and Radical Road is a runners' favourite. Cycling is only allowed on the road and the green path alongside the Galloping Glen because Historic Environment Scotland say off-road cycling damages plant life and archaeology. There are also bat walks.

Other essentials

It's recommended to wear sturdy footwear and good grips for walking up Arthur's Seat. It can get windy up the top so layer up. It gets busy on weekends.

It's best to set off early enough to have time to walk down to the pub for dinner afterwards. Tucked at the back at the eastern edge of the park is the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, The Sheep Heid Inn, which has everything you need after a hike up the hill, from comforting pies to pints, comfy seats, and enormous puddings.