Passions: Arthur’s Seat - Edinburgh’s volcano always gives me a high

It’s the craggy capital feature that always takes visitors by surprise

Returning home to Edinburgh any time I’ve been away I’m struck anew by the sight of Arthur’s Seat, its solid craggy outline ostentatiously grandstanding in the middle of the city. Day to day I forget about it, until I catch a reassuring glimpse of it rising up at the end of a tunnel of tenements, or beckoning from the horizon at the end of my local park, enticing me to join the dots on the summit, those who’ve made the effort to get to the top whatever the weather.

“What is that?” asks an awed visitor who’s in town for one night and looking for the best things to do, as we survey the city skyline.

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“Arthur’s Seat,” I tell them. “If you do one thing, go up there for the best view. It’s our volcano, but don’t worry, it’s extinct,” I say as another Edinburgh resident pipes up unhelpfully with: “Or is it? We don’t really know.”

This is news to me, and I file it alongside stories of hunting down haggis in the Highlands and spotting Nessie. It won’t put me off my regular hikes to its summit. I’m pretty sure we’re on safer ground than other cities sitting beside volcanoes, such as Naples, Auckland (with a worrying 200), Aden in Yemen, Cartago in Costa Rica and Goma in Congo.

At sunrise, sunset, on a clear day, in the rain, with family, friends or solo, at 251 metres above sea level, it’s a two-hour jaunt that’s like the best things in life, free.

I’m reminded once more of the volcano’s place in our collective consciousness by the new Netflix hit series, One Day, which starts with two students played by Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall sitting on top of the hill as they gaze out over their future. It’s a scene which evokes another from a different tale of the city, T2: Trainspotting TX, with Spud and Renton also in reflective mood on its slopes, discussing highs other than heroin. It’s that kind of place.

When I settled in Edinburgh more than 30 years ago, the decision to do so was taken in a moment, sitting up on Arthur’s Seat, surveying the busy city and sea and mountains beyond. Down there looked big enough to lose yourself and small enough to find yourself, a place to call home - even if it is right next to a volcano.

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