Taking a Turn in Arthur’s Seat

When we were in Scotland, we did many amazing awesome things that I will tell you about soon. One of my favorites was spending a morning on Arthur’s Seat.

Edinburgh is a small city, centered on a beautiful Old Town and its shiny counterpart (you guessed it) New Town. But just a few steps away—like seriously, .3 miles from our hotel—is a sprawling volcanic crag, covered in grasses and thistles and ruins. Arthur’s Seat is the largest and most dramatic of these rocks. With several paths and trails of varying difficulty, it’s no wonder that thousands of people cruise up and down Arthur’s Seat each day.

We had great weather in Ireland and Scotland, but fortunately for us we got some clouds and wind on the morning we took our hike. Fortunately, because 1) I live in San Diego and never get any weather of any kind; 2) no one likes getting sweaty if they don’t have to and 3) it makes the pictures look so much more dramatic.


Cloudy! Dramatic!

We arrived at Holyrood Park around 8:30. Arthur’s Seat is actually a volcano that’s been dormant for more than 300 million years, so we felt reasonably safe going up. There are a variety of ways to get up to the seat, each more popular than the last. Whichever way you go, watch out for exceedingly fit college kids running up the mountain and dogs living their best lives.


There are a ton of trails up and down Arthur’s Seat. We didn’t even use any of these.

We were encouraged to save the main Radical Road for the way down and to begin up counterclockwise using Volunteer’s Walk (every slice of this place is named. That’s probably very helpful in the long run, but keeps me from being able to type “we went up and came back down.”). Just a short walk up the hill are some intriguing ruins, and I encourage you to stop. An informative sign and probably some beer bottles—this is, again, a college area—will tell you these are the remains of St. Anthony’s Chapel. We had the opportunity to scramble up some rocks and take pictures of the ruins. Park staff lead tours and classes up here, but we had the place to ourselves for a moment.

St. Anthony’s Chapel

Then we got back on the trail and headed up the Dry Dam to Arthur’s Seat. It’s not especially difficult but we aren’t especially fit so we took our time. The 823 feet elevation change comes in a short enough distance that you feel you’re working for your view, which I always appreciate once I’m at the top. On the way up, however…

The trail gets rocky toward the top but you pop out on top of the whole world. Even if it’s crowded, the views from Arthur’s Seat are incredible. You can see to the North Sea on one side and Edinburgh Castle on the other.



The view toward Edinburgh Castle



Looking east


It’s windy at the top


We came down the back way because it looked more fun. We were right.


We boomed, but because it wasn’t a very big hike and it also wasn’t yet 10:00, it was more for ceremony (don’t worry, we finished the wine later during happy hour—no boom left behind). We took some pictures, leaned into the wind and set back down, going across to Nether Hill, down the switchbacks and out on Queen’s Drive. The whole adventure was about 2 miles roundtrip, and the perfect thing to explore before lunch. You’ll have earned your pub food!


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