I’m not going to lie, when I first planned my trip to Edinburgh, hiking Arthur’s Seat made the list… But I wasn’t overly excited about it. Having seen enough mountains in my time, and hiked enough hills and trails, I didn’t expect Arthur’s Seat to be any different.
BOY, was I wrong! Not only did I thoroughly enjoy both the hiking experience, and the beautiful scenery from above and on the way up… But it ended up being my favorite part of my trip to Edinburgh! I cannot stop thinking about it to this day.
Here is everything you need to know about hiking Arthur’s Seat (and I hope this convinces you to give it a try, even if you’re hesitant)!
Arthur’s Seat: A Brief, Definitive History
While Arthur’s Seat may just look like a regular rock ledge, it’s actually an extinct volcano! Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, it’s the highest point in Holyrood Park, which is a nature reserve that covers over 650 acres of land. The peak of Arthur’s Seat stands at 823 feet (251 meters) above sea level and offers stunning panoramic views of the city.
Seriously, from the top, it’s hard to believe such an amazing view (and hike in general) can afford such stunning, natural views.
The origins of Arthur’s Seat are believed to date back to the Carboniferous period, approximately 350 million years ago. The volcano is thought to have been active for around 20 million years, with the last eruption occurring around 350 million years ago.
The name “Arthur’s Seat” is thought to be derived from the legend of King Arthur, who, according to one story, fought a giant in the area and then rested on the hill. However, there is no historical evidence to support this claim.
Arthur’s Seat has been a popular destination for tourists and locals alike for many years. The hill and the surrounding parkland were gifted to the city of Edinburgh by King James II in the 15th century, and have been open to the public ever since. Today, the park is a popular spot for hiking, jogging, picnicking, and enjoying the natural beauty of Edinburgh.
What to Wear
I’ll fully admit: my group was wholly unprepared to do any level of hiking. When we packed for Scotland, most of us had jeans, blouses, and nicer walking shoes. Luckily, I’d packed a crewneck, leggings, and some sturdy tennis shoes, but not all of the girls did. Still, hiking Arthur’s Seat was an experience that we all agreed was worth the hike!
By this, I don’t necessarily mean you should bundle up like you’re going on a trek through a snowy wilderness. But you should wear a jacket or sweatshirt overtop a light t-shirt or tank before hiking Arthur’s Seat. While the weather can be chilly at the bottom, as you make your way up, you’ll certainly break a sweat!
Sturdy tennis shoes, or hiking shoes.
Shoes with a thick, gripping sole aren’t necessarily needed, but I would recommend them anyway. Depending on the paths you choose to take, they can get narrow and steep at parts. The paths are rocky as well. there were no guardrails or safety measures that I noticed on my way up.
GREAT for us adrenaline junkies (can you tell that I am one?)! Not so great for those who prefer safety and caution above the thrill of a challenging climb.
Making sure you have the correct shoes will help you avoid injuries. It can also take pressure off of your joints, and allow you to reach the uppermost point of Arthur’s Seat safely.
- Personal Experience: I don’t mind heights, so my sturdy shoes allowed me to safely make my way to the edge of the uppermost height of Arthur’s Seat. I dangled my legs off the edge of the drop-off and enjoyed the city view for a good portion of the day! Below is a picture of this moment!
Choosing Your Route
There are many routes around and up Arthur’s Seat. Which route you choose depends on your activity level, ability, and time you’re able to devote to the hike.
Pictured below is a map of the self-guided walks available for Arthur’s Seat. This graphic, and more information can be found here on GeoWalks. Geowalks goes into much more depth on the routes. But for the sake of not overwhelming you with information, I’ll give the highlights and must-knows about each route!
The blue route is the easy path around the valleys rimming Arthur’s Seat. You won’t make it to the top of Arthur’s Seat with this path, but you will still get some nice views of the city from the blue route’s peak!
The red route is moderate, starting out gentle and becoming reasonably strenuous. The red route starts at the Holyrood Palace Car Park, leading to a paved path with a gentle incline. When it starts to turn, you’ll be faced with a choice, follow the gradual path around the base of Arthur’s Seat (Blue Route), or take the left fork and head towards St. Anthony’s Chapel.
- Personal Experience: This is the route I took to hike Arthur’s Seat! It started out easy, and yet became challenging as the hike became steeper. It was nowhere near the steepest or hardest route to the summit, but it was difficult enough to keep my heart rate up and I really enjoyed the activity! The views on the path up were incredible too, and I made sure to make a stop at St. Anthony’s Chapel!
The green route is by far the shortest, but also one of the steepest. While shorter, it lacks the beautiful views and the fun detours of the other routes. But if you plan on spending a majority of your time camping out n the summit and enjoying panoramic views of the city from Arthur’s Seat, then by all means, this is the path for you!
The purple route is the most adventurous! Starting from the entrance on Holyrood Park Road, you can head along the obvious path heading past Salisbury Crags. This path is beautiful, but the steeps are no joke! The purple or red routes are the best choices for active adventurers and adrenaline junkies!
Hiking Arthur’s Seat is arguably the best thing you can possibly devote your time to in Edinburgh, Scotland. I know that for me, it is by far my favorite part of my time there! The views are unbelievable, the city breathtaking, and the hike itself the perfect way to take it all in!