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Our Guide to Hiking Arthur’s Seat

Discover the breathtaking Edinburgh skyline atop Arthur’s seat.

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Arthur’s Seat has presided over Scotland for many years, watching as the city of Edinburgh has evolved before it. The hill is actually an ancient volcano, the last eruption of which happened more than three hundred million years ago. Today, less than half of the original volcano remains, though we can still marvel at its igneous rock formations. Arthur’s Seat now serves as the perfect viewing point for the city skyline, as well as a favourite hiking spot for locals and tourists alike. From the top, you can see highlights like Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument. 

Travelling to Arthur’s Seat by train:

If you’re travelling to Edinburgh, you’ll be pleased to know the city is accessible from all over the UK with CrossCountry. You can catch a direct train from stations like Aberdeen, Glasgow Central, Newcastle, and Birmingham New Street. 
Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park, just a short stroll from the Royal Mile in the centre of Edinburgh. At 250m (822ft), it is the tallest peak out of a cluster of hills that account for most of the park’s area. This makes it the highest point in Holyrood Park and the highest in Edinburgh overall. If you’re considering an Arthur’s Seat walk, there are multiple self-guided walking routes you can take to the top. 

●    The Blue Route takes roughly 1-2 hours and offers scenic views of the park.

●    The Green Route starts at Dunaspie Loch and is your beeline to the summit, taking just half an hour.

●    The Red Route is great for those looking for a challenge. This route will reward two hours of hiking with fantastic views.

●    The Purple Route is also a quick walk to the top but not ideal for those scared of heights! It is a particularly steep hike and not for the faint of heart.

The journey to the foot of Arthur’s Seat from Edinburgh Waverly station takes roughly thirty minutes. If you’ve got the time and the energy, there are routes that will take you past some lesser-known Edinburgh landmarks, such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse .

 

About Arthur’s Seat

Where does Arthur’s Seat get its name? Its origins are actually a bit of a mystery. One compelling theory suggests a connection to the legendary King Arthur, supported by references in Y Goddodin, a medieval Welsh poem. This theory also entails the myth that King Arthur lies in a glass coffin in the heart of the hill. Another theory speculates that the name comes from the Gaelic Àrd-na-Said, which means ‘Height of Arrows’ or ‘Àrd-thir Suidhe’ which means ‘place of high ground’.

As you hike Arthur’s Seat, there is plenty of history to spot. For example, a hill fort was unearthed in 2020 and it’s believed to have been constructed by ancient Scots about three thousand years ago.

At the base of Arthur’s Seat, you can find the mysterious St Anthony’s Chapel. Historians don’t know when it was built, only that there is evidence that in 1426, the Pope donated money for its repair. Archaeologists believe that it was part of a larger abbey at Holyrood. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the fantastic story of St Anthony's Chapel told in British Sign Language.

Ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel stand in Holyrood Park overlooking Edinburgh at dusk.

Things to Do at Arthur’s Seat

Climbing Arthur’s Seat

Here’s our advice to help you reach the top of Arthur’s Seat to enjoy the spectacular views.

●  Arthur’s Seat is open year-round, but we suggest setting off early in the winter to enjoy hiking safely in daylight. Allowing two to three hours for your visit will leave you with enough time to avoid a descent in the dark.

●    Even on a warm day, we suggest layering up as it gets windy at the top.

●    Depending on the season, specific routes may become muddy, and there are more physically demanding sections. We advise you to bring some sturdy walking boots along.

●    Dogs are welcome to join you up to the summit but must be kept on a lead. 

●    Leave no trace - this means no rubbish left anywhere on the summit or the paths leading up. There are rubbish bins at the park entrances so hold onto snack wrappers, tissues, and other rubbish until then.

Things to Do in Holyrood Park

Arthur’s Seat is surrounded by Holyrood Park, boasting 650 acres of beautiful scenery. The area has a varied landscape of glens, hills, and three freshwater lochs: St Margaret's Loch, Dunsapie Loch, and Duddingston Loch. In 1778, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons was found in Duddingston Loch which are now on display at the National Museum of Scotland. This loch is also a popular birdwatching location with opportunities to spot the distinctive Great Crested Grebe, the adorable Sedge Warbler, and a plethora of other special birdlife.

Holyrood Park hosts plenty of sporting events across the year. For active visitors, the Edinburgh Winter Run takes place in January. It’s a 5k race with upbeat music and a 100m toddler dash for under 5s. There are also organised walks to meet new people and connect with the history of Edinburgh.

If you’re a keen hiker, there are seven stunning hill walks in Edinburgh that will take you all over the city. As well as the iconic Arthur’s Seat, we recommend trekking up the well-known Castle Rock which will take you to Edinburgh Castle. Alternatively, Blackford Hill offers a quiet and serene woodland walk with a spectacular view at the summit, though we recommend bringing your welly boots.

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