Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park
Start: Scottish Parliament on Queen’s Drive
End: Arthur’s Seat Summit
Distance: 2.75 miles (4.4km)
Time: 1-2 hours
Surface: Pathways, Grassy Trails
At only 823 feet (250 m), Arthur’s Seat-the highest point in the grouping of tiny, extinct volcanic peaks that form the greater part of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park-may indeed be just a hill, but to the writer Robert Louis Stevenson it had a grandeur that many a higher peak may have lacked. Although its size made it a “hill for magnitude,” he wrote, it was nevertheless “a mountain in virtue of its bold design.”
One of the contenders for the site of mythical Camelot, and the spot where Edinburgh girls once bathed their faces to make themselves more beautiful in crystal springs that ran down its slopes, Arthur’s Seat sits at the center of Edinburgh, about a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle. There are two ways to the summit: one on a rocky diagonal path up its long escarpment of Salisbury Crags, the other on the main walking path to the back of the crags that bears right onto a grassy path, which takes you on an easier alternate route to the top of the crags. Already the panoramas are stupendous, with views down to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, and as far as Leith and the Firth of Forth.
Following the escarpment, there are views to the Arthur’s Seat summit and a set of stairs that zigzags up its heavily inclined flank before curving around it like a contour and taking you on a final, rather rocky, ascent to the summit. There you can contemplate its many references in literature, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (l8l8) to Jules Verne’s The Underground City (18771. Coming down you pass over patches of grassy, lumpy ground and over gorse with great views toward St. Margaret’s Loch before emerging-not too worn out-back onto Queen’s Drive.