crowd on arthur's seat edinburgh
Castles & Historic Monuments,  Edinburgh,  Hikes & Walks,  Mountains & Hills,  Scotland

Hiking An Extinct Volcano In Edinburgh – Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat, at 250.5m (822ft) is the peak of the group of hills which form Holyrood Park. There are many different theories about why it is called Arthur’s Seat – it could possibly be derived from King Arthur, a legendary leader of medieval Britain, or a modification of the Gaelic Ard-na-Said, meaning “Height of Arrows”, or Ard-thir Suidhe meaning “place on high ground”. Either way, Arthur’s Seat is formed of an extinct volcano from around 300 million years ago. It was then eroded by a glacier, creating the cool (pun intended) basalt cliffs of the Salisbury Crags which dramatically drop between Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh’s city centre.

Salisbury Crags

Being just around a mile (1.6km) to the east of Edinburgh Castle, the Seat makes a perfect and relatively easy (although it is quite steep in places, especially a direct assent) hill walk and viewpoint from which to see all around Edinburgh and the Lothians (the land/county of the city). The panoramic views from Arthur’s Seat are truly spectacular!

Get a cool photo with the city!
Panoramic view from the top of Arthur’s Seat

There are many routes to climb the Seat, from almost any direction in Holyrood Park – the most direct is from the Scottish Parliament and follow the trail (summit path route) up past St Margaret’s Well and the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel. It will take around 40-60 minutes to climb, depending on your fitness and speed. I recommend wearing good boots (although you can get away with trainers) as there are quite lot of rocks on the trail and it is quite steep. Also make sure to do it on a sunny/cloudy day, as in the rain there is a lot of mud and potential to slip, and also to get the good views you want to have good visibility. There is no shelter and it is very windy so I also recommend wearing a wind/waterproof jacket.

Trail map of Holyrood Park
Trail leading from Scottish Parliament

At the top of Arthur’s Seat are lots of large  rocks and green spaces – a good place for a picnic!

Lots of space on the top of Arthur’s Seat for play and picnics
Enjoy the views across the city, Firth of Forth and all the way to Fife

For your descent, you have a variety of options and can return the way you came up or try a new route. Some interesting sites around the Seat to check out are the Salisbury Crags, Radical Road (a path beneath the Crags), Duddingston Loch, St Margaret’s Loch and the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel.

St Margaret’s Loch and St Anthony’s Chapel
Ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel

How to get there:

Getting there is really easy – you can easily walk from the city centre: from Edinburgh Castle follow the Royal Mile to reach the Holyrood House/Scottish Parliament/Dynamic Earth area in about 20 minutes and go from there; or you can take the Lothian Bus numbers 300 or 6; or any Edinburgh Sightseeing Bus Tour.

Arthur’s Seat is No. 1 in our Quick Guide to The Seven Hills of Edinburgh series.

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