Edinburg is an incredible city in Scotland. With a population of over half a million, this city offers just a little bit of everything. But you may not have guessed that an extinct volcano lies in the middle of this compact city. You also may not have guessed that if you have just a few hours to spare, you can climb to the top. If you love outdoor activities during your travels, you will want to take a wonderful hike up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh!
Arthur’s Seat is a grassy hill located in the grounds of Holyrood Park. It is not far from Calton Hill, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the historic center of Edinburgh. It is hard to believe there is such a wonderful hiking opportunity right in the heart of Edinburgh!
First, you obviously have to get to Edinburgh! While there are many ways to do this, we took the Caledonian Sleeper Train from London. It was an adventure!
Once you’ve arrived in Edinburgh and get oriented with your surroundings, it is time to head to Arthur’s Seat! Edinburgh is a hilly city, but this spot in the city stands out amongst the other hills. It is a short walk from Calton Hill, a popular spot. There is also parking in the area for those who have cars. However you get there, you will notice plenty of people in the area.
Edinburgh is an incredible city filled with history. A piece of this ties directly into Arthur’s Seat. Legend has it that this was the site of Camelot – the castle where King Arthur had his adventures!
Picking Your Route
Upon arrival at the base of Arthur’s Seat, there are several route options to select from. Most of the routes are easy to moderate, so make sure to select whichever best matches your fitness levels. We went left at the fork in the trailhead. For the most part, the trails are well marked as well. Because of how popular the area is, you won’t likely face the prospect of getting lost. Just follow the crowds to the top!
The initial part of the hike is more like a walk on a paved path. After a bit of a time, the pavement gives way to a dirt trail. The trail isn’t overly wide, but there were plenty of opportunities to pass people or pull over for a rest.
It generally takes about 30 to 60 minutes to reach the top using the well-trafficked route we selected. However, we made it to the top in about 20 minutes. Being from the Rocky Mountain region of the United States gives as an advantage. This is especially true when considering altitude. The top of Arthur’s Seat is about 800 feet above sea level.
The closer you get to the top, the more the terrain changes. It is still manageable, just rockier. Near the top, crowds start to form to enjoy the views, take photos, and enjoy the summit.
Once you make it to the top of Arthur’s Seat, brace yourself for the wind! Gusty conditions will easily throw your balance off. But the 360-degree views of Edinburgh and the ocean in the distance are totally worth the climb (and the wind)!
At the top, you will want to take a few photos of the views and take advantage of the selfie photo ops too. Just don’t expect anyone to capture your next dapper looking family portrait thanks to the wind.
Before heading back down the hill, you will want to make sure to find the cool circular installation that shows distances from that point.
When you are ready to head back down, you can take the same route you came up on or select one of the other routes. Again, just remember to find the route that meets your fitness needs and take your time. Going down is an enjoyable descent towards Edinburgh.
What To Bring
This really is an easy hike. It doesn’t take much time and it doesn’t require much gear. In fact, we decided to climb to the top on a whim after seeing the crowds from Calton Hill. But there are still a few things we recommend having with you to make the climb more enjoyable.
- Good shoes (not necessarily hiking shoes)
- A jacket (even better if it is a windbreaker)
- A camera
- A ponytail holder
As with anything, be sure to be a responsible visitor while enjoying Arthur’s Seat. If you take something up with you, be sure to take it back down and dispose of it properly. Try not to veer too far off the establish trails. And, since the area is so popular, be sure to be courteous of your fellow hikers on the trail. The top is incredibly windy so take care as to not let loose items go flying.
There is no shortage of great things to do in Edinburgh. But, if you’re planning a trip, we highly recommend you set aside a few hours and take a wonderful hike up Arthur’s Seat!