Scotland’s capital city welcomes more than two million visitors every year, drawn to Edinburgh by attractions like the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Gallery as well as its iconic Royal Mile and attractive and historic city centre.
Edinburgh is also a key stop off for hikers and hill-walkers on their way to exploring Scotland’s rugged landscape further north or to bag a few of its famous Munroes. But did you know that there’s no need to leave the city to enjoy a good day’s hiking?
Arthur’s Seat Edinburgh Walk
Towering above Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat, the remains of an ancient volcano that has laid dormant for more than 350 million years.
Some of the best views of the city can be enjoyed from its summit, where you’ll also find the well-preserved remains of an ancient hillfort, dating back around 2,000 years. This history, together with the landscape’s diverse flora and unusual geological features qualify it as a site of special scientific interest – although most walkers on its busy paths climb Arthur’s Seat for the magnificent views over Edinburgh.
How to get to Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This makes it very easy to get to, wherever you are staying in the city.
There are multiple routes around the park, but perhaps the best way to climb Arthur’s Seat is to follow a circular walking route that begins and ends at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament building.
Alternatively, for a faster route to the summit, you can start from Dunsapie Loch on the south-eastern side of the park. Here, there is a small car park and a steep but shorter route to the top of Arthur’s Seat.
How high is Arthur’s Seat?
Arthur’s Seat is 251 metres (823 feet) high and, on a good day, you can expect breath-taking 360-degree views across Edinburgh from its summit.
It can also get very windy at the top, even in summer, so remember to pack a waterproof and windproof jacket.
How long does it take to climb Arthur’s Seat?
The shorter route from Dunsapie Loch is steep but can be achieved within thirty minutes. You can take a rest halfway up at the rocky knoll which is a favourite viewpoint for locals.
However, for a family day out, we recommend you take the climb a little more slowly and make a day of it. Weather permitting, you can pack a picnic and take your time following a circular route. Allow around two to three hours, plus stops, and you’ll have plenty of time to reach the summit and meander slowly back via Salisbury Crags.
How to Hike the Arthur’s Seat Circular Walk
As you enter Holyrood Park from the Scottish Parliament building, you’ll pass the Holyrood Park information centre. From here, take the left path towards St Margaret’s Well to walk clockwise around the hill. This path affords picturesque views over St Margaret’s Loch and the ruins of St Anthony’s chapel before climbing upwards to Arthur’s Seat.
On the return leg, you can either follow the Radical Road path below Salisbury Crags or, to continue enjoying the views across the city, follow along the top of the Crag’s cliff edge. This isn’t way marked so a certain amount of caution should be taken. It isn’t recommended you take this route in low cloud or fog.
Whichever way you decide to take, you will arrive back at the entrance to Holyrood Park.
What do I need to walk Arthur’s Seat?
Some of the ground can be boggy and uneven, so do make sure you have the right footwear for a day hike; a strong pair of walking boots is advisable.
The weather can be quite changeable in Edinburgh, so it’s worth making sure you have waterproofs with you, as well as your picnic! The old adage ‘expect the best, prepare for the worst’ is a good maxim to adhere to when walking in Scotland. If you are planning to take the route across the top of Salisbury Crags, you may wish to invest in a good compass and a waterproof map case to help you stick to the route whatever the weather, although you can’t go too far wrong on this walk.
An Alternative Route for Climbing Arthur’s Seat
If you fancy ending your walk with a stop off in one of Edinburgh’s most atmospheric pubs, it’s possible to take a straight walk across the park from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, following the route past St Anthony’s chapel and climbing to Arthur’s Seat before dropping down the other side of the hill towards Dunsapie Loch and the village of Duddingston. Here, you’ll find one of Scotland’s oldest pubs, the Sheep’s Heid Inn, where you can enjoy a meal or a game of skittles before heading back to your hotel.
About the Arthur’s Seat Walk
This walk is a fantastic way to get a view across the whole of the city of Edinburgh. On a warm spring or summer’s day there really is no better way to see the city. The well-marked paths make it very suitable for families, although little ones may need to be prepared for the incline!