I’m reliably informed that the best way to stop the muscles stiffening up to the point of painfulness is to just keep moving, and so rather than finding a coffee shop and spending our post West Highland Way relaxation time in Edinburgh sitting on our backsides and eating all the cake, Jenni and I decided we should explore the city. Naturally, when a couple of hill and view lovers end up with a few hours to spare in Edinburgh, we decided that a Sunday morning up to Arthur’s Seat was the only sensible option.
The view from Arthur’s Seat.
Starting at Holyrood Park, which was itself a short walk through the city of Edinburgh (we were staying at the Safestay Hostel, which was a great location with all kinds of rooms and a great canteen and bustling common room), we had already walked several thousand steps wandering the streets of Edinburgh itself, through alleyways and in and out of random shops. The park itself is a 640-acre Royal Park adjacent to Holyrood Palace, a five-mile radius of land that has been a Royal Park since the 12th century and is now looked after by Historic Scotland.
Amazing views. Can’t beat it!
The park’s highest point is Arthur’s Seat, which is an ancient volcano that towers 251m above sea level giving excellent view of the city. Okay so it’s not quite a mountain, but it’s a significant rise that soars above the surrounding landscape, and cries out to all who see it to make their way up. It is also the site of a large and well-preserved fort dating from around 2000 years ago. The whole area is a site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to the flora and geology, and we couldn’t leave it unexplored before we headed home by train. Apparently, this hill is shaped like a reclining lion (I always struggle to see animals in rocks…).
Countryside in the city.
We started the day with a rather excellent breakfast in the Southern Cross Café on Cockburn Street – there are so many places for a decent breakfast in Edinburgh, but this one took our fancy. Fuelled up with blueberry pancakes, it took us about an hour to reach the trig pillar at the summit of Arthur’s Seat from the edge of Holyrood Park. The clear skies meant we had excellent views of Edinburgh, Leith, and a even distant views across the Firth of Forth to Fife. We didn’t have binoculars but I’d definitely take them next time to help us with hill definition and wildlife spotting, but we could see plenty with the naked eye on this occasion. It was immensely gusty at the top and in unsheltered parts, and really quite warm when we were sheltered by the rocky crags – I wouldn’t recommend this one in the rain, those rocks will get very slippery and the views disappointing in no time.
From the summit and after taking the cheesy grin shot that quite frankly sums me up perfectly, we headed down and over to the Salisbury Crags to explore that area. The wind really was making things difficult here and we were blown around all over the place, but it was well worth the effort as this part of our shake out before we had to sit on our respective trains for several hours. In all we walked four miles, so not far in the grand scheme of things, but a decent ramble for the legs and soul.
Being a nice Sunday morning there was a stream of other people enjoying the area too, some seemed more ready for the hill than others, it is certainly a very popular walk – it’s so nice to have something like this in the middle of a sprawling city centre.
Good for climbing!
Our post summit treat was tea and scones in Clarinda’s Tea Room. This is a super cute independent tea room is on Canongate, very close to the Parliament building at Holyrood, and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to walk passed without going in. It’s as any old tea room should be, with proper china and mismatching tables and chairs, and the scones were very nice (although I did have to ask for a second one as my first had no fruit…) – it was the perfect way to spend an hour chatting after our excursion.
Lots of people at the top.
Arthur’s Seat is a proper hill walk, there isn’t any other way to describe it. The main path is steep, and the summit is a rocky outcrop that will require the use of your hands. If you’re planning to hear up please do not underestimate how strenuous it is; it’s perfectly doable by the vast majority of people, but you should have your wits about you, especially in anything less than perfect weather. It might be in the middle of a city, and it might only be a short walk in the grand scheme of things, but it is testing and should be treated with respect (and therefore the right gear!).
But the views. Oh the views. Worth every single step – and having to dodge every other person at the top!
With Jenni at the summit. Happy memories 🙂