Climbing Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat: Climb an Extinct Volcano in Edinburgh

Julie Scotland 14 Comments

Arthur’s Seat…a jagged, grassy prominence rising up from the urban sprawl of Edinburgh, offers one of the best views of the city. It’s a short, slightly strenuous hike to the highest point, but absolutely worth it to look out over Edinburgh from this vantage point.

What is Arthur’s Seat?

Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park, at the end of the Royal Mile. This large, grass covered hill is the remains of an extinct volcano that erupted 350 million years ago.

Arthur’s Seat is the highest point of this extinct volcano.

Although the origin of the name is uncertain, some claim that there is a connection between Edinburgh and King Arthur. Arthur’s Seat may have been the location of legendary Camelot.

 

View of Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill

Arthurs Seat from Calton Hill

 

Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Holyrood Park

Arthurs Seat Summit

Climbing Arthur’s Seat

There are several options for reaching the summit. For an easy walk with views out over the best of Edinburgh, walk the Salisbury Crags. For more dramatic, panoramic views of the city (and a slightly strenuous hike) climb to Arthur’s Seat.

Below is a color-coded map to help explain the trails in Holyrood Park.

Arthur's Seat Map

Best Route to Arthur’s Seat

Follow this route to experience the best of the park, hike to the summit, and then return via the Salisbury Crags.

Start near Holyrood Palace. If you have a car, park in the car park next to Queen’s Drive, just next to Holyrood Palace. Or walk or take a taxi to this same spot.

Facing the Salisbury Crags, you will see two trailheads. Take the trail to the left (the Green Route) to ascend Arthur’s Peak. After a few minutes of walking, the trail will fork. Take the trail to the left to continue the climb to Arthur’s Seat.

Take the trail on the left to get to Arthur’s Seat. It descends a bit before climbing up to the highest point.  The paved trail to the right is an easy walk through the park (the pink route on our map).

Fork in the Road Arthurs Seat

The path becomes a dirt, singletrack trail to the peak of Arthur’s Seat. It is a steady, gradual climb and not overly strenuous. Anyone of reasonable fitness, kids included, should be able to do this.

Arthur's Seat Trail

If you are like us, you can have your youngest carry your backpack to the top. 🙂

Arthur's Seat Hiking with Kids

It takes between 30 to 60 minutes to reach the peak on this route.

View From Arthur’s Seat

The views from Arthur’s Seat are phenomenal. You will have 360° views of the city. A mile away, sitting on the remains of another extinct volcano, is Edinburgh Castle.

How to Hike Arthurs Seat

It is very, very windy at the top. Our attempt to take a nice, family photo turned into a goofy, somewhat hilarious photo session.

Earth Trekkers Scotland

Earth Trekkers Goofy

From Arthur’s Seat, you have several options to continue your journey. Retrace your steps, walking back to Holyrood Palace. Or walk down the very steep trail to get to the Salisbury Crags (red route). This is what we did. There are a few tricky spots, but if you take your time, it is not too difficult.

View down from Arthur’s Seat

Arthurs Seat Salisbury Crags

 

Salisbury Crags with the Edinburgh Castle off in the distance.

Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh

 

The steep trail down the hillside is a combination of dirt paths and stone steps.

Hike Arthur's Seat with Kids

 

This is the view of the steep trail leading to Arthur’s Seat.

Arthurs Seat Summit View

 

Once at the bottom, you can walk the wide, paved trail along the Salisbury Crags back to the starting point (orange route).

Salisbury Crags Edinburgh

 

If you want better views, and do not mind more hiking, follow the slightly sketchy, dirt trail along the spine of the Salisbury Crags (the blue route). The views from here are just as good as from Arthur’s Seat. Just do not get too close to the edge. This route takes you along the edge of vertical cliffs. Stick to the trail and you will be fine.

Top of Salisbury Crags Edinburgh

The Easier (but less scenic) Option to Arthur’s Seat

It is possible to drive a portion of the climb. Drive your car (or take a taxi) to Dunsapie Loch and follow the trail to summit (the Yellow Route). This way is less scenic that hiking from Holyrood Palace.

The Least Strenuous Option in Holyrood Park

If you want to enjoy great views of Edinburgh without climbing up to Arthur’s Seat, walk the Salisbury Crags. From Queen’s Street, take the trailhead on the right for the trail along the Salisbury Crags (orange route). From the other side, you can return on the same trail or follow the pink route through the park for different views.

Trail from Queen’s Street leading to the Salisbury Crags

Walking Salisbury Crags

Or, if you want to climb Arthur’s Seat, follow the very steep trail to the top (red route). This is the most difficult route to the summit but some say the most scenic.

Tips for Visiting Arthur’s Seat

Arthurs Seat with KidsAllow two the three hours for your visit.

Holyrood Park is always open and it is free to visit.

Hiking shoes are not necessary, but if you plan on walking up to the summit, you will need to be wearing a good pair of walking shoes. You will be walking on dirt and stone trails with uneven footing.

Bring water and a snack. A picnic lunch would be nice, too!

It is very windy at the top. Even during the summer months, bring a jacket.

Yes, you can visit Arthur’s Seat in the rain, but a clear day would be ideal.

Post updated April 2018.


Continue the Journey

 

Guide to Hiking Arthur's Seat Edinburgh Scotland

Comments 14

  1. Thanks so much for your wonderful Scotland blogs! I’m going next month and I have learned such great tips from you. Happy travels to you all!

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  2. I have read through this blog and your Arthur’s Seat write up and both have wonderful information! My family and I are planning a trip this summer and your pictures and stories make me even more excited to see everything that Edinburgh has to offer! Beuatiful city!

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  3. Hello, love the detailed information! My only question is that I thought I’d heard that there are some small church ruins located in the park, but don’t see it called out on the map. Do you recall this, and roughly which trail it is by? Thanks!

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      There are ruins you can visit, the Saint Anthony’s Chapel Ruins. Here is a link to the location on Google Maps. I think you can make a detour to them on the Green Route on our map. Cheers!

  4. Thank you so much for the detailed description. It’s great to be able to prepare a visit with this kind of information. I was wondering if there are usually quite a few people about the park? I will be visiting in January and am travelling by myself, so not too keen to wander about very remote places.

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      Arthur’s Seat is not far removed from the heart of Edinburgh. I don’t know how many people will be there in January, but if you go midday, I would think that there would be other visitors, also. We did this in July and there were a lot of people at Arthur’s Seat. Cheers, Julie

  5. Planning to climb to Arthur’s Seat in early June, 2018 during a visit to Edinburgh. It’s on my bucket list. Working on a weight loss and fitness program with a trainer now to get ready. What would you say are the inclines in degrees of the various paths to the Seat?

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      I recommend taking the green route (on our post) because this is the easiest way to get to the summit. On this trail the inclines can vary from flat to a 10% grade (but this is a rough estimate from my memory and looking at photos). It’s not overly challenging as long as you take your time. The hardest route (up and down) is the red route on this post. It is a combination of steps and very steep trails (45% grade). This trail is much more challenging than the green route. If you can do both, you can do a loop like we did, climbing up the green route, down the red route, and across the Salisbury Crags. Cheers, Julie

  6. Thanks for the detailed hike, great information. We plan on visiting late May next year. What time of day did you hike Arthurs Seat? Do you think crowds would be a problem during late/early evening? I know that weather may be the final determination on what time we hike.

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      We did this hike during the mid-afternoon in July. This was during peak season and crowds were not bad. You are right, weather is more of the determining factor. This is best done during dry conditions. Plus, clearer skies will give you a better view of Edinburgh. Cheers, Julie

  7. Hello, I would like to visit next March to include the Edinborough yarn festival. My question is around what the weather is like, besides the festival, castle, what other sites would be recommended.

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