Carved from ice and fire, Arthur's Seat towers over Edinburgh old town's cobbled lanes, begging you to climb it in return for impressive panoramic views. The hill's slopes are a peaceful retreat from the city's buzz and offer a bird's eye view of Scotland's capital city.

Discover Arthur's Seat

Dormant for 350 million years, the one-time volcano now has a landscape of rocky outcrops and smooth lines sculpted by ice and eroded by time. Soaked in legend and history, Arthur's Seat rises 823ft (251m), and the walk from Holyrood Park is steep and intimidating from one angle but gently sloping from another.

Looking at it from below, before you start your ascent, you'll see a pleasing symmetry between Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle on the hill a mile away.

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Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, viewed from Pollock Halls - By David Monniaux - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=227537

Climb Arthur's Seat

Head up to Arthur's Seat taking the three-mile network of well-trodden paths that go direct route to the summit. Take the children, the dog and the binoculars and set off from Queen's Drive car park near the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The path is smooth in parts, grassy and a bit rocky in others, crossing ancient farmlands dotted with bright yellow gorse and by craggy rocks formed by lava.

When you get there, though, the reward is miles of uninterrupted views across the Firth of Forth towards Fife and beyond, the rolling Pentland Hills to the west and another distinctive volcanic feature, North Berwick Law, in the east.

Plan Your Arthur's Seat Visit

If you wait for a clear, dry day, you'll get the best views, but you'll also have a lot of company. And even on a good day, wear sturdy shoes and warm layers - the wind at the top can be bitter.

It takes around an hour and a half to climb up and down Arthur's Seat. On your way back down, you can either retrace your steps or take another downhill route. Take care, though, because some routes are trickier than others. But if you're really confident and sure-footed, there are routes that will have you up and down in well under an hour.

Remember in autumn and winter, it can be dark by 4pm, and there's no lighting on the hill, so be sure to plan your day to be down and by a roaring fire well before sunset.

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_Arthur's Seat by Stuart Caie - CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyz/2933518515_Getting to Arthur's Seat

It can feel like you're in the Highlands, but Arthur's Seat is only 25 minutes' walk from Princes Street's shops, tram line and the main railway hub, Waverley Station. Save energy by taking Lothian Bus number 35 or number 6 bus from Princes Street and hop off at the end of Holyrood Road.

What's near Arthur's Seat?

Edinburgh's old town is in Arthur's Seat's shadow, so you can easily explore the Royal Mile shops and curiosities before your hike, then warm up with a wee dram at a traditional pub after. You might like the 14th-century Sheep Heid Inn at the south-east edge of Holyrood Park. It's a great post-walk spot and even has its own skittle alley.

For a bit of learning, discover more about volcanoes and glaciers at Our Dynamic Earth, an award-winning attraction that tells Earth's story. Travel from the big bang to the ice age, through tropical forests and into space. It's on Holyrood Road, near the Scottish Parliament.

Or you might prefer to take a peek at Mary Queen of Scots' royal bedchamber at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Palace art gallery exhibits pieces from the Royal Collection, many rarely seen in public.

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_Old Town - Credit: Imagebox/TM_What Will You See at Arthur's Seat?

Arthur's Seat's volcanic rock formations fascinated 'father of geology' James Hutton and changed our understanding of how the earth evolved.

Salisbury Crags, on the western edge, are distinctive volcanic-lava cliffs that soar almost 500ft (150m) high, and the remains of one of four Iron Age hill forts lie below Samson's Ribs, a sheer cliff of vast rocky columns.

There's evidence of farmers' terraces on the grassy east-side slopes, and the 15th-century ruins of St Anthony's Chapel - overlooking the swans in Holyrood Park's St Margaret's Loch - give you an alternative viewpoint of the city below.

Arthur's Seat at a Glance

  • Edinburgh's highest peak, Arthur's Seat is 822ft (251m) above sea level.

  • Its summit is the cap of an extinct volcano which stretched from Calton Hill to Edinburgh Castle.

  • Carved by layers of ice, it has gently sloping valleys, rugged cliffs, boggy marshes and wildflower meadows.

  • The slopes were once home to the ancient Votadini tribe, and you can still see traces of their four 2000-year-old hill forts.

  • Some say Arthur's Seat has links to King Arthur's legendary Camelot, and mystery lingers over doll-like coffins found on its slopes in 1836, which are now held by the Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street.

Planning a trip to Edinburgh? Have a look at these hotels near Arthur's Seat.

Photo Credits

Cover pic: Arthur's Seat by John Mason - CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/91451979@N00/16576919604/