We are — very slowly — exploring Edinburgh.
I can’t believe how long it takes to get used to a city. I can navigate parts of Leith, the New Town, even the Royal Mile, but the rest? It’s a mystery. Quite unlike our flat, which within a week, felt like home: dinners made, dishes washed, life lived.
It’s so easy to fall into routine and never actually leave the house in order to explore (especially when we get drawn back to the west coast so much.)
So last weekend, we made a determined effort to stay in our adopted city and tick off the top tourist attraction: Arthur’s Seat.
It’s a literal background to our new lives in Edinburgh; our living room window looks on to the sleeping volcano. It was quite embarrassing that — after three months right next to it — we’d never reached the summit.
We parked the car at at Holyrood Palace Broad Pavement (free at weekends) and donned our layers. This was the coldest week yet in Edinburgh, the top of Arthur’s Seat veined white with ice.
As we walked, we passed tourists and families, couples and children, all exploring Salisbury Crags, heading to the apex or simply wandering in the parkland.
One thing you should know? The walk isn’t as easy as it looks… especially in winter!
Climbing further up the hillside, the ice began to creep its way into the paths and before long our trainer soles were slipping and we struggled to get a foothold.
We weren’t the only ones. As we came to the last climb, the path was silver ice, and had already claimed a few victims who were sitting on the ground in embarrassment. We slipped on.
To my surprise, we had to pull ourselves up the exposed rock to reach the top of Arthur’s Seat. On the north side, there was a ribbon of scalable rock where a bottleneck of walkers slithered down. Finally, we found a gap and pulled ourselves to the trig point at the summit.
What can I say that’s not already been said about Arthur’s Seat?
One thing you don’t read in the guidebooks is the atmosphere at the top. Many were taking selfies. Not staring at the expanse of Edinburgh stretching before them, not pinpointing the geometric lines of the castle, not even spotting the snow coming towards the hill from the Pentlands.
For some, making sure they got that perfect shot of themselves at the summit seemed more important than taking in the actual experience. It made me wonder.
Forget the selfies, the Seat is a breath of fresh air in the centre of the city.
A quasi-countryside escape from the city, the loch bellies muffling street noises and the fresh air at the summit masking the pollution below. I thought the walk up Arthur’s Seat was pretty perfect.
Although I did think it was a shame that more people weren’t pausing, stopping, to just breathe in the scene below them. Surely that should be our incentive in getting to the top — a different perspective?
Instead some seem to ignore the real-life view in favour of snapping that perfect Instagram picture. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I hope we remember that the planet means more than a few likes on a Facebook status. What do you think?