Exploring Edinburgh: Arthur’s Seat

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.)

The view from our living room at sunrise. This is why we’re lazy.

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.

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Literally sliding up the side of the Seat. Spot the woman who fell!

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. But we weren’t the only ones! As we came to the last climb, the path was silver 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.

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Quietly, quietly enjoying the view.

What can I say that’s not already been said about Arthur’s Seat? I’ll tell you one thing… and it sort of made me despair about my generation. About half of those who made it to the top 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. Making sure they got that perfect shot of themselves seemed more important than taking it all in (standing starfish on top of the trig point was a particular favourite).

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Slopes and stick figures.

Ignore the narcissists and Arthur’s Seat is pretty perfect. A quasi-countryside escape from the city, the loch bellies muffling street noises and the fresh air at the summit masking the pollution below. It’s just a shame that — although we boast the internet and smartphone — our generation seems to be going backwards in other ways. If we’re not actively getting in nature’s path by tracking or polluting, we’re ignoring it completely for that perfect Snapchat shot.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned? Maybe I’m a moan? Quite possibly I’m a pensioner trapped in a twenty-something’s body… Whatever your diagnosis, I just wish we cared more about the planet than ourselves. It’s far more important than a fleeting Facebook status.

Have you explored Arthur’s Seat and the Crags?

10 thoughts on “Exploring Edinburgh: Arthur’s Seat

  1. I live and work in Edinburgh painting and decorating. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, it was quite an enjoyable read 🙂 I have a Border Collie so often find myself either walking up Blackford Hill, or even the Pentland Hills by Edinburgh’s reservoirs. You should pop into waterstones and get yourself a book on walks in the Pentlands, quite handy to navigate. Ive not been to Arthurs Seat recently except from the odd bit of pre-season football training up near the commonwealth pool area of Arthurs Seat but I now feel as though me and my collie should take on the challenge soon! Thanks, Ross.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ross, and the advice on where to walk! I was just in the Pentlands today and it was lovely to get out the city. And definitely, take the collie out with you and hot foot it up the Seat, it’s so worth it! 🙂

  2. Gorgeous! And I totally agree with you about the selfies, that kind of thing makes me despair too, all that beauty around them and people are obsessed with themselves.. When I’m next in Edinburgh we should get together and be grannies for the day 🙂

    1. Thank you, Jen! And I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one… Do you ever feel you should have been born about half a century ago?! And yes, please let me know if/when you come through!!

      1. YES!! Frequently. I feel much saner now knowing that I’m not the only one. I’ll certainly give you a bell, I’m hoping it won’t be too far away before I venture east your posts have given me itchy feet haha!x

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