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. 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.
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).
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.