The highest of Edinburgh’s seven hills is an extinct volcano that dominates the splendid royal park of Holyrood. Its summit offers a superb panorama of the entire city, south to the Pentland Hills, and north across the Firth of Forth and its islands towards Fife. At 251 m (823 ft) it is not particularly high, but the climb is rewarding out of all proportion to your effort. In 2013, Lonely Planet listed it among its top ten urban walks worldwide.
About 350 million years ago these rocks were exposed by glacial erosion, revealing the basalt columns of Salisbury Crags, the dramatic cliffs to the west of Arthur’s Seat. These rocks were studied by James Hutton (1726-97), the father of modern geology, and played an important part in his thinking. On the summit and slopes are various prehistoric and later settlement and defence sites. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Arthur’s Seat can be climbed by a great variety of routes. The easiest approach is from Dunsapie Car Park in the east, from which a choice of a grassy paths leads to a flight of stone steps. The top section is a bit of a scramble and good footwear is essential, especially if there is or has been recent rain. Take extra care on the descent: the stone has been polished by countless walkers over the centuries.
Three of the gates into Holyrood Park have parking areas nearby, and if approaching by car be aware that the roads through the park are closed on Sundays. The Queen’s Drive, the high road from St Margaret’s Loch to Dunsapie Loch, is one-way clockwise. For walkers and cyclists, therefore, the park is a specially pleasant, car-free place on Sundays.