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The Mountain in the City

The Mountain in the City

Postby Stefan1 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:47 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Arthur's Seat

Date walked: 24/09/2018

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Having lived in Edinburgh for nearly 2 years, and Scotland for 7, I find myself (sadly) moving away. So... not any one walk in particular, but a touch of nostalgia certainly seems in order:


I am not the first person to have enjoyed the delights of Edinburgh. It is an undeniably beautiful city, full of history, culture and more than its fair share of whisky. But what has made it a really special place to live, is that it is the only city I have ever visited that has its own mountain, slap bang in the middle of it.

Arthur's Seat dominates views of the centre of Edinburgh.

Of course, on a site like this, referring to Arthur's Seat as a "mountain" seems ridiculous, faintly insulting maybe even? But bear with me. Or at least humour me.

From where I lived, on the edge of the Meadows, I could be on top of Arthur's Seat within 40 minutes of leaving my flat. 30 if I decided to punish my lungs. A pretty sunset? No problem, I'll be right up. Fireworks display? No problem, I'll be right up. In need of the best beer garden in town? No problem, I'll be right up. Bad day? No problem, I'll be right up. Arthur's Seat: viewing platform, playground, fine restaurant, sun lounge, refuge - it is all of these things on demand. I have spent many an hour sitting at the top watching the world go by or enjoying a tasty snack or beverage!

The mountain.

The mountain - and yes, I will for the sake of this piece call it a 'mountain' - is undeniably pretty. The chiseled edifice of the Salisbury crags looms over the town, with the shapely mass of the main peak resting behind this imposing fortress. Look closer though. The slightly red, rocky features create intricate lines up the side of the peak. Frost accents these features, and in summer the slopes are a blaze of yellow as the gorse flowers in a most unsubtle manner. And all over the landscape, faint silhouettes of people, sometimes struggling, but always laughing and having fun. This is a mountain to be enjoyed, and not just by the few adventurous enough to dare to attempt it. Its short stature and good paths make this an incredibly accessible climb.

And so people do climb it. In their hundreds. The summit is always bustling and noisy. A meeting place with people snapping photos here, there and everywhere. The sense of delight is very apparent at the summit. Many of the climbers on this mountains are tourists, in Edinburgh likely for the only time in their lives, and to think, they get to experience a proper Scottish mountain from the comfort of the city!

The crowded summit hosts dozens of delighted visitors all year round.

A meeting place for all!

Now, hang on a minute. I agree it's a pretty enough hill, and I agree it's nice to see people enjoying it, but really, you must stop calling it a mountain! Oh, must I? I disagree. The main paths up are rightly busy, but look a little further and it's possible to reach the summit without meeting another person except at the top and bottom! Hidden paths criss-cross the undergrowth. Ascending from the back gives a gentle, but very quiet walk over grassy terrain, but it is the front face that offers the most fun. I can honestly say that until my last week in Edinburgh I was still finding new routes! Many end up in exhilarating little scrambles, or sometimes even rather more serious climbs. On a few occasions I have decided to abandon my route and wait for a drier day! The scrambles and climbs, while obviously not extended, rival anything for miles around. You have to go a long way into the highlands before you find anything as good. The rock is well worn, and sometimes a little crumbly, even on these remote paths, and hand and footholds can be tricky to find. I once took a friend who was visiting up one of these routes as a warm up for some more serious scrambling on Arran. But calling it a warm up does it a disservice. The rocky maze up Arthur's Seat's Western slopes is a brilliant experience in its own right.

Of course, once you reach the top the people can be annoying. Sometimes you just crave some quiet. Again, this is not a problem. Arthur's seat has 3 summits. The main summit, a brilliant rocky maze, almost always swarming with people. A rather flat broad summit that many people don't even notice as they cross it on their approach from the staircase route. The views over the city here, however, mean it too is often busy. That leaves the third summit, a little South East of the main summit, and shapely with plenty of exposed rock itself, but enough soft grass to offer a comfy seat. I cannot for the life of me work out why there is almost never anyone on this summit. It is my summit of choice to enjoy a cold beer while waiting for the sun to get lower.


Barely counts as a summit, but is a popular spot!

Waiting around for the sunset

And then the sun does get lower. Camera out, it's time to snap some fine shots of the sun setting over town. The views over Edinburgh are stunning, the castle dominating, and the sea to the North. It makes for an amazing photo location.

Stunning views over Edinburgh from the Crags.

Crowded peak under dramatic skies!

A refuge for rabbits

And crows!

(The crows are definitly easier to photograph!)

Winter finds the mountain.

A sunrise.

Great views over a sleepy, snowy city.

The sun warms the day.

And it looks like a proper mountain in the snow.

Remarkably, these amazing conditions are the only time I've even been on the summit alone!

A great viewing platform for summer festivities.

Night draws in.

And an enjoyable mountain by night too.

Time to welcome in the New Year.

It was quite a show.

Away from the noise!

Paths to explore all over the place.

More people enjoying the spectacle.

After a wet day.

The sun dissapearing into the Northwest

I have been up Arthur's seat in the morning, during the day and in the middle of the night. I've been up in sun and rain. I have even been up in a snow storm, which really did make it feel just like the wildest Munro out there! I've celebrated success up there and wandered around on its slopes when things have been going less well. I started my time in Edinburgh with a walk to the top, and fittingly it's stayed with me through my whole time there right until the end. A constant companion - the mountain in the city.

A last view of the city.

Thank you, Arthur' Seat
Last edited by Stefan1 on Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Gordie12 » Tue Sep 25, 2018 4:44 am

Some brilliant photos there Stefan.

Good luck with wherever you are heading off to.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby razzah » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:15 am

What a beautiful homage to Arthur's Seat! Really great report that I so enjoyed reading - your pictures are out of this world :clap:
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby John Doh » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:09 pm

Incredible photies :clap:
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Hillbeback » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:59 pm

Excellent walk report Stefan and stunning photos. I live about an hour from Edinburgh and this has certainly tempted me to visit Arthurs seat hopefully to catch a sunset. All the best to you :clap: :wave:
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Graeme D » Wed Sep 26, 2018 4:04 pm

As someone who went to university in Edinburgh, met his future wife in the city and ended up spending 13 years of his life in it, this really strikes a chord with me. I would not want to live there anymore but I still miss it and love going back (albeit only a couple of times a year on average). Those 13 years were before I got properly into doing mountains but I certainly spent a bit of time up there when I wanted a refuge but still to be in the city. I guess in that sense you could call it one of my first mountains. :D Thanks for sharing. :clap:
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Wanderer Gaz » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:50 pm

A great reminder to appreciate the hills for what they are rather than see them as red blips to turn blue :D

Some atmospheric photo's, you've got me considering a hogmany up there now :lol:
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby malky_c » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:59 pm

Brilliant set of photos :D . I've never lived in Edinburgh, but I like to try and go up Arthur's Seat when I'm there...or Salisbury Crags...or both! Probably been up there a good half-dozen times over the years.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Sep 28, 2018 1:01 pm

A lovely ode to a favourite spot. Sometimes the places close to home are just as special as those in far flung parts.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby onsen » Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:16 pm

Atmospheric photos...Showcases the city beautifully. 8)
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Arthurs Eat » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:59 am

Hi Stefan, great homage to my favourite 'mountain' in the whole world. I'm from Edinburgh and seem to have spent a fair chunk of my life clambering over, scrambling up and running roundArthurs Seat. I am fortunate enough to have a full view of the South side of it when I walk out my front door or look out my window. The history of this hill is fascinating. With iron age agricultural terraces, Iron Age hill fort, Roman encampment and even a wee country village complete with what's claimed to be the oldest pub in Scotland. I could mention so much more but I won't spoil it for other. My walk into town often goes along the innocent railway with the hill glowering down at you. If you choose to run round the hill on a dull, overcast day, passing St. Margaret's Loch, look up and the ruin of St Anthony's chapel and the rugged west side and you could be looking at the rugged west coast mountain.

A truly magical place at all times of year. I know I would miss it if I were to leave this beautiful city with this incredible jewel at its heart. Much is rightly made of Edinburghs city centre, but there are many treasures like this in Edinburgh if you care to go further afield.

Good luck in wherever your legs take you.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby denfinella » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:12 am

I meant to say what a beautiful piece of writing I thought this was when you first posted it, but I forgot. I've only just moved to Edinburgh (though I climbed Arthur's Seat several years ago) and it already strikes a chord. I hope it'll become even more special to me.

And good luck for the next chapter in your life!
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby jester » Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:35 pm

I work in Edinburgh and lived there for a while too. Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags are like old friends now. I've been up there in rain, hail and snow, sometimes it's even sunny! Its got a great wee scramble up it and there's grand views all round- I've even been up there in an inversion, which was amazing.
Thanks for the report. 8)
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby Sgurr » Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:01 pm

Stefan, is English your first language? If not, this is an incredible piece. If so, an incredible piece as well.The photos are fabulous, and it is nice to have some for each season. Daughter used to live in Edinburgh and I would drive over on days she had to study to pick up grandson from his child-minder and past Arthur's Seat always the long way round past Arthur's Seat. Have met someone after a bad diagnosis from one of the hospitals and we have climbed it, just to prove that hills don't have to be huge to be enjoyable. Arthur's Seat is a great wee mountain, as you have shown.

Good luck with the next part of your life.
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Re: The Mountain in the City

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:50 pm

Can only agree - Great photos!
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