The Mountain in the City

Sub 2000s: Arthur's Seat

Date walked: 24/09/2018

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

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Trips: 4
Distance: 56 km
Corbetts: 5
Sub2000s: 1


Trips: 5
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 1


Trips: 3
Munros: 2
Hewitts: 2

Joined: Oct 12, 2017
Last visited: Dec 04, 2021
Total posts: 35 | Search posts