How Not to Climb Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

Last month, Alex and I visited Edinburgh for the weekend and a few friends in Dublin suggested that we had to climb Arthur’s Seat. We’d heard of Arthur’s Seat, but were a bit clueless as to what exactly it entailed! Nonethless, we added it to our list of things to do. As the weather was only forecasted to be good on our first day, we decided that was the day for outdoor activities.

As we approached the mountain, we were immediately impressed. Arthur’s Seat rests just on the edge of Edinburgh, but exhibits the ruggedness one expects of the Scottish Highlands.

climb Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat

Starting the Hike Poorly Prepared

Anybody who knows us knows that we are not exactly outdoor types. We enjoy outdoor activities, but you are far more likely to find us on a restaurant terrace then taking in a hike on vacation. So we started our trek with takeout coffees in hand…Tip, don’t do this! There are a grand total of zero garbage bins on Arthur’s Seat and we were both a bit frustrated about holding on to paper cups for the entire hike, as we didn’t want to litter and didn’t have a small backpack.

Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat

The hike up to Arthur’s seat would be best described as moderate. We started from Our Dynamic Earth, a science centre and planetarium at the foot of the mountain. From there it’s about 2.5km each way, but steep in some places. Alex would like to interject at this point and says “Bell proved she’s in better shape than me as I had to stop a few times. Quitting smoking and dieting a wee bit were a couple thoughts that crossed my mind during the hike, which were quickly forgotten in the pub afterward.”

Arthur's Seat

5 Tips for Hiking Arthur’s Seat: 

1) Bring water….instead of coffee!! 

2) Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. 

3) Bring snacks…You might need some energy and there are zero vendors on the mountain. Deceptively located on edge of town, we thought there would be a cafe to observe the gorgeous surroundings. There’s not, there’s nothing. Which is refreshingly nice as long as you are prepared.

4) Bring rain gear and warm clothes. We were lucky that it didn’t rain but if there’s any chance it might, it’s Scotland, so be prepared. And the temperatures are of course even cooler at higher elevations. Arthur’s Seat rises 251 meters or 823 feet above town. It’s not the Burj Khalifa, but still.

5) Bring a small day pack. That way you can easily carry everything you need… If you want to pack alcohol just remember that there are no bathrooms on Arthur’s Seat, so sipping on some scotch or wine would be a wiser choice over pounding beers. If it’s a nice day consider packing a picnic. Just clean up after yourself!

Arthur's Seat 

Summit of Arthur’s Seat

What you’ll get for your efforts are amazing views of the Water of Leith, along with a stunning panoramic view of Edinburgh. You also get to say that you climbed to the top of an extinct volcano! One other piece of advice, there are a number of paths to the top so watch other people and scout the way that suits you. And don’t trip over the rocks!

Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat

Finally, if it’s a nice day, like it was when we hiked, Arthur’s Seat will be pretty crowded at the top. But along the way there are more isolated spots to stop and relax. It’s 100% worthwhile and free, just be a little smarter about your hike than we were!

Arthur's Seat

More of Our Articles on Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle: One of Europe’s Greatest Castles

Scotch Whisky Experience

Haggis and Whisky Feast in Scotland

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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6 thoughts on “How Not to Climb Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

  1. Thanks for this article. It brings back memories since I have climbed Arthur’s Seat a couple of times in the past. It is a very enjoyable couple of hours out and I agree a good spot for a picnic. Great views and well worth the effort.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Guy! Nice to hear from someone else who’s hiked up and had a good time. If Bell and I make it back and do it again, we will be better prepared. We still really enjoyed it though, it’s beautiful up there! 🙂

    1. Indeed and it was fun and beautiful. It was simply the best place in town to get spectacular views of the city and surrounding landscape!

  3. Part of the Royal Park, which includes Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat is a long extinct volcano with a height above sea level of 823 feet. The peak itself and the adjoining Salisbury Crags are must climbs for visitors and locals alike, the views from the summit over the city being just wonderful. The easiest and most direct route involves taking the Radical Road (Yes, that is what it is called !) round to Dunsapie Loch and walking up from there, but even here the climb is fairly strenuous and not for those with mobility issues.

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