|Arthur's Seat is the peak in the middle of the shot, seen from the eastern end of the city centre, close to Regent Gardens and Calton Hill before my climb.|
Any guide to things to see and do in Edinburgh has climbing Arthur's Seat somewhere near the top of the list, but not many of them tell you *how* to go about doing it - at least, not in a way that a climbing layperson with zero knowledge or experience of Edinburgh's geography will understand. Enter Laura; no climbing experience, fresh off the
|The ice cream van in the car park. It's at this point that you'll have to choose your route (I went left, following the red tarmac to the left of the shot). The staircase behind the van takes you to option 3 as I've described it below)|
What is Arthur's Seat?
|Squint really hard and you'll see little ant people at the top of the peak. Less than an hour later, I was up there.|
If I was into cliches, I'd say Arthur's Seat was my Everest. But I won't. Moving on.
|Following the path, it's hard to get lost.|
This was the bit that stumped me. I did some research before I went to Edinburgh, and knew that in July, I'd be fine in walking shoes. But the route was a different matter. Plenty of websites and walking guides tell you which route to take, but some require you to be a more experienced climber, and none of the routes really make sense on paper - you have to be there following them. Grid references and terrain ratings were mentioned - and quickly ignored by me.
How do I climb Arthur's Seat?
|The stone steps which mark the start of the 'proper climb' in my mind|
Buoyed by the fact that I'd made it to Edinburgh and checked into my hotel alone successfully, I decided that anything was possible, so opted to figure it out as I went. What's the worst that could happen, right? I've written this guide in the hope that it'll help someone else like me - complete novice climber, no idea what those walking guides are on about or how to use a grid reference, just want a decent view, a selfie or two, and a chance to boast that I've climbed a volcano, solo.
|The view from partway up those stone steps. The tarmac you see in the middle of the shot is route option 1, below.|
- Turn right along Queen's Drive and follow it all the way round the curve beyond the roundabout where it meets Duddingston Low Road. Just after this roundabout, a footpath veers off to the left of the road. Follow that footpath and in a couple of minutes, you'll be at the foot of where the 'proper climb' begins - just head up the stone steps in front of you, and from here, follow the path all the way to the top
|Looking across a neighbouring peak towards the city centre from halfway up Arthur's Seat|
2. The route I followed: Turn left along Queen's Drive, head through the car park, and (there was an ice cream van parked there in July- may not be the case if you're there in January). Walking up the first part of the slope, I was convinced the path was going to double back on itself and take me up to the people I could see above me. In fact, once I'd rounded the first corner, the path flattened out a bit, winding through a sort of meadow-valley between two ridges, Arthur's Seat overlooking it all. The paved footpath gave way to a worn grass one, heading right through the centre of the valley, on a gentle incline, all the way up to the part where the 'proper climb' begins (see above)
|Windswept and sweaty, I wasn't looking my best, but I made it to the top|
3. There was another route which many people from the car park were following. From that ice cream van at the bottom, a steeper path cuts right across the rock face, taking you across another hill, which you then descend before getting to the bottom of the 'proper climb' You're going up to go down to go up - sounds like hard work to me.
|The view of the actual top from the nearly-top|
Once you've reached the 'proper climb' bit I've mentioned above, things get serious. The route from here is a combination of stone steps - some steep, some narrow, some winding - gravel footpath and muddy track. But, importantly, it's easy to follow without getting lost. Most of it is wide enough to pass walkers in the opposite direction, but a lot of it runs alongside steep, unguarded drops so take care.
|View from the top looking south down the coast|
Just when you're panting so hard you've forgotten what oxygen feels like, the ground flattens out, and you'll feel like you've made it. The views here are incredible - you're practically at the top - and it's quite an achievement. Completists like me will realise that the actual peak still lingers over you. Reaching it involved what I can only describe as the rock climbing equivalent of shimmying up a drainpipe (not the technical term) in a narrow, vertical gully between two rock faces. It was a bit terrifying, but it's clearly a well-worn route with plenty of other people going about it. Once you've hauled yourself up there, you're at the peak - views, obelisks and dozens of other tourists taking photos.
|The 'shimmying up a drainpipe' section|
The whole thing took me about two hours, including getting up, getting down, and sitting down to eat a strawberry tart at the top (#AlwaysOnBrand with a cake in my bag - in this case, one I'd picked up in a patisserie in town in a bid to bribe myself to the top). That said, I was walking up with some gusto in typical Laura fashion, I had so much I wanted to see and do in my limited time in Edinburgh that I didn't want to miss anything. A more gentle incline would take a while longer.
|The very peak|
Other tips for climbing Arthur's Seat:
- Dress appropriately, obvs. This is no flip flops and summer dress situation. In July, I wore comfy long shorts, a t-shirt and walking shoes. No need for super-technical walking boots or hiking poles or any of that nonsense.
|Selfies galore at the top|
- It gets extremely windy up at the top. If you're anything like me, you'll be sweating by the time you reach the summit (again - this was a balmy July afternoon) so it won't necessarily be cold but loose items will blow away. Even taking photos was tricky, as my phone kept getting blown straight into my face.
|You're damn right I carried a cake all the way up there, and you're damn right I sat and ate it at the top.|
Pick your time of year. I hear they're partial to a snowflake or two in Scotland in winter, which is not conducive to climbing a volcano.
- Take a camera/phone and don't wait until the top to take photos - all the way up the route, there are some great photo opportunities as the minutae of Edinburgh fades into the background and the coast, the Forth Bridge and beyond dominate the view.
- Enjoy it. I was so proud of myself - I'd climbed a volcano, solo! - that the endorphins carried me for days.
|On my way back down, I passed a school trip going up|
If you're looking for a budget hotel in Edinburgh, check out my review of Hub by Premier Inn.