Destination Run: Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is a unique city marked by historic stone buildings housing modern shops and iconic Scottish pubs. Although there is plenty to explore within the city, a trip to Scotland cannot be complete without a small venture into the untamed wilderness. Fortunately, Arthur’s Seat sits just one mile from the city center and is a great way to escape the bustling streets and take in some fresh air.
The 822-foot mountain is the result of an extinct volcano system and glacial movements that took place around 350 million years ago. The stark contrast between the grassy hill and the jagged cliff faces of the surrounding Salisbury Crags creates an inspiring and formidable presence near the city. The mountain is so dearly loved that the nearby Queen’s Drive was constructed by Prince Albert to ensure the rugged hillside could be viewed by carriage. It also is featured in classic works of fiction such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is rumored to have been the site of King Arthur’s Camelot.
So whether you are interested in the history or just looking for a way to take a break from the city, consider a jog up this majestic mountain. The route is steep and challenging but you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery and stunning views.
Situated southeast of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat sits in the middle of a large royal park and is difficult to miss. If you are coming from the Old Town, making your way to the park on foot is a short walk from the Royal Mile. You can make your way down to Holyrood Park Rd or check out the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile before turning right (if facing the palace) into Holyrood Park.
Walking from Princes Street in the city center is possible but it will add some distance and a few hills to your route. Locals recommend using the Lothian bus app to find buses going to Holyrood Park or Holyrood Palace.
If you are brave enough to try your hand at driving on the left side of the road, you can find parking areas along Queen’s Drive and near Holyrood Palace and Scottish Parliament. To avoid navigating the city center, park at Dunsapie Loch Car Park on the east side of the park.
Routes & Highlights
The peak of Arthur’s Seat can be reached a few different ways and the paths running around the base through Holyrood Park provide plenty of options for varying your jogging route. The roundabout on Queen’s Drive is an easy starting point when reaching the park from Holyrood Palace. The best way to the top for runners is to follow the main path slightly left to the back of the Crags.
Continue right on the main path as you see a narrower path splitting off to the left. Soon there will be a grassy path to the right, follow this path as it climbs past Hunters Bog on the left and up to the top of the Crags. Here, take in the views of the city below while continuing along the top of the Crags. Looking to the east, your end goal will be in sight but there will still be some climbing left before you reach it.
Follow the path along the top of the Crags avoid the rocky descent to the right by descending on the left down a dirt path. Here you will join another path coming up in between two crags and will be greeted by a set of zigzagging rocky steps. Complete the short but steep climb for great 360 degree views of the surrounding area. At this point, you have almost made it. Follow the main path around the hill and then down a small descent before the final short but rocky climb.
Pause at the top to take a picture and a seat on the stone at the peak to enjoy the views of the city and coastline. From here there are multiple options for the return journey. By descending to the east you will find multiple paths leading off to Whinney Hill. Follow the grassy path to return to Holyrood Park. Bear right to see the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel and swans swimming behind it at St. Margaret’s Loch. Take a look back at what you have achieved and follow the path left to return to the roundabout.
- The trail is rocky and can be muddy. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear!
- Weather in Scotland can change rapidly and the exposed peak provides no cover from wind and rain. Be prepared for it to be chilly up top and dress appropriately.
- If you are planning to make it to the top for sunrise or sunset, plan to bring a headlamp to light the path in the dark.
When to Go
Edinburgh is a beautiful destination all year round. The Christmas Market and Hogmanay celebrations around New Years are certainly worth a visit. However, temperatures will be cold and you can expect some snow during a visit in December.
If hiking and exploring the highlands is the aim of your trip, plan to visit in spring or summer. April through August there will be plenty of flowers dotting the landscape and a plethora of festivals each month. August is home to the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival that draws visitors from all over the world. For fans of the performing arts, it is the best time to visit Edinburgh. If that’s not your cup of tea, skip August as the streets will be crowded and prices will be raised at tourist hot spots.