Arthur's Seat & Holyrood Park

Written by Chris Thornton | 30th of August 2023
Edinburgh Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat is a very unusual looking rock formation on the east side of Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh. This large grass-covered hill was formed 350 million years ago as part of a now-extinct volcano. As one of the main features of Holyrood Park, it has become a popular place for hiking as it gives a spectacular view over the Edinburgh skyline.

Rising 250.5 m / 822 ft about a mile from Edinburgh city centre and a short distance from the Royal Mile, Arthur's Seat has become synonymous with the capital of Scotland due to its unique geology and popularity with tourists.

Holyrood Park

The area of Holyrood Park is steeped in history, with signs of human activity dating back 10,000 years. Stone tools, Bronze Age terraces, Iron Age forts and other signs of stone age settlers have been discovered. The park has much to see in and around it from palaces, ruins, lochs and excellent views of the city.

Holyrood Palace

This beautiful palace lies on the north side of the park and is adjacent to the Scottish Parliament building. The Palace of Holyrood is the official residence of the current British monarch in Scotland and has been used this way since the 16th century.

Holyrood Palace East End and Scottish Parliament building with Arthur's Seat in the background. Extensive parkland surrounding.

Holyrood Lodge Information Centre

A free exhibition is available at Holyrood Lodge Information Centre. Built in 1857 and once used by the park keepers, it is now a great visitor centre for Holyrood Park, with a gift shop and informational boards all about the park.

St Margaret's Loch

On the outer perimeter walk on the north side of the park is St Margaret's Loch, a shallow man-made loch home to swans and ducks. The loch is very picturesque and makes for a good photo with St Anthony's Chapel ruin on the hill in the background.

Duddingston Loch

At the southeast side of the Park is Duddingston Loch which is popular for fishing and is Edinburgh's only remaining freshwater loch. From the north shore, perch, roach and carp can be caught but a permit is required first by contacting the Ranger service.

Dunsapie Loch

Another small artificial loch in Holyrood Park, created by Prince Albert in 1844 during the reign of Queen Victoria. It's a nice water feature while walking Queen's Drive.  Dunsapie Loch car park is also available here.

Saint Anthony’s Chapel

The ruin of this fine 14th-century chapel lies at the north/central area of Holyrood Park and is a great subject for photography with the ancient ruin and modern city in the background.

St Anthony’s Chapel, blue route, green route

Salisbury Crags

These are a series of 150-foot cliff faces that lead up to the peak of Arthur's Seat, this is also a popular rock climbing venue although a permit is now required for the South Quarry side which is the only remaining rock climbing section.

Edinburgh Castle

Looking west from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle can be seen perched upon its rocky prominence. This is a great place to get photos of the castle with the city below, especially with a telephoto lens.

Walking Routes

Climbing Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags is popular with locals and tourists alike, and therefore three walking routes have been promoted in Holyrood Park - the green, red and yellow routes.

If you are on foot coming from central Edinburgh, head to the bottom of the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament building to begin your walk. If you are driving you can also use the car park across from the Parliament building.

From this starting point, you can access many of the available routes and fully explore the park. Holyrood Park Education Centre / Historic Environment Scotland also offer a ranger service for guided walks.

Queen's Drive

This route takes you around the entire perimeter of Holyrood Park. Queen's Drive is a well-maintained tarmac road and is an easy but long walk. It is normally walked around in a clockwise direction and is the main path on the west and north sides of the park.

Green Route

As seen on the map below, the green route is probably the best way to get to the top of Arthur's Seat. The easy walk climbs gently and would be the best choice for low to moderate fitness levels.

Red Route

The steepest route on offer, but one of the fastest, and offers fantastic views of Salisbury Crags. Reasonable fitness is required as it is a "proper hill walk"!

Yellow Route

A very quick route to the top of Arthur's Seat, but misses many of the best areas and views of the park.

The pink route and black routes are shown on the map are alternative pleasant walks through Holyrood Park. The western red route (Radical Road) is currently closed to visitors.

All of the routes have the potential to be dangerous depending on conditions.

Holyrood Park walking routes map, paths leading to Arthur's Seat

Unique Geology

The area of Arthur's Seat was originally on the equator, 350 million years ago. This area was tropical and evidence can be found of this with ripple marks adorning the sedimentary rocks.

Hutton's Section

James Hutton - recognised as the father of modern geology - used part of the rocks at Salisbury Crags to demonstrate his theory of ancient earth. The layers of sandstone and dolerite were formed at different times via different processes (magma flows). This area in on the Radical Road, and is currently restricted but can be visited by using the Ranger service available.


How long does it take to climb Arthur's Seat?

About 45 minutes from the main car park to Arthur's Seat summit, but give yourself 2 to 3 hours to explore the various routes at Holyrood Park. If starting from The Hawse and taking the zig-zag path, it will take around 25 minutes.

Definitely wear strong walking shoes or hiking boots as there is a variety of terrain to cover which can be slippery if cold or wet.  Some of the paths can be surprisingly rocky.

Why is it called Arthur's Seat?

Apparently, Arthur's seat has been named after King Arthur. Some claim that it was here Arthur built his home - the mythic Camelot. Other theory's say that Arthur won battles here and in northern England... however there is no real evidence that there is any link to this mythical king at all.

Historian William Maitland believed it may once have been named "Archer's Seat" after the Gaelic work "Àrd-na-Said’" or "height of arrows", and that over the centuries the name was corrupted to Arthur's Seat and the romantic Arthurian legend attached to it.

Is it possible to camp on Arthur's Seat?

No, under the Park Regulations Act (1971) it is not possible to camp or park overnight at Holyrood Park.

Is Arthur's Seat a Munro?

No, it is classed as a Marilyn as it is over 150 metres high, a Munro is around 915 metres.

When did Arthur's Seat last erupt?

340 million years ago! So don't worry you are safe!


Visiting Arthur's Seat is a must on your trip to Edinburgh... it's odd to think you can walk from the urban sprawl of Edinburgh directly onto this picturesque hike, not normally associated with a big busy city.

Explore the James Hutton's modern geology of Arthur's Seat
Location map of Arthur's Seat

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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