Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat is not off the beaten path, but it does offer a sense of total isolation and moments of strange serenity close to the city – before you round the hill and see the huge crowds, at least. It’s a gorgeous tourist trap of accessible outdoors for people that like round trips of an hour and a half. It’s also an extinct volcano.
When I visit Edinburgh in August, there is a big contrast between the lively, mad Fringe Festival and the silence of the hills that sit right on the edge of the city. After a day of rolling around the city as part of the crowds that take over the tiny, cobbled streets, the urge to disappear into the hill that’s been looming boldly in the distance all day is irresistible.
“A hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.”Edinburgh itself both lives up to and defies a lot of expectations. I fall in love with the city within minutes of being off the train: some people in the street are singing “I would walk 500 miles”. I giggle, and the fun continues from there. But after half a day of some wonky comedy and surreal theatre, escaping up Edinburgh’s famous hill is a relief. Despite the crowds that flow towards it (a pram included) who are lucky to treat it like a casual walk in the park, it’s far from hat and is a slightly mind boggling place.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said “A hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” Have we mentioned the fact it’s an extinct volcano? That’s a bit mad, too.
It feels both huge and tiny. It’s only 251 metres up At times, if you look the right way, you can feel like you’re in the mountains. At times, a back garden with the city just below but for moments it feels like you’re somewhere completely different. You go from feeling like Mr Stevenson, having a deep moment with nature to finding yourself on the summit surrounded by children, the next. It’s a curious place. It’s headspace on your doorstep. The quote is spot on.
Getting to the top itself feels like a necessary obligation but really it’s the strange paths, weird crevices and odd spots on the way that make the entire place special. Wander in the right direction and you’ll find haggard steps to make you happy. This is very much a find your own adventure place, somewhere between the crowds.
It’s the one place that everyone will suggest you do when you visit Edinburgh. There’s a reason for that.
Looking for more Edinburgh walks? The Edinburgh Tourist Board get excited about Carlton Hill‘s 360 degree views and the Nelson Monument. There’s also 15 suggestions of green places to go for a walk in 2015 – and who can resist a linkbait list like that?