Arthur's Seat is what remains of an very ancient volcano rising 823 feet (250 meters) above the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It's not much of a "mountain" by any standard. You certainly wouldn't make it a point of going to Edinburgh to hike up this hill; there are better places to hike in Scotland to be sure. But if you're in Edinburgh for any reason, there's no excuse not to spend at least a couple of hours roaming around Arthur's Seat. It commands a wonderful view of the city of Edinburgh including the famed Edinburgh Castle and the surrounding country.
With many easy (class 1) routes to the top, it is a popular hiking destination and many find it a welcome diversion from the usual tourist activities in town. It is also popular with trail runners.
The Salisbury Crags are another prominent feature of the area presenting something of a barrier between the city and Arthur's Seat. Arthur's Seat is itself surrounded by a number of smaller mounds that are also easily explored and less crowded.
Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags are located within Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. It is within easy walking distance of the Royal Mile. There are numerous routes to the top to choose from but most people begin at the parking lot on Queen's Drive near the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's residence in Edinburgh. As you cross over Queen's Drive you will see a route up and to the right over Salisbury Crags. If your goal is to get to the top of Arthur's Seat directly, do NOT go up over the Crags. This route takes you up and then down again to the other side leaving you no closer to top than you are now. (On the other hand, if you want a longer walk then take this route as you can still get to the top from the other side of the Crags.) Instead, head left away from the Crags (and towards St. Margaret's Loch if you have a map) and then turn right in between the hills. At the first fork in the trail, take the left trail and then you can't get lost. You will pass near the ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel. It should take less than an hour to reach the top.
You can start this hike from any number of directions however. Basically, just hit the park and start heading up. The trails are easy to follow and pretty intuitive. Hiking from the parking lot is an easy hike but there are more difficult routes (class 2 at least ) from the SW side of the park.
A map of the park with trail markings can be found here (.pdf 1MB)
History and Legend of Arthur's Seat
The following was copied from the Wikipedia entry
for Arthur's Seat
Like the castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, it was formed by an extinct volcano system which was swept by a glacier moving from west to east, exposing rocky crags to the west and leaving a tail of material swept to the east. This is how the Salisbury Crags formed and became basalt cliffs between Arthur's Seat and the city centre.
Hillfort defences are visible round the main massif of Arthur's Seat at Dunsapie hill and above Samson's Ribs, in the latter cases certainly of prehistoric date. These forts are likely to have been centres of power of the Votadini, who were the subject of the poem 'Y Gododdin' which is thought to have been written about 600 CE in their hillfort on Edinburgh castle crag. The poem includes a simile comparing a warrior to King Arthur which (if not a later addition) may be one of the earliest references to Arthur, and hints at a possibility that his fame might have led to one of the hillforts and hence the hill being named after him.
No known permits or restrictions. For a city park there were pleasantly few signs/warnings/etc. that clutter up most parks these days. There is a parking fee at the lot.
When To Climb
The park is assessible all year.
No camping in the park, but the town has many backpacker/youth hostels all the way up to fine hotels.
Check the weather for Edinburgh.
- Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat
This is an excellent page by Bruce M. Gittings, Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh with geological information and lots of great images.