Arthur’s Seat Hike: The Best Trail in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Located just a few miles from the city center of Edinburgh, the Arthur’s Seat Hike climbs up an 800 foot-tall extinct volcano and offers one of the most jaw-dropping views overlooking the city. 

If you want to see the stunning panoramic vistas for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about the Arthur’s Seat Hike, from the best route to the summit to exactly what to expect along the trail.

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View of Edinburgh, Scotland from the summit of Arthur's Seat Hike
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About Arthur’s Seat Hike

While Arthur’s Seat is just a stone’s throw from the Old Town of Edinburgh, this is definitely more of a hike than your traditional urban stroll through the park. Along the way, there’s quite a bit of elevation gain, plus you’ll have uneven rocks, mud, and wind to contend with. 

Here’s what to expect:

  • Distance: 4.2 km (2.6 miles)
  • Elevation gain: 270 meters (885 feet)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Time needed: One and a half to three hours 
  • Trail map
Pssst… there’s a bunch of different routes to Arthur’s Seat, so the distance, elevation gain, and difficulty will depend on which option you choose! If this trail looks a bit too intense for you, remember that you don’t have to hike all the way up to the summit to enjoy some spectacular overlooks of Edinburgh. 

Why is it called Arthur’s Seat? 

You might be wondering whether the trail got its name from some cool mythical story, like some kind of Norse king or Viking god. And maybe it did—but, unfortunately, no one really knows! 

Woman overlooking Edinburgh, Scotland at the summit of the Arthur's Seat Hike

Some believe it was a bastardization of the Gaelic phrase “Àrd-na-Said”, which means the “height of arrows”, while others speculate that the name was actually the site for Camelot, the legendary home of King Arthur and his knights (although there has never been any evidence found to support this). Still, I’m sticking with the latter theory—it definitely feels like a mystical place where some REALLY epic stuff would go down! 

How to Get to Arthur’s Seat Hike 

Arthur’s Seat is conveniently located in Holyrood Park, right near the Royal Mile and just a few miles from the center of Edinburgh. 

One of the most important things to understand about the Arthur’s Seat hike is that there’s multiple trailheads and routes to the summit, each which traverse the impossibly green hills of Holyrood Park. The most popular trailhead (and the one that we used) is located here, about a block away from the Palace of Holyroodhouse at one end of the Royal Mile. 

Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland

Built in 1671, the Palace is the official residence of King Charles III when he’s visiting Edinburgh and was once the residence of Scotland’s most famous monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots. If you’re into royal history at all, I’d strongly suggest hitting the Palace before hiking up Arthur’s Seat.

You have a couple of options for how to reach the trailhead:

  • Drive: If you have a rental car, you can park on Queen’s Drive, next to the Palace.
  • Bus: It’s about a 15 minute bus ride and 5 minute walk from the heart of Edinburgh. For example, you can take the number 26, X6, 113, or X7 bus to Princes Street and then walk south along Regent Road Park.
  • Rideshare: It’s just a short distance from downtown Edinburgh so it should be a pretty cheap ride.
  • Hop-on, hop-off bus: If you’re planning on visiting the Palace of Holyroodhouse, there’s plenty of cool hop-on, hop-off bus tours that will take you right to the steps of the palace (and include your admission!), like this Royal Edinburgh option.
Woman walking towards Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland

What Route to Take Up Arthur’s Seat Hike

As you approach the trailhead at the base of this ancient volcano, you might notice that there are two paths that lead up into the impossibly green hill. 

The path on the right will take you on a nice, gentle walk along the base of the Salisbury Crags, which are a series of 46 meter (151 foot) cliffs. But if it’s Arthur’s Seat that you’re after, you’re going to want to take the path to the left. In fact, that’s really all you gotta remember for the entire path to the summit—always bear left!

Man walking along the Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

You’re going to run into two more forks in the path—one almost immediately on the trail and another about 0.3 miles in. If you remember our mantra above, each time we’re going to choose the path to the left, which is the gentlest path to the top. 

As you ascend the grassy hillsides, the trail turns into a narrow dirt trail, with some rocky steps. While the climb to Arthur’s Seat is steady, any hiker in reasonably good shape, including children, should be able to make it up to the summit just fine. 

Man hiking up rocky steps along Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over Edinburgh, including Edinburgh Castle, which actually towers above the city below on its very own extinct volcano. 

There’s nothing technical or overly challenging about this hike.  The big exception is during or after rain, when the slick rock towards the summit gets INCREDIBLY slippery. 

Woman walking up a hill with wildflowers and the skyline of Edinburgh in the background along the Arthur's Seat Hike

We only had one day in Edinburgh, which happened to be raining (it is Scotland, after all!), so we decided to hike Arthur’s Seat, despite the less than ideal weather.

Unless you’re super short on time, like us, I wouldn’t generally recommend making this same decision—not only is the trail way more slippery and borderline dangerous, but the view at the top will be, at least partially, obscured! If you do decide to hike in the rain, please wear proper hiking shoes, like this pair for women or this pair for men, so that you’ll have better traction on the slippery and uneven terrain. 

Man with an inside out umbrella at the summit of the Arthur's Seat hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

It’s also worth flagging that the summit can be QUITE windy (as you can see, my husband, Justin, was having a grand ol’ time, posing as our umbrella ultimately lost its battle with the wind). Bring along some warm clothing to layer on at the summit and be super careful along steep drop-offs—nothing will ruin your trip to Scotland quite like being blown off a cliff!

Route to Take From Arthur’s Seat 

Much like your route up the volcano, you’ll have several options of how to get down from Arthur’s Seat. 

The most popular options are simply retracing your steps along the pathway you took to the summit or,alternatively, hiking to the Salisbury Crags, which will lead you back to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the yellow trail option in the map we included below). At the summit, you’ll find the trail for this option down the hillside opposite of the path you climbed up. 

Woman walking down stone steps along the Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

While the views along this trail are AWESOME, it has a steep descent along a series of switchbacks, some serious drop-offs, and lots of rocky steps (which, like above, can be super slippery in the rain!). Again, nothing overly technical, so, if you go nice and slow, you’ll be fine! This tricky section is relatively short and before you know it, the trail will become a wide and flat path that winds along the base of the rugged cliffs.

Tip: Some hikers choose this pathway to hike up to Arthur’s Seat (and, in fact, is actually the route that’s listed on AllTrails for this hike), but I personally wouldn’t recommend it, given that it’s super steep and has some areas with sketchy drop-offs. Unless you’re specifically seeking out a thigh-burner of a hike, I’d recommend taking the gentler pathway up and the Salisbury Crags pathway back down. 

We, however, chose to do something totally different and hiked down the hill to Dunsapie Loch (the green trail in the map we included below). From here, we walked about 15 minutes to the nearby Sheep’s Heid Inn. 

Woman smiling in front of the Sheep Heid Inn in Edinburgh, Scotland

Dating back to 1360, not only is this the oldest bar in Edinburgh, but also in ALL of Scotland! It’s definitely a fun place to celebrate with a dram of whiskey and a round or two at the pub’s skittles alley (which is basically a smaller European version of a bowling alley). From here, you can either take the bus or walk back to the center of Edinburgh (both which will take you about an hour). 

Route Options for the Arthur’s Seat Hike

Trail map to Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

We made this little trail map to help you out! The routes are:

  • Purple: Gentle and flat path that skirt the base of the Salisbury Crags
  • Yellow: Unmarked trail that follows along the rim of the Salisbury Crags
  • Orange: Flat path that meanders through Holyrood Park
  • Blue: Gentle climb to Arthur’s Seat (our recommended route!)
  • White: Pathway with steep switchbacks and lots of stone stairs that offers incredible views of the Salisbury Crags (good option for the descent)
  • Green: Relatively short and easy way to reach Arthur’s Seat, but without a lot of views. This is the route to take to the Sheep’s Heid Inn.

When to Hike to Arthur’s Seat

You can hike Arthur’s Seat year-round, but you’ll have the best chance of having nice, clear weather from May through October. Just be prepared to contend with plenty of others along the trail during this timeframe—Arthur’s Seat is one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh!

Couple smiling at the summit of the Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

Outside of this window, the crowds will be much lower, but you’re more likely to encounter rain, ice, and even snow along the trail—which will definitely make the slippery rocks that much more dangerous. 

If you’re visiting in the wintertime, bring along microspikes to provide extra traction in icy conditions and, regardless of what time of year you’re visiting, bring a rain jacket (like this one for women or this one for men). It’s kind of remarkable how Scotland can turn from sunny to pure downpour without much of a warning at all! 

Man smiling with an umbrella along the Arthur's Seat Hike in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Arthur’s Seat Hike is such a unique escape from the hustle and bustle of Scotland’s biggest city. Do you have any questions on how to hike this incredible trail? Let us know in the comments below!

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