Arthur’s Seat in the middle of Holyrood Park is one of the highlights of any visit to Edinburgh, mainly because the top of this ancient volcanic plug offers unrivalled views of the city.
Discover Holyrood Park in this complete guide which includes an overview, useful visiting advice, and useful tourist information.
|Opening Hours:||Holyrood Park is accessible on foot 24/7, 365 days a year.|
The park is closed to cars at the weekend.
|Admission Price:||There is no fee to visit Holyrood Park.|
|Parking:||Parking is available at Broad Pavement, St Margaret's Loch, and Duddingston Loch car parks.|
Broad Pavement parking is paid (approx £1 per hour) except for Historic Environment Scotland members. The other car parks are free.
|Facilities:||There are no facilities within Holyrood Park. There are a multitude of visitor facilities available on the Royal Mile including shops and restaurants.|
Toilets are available at the Holyrood Park education centre (1 Queen's Drive, Edinburgh, EH8 8HG).
Walk a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle and you’ll find Holyrood Park – an outstanding area of natural beauty that offers visitors a haven of tranquillity amongst the hubbub of Scotland’s capital city.
This is a surprisingly big urban green space and even though it’s situated in the middle of the city it offers over 650 acres of wilderness to explore.
Take a stroll through Holyrood Park you’ll quickly discover that it’s just like a miniature version of the Scottish Highlands, with wild meadows, peaceful lochs, mountainous peaks and swathes of gorse, and on a quiet day it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of the country’s capital city.
The most accessible route into the park is to head down The Royal Mile towards the Scottish Parliament building and from there you can either walk around the perimeter to enjoy the scenic landscape along the ring road or you can follow the paths that wind their way through the middle of the park.
While both options are enjoyable I recommend you head towards the centre to experience the dramatic views at the top of Arthur’s Seat if you really want to make the most of your visit.
1: Holyrood Park is a haven of tranquillity in the middle of Edinburgh. Apart from Arthur’s Seat. Once you get up there you’ll have to fight your way through crowds of tourists. The view is superb though.
2: The park is massive so there are lots of different paths to wander around. I recommend heading to Dunsapie Loch on the eastern side of the park as it’s quieter than the western side around Queen’s Drive.
3: The view from the top of Arthur’s Seat is one of the best in the city, although Calton Hill is pretty good as well.
1: I’d give Arthur’s Seat a miss if it has been raining as the path gets really slippery – and it’s surprisingly steep.
2: You can’t drive through the park at the weekend as the council closes the gates. I suggest walking instead as it’s not that far from the bottom of The Royal Mile.
3: There are a couple of car parks around the bottom of the park but you can actually park inside it at Dunsapie Loch if you want easier access. The car park has space for around 30 cars.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb up the 800-foot incline to Arthur’s Seat – the highest point in Edinburgh – to take in the views in a stunning 360-degree panorama.
Take note though, that although the path to the top is well used it’s also a hard climb, so anyone with a medical complaint might want to consider giving it a miss.
But for those adventurous visitors looking for the best views in Edinburgh the most straightforward route is to head east past Dunsapie Loch and follow the obvious, well-worn path.
There aren’t any signposts in the park but you’ll usually find a helpful local walking around who’ll be happy to tell you which direction to head in.
Arguably the best way to see Holyrood Park is to just start randomly exploring it and there are loads of interesting features to discover as you walk through it.
At some point you’ll more than likely come across one of the three lochs that are a haven for wildlife, and you might even stumble across the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel, one of the oldest buildings in the entire city.
The chapel itself is a relatively small structure around 13 x 5.5 metres, with one-metre-thick walls built from locally sourced stone.
Historians think the origins of the chapel date somewhere in the 14th or 15th centuries and there are records that show a grant for repairs was given by the Pope as far back as 1426.
The fact that the Pope authorised this grant seems to suggest that St. Anthony’s Chapel had some significance back then, and possibly had a connection to the nearby Holyrood Abbey.
Unfortunately, the chapel fell into disrepair after the Reformation in 1560 and today only the north wall remains standing alongside the remains of a stone storeroom just a few yards away to the south-west.
If you do happen to find the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel you might like to head north around a hundred metres to St. Margaret’s Loch, the man-made body of water created in 1856 under the instruction of Prince Albert as part of improvement plans to beautify the land surrounding Holyrood Palace.
It’s a great place to feed the ducks, geese, and swans that live there and the path that runs alongside it is a very popular route for joggers if you feel the need to join in and do some exercise yourself.
If you’re a day visitor to the city, my suggestion is to follow the path from Queen’s Drive near Holyrood Palace into the park and take a climb up Arthur’s Seat before returning to Queen’s Drive via Salisbury Crags.
There’s a huge amount of history to discover at Holyrood Park and it’s well worth learning a little bit about it before you go for a walk, just so you know what to keep an eye open for.
Take the pinnacle of Arthur’s Seat for example.
Like the rock on which Edinburgh Castle was built, Arthur’s Seat was formed by a volcano that erupted around 340 million years ago, and over many millions of years the effects of weather erosion and glacier movements formed the rocky outcrops that we see today.
The study of the rocks in Holyrood Park has been instrumental in the development of modern earth science and renowned geologist James Hutton formed many of his ideas about how the planet was created after studying the park’s lava formations.
The site where Hutton conducted his research can still be seen as you wander around the path that runs alongside Salisbury Crags.
Google Maps will be your best friend if you want to find Salisbury Crags but you can’t really miss them because they form a sheer cliff-face – the bottom of which is where you’ll find the path built after the Radical War of 1820.
The ‘war’ was actually a week of strikes and unrest caused by Scottish manual labourers who were protesting against the terrible conditions in which they had to work.
After King George IV visited the city in 1822 the author Sir Walter Scott had a radical idea that unemployed weavers from the west of Scotland could be used to build a handy footpath around the park – hence its name, The Radical Road.
Heading further up towards the peak of Arthur’s Seat you can just about make out the remains of hill fort defences that were built at the time of the Votadini tribe, around 600 AD.
These Iron Age hill forts are some of the earliest known man-made structures in the city and they’re a popular destination for visiting history and archaeology students from all over the world.
Discover more places to visit in Edinburgh with: The Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Click map for details
Holyrood park can be walked around in any direction and the paths are well laid out, although they’re not clearly signposted. A good starting point is to head onto Queen Drive away from Holyrood Palace, where the roadside path branches off into the park.
Turning right there’s a fairly steep incline up a rocky path that runs around Salisbury Crags, and this section of the walk will take you past the area where the world’s first geological studies were carried out.
Eventually, you’ll come to a section that heads back towards the road, but if you turn the opposite direction and head further into the park you’ll begin your ascent to Arthur’s Seat.
There are various routes to get to the top but the most popular is easily seen from the well-worn tracks and rope handrails that have been installed by park wardens.
As you walk back down to the main pathway after climbing the summit you’ll follow the tracks that lead into the very heart of Holyrood Park, where steep slopes surround you on either side.
While you’re heading back towards the direction of Queens Drive be sure to stop and take a look at St. Anthony’s Chapel where the remains of one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh can still be seen.
Following this, you’ll be able to follow the paths that lead back to your initial starting point opposite Holyrood Palace.
Expect this walk to take around 2 hours in total.
Things to do
Climbing Arthur’s Seat: Arthur’s Seat, the remnant of an ancient volcano, is the main peak in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park. It offers a straightforward climb which is achievable by most levels of fitness and rewards with panoramic views of the city at the summit.
Visiting St Anthony’s Chapel Ruins: This medieval ruin perched on a hillside is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Although little is known about the chapel’s origins, the ruins that we see today are believed to date back to the 15th century. You’ll find it overlooking St. Margarets Loch on the northeast corner of the park where it’s accessible from Queen’s Drive.
See the Exhibition: The Holyrood Lodge Information Centre hosts a range of exhibitions and activities related to the park’s natural and historical heritage. It’s an excellent starting point for understanding the park’s geology, flora and fauna, and its historical significance. The address is 1 Queen’s Drive, EH8 8HG.
Walking the Salisbury Crags: These dramatic cliffs form a natural boundary to the park and are a prominent feature of Edinburgh’s skyline. A designated path – the Radical Road – allows visitors to explore these cliffs safely, offering stunning views over the city from start to finish. To find the start of the path, head to Holyrood Palace and walk straight to the park. The path starts opposite the palace car park.
Enjoy a Picnic: Grab a take-out from anywhere on the Royal Mile and walk to Holyrood Park to enjoy an al-fresco meal with a view to remember. There are numerous spots that are ideal for unpacking a picnic but personal recommendations are St. Margaret’s Loch and Dunsapie Loch which both have car parks nearby.
Ancient Volcanic Origin: Holyrood Park’s landscape was formed by an extinct volcano system and shaped by ice ages. Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the park, is actually the remnants of a 350-million-year-old volcano.
Royal Hunting Ground: The park was once a royal hunting estate. In 1128, King David I established the adjacent Holyrood Abbey and used the surrounding lands for hunting deer and boar.
Historical Ruins: The park is home to several ancient ruins, including St. Anthony’s Chapel. While its origins are mysterious, it’s thought to date back to the 15th century.
Geological Importance: Holyrood Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its rich geological, topographical, and biological features, which include some of the best examples of exposed geological strata in the region.
Unique Flora and Fauna: The park is a haven for wildlife and plant species. It houses over 500 types of flora, including lichen species that are considered internationally important.
Historical Relevance: The park became public property in the 19th century when Queen Victoria declared it a public park. It has remained open to the public since 1888.
Archaeological Significance: The park is rich in archaeological history, with evidence of human settlement dating back to 5000 BC. The area was inhabited by different societies throughout the centuries, including the Romans and the Picts.
Things to do nearby
From St. Margaret’s Well on Queen’s Drive:
Holyrood Palace. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DX. A 6-minute walk from St. Giles Cathedral.
Holyrood Palace is HM The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The palace is open to visitors who can explore the royal rooms on a self-guided tour. Tickets include a visit to The Queen’s Gallery and Holyrood Abbey.
Scottish Parliament Building. Edinburgh EH99 1SP. 8-minute walk.
The official location for the Scottish government. The ultra-modern building is open to the public for guided tours and the viewing area allows the public to watch live debates in progress.
Dynamic Earth. Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AS. 7-minute walk.
A family-oriented science-themed attraction that aims to educate and entertain visitors with a collection of displays and exhibits. There is a café on-site, a 360-degree cinema, a café and more.
Dr Neil’s Garden. 15 Old Church Ln, Duddingston, Edinburgh EH15 3PX. 40-minute walk.
A historic private garden that is open to the public. The garden is located next to Duddingston Loch in Holyrood Park where visitors can walk through conifers, heathers and alpine plants.
Calton Hill. Edinburgh EH7 5AA. 23-minute walk.
One of the most popular free attractions in Edinburgh. Calton Hill offers superb views across the city and is home to the recently renovated observatory and restaurant. There are several monuments on Calton Hill that include Nelson’s Monument – a towering monument to Admiral Nelson that can be climbed – and the National Monument of Scotland.
Frequently asked questions
Can you drive to the top of Arthur’s Seat?
It is not possible to drive to the top of Arthur’s Seat. However, there is a road (Queen’s Drive) that winds its way up to a car park at Dunsapie Loch which has an elevation of 360 feet (110 metres), with the remainder of the route only possible on foot. Arthur’s Seat has an elevation of 823 feet (251 metres).
Can you walk through Holyrood Park?
It is possible to walk through Holyrood Park on a number of rough gravel footpaths. The paths are wide and level heading into the park from Queen’s Drive, but they are not well signposted.
How long is the walk around Holyrood Park?
The paths through Holyrood Park spur off in a number of directions, but there is a circular route around the perimeter that deviates up Arthur’s Seat for a walk that takes approximately 2-3 hours.
Alternatively, from Queen’s Drive visitors can take the paths around Salisbury Crags which takes around 1-2 hours.
How big is Holyrood Park in Edinburgh?
Holyrood Park covers 650 acres (263 hectares).