About an hour, depending on fitness level. Bear in mind that you will likely stop several times to take in the views, so plan for at least two hours.
Easy, moderate and difficult. Many sections of this walk are well-laid out on gravel paths that are either flat or have a gentle incline. However, the walk up to Arthur’s seat is very steep and is challenging to anyone, even those with moderate fitness levels. In winter the walk is particularly difficult as you may have to scramble over wet, slippery rocks during your ascent and descent. You would be advised to wear hiking boots for the walk up to Arthur’s Seat, while the rest of the route can be done in trainers or an equivalent.
About Holyrood Park
Situated about a mile to the East of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Park is an outstanding area of natural beauty that offers tourists and locals alike a haven of tranquillity amongst the noise of Scotland’s capital city. Although the park is centrally sited inside Edinburgh, it has a vast array of natural wonders to explore over its 650-acre wilderness.
Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park shouldn’t need too much of an explanation as they are two of the highlights for any visit to Scotland’s capital city. The top of Arthur’s Seat (the park’s highest point) presents some fantastic views across Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth, while the walk around the park is like being transported a hundred miles north into the Highlands.
While walking through the park you’ll discover that it’s like a miniature version of all of Scotland’s countryside. Wild and open meadows, peaceful lochs, mountain-like ridges, and swathes of gorse take visitors on a cross-country journey all within a few minutes walk from the city centre. In fact, on a quiet day when there are few tourists around it’s easy to forget that you’re in a busy city and you can instead imagine that you’re wandering around a remote mountain or glen.
It’s incredible to think that this beautiful green area is situated on a plug of extinct volcanic rock (which is why it’s so easy to forget that you’re in the middle of Scotland’s capital), at least until you make the climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat and gaze out at Edinburgh stretching away into the distance.
In summer the park is awash with wildflowers and gorse and many insect species can be seen buzzing about in the thickets, while several bird species can also be seen soaring overhead. There are a couple of small lochs inside the park that are home to a variety of wildfowl, and you will frequently see rabbits running into the dense gorse bushes. All in all, Holyrood Park is the perfect antidote to busy city life.
The route around the park
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 worlds very 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 the park wardens.
As you traverse back down onto the main pathway after climbing to 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 many paths which lead back to your initial starting point opposite Holyrood Palace.
Note: This map is interactive, so scroll around and zoom in and out as much as you like.
Craig Smith is your guide to the best attractions in Scotland. He loves exploring the Scottish wilds and is happiest when he’s knee-deep in a muddy bog in the middle of nowhere.