Friday, 5 August 2016


Like most of the nation during this time of year, I'm taking time off my usual work commitments to recharge the batteries. However, I've not "been away" as such, preferring instead to have the odd few days here and there. But living in a city with a plethora of natural and historic features there's almost no need to go anywhere.

On another warm sunny day I headed out to walk to the centre of the city, via the highest point, from my home, which is at sea level.

A favourite destination for many a local walk is the Figgate Park, and at this time of year the wildflower meadow is in full swing, so this was an obvious first stop on the way. From the meadow I had a clear view of Arthur's Seat in the distance, forming the focal point of Holyrood Park, my next way point.

For a short distance, to get from the Figgate Park to Holyrood Park, I had to tolerate the busy traffic of the main arterial route for about half a mile, until the turn off through the historic Duddingston Village.

As I turned into the village I passed an old white house on my right, and up on the wall was a stone plaque stating that here, in 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart held his Council of War. So significant in its day, yet if you blinked you'd pass by and miss it.

Round the corner is a pub dating back to 1320 called The Sheep Heid Inn, making it the oldest licensed premises in Edinburgh, if not Scotland. And just across the road is a small church called Duddingston Kirk, which was built by a Norman knight called Dodin, 200 years before the pub in 1124. I had walked just a short distance yet traveled back in time 800 years.

The kirk was the point where I entered Holyrood Park proper at Duddingston Loch, a natural water feature and home to a great variety of wildlife. The park is associated with the Royal Holyrood Palace, created by James 5th in 1541, and is sometimes called Queens Park (or Kings Park depending on the reigning monarch) as it used to be the royal hunting grounds. The hill of Arthur's Seat now stood between me and the palace.

So I started my climb up to this highest point of my walk, the summit of Arthur's Seat, at 823ft. Like the rock that the castle sits on, it was formed by a now extinct volcano 350 million years ago, and eroded by glaciers to it's present shape roughly 2 million years ago.

It was a very pleasant walk up its slopes, and I reached the top in about 20 minutes, only to have the silence broken by a large mob of tourists gathered at the top. Fair enough, as it is a great vantage point to get the best photos of the city.

From here I could see my next way point, and journey's end, of Calton Hill. But I wanted to take a slightly less than direct route there, by coming down the northern ridge of Arthur's Seat to take in the ruins of St Anthony's Chapel. Built in the 15th century, its origin and history are a little obscure.

From there I had to pass by the hideous modern structure of the Scottish Parliament, but not before taking in the splendour of the Royal Palace of Holyrood House, a beautiful piece of architecture.

Just a few hundred metres further on up Calton Road, a narrow set of steps dug into the side of the slope, and called Jacobs Ladder, took me up to the finish line of my walk, Calton Hill. 
There has been an observatory here since 1776, now not used, and a pillared monument in memory of the soldiers and sailors who died during the Napoleonic Wars, which dominates the top of the hill. Next to that is the Nelson monument tower.

From this final point I had a 360ยบ view, east back toward the sea from where I had started, to Arthur's Seat in the south and across to the castle in the west. From every viewpoint throughout my walk it pleased me at just how green Edinburgh is.

As with the majority of my outdoor adventures, albeit this one contained within the boundaries of the capital city of Scotland, I ended the day with coffee and cake.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ta for this, I was looking into the practicalities of walking from Figgate Park to Arthur's Seat. It's helpful to now be aware of the bit of main road so I can allow for it and avoid peak times, hopefully. You should share this to the Figgate Friends Facebook page.