Arthur's Seat, St Anthony's Chapel and St Margaret's Loch, Edinburgh

Visit Edinburgh and you can't miss Arthur's Seat looming over the city, the now extinct volcano stands out from vantage points all over and is the main peak in the group of hills that Edinburgh is built upon. Let's be honest, if you've ever visited, lived or live here you can't fail to have noticed just how hilly a city it is.

I've done the climb/walk a couple of times now and whilst I wouldn't say it's the easiest, it's certainly steep in places and I have questioned my sanity as I've been doing it, the end result is well worth it. I confess I'd never really appreciated you could just walk up it until moving here, I suppose in my head I thought it was only climbable with specialist gear. Well you don't need anything like that but do wear sensible walking shoes or trainers and go prepared for it being windy and perhaps cooler when you get to the top. Both times I've done it have been stunning days giving incredible views across Edinburgh but both times it's been very windy once we've reached the top.

Looking towards Arthur's Seat from another of Edinburgh's hills, Calton hill

I don't know if there's a best route to reach the top, the first time I did  it we started by making the steep initial climb from the Queen's Drive close to Holyrood palace. At other times we've started further along that road close to the man-made St Margaret's loch and finished with a steep descent at the end instead. I'm not sure what's best, the first part is certainly a very steep climb but equally it makes for a very steep descent down. Once that bit is done though the next part is relatively flat and a much easier walk, don't be fooled though there are obviously some more steeper parts along the route in order to get to the very top.

View on the way up over the city looking towards the castle

Looking towards Calton hill and the Firth of Forth

Arthur's Seat is 250.5 metres high and is in the expansive grounds of Holyrood park, somewhere that I never appreciated was so big until living and exploring here. It was formed by an extinct volcano system approximately 350 million years ago and then subsequently by glacier erosion. There is archaeological evidence of people being present on and around Arthur's Seat since the Stone Age. It and the adjoining Salisbury Crags also helped in forming the ideas of modern geology as we know it. It was here that the Scottish geologist, James Hutton studied the rocks and drew his conclusions as to their formation. Something that is brilliantly explained in the nearby Dynamic Earth science centre if you have an interest in learning more about this and other geographical features.

As you'd expect once you get to the top the views over Edinburgh and beyond on a clear day are spectacular. It was hard to choose just a few photos from all the many I've taken on my visits to share here. Yes you may find it quite a climb in places on the way up (I totally admit that I did/do) but it is so worth it! It should definitely be on your Edinburgh 'to do' list.

I confess though that I'd never appreciated how much more there was to this area than just the obviously impressive Arthur's Seat. As I mentioned above it's in Holyrood park an area we've since explored further and I'll be sharing more about in due course. I had never known though that there were the ruins of a chapel and a man-made loch very close by.

St Anthony's chapel sits just a little way down from the top of Arthur's Seat and would itself have given fantastic views of the surrounding country and would no doubt have been a useful landmark to those unfamiliar with the area. The origins of it though are somewhat obscure, but records show that the Pope gave the chapel money in 1426 for repair, suggesting it has existed since at least the early 15th century. Prior to the 16th century Holyrood park was held by the Abbeys of Holyrood and Kelso and the chapel stands in the part of the park that probably belonged to Kelso abbey. There are very little records about the chapel, both of when it was built and when it fell into disrepair, but it is thought it may have been linked to the Preceptory of St Anthony, a skin hospice based in Leith around this time.

The ruins of St Anthony's chapel

Just as I was unaware of St Anthony's chapel I was also unaware of the man-made loch at the foot of the hill the chapel stands on. St Margaret's loch is actually one of three lochs in Holyrood park, again something I had no idea about. This loch was formed in 1856 as part of Prince Albert's efforts to improve the area around Holyrood palace. It's certainly very popular with both visitors and locals with lots of benches to sit and watch the world go by or the ducks and swans swim by.

St Margaret's loch with the ruins of St Anthony's chapel looking down on it

I can't recommend a visit to Arthur's Seat enough. You don't have to walk all the way to the top if you really don't want to or can't make it. There are several routes around so you can pick one that suits you best. As I mentioned above we've started from St Margaret's loch and from there we walked around the hill at a lower level which was a more even climb, though even that had its steep points. Whatever you decide to do though going here on a clear day and taking in the views around you is quite breath-taking and totally worth the climb if you can do it.


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