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Must-See Geological Sites in Scotland: Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat is the rock which towers over Edinburgh, offering excellent views over the city. It’s a great walk and an easy level hike for those fit enough to get up there.

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Arguably one of the best known geological features in Scotland, Arthur’s Seat is the big rock that sits sort of on top of Edinburgh. Plopped like a giant lumpy blemish on the nation’s capital, this giant mass of minerals brings a new meaning to the word ‘rockery’.

Why should you go and climb it? Asides from the fact that the wee ice cream van at the bottom has to earn a living, it has fantastic views over the city and out into the Scottish countryside. It is geologically marvelous too, which we will attempt to explain in a minute.

What Type of Geological Formation is Arthur’s Seat?

Arthur’s Seat began life as a volcano. Around 340 million years ago, the geology of Scotland was quite different to what it is now. In fact, Scotland was far warmer then. The volcano was originally an estimated twice its size but erosion – and the Scottish rain – have worked their magic to shrink it over the years. Hey. It’s cold up here.

The rocks of Arthur’s Seat comprise of a different blend of mineral activity which you might therefore find within a volcano – and that we don’t always get to see since they are usually hidden inside.

The activity here shows us that the volcano was once explosive, throwing rocks and magma up into the air to re-settle. There are layers of ash within the rock, indicating areas where ash has settled on the ground after explosions. There are chunks of rock amidst areas of rapidly cooled lava, vents where airflow would have gotten into the magma chambers, and even different sandstone which has been carried there via waterways.

What is clear here is the mix between the igneous rock of the cooling magma and the sedimentary rocks of the layered ash. James Hutton – the father of modern geology – first observed this nearby in the Salisbury Crags – another great location for rocks in Edinburgh. It was this discovery that led to his belief that the world was far older than we imagined. Prior to his discovery, old world geologists generally believed that the rocks might shift, grow, or disappear overnight. We will never know how they slept.

If you want the cold, hard, detailed facts on the exact makeup of the rocks in Arthur’s Seat, then you can read about every section of the walk courtesy of the British Geological Survey team. The Geological Society also have Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags as one of their top 100 geosites in Ireland and the UK. Further reading can be found through the Scottish Geology Trust.

Is Arthur’s Seat a Difficult Walk?

Arthur’s Seat has an elevation of 251 metres high, so it isn’t an intense hill walk.  It is reasonably short, depending on how experienced you are as a hiker. It doesn’t take long and it is a busy path, though you should still tell someone you are attempting to climb it before you go. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to Scottish hills.

You can head to Amazon and pick up the Historic Scotland Guide to Holyrood Park if you would like to know more about the history of the area or to pick up a souvenir.

How Long Does it Take to Walk up Arthur’s Seat?

It is not a long walk. If you are physically fit, expect to be up there and back down within the hour. Remember to factor in photo time though and set aside two hours. If you are not so physically fit as you maybe could be, then allow longer.

Is there Car Parking at Arthur’s Seat?

The walkway is accessible via a one way street which does have a car park but has no street parking in the immediate vicinity. Don’t park on the embankment, the area is known to traffic wardens. The parking fee isn’t much but does change intermittently.

How to get to Arthur’s Seat?

The hill itself is Edinburgh’s highest and is situated inside Holyrood Park. You can reach Arthur’s Seat on the Line 14 bus which leaves from Edinburgh bus station. It takes 14 minutes and costs a couple of quid. Trip Advisor has more info on how to get to Arthur’s Seat.

Can You Walk Up Arthur’s Seat in Trainers?

Absolutely. However, the Scottish weather is as reliably indifferent to your feelings as your ex is. Bring a jacket, dress in layers, and hiking boots are always, always better than your trainers.

Is Arthur’s Seat Wheelchair Accessible?

This seems to be a point of contention. The short answer is no, but the long answer is that you may be able to complete the first part of the route with a powered wheelchair. After the incline begins, though, it becomes steep and inaccessible. The peak is particularly inaccessible, since the path starts to crumble near the summit.

We would not recommend that you take a wheelchair to Arthur’s Seat. Instead, try the Pentland Hills Accessible walk nearby or browse Disability Scots’ outdoor accessibility walks here. Many walks around Scottish Lochs are also flat.

Rock Hunting on Arthur’s Seat?

Can you find interesting crystals on Arthur’s Seat? Since it was once a volcano, you will find volcanic minerals, some of them might be crystalline. However, this is a beloved landmark which people would object to you tearing apart with a pickaxe, so maybe leave it alone. Prehnite is recorded in the area but we certainly have not found any.

There’s probably quartz. There’s always quartz.

Shop for Volcanic Minerals at The Stone Circle

Although we don’t have anything specifically from Arthur’s Seat, we do have a number of minerals which form in volcanic rock. Check out our Traditional Scottish Hagstones, our Scottish agates, and our Smoky Quartz for good examples.


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