Exploring Arthur’s Seat (The Wrong Way)

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My watch buzzed early, alerting me that it was time to wake up. Today, we were climbing Arthur’s Seat!

Climbing Arthur's Seat

I studied the printout hanging on the wall of our super awesome hostel in Edinburgh! It detailed how to climb Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

I not only memorized the instructions, I took a photograph of them with my cell phone so I could have a quick look if needed. My Doc Martin’s were laced tight, and we headed out the door, making our way down the Royal Mile. We headed towards Holyrood Palace, stopping along the way for a cup of coffee and pastry.

Stopping for coffee in Edinburgh before beginning our climb.
Krystal Stops For Coffee

Caffinated and having had a light breakfast, we exited the cafe and continued down the road. Holyrood Palace came into view as we neared the base of the Royal Mile, and we hung a right as the instructions had stated. Arthur’s Seat loomed in front of us. I was beyond thrilled to climb the volcano that day!

As we neared the volcano, a small group of people came climbing down a pathway, laughing and having fun.

I was a little confused; I had thought the instructions said to take the path on the left. I didn’t see any other paths though. Straining my neck to see down the sidewalk, I could see people walking around, but I didn’t see any other way up the volcano. “This must be it!” I stated, excitedly. Seeing as we had just crossed paths with other climbers, surely this was the correct way.

Janelle Bottom of Arthur’s Seat

Me at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, excited for our short little hike!

For 45 minutes we climbed. It was the steepest, rockiest path I could have ever imagined. “We must be near the top by now!” I told Krystal. “The instructions said it wouldn’t take very long to get to the top.” Winded, she nodded in agreement.

We made our way to the top of a very high peak, just knowing we had to be close. We would have dropped to our knees and given up if that didn’t require energy. On the other side of the peak, the path dropped back downall the way back to ground level.

This was definitely not the right way to have gone.

Climbing up the rocky path to Arthur's Seat

Climbing up the rocky path to Arthur’s Seat

We stood on the peak for a few minutes, evaluating where we were.

In the distance, we could make out another pathway. That must have been the path we were supposed to take! We climbed down from the peak and made our way to the new trail.

The path twisted and weaved through the volcano’s cliffs, providing us with uneven, natural stone steps most of the way. The path was only wide enough for one person at a time to climb. If you remember from my post about becoming injured abroad, I now have weak ankles, and so this was a very nerve-wracking climb! The steps were all so unsteady and uneven. I was beyond terrified of injuring myself and needing Krystal to be my human crutch down this tiny path.

Janelle climbing the stairs on Arthurs Seat
The dangerous pathway we took

After about 2 hours time, we reached our summit.

We were completely spent and covered in sweat. Believing that the hike would only take thirty minutes to the top, we had taken off at a brisk pace. We were not expecting to be climbing uphill for two hours straight! The extra effort it had taken us to climb Arthur’s Seat made this moment even more magical for us. I dropped to the ground and stretched my legs out, enjoying the cool breeze and the gorgeous view of Edinburgh from above.

We had done it! I felt rather victorious!

View of Edinburgh

View of Edinburgh

View from the top of Arthurs Seat
At the top of Arthurs Seat
Taking a break on Arthurs Seat

As the clouds rolled in, the air began to chill even more. It was January, and the temperature on Arthur’s Seat was sitting around 20 degrees. Krystal approached me, “I found the way down.”

Krystal would further be known as Billy Goat.

This ‘way down’ she found was a steep, crazy crevice! Krystal, in her hiking boots, simply leaped to the bottom like a goat. However, me, in my slippery Doc boots, carefully climbed down and actually became stuck. My hands began to freeze and couldn’t grip the stones. I asked Krystal to throw me her gloves. She did, however, she only threw them halfway up the crevice- so now I was really stuck! I began working my way down, now with the goal of simply reaching the gloves. After another twenty minutes, I had cleared the crevice.

Janelle Stuck in the Crevice

This is me, just hanging out, stuck in the crevice!

We made our way down Arthur’s Seat, beyond thrilled that we had survived the climb and the descent.

We were discussing what to eat for lunch when suddenly, I noticed a lady in a wheelchair climbing up Arthur’s Seat. A lady in a wheelchair? Surely my eyes were playing tricks on me. I turned my head to double-check. There, to my disbelief, was a nice, smooth pathway with a handrail.


We found the easy path up Arthurs Seat

We found the easy path up Arthur’s Seat after climbing up the hard way!

Exhausted, frustrated, and hungry- we scowled, laughed, and decided our lives are like Leslie and Hunt from “Almost Heroes”.

Begrudgingly, we made our way to the nice, smooth pathway fit for a Queen and continued our journey down. In the distance, we could see an old stone wall. Curious, we headed towards it only to discover that it was an old chapel.

Krystal outside the chapel ruins

Krystal outside the chapel ruins

Krystal exploring the ruins of the chapel

Krystal exploring the ruins of the chapel

I was taking photographs as Krystal explored it. Suddenly she called out “There’s a book in the wall!”

Inside a small hole in the doorway of the wall rested an old journal. Inside this journal, travelers had left notes and greetings for other people who would be visiting the chapel. We each left our own messages, feeling like part of something big, and continued on our way. This was probably the most fascinating thing from our hike – for us, it was like finding Atlantis.

The secret book in the wall

The secret book in the wall

Krystal flipping through the book

Krystal stands beside the hole where the book was located and browses it’s contents.

A note from someone in the book

A note left by a previous traveler.

We made our way back to the pathway. The rest of the way down was a breeze compared to our trip up.

What to take from this?

Should you visit Arthur’s Seat, you will want to turn and walk left down the sidewalk once you reach the base. This will lead you to the nice, wonderful, easy to walk pathway all the way to the top and to the chapel! By the way, this is by no means a difficult hike if you don’t screw up from the beginning!


My life has been a collage of airlines and exhaustion, and I wouldn't change a thing! I'm a budget traveler, and I adore exploring the world one plane or train ticket at a time!


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