Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh, Scotland
Sunday 11 November 2012

Dear Fellow Traveler,

How many times in your life have you tackled the climb up a high and intimidating hill, only to find your goal lay atop the next high hill over?

For our last day in Edinburgh, a group of us accepted the challenge of climbing up to Arthur’s Seat in the morning. Arthur’s Seat was supposed to boast spectacular panoramic views of Edinburgh and be well worth the climb.

We took a leisurely walk out of the city center, passed a team of (needless to say attractive) professional rugby players in town for the game, stopped to take pictures at green Calton cemetery, and marveled at Royal Holyrood House (the Queen’s residence in Scotland). All the while we could see a giant, stony hill in the distance and used it as our point of navigation. Arthur’s Seat, we are coming to you!

The first hill.

The first hill. Click on it (can you see the people climbing up the hill?).

A little before lunchtime, we found our feet touching the borders of Holyrood Park and our faces staring up at the giant hill we had followed from a distance. We could see tiny shapes of people climbing up the side and were excited to follow them ourselves. We documented the start of our climb with pictures and took the first few steps up the gravelly path.

As we climbed higher and higher, our breath shortened, our legs tired, the air became colder, but our bodies became warmer and the view improved considerably. The entire grounds of Holyrood House appeared below, on the edge of the houses and buildings of Edinburgh. Near the end of our climb, after 30 minutes or so, we ran into two familiar faces.

“How was the climb? How’s the view from Arthur’s Seat? How much longer?” we asked with eager anticipation.

“This isn’t Arthur’s Seat,” they replied.

“What?” we were confused.

“You actually have to climb another hill behind this one. Go down and go up. We’re really tired from yesterday, so we decided to go back and try again another day.” And they passed us to walk down the way we came up.

The message was relayed down to the rest of our group and we considered the situation. Go back or keep climbing? We eventually decided to see for ourselves what they meant and continued on our way. The path leveled off and started descending. Multiple groups of UCEAP kids, including ourselves, collided at a bottleneck of steep rocky steps downward. Everybody worked as a team, a few vanguards scouting paths to pursue and those who felt comfortable hiking holding out their hands to those who didn’t.

Fifteen minutes later, we faced the climb which made the others turn back. Steep stone steps up yet another hill, slicked with rain and vertical enough to rival the steps up Mayan temples. Exhausted, our group had yet another serious discussion. Was the view really that great? We could probably look up pictures of the view online. But we were halfway! And how many times would we be in Edinburgh, climbing up to Arthur’s seat on a non-rainy day? Let’s just complete the climb.

We took a deep breath and joined the caravan of people climbing up the stone steps. French teenagers singing songs to cheer themselves along the climb. Fathers singing to daughters perched on their shoulders to comfort them about the height (although being on my dad’s shoulders would probably make me more scared of heights, it was incredibly sweet to see). By the time we reached the top forty minutes or so later, we were sweating in zero degree weather and breathless.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

We were standing on Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat

We were standing together, on solid ground, taking in spectacular views reaching all the way out to the sea and the horizon beyond. We were breathing in the crisp, fresh air of high altitudes and reveling in where we were.

Many pictures afterward, we began the descent down a considerably less steep path… On our way down, we passed by jogging locals, whose tiny fuzzy dogs pounced through the tall grasses alongside them off-leash. (May I insert here that British dogs are so well-mannered and thus allowed to travel on public transportation and run through parks off-leash). We walked alongside still, pure lochs and charming forests. Once on ground level, we passed by a pond filled with swans and ducks enjoying a dip in the pool.

The journey up and down took a few hours, which meant it was time for me to catch my train back to London. I said goodbye to the Mancunian American friends I had made that weekend, goodbye to beautiful Edinburgh, goodbye to my forever friend GB, and took a train by myself back to King’s Cross.

‘Twas a true adventure, with its ups and downs.

Until next time,

JJS

PS GB was generous enough to share her picture with camera-less me, so enjoy this gallery of pictures relevant both to my previous post and this one!

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