A Brief History of Arthur’s Seat

Dec 11, 2017

The peak of Arthur’s Seat looms over the city of Edinburgh. Snow-capped in the winter, this extinct volcano is one of the Scottish capital’s most recognisable landmarks, and is also a popular walking route.

The Seven Hills

The tallest of the Seven Hills on which Edinburgh was founded, the rocky outcrop is popular with hikers and tourists due to the relatively easy walk to the top.

Sat at the bottom of the bustling Royal Mile, the 251m peak provides excellent panoramic views of Edinburgh’s sprawling cityscape.

Like many of the Seven Hills around Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat was formed near 335 million-years-ago, when a mighty glacier eroded and exposed the rocky crags as it travelled westwards.

Why is it called Arthur’s Seat?

Just how this ancient rock came to be known as Arthur’s Seat is a legend shrouded in mystery. Some say that it was a possible location for Camelot, King Arthur’s legendary castle.

Others say the name stems from the Scots Gaelic, Àrd-na-Said, meaning the “height of Arrows”.

The remains of defences are speckled around the ascent of the volcano, with some stretching back as far as prehistoric times. Thought to be the hill forts of Iron Age Celts, a complete example of which occupies the summit.

In 1836, five boys unearthed a set of 17 miniature coffins, each containing a small wooden figure. The origins of the eerie casks are as shrouded in mystery as the hill itself.


Popular belief is that they relate to witchcraft in some manner, whilst others have suggested they may be connected to iconic Edinburgh serial killers, Burke and Hare.

The nefarious duo famously sold 17 bodies to local doctors for use in anatomy lectures and educational studies.

The easiest route to the top begins at Dunsapie Loch, on the volcano’s east side, and can be hiked with relative ease in around 20 minutes.

Must See

Be sure to spend some time at the summit to marvel at the incredible views of Edinburgh Castle and the city below.

Fox’s Fact

It’s supposedly ancient tradition for young women to spend May Day washing their faces in the morning dew that collects on the volcano.

The dew was rumoured to have properties that would keep them looking young and beautiful.

A post shared by Jordan Wilson (@eretzyardan) on

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