28 July 2019

A Hike Through Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, 17 April 2019

Holyrood Park sits next to Holyrood Palace, the British monarch's official residence in Scotland, and is a popular destination for hikers and nature-lovers. The park's 650 acres encompass hills, grassy plateaus, gorse-covered slopes, basalt cliffs, three small lakes, natural springs, forested areas, and even the ruins of an early-15th century stone chapel. Originally a royal deer-hunting estate dating to the 12th century, Holyrood Park was designated a royal park in 1541 by King James V, who had it enclosed within a stone wall.  At the centre of the park is Arthur's Seat, the 250.5 metre (821.85 foot) tall peak that is the highest point in Edinburgh and an extinct remnant of several volcanoes that once dotted the Edinburgh region more than 335 million years ago. Evidence of Iron Age hill forts and man-made agricultural terraces likely built by the Votadini tribe in the 1st century AD can be found on and around Arthur's Seat, whose name is thought to derive from the legends of King Arthur.  Numerous footpaths and hiking trails crisscross Holyrood Park, with thousands of visitors climbing to the top of Arthur's Seat to enjoy the stunning, panoramic views of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth.  Managed by Historic Scotland and maintained as much as possible in its natural state, Holyrood Park features minimal signage and safety barriers.        

Below: The front and reverse sides of a free pamphlet available to hikers in Holyrood Park.

Commencing the hike to Arthur's Seat via the Summit Path, which begins at the northern side of the park, off Queen's Drive.

Looking northeast, towards St Margaret's Loch near the start of the Summit Path. 

Looking north, back down the Summit Path. Part of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth beyond can be seen in the distance. The path follows a slow but steady uphill route, requiring stops along the way to catch one's breath and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Looking west at Arthur' Seat, the highest point in the centre of the photo. Several more minutes of hiking up the increasingly narrow and rocky Summit Path remains ahead.

A cruise ship in the Firth of Forth several kilometres away, as well as part of Edinburgh and the adjacent suburb of Leith are visible from the Summit Path as it approaches the peak of Arthur's Seat.

The final few metres of rocky, uneven path leads to the summit of the hill known as Arthur's Seat.  

Arthur's Seat, the highest point in Holyrood Park, marked by a plinth.  The craggy volcanic summit offers stunning 360-degree views of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth, and even the North Sea to the east.  Devoid of trees, shrubs, or any other windbreaks, the cold gusts across the summit soon require ramblers to don the coat or sweater they likely removed during the strenuous hike up the path.      

The metal disk on the plinth atop Arthur's Seat, showing the summit's height of 250.5 metres (821.85 feet), as well as its geographic latitude and longitude.  The names of nearby hills, their heights, and distances from Arthur's Seat are also shown.  

Looking west from the volcanic crags on Arthur's Seat.  The gravelly and well-worn rock, coupled with the lack of safety barriers, encourages even the surest-footed hikers to exercise caution when enjoying the breathtaking views from the summit. 

A couple enjoys the view from Arthur's Seat, providing a sense of proportion for this stunning natural setting.

A group of hikers begin their descent from Arthur's Seat.  Loose rock and the steep, unmarked footpaths down from the summit require a slow and careful approach. 

One misstep on the rocky outcrops at Arthur's Seat and hikers face a fatal plunge.  A 22-year old man fell to his death on the evening of 14 June 2019, while a woman died in a 19 metre (65 foot) fall in June 2016 and a 12-year old Taiwanese boy died after falling 21 metres (70 feet) in July 2006.  

Hikers enjoy the views from Arthur's Seat.  Much of the volcanic rock that comprises Arthur's Seat is worn smooth from the thousands of hikers who climb the summit each year, requiring close attention to one's footing, especially when climbing down.

By mid-morning, a break in the clouds and a bit of sun shows off the green of the scrub grass carpeting Holyrood Park and the tufts of windswept gorse bushes.

Looking east from the summit of Arthur's Seat. Dunsapie Loch can be seen below.
The path back to ground level requires a lengthy hike across a plateau and then down a narrow footpath with several switchbacks.

Looking back at Arthur's Seat from the plateau.  The silhouettes of hikers can just be seen at the summit.

Looking down a steep slope during the descent from Arthur's Seat.  A web of footpaths crisscross the landscape below, while the Salisbury Crags can be seen running from the centre to the top right of the photo.

The descent continues.

Two hikers descend on the path towards the Salisbury Crags.

The path consists in several sections of blocks of volcanic rock formed into a very crude staircase, requiring careful navigation to avoid trips and falls.

A switchback along the steep stone staircase.  A group makes its way toward Arthur's Seat.

The bright yellow flowers of a gorse bush (Ulex europaeus) provide a splash of colour against the dark volcanic rock and scrubby grass of the Salisbury Crags in the background. 

A view of Arthur's Seat from the southern side of Holyrood Park.  Various footpaths branch out to different parts of the park.

The Salisbury Crags, comprising a series of 46-metre (151 foot) sheer cliffs formed of dolerite and columnar basalt at the western end of Holyrood Park.  Hikers may follow a footpath that runs along the cliff edge, and 

The Salisbury Crags provide pleasant views out over Edinburgh to the west and north, and views of Arthur's Seat and the rest of Holyrood Park to the south and east.

Looking southeast: Arthur's Seat towers over Holyrood Park, as seen from the pathway leading along the top of the Salisbury Crags.

A hiker strolls along the top of the Salisbury Crags.

Looking west from the top of the Salisbury Crags.

Looking north from the Salisbury Crags.  On the bottom left in the white-roofed building is Dynamic Earth, a science and nature attraction; seen to the right of centre of the photo is Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, built between 1671 and 1678.

A final view of Holyrood Park, with Arthur's Seat towering i the distance.

No comments:

Post a Comment