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Walk 1700 - printer friendly version

Edinburgh - Royal Mile, Arthur's Seat & Princes Street Walk

Author - Lou Johnson

Length - 5.5 miles / 8.9 km

Ascent - 1240 feet / 376 metres

Grade - easy

Start - OS grid reference NT255739
Lat 55.952329 + Long -3.1946318
Postcode EH2 2DG (approx. location only)

Edinburgh is often ranked as one of the finest cities in Western Europe. The focus of the city is Princes Street. Lined with shops on one side and flanked by Princes Street Gardens on the other, Edinburgh Castle overlooks all from its lofty perch at the western end of the city centre. This walk includes an exploration of the city centre, the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament and the summit of Arthur's Seat. The description is general as there are many excellent guide books that deal in detail with the sights included in this walk.

This walk starts from the Scott Monument (Grid ref. NT255739) on the south side of Princes Street. From here walk east towards Waverley Station. Turn right over Waverley Bridge and then continue straight ahead on Cockburn Street, which climbs up to join High Street (The Royal Mile). Turn left down High Street and continue past John Knox's House into Cannongate to pass along the north side of the Scottish Parliament building, which can be seen through the railings. Turn right into Horse Wynd and pass in front of the Scottish Parliament building with its contemporary style. The gardens are very pleasant and link the building with the open country opposite.

The next objective is opposite. Here you will see Salisbury Crags and beyond the summit of Arthur's Seat. Before crossing the road, it is worth spending a few minutes working out the next section of the walk. Two options exist. You can ether use the well made path that runs along the foot of the crags or use the less well maintained path along the top of the crags. This walk follows the latter choice and you need to note where the paths run from the road to the top of the crags.

Us the pedestrian crossing to cross the road and start walking the main path that leads beneath Salisbury Crags. After a short distance, look out for a steep path climbing up the grassy slope. At first this takes you back on yourself but you soon bear right and join a clear but steep path over grass to the top of the crags. The views are immediately good with a wide panorama over Edinburgh, including Holyrood House, the Scottish Parliament, the Castle and many other sights within the city. The view also extends to the Forth Rail and Road bridges, the port of Leith and the Fife Coast.

Continue along the crest of Salisbury Crags, probably still recovering from the idea that this wonderful piece of crags and countryside exists so close to the centre of a major city. As you proceed along the path you will gradually turn to face Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that rises to 251 metres above sea level. You can also see the path zigzagging up the western flank of this hill. This is the next objective of this walk so continue along the path on Salisbury Crags before choosing the best point from which to make a beeline to the Arthur's Seat path.

The climb is steep in places but with a paved path there is no problem completing the main ascent. As you get nearer the summit, a wider range of options are on offer and you need to choose the best route for you to gain the summit cairn. It is unlikely that you will have the summit to yourself as Arthur's Seat has a good reputation for offering beautiful views over the city.

The descent route goes north over rough rock to join an improving path down to a col (Grid ref. NT276730). Reaching the col, turn left (west) and continue the descent. You will see a broad path running north through a shallow valley with a craggy ridge to its left (west). Using one of the many paths follow the ridge north with the ruins of St.Anthony's Chapel and St Margaret's Loch on your right. Dropping down to a broad path, bear left and continue back to the road (Queens' Drive), which runs along the side of the grounds surrounding the Palace of Holyrood House. Turn left towards the Scottish Parliament and enter the gardens in front of the main building.

Turn left along the pedestrian access that leads into Holyrood Road. This leads past some of the faculties of Edinburgh University. Turn right down St Mary's Street and then left into High Street (Royal Mile). Walk along the Royal Mile past St Giles Cathedral on your left, to reach Lawnmarket. Straight ahead is Edinburgh Castle reached via the Hub, but this walk bears slightly left onto Johnston Terrace from which you can enter Princes Street Gardens. A number of paths criss-cross these pleasant gardens with a grand view of the castle rising above the centre of the city. Reaching Princes Street, turn right and walk past the National Galley back to the start.

Walk 1700 Route Map

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