11/11/11 - Friday - Edinburgh

An early morning walk/hike up to Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park, why not! Arthur's Seat is an "extinct" volcano that is found in a park in Edinburgh. The park abuts Holyrood House Palace, the Queen's official residence in Scotland and is across the street from the new Scottish Parliament building. The Scottish Parliament building is quite unique. It was designed by a Spanish (Catalan) architect, who was selected in a competition. It is also worth a visit if you are in the area. The debate chamber is the real gem of the building.

At the bottom of Holyrood Park there is a sign that lists some of the main trails up to Arthur's Seat. Every website I looked at and even the bus tour said the "walk" to the summit is only a half hour. Let me tell you that when you get to the bottom of the park and look at the map and look up, there is no way you can believe it will be ONLY a half hour. We scoped out the map and took what appeared to be the most direct non scary looking route. It ended up being one of the steepest routes, woops. We took our time and stopped and took a lot of pictures. It probably took us about 45 minutes to get up to the top. At first there was no one around, and we thought for sure that any regulars must take another route, but then half way up we started seeing people, lots of them with their dogs and walking sticks coming over the hills from all sorts of directions and trails and non-trails. It was really cool. We even saw some really ambitious runners heading for the top. So to give a better idea of what this park really looks like I will explain a bit more. There are essentially three hills in this park. The front park, the Salisbury Crags, the middle, Aruthur's Seat, and the hill at the sort of back end of the park, which I don't know the name of. There are also a few ponds throughout. The Salisbury Crags route doesn't look like it leads to Arthur's Seat but I am sure you could make it happen what with all of the foot traffic paths that have been made over the years. Basically everyone we saw during this morning jaunt came from a different path. Only three or four people came up behind us on our path. We also took a different path down than we did on the way up. To sum this all up, whatever way you get up there, the walk/hike is absolutely worth it. The view is spectacular. You can see the city and harbor, rolling hills over the water and the the whole of the park. It is quite windy at the very top, but you could easily sit up there with a nice picnic and just stay awhile and enjoy. The park is an absolute must in my book, even if you don't make it up all the way. Love, love, love.

Arthur's Seat Summit
Arthur's Seat 

On the way out of this area we visited the aforementioned Holyrood House Palace. It was a nice easy audio tour. (Bring your own headphones or you have to hold the speaker to your ear the whole time, actually this is good advice for any site in the UK.) The rooms were interesting enough and there is quite a lot of history there including an actual murder taking place during Mary Queen of Scots reign...during dinner. The Queen still receives people in one of the main halls there during her yearly visit to the area. The gardens were closed because well its basically winter, but it looks like they would be nice when in season. The most interesting place to me was the destroyed abbey at the end of the tour. There was something about it that I can't quite describe.

We visited the Scottish Parliament across the street on the way out and then headed up the Royal Mile to do some touristy shopping before leaving Edinburgh. An interesting note about the touristy shops on the Mile a large number of the owners were Sikh, maybe 50% or more. It was like a whole business association of Sikh men. I'm not going to lie it was totally fascinating to hear a thick Scottish accent coming out of someone who is obviously a Sikh. So we bought a few goods and wares and went along our way.

Scottish Parliament Building
Our journey for the evening was to Buxton in the heart of the Peak District. The drive took us west through some beautiful Scottish hills and towns before sending us South to England. It was about a five hour drive. We again got to see decent bit of scenery before we lost the light. At the end of the drive, I drove on one of the windiest roads I have ever driven on through the worst fog of all time. I was down to first gear barely moving because I couldn't see the road. This is all after we had already climbed up a massive hills, so all I knew was that on either side there was probably a drop and I couldn't see the road. It was quite stressful, but we made it. Phew.