Thursday 3 November 2011

Edinburgh Arthur's Seat Loop Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 7.5 km (4.7 miles), terrain hilly

NOTE: On Sundays, Holyrood Park is closed to cars during the autumn and winter, making it especially nice to run. Pictures courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks!

Edinburgh running routes:
Edinburgh City route
Portobello Beach route

Arthur's Seat route
For more running routes, see Route List.  

If you've spent some time in downtown Edinburgh, with all its narrow streets lined with imposing grey-stone buildings, you might be ready for some open spaces and green parkland. Expansive Holyrood park, just outside the city center, is the place to head.
Arthur's Seat, covered in gorse, in Holyrood Park, photo by cyocum
NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
If you've already traveled around in Edinburgh, you've already seen Holyrood's barren, cliff-faced crags, Arthur's Seat, dominating various scenic views. This impressive stronghold of nature rising out of the middle of the city is a great place to visit, especially if you won't be traveling on to the Scottish Highlands. This rocky oasis will give you a taste of Highlands wilderness right here in the city.

And this route will also pass by some of the most interesting buildings in town, along the Royal Mile on the way to the park. The only catch is that the route rises about 80 meters as it gently winds around the park, going up 2 peaks. If you can handle the climb, this is a wonderful run, and will reward you with some great vistas.
Start of the run, at Hunter Square, photo by Kaddele
The route will start right in the heart of town, at the corner of the High Street and Bridge Street, at Hunter Square. This is where High Street comes downhill from the castle in the stretch known as the Royal Mile, connecting the castle and Holyrood Palace.

Turn south, with the Bank Hotel on your right, and run straight down High Street, where it continues going downhill. You'll go past Cannongate on the left (where the street name itself changes to Cannongate) and the Storytelling Café. I love the ancient stone buildings that line the streets here, each one with its own unique character.
Cannongate houses, photo by rojabro
Soon you'll come to the tollbooth, with its stone clock-tower. Such fortified tollbooths were common in Scottish towns, where travelers had to pay tolls before entering town.

The tollbooth, photo by Andrew Batram
The scenic Cannongate Kirk (church) is right next to it.
Cannongate Kirk, photo by Dutch Simba
Keep running south, down the street until it ends at a roundabout. You'll see the gate into Holyrood Palace, the queen's official residence in Scotland. You can run up to the gate, but you can't get in. The grounds are open during the daytime to the the paying public. "Holyrood" is Scottish for "holy cross", named after a vision that Scottish King David had on the site.
Holyrood Palace, photo by Colin J. Campbell
The palace is built on the site of an 800-year-old abbey, whose ruins can still be found, right behind the palace.

Across the street, the large, futuristic building is the Scottish Parliament building. What a contrast...
The Scottish Parliament, photo by wok
Turn right at the roundabout, run past the front side of the Parliament, and follow the street as it zig-zags past the main palace entrance and then straight into Holyrood Park.

The park was once the palace grounds, rocky promontories left over from an ancient volcano. The entrance street leads straight towards the cliffs of Salisbury Crags, where it ends at a roundabout. From here, the whole park is ringed by the loop-road in front of you, called Queen's Drive, which we'll take all the way around.
The Salisbury Crags, photo by Jungleboy
Turn right on Queen's Drive and follow it as it gradually heads uphill, with the basalt crags to your left. There is a separate pedestrian path along the street. Soon, on the left side of the drive, you'll see a mown path through the lawn, parallel to the street, which you can take if you prefer it to the pavement.

The lawn path along Queen's Drive, photo by tigerweet
After passing another roundabout and going uphill, you'll see a big path going up the valley to the left, heading towards Arthur's Seat, that big rounded hilltop. Someday you might want to follow those paths through the countryside in the middle of the park. But this time, we'll stay on the gentler rise of Queen's Drive.
Holyrood Park road heading up past Arthur's Seat, photo by nexun chan
You'll need to switch to the right side of the road as it winds along the base of Arthur's Seat. First, it goes downhill a bit, then heads back uphill. There is a great view here towards the city and hills to the west.
View back towards the crags, photo by Tr1xx
When you come to Dunsapie Loch (lake) on the right side, you've reached the highest point of the run. This spot really has a highlands feeling, with the grassy hills rising off to the left, and the loch stretching picturesquely around the rocky peak on the right.
Eagle at Dunsapie Loch, photo by only alice
There are plenty of paths heading off in every direction: it's a very inviting place for cross-country runners (this is my kind of country!).

Now, running downhill, the vista over the coastline to the northeast opens up before you.

When you get to the northern end of the park, the road turns to the left at another little pond, St. Margaret's Loch. There is a picturesque chapel ruins on the hill behind it, St. Anthony's.
St. Anthony's chapel at sunset, photo by Adrian Hart
Now you just keep running along Queen's Drive until you get to the roundabout where we entered the park. You'll see Holyrood Palace and the abbey ruins off to the right.

Turn right at the roundabout, run past Parliament again and then turn left onto Cannongate once again, following the same route (uphill this time!) back to the start at Bridge Street.


  1. that's not an eagle

  2. Ahh, OK, then it's a very big bird. Maybe I was translating from the German "Seeadler" for osprey. What kind of bird is it really?

  3. I would say that it is a seagull

  4. Hmmm. Now that I look at it closer, I think you're right! OK, so I'm no ornithologist...

  5. Great instructions, I want to do some running when I head up to Edinburgh in September but wasn't sure where to go, this looks amazing, Thanks :)

  6. That is def not a seagull! It is a bird of prey. Seagulls dont have that tail or wing feathers. It is an Eagle.

    1. It is most def a seagull. It's a Lesser Blacked Backed Gull (Larus fuscus). There are lots of them on the lochs around Arthur's Seat.

  7. Well, I bow to the experts: that bird is whatever it is. It makes for a nice picture, anyway. Maybe the next person who runs the route can keep an eye open for birds up at the pond!

    1. It's a Lesser Blacked Backed Gull (Larus fuscus). There are lots of them on the lochs around Arthur's Seat.

  8. Thanks Stephen! I'm definitely not a bird expert. Somehow, I didn't expect gulls up on the mountain.