Explore Arthur’s Seat with correspondent Garrett Palm
Story and photos by Garrett Palm
Clinging to some crags, I boulder up the side of Arthur’s Seat, a 350-million-year-old volcanic outcrop carved by glaciers. Looking down on the valley and ignoring the city behind me, I can convince myself I’m in the backcountry. But looking over my shoulder I can see the monuments, palaces, and Victorian Gothic buildings of Edinburgh. The summit can get crowded, but reaching the summit is not the point. The point is to get mud, not car exhaust, on your clothes. On the more difficult routes, you’ll encounter fewer people.
From the top, I can see Edinburgh all around, Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth, and the mountainous County Fife across the water. There are many routes up. Both times we started by the palace. From there you can start up the valley with the Salisbury Crags between you and the city, skirt around Hunter’s Bog, and turn east. Or, you can go towards St. Andrew’s cathedral and hike along the top of another set of crags. There are moments on the walk I forget I’m in the middle of a city.
Isolation in the outdoors is hard to find in the United Kingdom. It is an island where people have been building stone, steel, or glass structures on it for more than a thousand years. The far reaches of the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides have spots of untouched beauty, but also ruins of ancient monasteries and castles — or at least a stonewall or a flock of sheep.
It is a beauty that has served as the muse for the great classical poets. Loch Katherin on the Southern edge of the Highlands inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, part of which was later adapted to Schubert’s Ave Maria. There were monuments and speakers playing the song to point this out.
I love cities. Especially ones like Edinburgh — full of fresh air, parks, views of the Firth and mountains beyond. The crowded sidewalks and streets jammed with cars and pedestrians are draining. Getting into the woods and mountains around and in the city is a shot of energy and inspiration. All I want to do is muck around in the peat, boulder over the crags, and explore. I want to get muddy. I become a different person. I may not turn this inspiration into written poetry, but I feel the power.
Garrett Palm is a photographer, writer, producer and improv actor currently living in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow his travels and photos at www.lifeisaslowharold.com and find out more about him at www.garrettpalm.com.
More from Garrett Palm:
- Roads: Crossing the Himalaya
- Travel: Saying goodbye to the Festival Fringe
- Travel: Books and bagpipes in Edinburgh
- Travel: Coffee and rain at the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh
- Travel: Trimming the ‘fringe’ in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh – to tram, or not to tram, that is the question
- Travel: Notes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
- Morning photo: Explore the Brooklyn ‘backcountry’
- Travel: Volunteering in Ladakh
- Morning photo: Bhangra Bridge