Where to Find the Best FREE View in Edinburgh

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in EdinburghIn most cases, I prefer to write and post about our travels right after we’ve finished them. The details are fresh in my mind; the information is current, relevant. But I also think there’s value in revisiting a trip months (even years) later.

In looking back, it’s much easier to see the places, the people, the moments (the burrito) that made the most impact.

For our family, it’s usually all about the view… and the burritos. But that’s a post for another day.

In my I’m-sorry-I-love-you-but-I-need-to-take-a-break post, I teased you with a shot from our trip. Now, I finally have time to tell all, and I’m starting with that breathtaking view.

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh – okay, the whole of Scotland – is notorious for its crappy weather. So, you can imagine my surprise at our good fortune when we stepped off the plane in early November and the sun was shining. Oh, the horror!

We stashed our stuff at the vacation rental and dashed off in the direction of Holyrood Park. We waved hello to the Queen’s Scottish residence, Holyrood Palace, and continued on toward the massive rock behind it.

As we got closer, however, we saw that there were actually several peaks in Holyrood Park. We wanted to climb Arthur’s Seat, not Arthur’s footstool. We asked around but couldn’t get a clear answer from anyone. Since we didn’t have much daylight left, we gambled on the highest of the bunch and went for it.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

All roads might lead to Rome, but only half of the footpaths in Holyrood Park lead to Arthur’s Seat. The most direct is from the east near Dunsapie Loch (more on that below). The kids scampered up the wide path until slippery rock slopes slowed them down. Little ones will (literally) need a hand to reach the top safely.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The summit at Arthur’s Seat.

Once we rounded the last craggy bend, we were rewarded with an astonishing panorama. From Arthur’s Seat (on a clear day, duh), one can see Portobello Beach, Meadowbank Stadium, Calton Hill, Waverly Station, Cramond Island, and even the amazing Firth of Forth Bridge.

Oh, right, and of course you could also see the city’s crown jewel, Edinburgh Castle.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is a must-see, and the views from the castle are (usually) wonderful. But, just as the best view in Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower itself, so the best view in Edinburgh is not from the castle. Well, at least not when it looks like this…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Completely fogged up view from Edinburgh Castle.

The wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat is somethin’ fierce, and the weather up there can change rapidly. Luckily, we had brought decent outdoor clothing, but we still shuddered in the waning afternoon sun that set the whole of Edinburgh ablaze in brilliant orange.Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life: The English Speaking Bubble, Edinburgh

When our eyes could take it no more, we picked our way carefully back down the same way we’d come just an hour earlier. We could’ve gone a different route back, but I wanted to see Dunsapie Loch.

A friend of mine that lived in Edinburgh for a year told me that this was her kids’ favorite spot. They’d often go to the loch to feed the swans. When we walked up, there were the swans, just as she said, floating under the pink clouds of sunset and guarded by a hilltop ruin that hovered over their watery home.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The swans of Dunsapie Loch, flocking to their next crusty handout.

Edinburgh, you were beginning to get to me. I actually started to imagine that was our family’s favorite spot. But then I pinched myself and sobered up – not all days in Edinburgh are as gorgeous as this one.

Honorable Mention – Calton Hill

While Arthur’s Seat was an easy walk from our vacation rental in Abbeyhill, it might be more of a bus ride for those staying closer to the city center. (Not that riding buses in Edinburgh is a problem – in fact, the city’s transportation system is excellent.) But if you’d like to take a stroll somewhere closer to the castle, say, then a mighty fine view can also be had from Calton Hill.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The view OF Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill.

Wind is a theme that can’t be shaken whenever one goes to great heights in Edinburgh. If you can keep the hair out of your mouth long enough to open your eyes, you’ll be treated to a closer view of Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth, and Cramond Island.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The climb up to Calton Hill is easier and less treacherous than the ascent to Arthur’s Seat. I think my boys enjoyed Calton Hill more because there’s plenty of space to run around without fear of toppling over a rocky cliff. Plus, there’s an old canon in the park which always makes for a good time in their book.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The unfinished National Monument of Scotland in the park atop Calton Hill.

Whether you choose Calton, Arthur, or both is up to you – they’re both completely free and worth the physical effort required. Just consider yourself warned: the views from these summits are intoxicating. Brace yourself; you’re about to fall in love with Scotland, grey skies and all.

Do you love a good view? Would you rather pay for a panoramic view in physical exertion or paper money?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler series at Chasing the Donkey. Please head here to get the best of this week’s travel-related blog posts!


26 thoughts on “Where to Find the Best FREE View in Edinburgh

  1. Like your post. We’ll be visiting Scotland this month and my family voted on Arthur’s Seat as a must do while we’re in Edinburgh. Your photos just reinforce why we want to hike up. Here’s hoping for clear, sunny weather πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you – and best wishes to you for GREAT weather during your trip to Edinburgh. I’ll be posting more this week and next on the city, so be sure to check back. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Ahhh….yep, those views are amazing and there is more sun (at least in Edinburgh) than one would expect of Scotland. We enjoyed 6 fantastic years there. Happy memories!

  3. We’ve only been up Calton Hill because it’s the ending point for Hogmanay’s torchlight procession. It was REALLY cool. When we make it to Edinburgh in warmer weather, I’ll definitely give Arthur’s Seat a chance.

  4. I am so bummed that we didn’t make it to Scotland on our recent trip to England, but I guess it gives us another destination to plan for in the future. With that thought in mind, I am definitely pinning this post for when we go. I love the pictures and the ideas. Thanks!

  5. we were just in Edinburgh two weeks ago, and my sundaytraveler post for today was about it! We actually didn’t get to go to Arthur’s seat.. Looks like you had an awesome time.

  6. You my dear, and your family are so inspirational. I barely can be bothered walking to the beach – and you climbed that! Shame about the sucky view, but otherwise sounds great. Glad to have you back for #SundayTraveler again.

  7. What incredible views and what a gorgeous day – I definitely don’t picture Scotland having this kind of sunny weather! You really lucked out! I’m saving this post to my Pinterest for future reference for the day I go to Scotland πŸ™‚

  8. Pingback: Fun (Cheap) Stuff for Families in Edinburgh | Thrifty Travel Mama

  9. I agree completely! “Unfortunately”, I was only in Edinburgh for a couple of days, and my friend made sure to recommend going up to the Crags at Holyrood Park as well as a visit up to Calton Hill. Two days were not close to being sufficient for even the briefest of looks, but I’m very glad I went. Thanks for writing about this; I hope to go back to Edinburgh and visit other parts of Scotland as well!

  10. When I saw the title of this post I was hoping Arthur’s Seat would be included! One of my favorite locations in the UK! I also had a bit of luck when I was there… it was cloudy for the hike up and not long after reaching the peak it miraculously cleared up! Either way, such an amazing view!

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