At the top of Arthur’s Seat, I tried to take a breath but the wind swept it away. The air bit my face and stung my eyes, making me squint so much I could hardly see. I was either being blown forward up the mountain with the wind behind me or nearly pushed off of it. I really thought I might blow away into oblivion. Or at least into the North Sea.
Rewind. Let me start at the beginning. I arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, with full knowledge that the weather wouldn’t be anything like Madrid. While it was going to be a warm, sunny weekend in Madrid, it was forecasted to be rather cold in Edinburgh. Nevertheless, everyone raves about the city and I was pumped to dive in headfirst and explore everything it had to offer.
Arthur’s Seat is one of Scotland’s main attractions, and for good reason. On a clear day, it offers unparalleled views of Edinburgh and beyond. Intended as a fairly easy hike, everyone hikes up Arthur’s Seat when visiting Edinburgh.
I was strolling the end of the Royal Mile when I realized I was closer to Arthur’s Seat than I expected. I could either start walking up the path to the top of the old volcano, or return as I had planned for the following day. On a whim, I decided to just go ahead and see what all the fuss was about since I was so close.
I watched people choose all different routes up the hill, some much more steep than others, and some not appearing to be real trails at all. I chose the path between Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, it looked like a straight shot up to the top. And in the space of this small valley, a wind tunnel formed.
It sounds ridiculous now, but unbeknownst to me at the time, Edinburgh is known as “the windy city”. I knew it would be cold, but the wind factor made the hike up to Arthur’s Seat much more difficult than it should have been. I was fighting with the wind the entire time I made my way up the volcano.
Somehow, the wind didn’t seem to faze the locals. Many speedy runners passed me as I walked; It amazed me that many of them were even wearing shorts while I was pulling my gloves and hood on! I watched them hurry up to the top, slap the pillars marking the peak, and turn right back around to race back to the bottom. What was one of the highlights of my trip was just a normal walk (or run) in the park for them.
The wind proceeded to strengthen as I neared the peak of Arthur’s Seat. Every time I took my phone out of my pocket to take a photo, I feared the wind would snatch it out of my clutches and it would smash to the ground. After cracking my phone screen just a few weeks earlier in Monasterio de Piedra, I was not about to let that happen again.
When I finally reached the top of Arthur’s Seat, the view of Edinburgh would have taken my breath away even if the wind hadn’t. I could see all the city’s highlights including Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill, and Scott Monument. The view was incredible and I soaked in as much as I could while struggling to maintain my balance at the peak. I was weightless atop of the volcano, as if I could just float away if I lifted my arms up. I felt like I had conquered Edinburgh atop that volcano!
The descent to the base of the mountain proved to be as nerve-racking as the ascent. The wind that was at one point pushing me toward the top was now blinding me and blowing my hair in every direction. I fought my way down toward the side of the mountain, keeping the wind at my side as I followed the steps down the path. At times my footing was so unsteady that I felt like I was a baby taking my first trip down the stairs.
On a calm, still day, this hike would have been easy, but the wind just isn’t my friend. The peak of Arthur’s Seat? Amazing. The climb up to the top in the blistering cold and fierce wind? Challenging. It took me by surprise because this is the first time I’ve ever felt nervous while hiking! As I walked away from the mountain, I turned around to get one last look at my feat for the day. The sun was shining down on the peak and it almost fooled me into thinking I would be able to feel its warmth if I climbed back up.