I first became aware of the Arthur’s Seat Challenge when I saw something about it in the window of the Bicycle Works, sometime ago, and thought must try that one day, then promptly forgot about it. Since moving to the new place which has a view of Arthur’s Seat, the idea has resurfaced in my mind. Today being bright, sunny and a Sunday (therefore part of the road is closed to cars) I thought I would finally give it a try.
Before setting out, mainly as a means of procrastinating, I thought I had better check online for the rules, and discovered two thing which I didn’t know. One, the official Arthur’s Seat Challenge starts on Queen’s Drive just after the turn off by St. Margaret’s Loch and finishes just before Dunsapie Loch, i.e. strait up the steepest climb. Two, perhaps more importantly, the official Arthur’s Seat Challenge is now over. This second fact meant that I was able to ignore the first fact and make up my own Arthur’s Seat Challenge. So in my version of the challenge, you start at the roundabout at the junction of Holyrood Park Road and Queen’s Drive, then cycle clockwise all the way around Arthur’s Seat (note there is a one way system on the road going round the back, do not attempt to do it anti-clockwise).
Sound strait forward enough, being a Sunday the gate was on Queen’s Drive was closed to keep the cars out, but with care you can get round the end on a bike, this was where I started my stopwatch. The road then sweeps down hill with splendid views of Salisbury Craigs to the right. I was surprised to find my self impeded by a northerly wind but I didn’t want to push too hard as I knew I would need energy for the climb to come. Then come another roundabout and another set of gates, once again these can be passed with care. This section of the road is open to traffic, but there was much until after the next roundabout. I had forgotten there were two roundabouts down here and found the cars a real nuisance as the drivers insisted in diving in front of me in order to join the queue for the car park opposite St. Margaret’s Well. This is as far as they can go as there is another set of gates to keep them out, fortunately there is a comfortably wide gap between them to cycle through. The next section is flat easy cycling, taking care to avoid pedestrians who don’t look before crossing the road as there are no cars.
At Duke’s Walk there is yet another set of gates, after these take the right fork and follow Queen’s Drive up the hill. For those with a split time stopwatch, this is were the official Arthur’s Seat Challenge starts, the climb is gentle at first but become progressively steeper. The road is also narrower and unfortunately cars are allowed in, so you have to watch out of the idiots trying to squeeze past. After the first few turns there a few lay-bys which, if not used by parked cars, allow you to pull over to allow the more polite drivers to go passed. As you reach the top of the climb there more lay-bys used by lazy unimaginative people who want to take the shortest way up Arthur’s Seat, another hazard to watch out for. The road now flattens off allowing one the opportunity of breathing again. Follow round passed Dunsapie Loch and round above Duddingston Loch, here there are great views of the Moorfoot Hills to the south and the Pentlands to the west. The road here climbs gently as you head toward a gap in the rocks, as you pass through the gap the City of Edinburgh is laid out before you and the road swoops down hill. Before making a mad dash down the hill try to remember the pedestrians crossing to access the interesting way up Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Craigs, also the roundabout which marks the end of the challenge (well my version). Trying to negotiate and sharp left turn and fumble with a stopwatch, whilst travelling at speed can interesting. Also watch out for cars which have come up to look at the closed gate, the road you are coming out of is one way , so all they can do is turn back the way they came and get in your way.
The route I used it is 5.4 Km long and has a total climb of 90m, see map below. For the record it took me 15 minutes 2 seconds to get from Holyrood Park Road to Holyrood Park Road. Next time I will have to be quicker.
Feel free to add your own times in the comments section below…