TOAST Magazine

ARTHUR'S SEAT | BY ROBBIE LAWRENCE

LAND & GARDEN

‘Nature took trouble over the site of Edinburgh’. William Power, The Face of Edinburgh, 1939

I am taking an evening walk with my sister towards Arthur’s Seat, the hill that overlooks my home city of Edinburgh. It is early October, and today, the ancient mound is bathed in the rusty rays of fading summer.

I have walked this path to the hill many times. I was recently commissioned to write a piece about my sense of home and I referenced the anthropomorphic charm of ‘The Seat’, noting that throughout my childhood and adolescent years it provided me with a great source of comfort, like a grandfather quietly sitting in his favourite armchair. Now that I live in Berlin, I take a special pleasure in returning to this place. During school holidays, my friends and I would drink beer on the dry earth of its rising banks as long evenings warmed to dusk. On damp autumn nights, I would often jog round the hill; its great hump rising above me, reassuring in its density. For years, my parents have strolled up here after work to enjoy a brief escape into nature.

Lying between the Pentland Hills and the cobalt blue of the Firth of Forth, Arthur’s Seat, its name pertaining to the legend of the mythical king, offers a view of the entire expanse of Scotland’s capital. When hiking up its steep banks, I am always filled with the same sense of glee felt when setting off on a walk through the icy valleys of The Cairngorms or along the wind swept coasts of East Lothian.

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Today, rather than embark on our usual climb, my sister and I hike along the edge of the Salisbury crags. Formed by an extinct volcano system, this vast cliff was split two million years ago by the creeping fingers of a glacier that left a deep gully running towards the sea. On one side of the gorge lies the hill, and on the other, the broken teeth of the crags, a vertiginous ridge of Basalt cliffs that face the city. There is an architectural quality to this landscape, nature has laid deep foundations here, every line and rivulet, from the curve of the hill to the shards of The Crags seem considered. In the waning light, the dark rock takes on the lustre of burnt sienna. A brisk sea breeze strums the starched grass beneath our feet. We finally stop and take a moment to observe the city below, a city whose identity has been proudly carved through the ages by the turrets and twisted tenements of the medieval old town, the broad, linear grandeur of the Georgian new town and the hulking hill that sits behind us. It is in such moments, where emotions and aesthetics embrace, that I am content to call this place my home.

Photography & words by Robbie Lawrence

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