Arthur's Seat for Schools

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Explore Edinburgh's landscape and the human connections ... Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is an ideal outdoor classroom. I offer excursions for school & university groups, exploring a range of themes. I've also written self-guided resources.


I've worked with Historic Scotland to write a resource for teachers planning a visit to Holyrood Park, which is available for free from Historic Scotland.

Available as a pdf download from the Historic Scotland website.

In 2008-2009 I led the Earth Science Outdoors Project for the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum, developing resources for teachers, to encourage and support outdoor learning within a Curriculum for Excellence.

Earth Science Outdoors project page

Excursions for School & University Groups

I've got wide experience in leading excursions for Primary to University level , exploring themes including volcanoes, plate tectonics, and the forces that have shaped the landscape. A walk through Holyrood Park is an excellent accompaniment to a visit to Dynamic Earth, a chance to explore the local landscape and discover many connections between past events, landscape and society.

"Both P7 classes benefited greatly from their work up Arthur's Seat and did excellent followon activities as a result. I would like to thank you most sincerely for making this such a successful trip." P7 Teacher

What's on offer? The key is flexibility, to fit in to the time you have and the themes you'd like to explore, and the weather conditions on the day. The tours below give you an idea of what can be done, but please get in touch if you'd like something different.

Tour 1: Edinburgh's Landscape. A short walk past the Scottish Parliament and into Holyrood Park. What kinds of rock is Scotland made of? Why has Edinburgh got so many hills, and how have they helped and hindered the development of the city? Explore some of Scotland's rocks outside Dynamic Earth and the Scottish Parliament; look at local maps and explore the shape of the landscape in central Edinburgh; hands-on experiment to discover the different properties of the local rocks and view these rocks (from a safe distance) in the cliffs of Salisbury Crags; use observations and inference to work out what eroded the rocks and what direction the ice sheet was moving in. Suitable for P4-7, S1-2. Suggested duration 1-1.5 hours. Can be adapted as a shorter tour for Primary 2-3.

Tour 2: The volcanoes that shaped Scotland. A low-level walk in Holyrood Park to discover ancient lava flows and discover how volcanic eruptions have helped to create the landscape of central Scotland. Stand on a lava flow and get up close to igneous rocks to discover their strong crystalline structure which has made them tough enough to survive millions of years of erosion. Walk through the park to find samples from the central crater of the Arthur's Seat volcano and think about what it would have been like to be here when the volcano erupted. Suitable for P6-S4. Suggested duration 1.5 hours. Map & Cross Section used during this excursion.

Tour 3: Into the crater: an exploration of the Arthur's Seat volcano. Tailored tours that explore the details of the volcanic eruptions that created Arthur's Seat and offer an opportunity to explore different parts of the volcano and Salisbury Crags. Discover the key role that volcanoes and underground magma intrusions have played in forming the scenery of Edinburgh and in the development of scientific ideas. Suitable for S3 upwards. Suggested duration at least 2 hours.

Key stops that can be visited during a tour include (Click on the map to view a suggested route including the numbered stops listed below. Usually we don't visit every stop but instead I'd suggest an itinerary that fits the theme and the time available):

1. Views of Edinburgh's Hills ... explore how the varied rocks found beneath Edinburgh are responsible for the shape of today's landscape.

2. St Anthony's Well - stand on an ancient lava flow and imagine what Edinburgh was like when the lava was hot (around 340 million years ago). And what's the story of Bob, the smooth, round, polished boulder?

3. The Dasses for a close-up look at some of the crystals that form igneous rocks, and we can appreciate the differences between igneous and sedimentary rocks.

4. The old sandstone quarry to find out more about sedimentary rocks, discover clues to ancient environments and how the rocks of Edinburgh have been used by people.

5. The scree slopes of Arthur's Seat to find rocks from the crater of the ancient volcano, and think about the slow natural processes that are gradually eroding the hill.

6. Hutton's Section to discover the different rocks of Edinburgh and find out about James Hutton, world famous philosopher and the father of modern geology.

7. Salisbury Crags - a great view over Edinburgh, where you can really appreciate the work of the ice grinding over the city from the west, and shaping the hard igneous rocks that form Edinburgh's hills.

There are many options for short and long tours, and different themes. I think it's important that local school groups get out there and explore important sites such as Arthur's Seat, so I keep costs low: guide price £65 for two hours.

Safety is important, and needs to be considered as part of planning any trip. The safety of the group remains the responsibility of the teacher in charge and this individual is responsible for ensuring that all local authority or school regulations and guidelines are complied with. I can offer advice on safety precautions and risk assessments, and I'm a qualified Mountain Leader with a current Emergency Aid certificate. Further notes on Safety & outline Risk Assessment.

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