|The goal: Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh's inner city mountain.|
After a very pleasant hour on ScotRail, to Waverley Station in downtown Edinburgh, we walked along the Royal Mile to the trailhead at Holyrood Park, the 650 acre piece of highland landscape - right in the middle of the city.
The area was once a 12th century hunting estate. In 1541, it was established as a park by James V of Scotland. His only surviving child became Mary, Queen of Scots - gaining the throne at only 6 days old. Most important for our activity, however, was that it is the site of a volcano which was active about 340 million years ago, in the early Carboniferous times. The plan was to hike to the highest point, Arthur's Seat, rising just over 800 feet above the city. Robert Louis Stevenson described it as "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design". It would be perfect.
|The skies cleared momentarily...and the winds blew.|
We needed a Plan C to assuage our disappointment. Aha, the Salisbury Crags. The broad path between the foot of the crags, and the steep talus or scree slope is called the Radical Road, created by unemployed weavers after the "Radical War" of 1820. It would make a great return route, providing a narrow circuit for the day.
|The "Radical Road", between the base of the crags and the talus slope.|
Scotland's capital, at the foot of Holyrood Park with the Castle at far left.
Pressures in the earth's crust caused the shelf of rock to split and be forced upwards, tilting, and coming to rest at a 25º angle towards the east.
|Formed, uplifted, tilted, eroded...the process continues.|
|Joan, striding purposefully towards the base of the crags.- they were mesmerising.|
|Rock climbing is permitted in the South Quarry.|
Archbishop Ussher's then-accepted "age of the earth" at some 6000 years would be pushed back to a startling 4.5 billion years. Hutton changed the way people thought about the planet. The hard-working archbishop (who must have had a little too much time on his hands) had actually worked out the "birth of the earth" to the minute - 6 pm, on October 22, 4004 BC. Wouldn't he be surprised! :)
Following our "failure" to reach the summit of Arthur's Seat, it turned out to be a truly remarkable day, humbling in so many ways. This is truly an extraordinary planet, unimaginably old. James Hutton's theories of geology and geologic time give perspective to our brief lifespans as human beings. All the more reason to make every moment count. All the more reason to go in search of and value every possible experience out there. All the more reason to set free our inquiring minds about the world around us.
|Tiny dots of walkers (extreme left) give scale to the crags.|
“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
- C.S. Lewis
Plan C, the Salisbury Crags, was much more than an antidote to our missed summit. It was a reminder that failure is only one small step on the path to new discoveries.
We must stay on that path...always.