At the heart of the city
Holyrood Park is a dramatic open space in the heart of Edinburgh. Its history is interwoven with that of the city.
Encompassing an area of 259 hectares (640 acres), the park is of considerable archaeological and natural heritage interest. As well as being a Scheduled Ancient Monument it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its diverse flora and geology.
The park also forms an iconic part of Edinburgh’s famous skyline. Quarrying was an important activity within the park from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The quarries along the Salisbury Crags helped inspire James Hutton, the 18th-century ‘father of modern geology’, who demonstrated important theories on Earth’s origins.Prehistoric activity
The discovery of numerous Mesolithic and Neolithic stone and flint tools demonstrate human activity in the park from at least the 5th millennium BC.
By the Bronze Age, people were farming the land and living in small settlements, traces of which survive. One of the most spectacular finds from the area is a hoard of Late Bronze-Age weapons, discovered in Duddingston Loch in 1778.
The rocky slopes of the park were well suited to fortification, and four prehistoric or Dark Age forts are clearly visible on Salisbury Crags, Samson’s Ribs, Arthur’s Seat and Dunsapie Crag. The fort on Dunsapie Crag has traces of houses, possibly from the early Iron Age, preserved in its interior.Religious links
From at least the 12th century the park has had strong religious associations. Its origins as a royal park lie in its ownership by Holyrood and Kelso Abbeys, and its close relationship with Holyrood Abbey is very significant. St Anthony’s Chapel, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking St Margaret’s Loch, is one of the key features in the landscape. People still visit the park today for religious occasions and spiritual fulfilment.A royal pleasure ground
Holyrood Park was a royal pleasure ground for nearly 1,000 years. Its juxtaposition to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is one of its defining characteristics. The park was enclosed in the 1500s, under royal direction. This has greatly aided its conservation.
Royal associations include David I, James IV, James V, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. Albert took a particular interest in the park and organised its landscaping in the 1840s and 1850s, introducing a new drainage scheme and the present layout of roads.Highlights
•Arthur’s Seat – the park’s highest point at 251m above sea level, and site of a large and well-preserved fort.
•The Salisbury Crags – world famous since their association with James Hutton in the 1700s, they dominate the Edinburgh skyline.
•Cultivation terraces – the best-preserved examples in the Lothians, providing evidence of past farming practices. Some of the most striking lie on the east flank of Arthur’s Seat.
•St Anthony’s Chapel – a picturesque medieval ruin commanding fine views.
•Duddingston Loch – with its geese and other birdlife, a haven for locals and visitors alike. Holyrood Park Map and Guide [pdf, 797kb] Holyrood Park Traffic Regulation FAQs [pdf, 32kb]Holyrood Park Ranger service