MACINTERESTING!

Arthur's Seat

When you walk around Edinburgh it's impossible to ignore Arthur's Seat. Where did the name come from? Was it the legendary King Arthur or something else? There are 4 Arthur's seats in Scotland, if they are all named after him it must be because he sat down a lot.

It might be named after the Gaelic Àrd-na-Said, which means “the height of arrows”. The idea is that the hill is the same height as an archer could shoot. This could be true, but it is definitely a boring idea. If we named everything after something that could be shot, thrown or kicked that high, then my old school would be called “The Height for a Football to get Stuck” and I would be known as “Easy to Throw a Basketball Over”.

What about King Arthur? His story was probably known by people in the Edinburgh area for a long time. Arthur is first mentioned in a poem “Y Gododdin”. It describes warriors who live at Din Eidyn, an old name for the Castle Rock. There they feasted for a year before going into battle at Catraeth. They battled for a year and one warrior is described as a great fighter, but not as good as Arthur. The story ends with nearly all of the warriors being killed. This was almost certainly because they had been eating for so long. My grandmother always said you should wait for 30 minutes after a big meal before doing any exercise.

The important thing about Y Gododdin is that it talks about Arthur and a battle from the 6th Century. If the poem was created just after the battle it must be the earliest mention of the famous king. So maybe Arthur was a Gododdin and lived in Edinburgh. However, it's unlikely that he had a magic sword or a round table. The problem is the poem doesn't say any more about Arthur; there are many other poems that say something very different. How annoying. Why didn't these old poets give names and addresses?