Edinburgh – New College and Calton Hill

Winter photos to wet your appetite for making a windy climb down from the Royal Mile and up Calton Hill for the fabulous views of Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat and more.

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I took the Hidden Heroines Tour on International Women’s Day (8.3.2019) of places in the city centre where you can find out about famous Edinburgh women.

Carla Nebulosa was our tour guide and she and her team had researched and prepared the itinerary. Originally from Madrid, she delivered it in a personable, even exuberant manner. She has started to write a book of the same name and is looking for donations from the tours to cover her up-front costs.

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Carla (with the hat on, pointing) on the steps of Lady Stair’s Close and the back of the Writers MuseumEdinburgh

St Margaret (1070 – 1093) was an English princess: devout Catholic; charitable; mother of eight; wife to and good influence on King Malcolm; and, most importantly, she established a ferry across to Fife so folk could walk pilgrimage to St Andrews. She is further remembered because the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, part of the Castle, is in her name.

The roots of the summer pilgrimage dates back to June 1250 when the relics of Saint Margaret were translated to a new shrine in Dunfermline Abbey following her canonisation that year by Pope Innocent IV.

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The Witches’ Well can be found at the entrance to the Castle Esplanade. It is a memorial to the women who died unnecessarily as a result of the 1563 Scottish Witchcraft Act

The Witches’ Well, a cast iron fountain and plaque, honors the Scottish women who were burned at the stake between the 15th and 18th centuries. It’s an easy site to miss for people only focusing on the castle that looms ahead. During the 16th century, more women were murdered at this site than anywhere else in Scotland. Each victim was denied a proper trial.

The Witches’ Well
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The Witches’ Well, Atlas Obscura, Edinburgh

We visited sites associated with Catherine Sinclair (novelist 1800 – 1864), Susan Ferrier (novelist 1782 – 1854), and Elsie Inglis (doctor and suffragist 1864 – 1917). Inglis was one of the first women to be educated at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, though later she transferred to Glasgow to complete. I always remember her name as I went to visit my friend Tracy in the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital (1925 – 1988), the day she gave birth to her first daughter, Gemma.

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St Cuthbert’s from Princes Street Gardens where Susan Edmonstone Ferrier is buried, Edinburgh
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Looking towards Abbeyhill, site of the former Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital, Edinburgh

Mary Somerville, featured on the £10 note, was a Scottish scientist (1780 – 1872) and she gave her name to one of the houses at my secondary school in Tonbridge, Kent, so I was pleased to hear her mentioned.

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Bank of Scotland, The Mound on the left with the green dome, Edinburgh

Lady Mary Shepherd was born to the Primrose family (1777 – 1847) just outside Edinburgh. A Scottish philosopher, she wrote two philosophical books (1824 criticising the views of David Hume, and 1827 on the perceptions of an external universe) which were influential in Edinburgh philosophical circles at the time. (thanks Wikipedia)


She finds them (the main tenets of the Scottish school) unable to sustain scientific inquiry, everyday practical reasoning, and belief in an almighty deity.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

You can add your signature to a petition here to get a statue erected to her, if you like.

Detail from painting by Alexander Nasmyth, depicting the family of
Neil 3rd Earl of Rosebery in the grounds of Dalmeny House.
Courtesy of Dalmeny Estates

Bessie Watson was the youngest bagpipe playing suffragette! Born in Edinburgh in 1900, she was encouraged to play to strengthen her lungs as prevention against tuberculosis which ran in the family. Look at her little pale face! She joined the WSPU, the Women’s Social and Political Union, with her mother, marching down Prince’s Street in 1909 to celebrate ‘what women have done and can and will do’.

Bessie Watson
Princes Street, Edinburgh


Jane Haining was ‘A farmer’s daughter from Galloway in south-west Scotland, Jane was a Church of Scotland missionary, and went to the Scottish Jewish Mission School in Budapest in 1932, where she worked as a boarding school matron in charge of around 50 orphan girls. The school had 400 pupils, most of them Jewish. Jane was back in the UK on holiday when war broke out in 1939, but she immediately went back to Hungary to do all she could to protect the children at the school. She refused to leave in 1940, and again ignored orders to flee the country in March 1944 when Hungary was invaded by the Nazis. She remained with her pupils, writing ‘if these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness’.” Her brave persistence led to her arrest in by the Gestapo in April 1944, for “offences” that included spying, working with Jews and listening to the BBC. She died in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz just a few months later, at the age of 47.’ There is a fitting memorial to her on Calton Hill. There is a book about her, Jane Haining, A Life of Love and Courage by Mary Miller published by Birlinn.

Jane Haining memorial, Calton Hill, Edinburgh


Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (1851 – 1911) was a Scottish astronomer active in the United States. During her career, she helped develop a common designation system for stars and cataloged thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena. ‘One of nine children of a Scottish craftsman and his wife, she already knew the cold reality of family survival. Her father had died when she was seven; at 14, she had become a student teacher to help support her mother and siblings. At 20, she had married a Dundee bank employee and widower, James Orr Fleming, 16 years her senior—who would abandon her and their unborn child shortly after her arrival in the United States. Despite it all, “Mina” Fleming would rise to a key position in Harvard’s astronomy program and be hailed as the nation’s preeminent woman astronomer..(classifying) by far the most extensive star compilation of the era.’

The Edinburgh Observatory, now the Collective Gallery, Calton Hill, Edinburgh (not my photo)
‘Edinburgh’s Acropolis’, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The Hidden Heroines tour took in women of politics, literature, medicine, education, witches and business and I highly recommend it if it is ever held again.

Shetland – research and preparation for my first trip

May 2020

On 2nd May, I was supposed to be making my first visit to Shetland – by train and ferry, from capital to capital, via Aberdeen. However, with the restrictions on travel and interpersonal contact imposed as a result of Covid-19 virus still in place in the UK, I cannot go until the lockdown has been lifted. My visit will now be virtual.

The North Sea – coming into Stromness, Orkney – a mere 32 miles from Thurso on the north coast of Scotland

From Leith to Lerwick

During my initial research, I discovered that when, in 1836 the Aberdeen, Leith and Clyde Shipping Company extended a route from Leith Docks to Lerwick, Shetlanders started using it to trade wool, lace and knitted items for the markets down south. I have lived in or very close to Leith for many years and this started me thinking – perhaps I could also make a return trip, but in reverse, and maybe I would find out what it was and is like to cross 216 miles of North Sea. It must have been a real culture shock, coming from a rural crofting community to a noisy city. I remembered how hard the lads from Fife farms had found it when they started dance college in London – many returned within the first term.

The River Medway at Yalding – on which side were you born?

I have thought a great deal about home and belonging over the years. I am English, born a ‘Kentish Maiden (KM)’ south of London. (It depends which side of the River Medway you were born as to whether you are a KM or a ‘Maid of Kent’). Also referred to as the ‘Garden of England’, Kent is where I am staying at the moment, with my mum. I left home when I was 18 years old, spent some time in Wales in my 20s, and moved to Edinburgh where I have lived for 30 years. In 2016, I began a new phase: six months of each year travelling in Europe, and six at home. I feel comfortable when I am away, I am not homesick and my and others’ relationship to their homeland is something I want to continue to try and understand more through this trip.

Puffin (tammie norrie) Shetland taken by Lesley

Walking and talking with women about home

I was hoping to invite women to walk with me when I was there, and talk about their home on Shetland as well as what it is like to leave, live elsewhere, and then go back. I am interested in what brings about a sense of belonging. The act of walking is one which can ground us, ease the flow of conversation, and connect with what can be called ‘home’, the earth. As I walk where I am and they walk where they are, I hope we can have a fruitful chat about this subject.

Much of Shetland’s business is in fishing. Photo Lesley

While I cannot go in person, I can identify some benefits in making an imaginery journey. As an inveterate walker, I had planned to explore as much of the mainland as possible on foot. I knew I would start in Lerwick for practical reasons, but from there it would depend on invitations received and what turned up, caught my interest. Now that I will be travelling virtually and ‘meeting’ folk on the phone or Zoom, I can zip backwards and forwards from Bressay in the east to Papa Stour in the west, from Unst in the north to Sumburgh on the southern tip without having to worry about ferry or bus connections. Although I would prefer to smell the real scent of the Loch of Spiggie and hear the actual squawks of the skua on the Noss coastal path, it will be quicker to get around!

Here is Christine De Luca speaking in Shetlandic, the dialect of the archipelago, sometimes called auld or broad Shetland / Shaetlan. Recorded by Wikitongues.

‘I wis boarn and bred in Shetland an maist o mi childhood wis spent in Waas….. – it means ‘Inlets o da sea’, an hit hed a fundamental effect on me, bein browt up in a croftin/ fishin community aa mi childhood. Whin I cam awa tae Edinburgh whaar I bide noo, an I’ve bidden for 50 year, hit wis redder awe-inspirin an scary.’

Direct from Christine De Luca recorded by Wikitongues
Leith, Edinburgh taken by Anna Jane

I recently lead a walk in Leith focused on some of the women who lived there in the past (Walking Between Worlds) although I was unable to find much information about women from Shetland. I am on the look-out for stories about women from these far-flung northern Isles, accounts of the sea trip (the route has been discontinued), or people who have passed-down tales from friends and relations.

Photo courtesy of Visit Scotland

Aims

  1. Get a female perspective of the Isles – now and in the past
  2. Look at the topic of ‘home’: leaving home, returning, living and working there and away, in general
  3. Start to understand a particularly female viewpoint of home and belonging, specifically the northernmost islands which have a chequered relationship with Scotland and Scandinavia.
Shetland wildflowers and nets. Photo Lesley

Thanks to Isobel Cockburn for the title photo of a loom in the Textiles Museum, Lerwick

Dalry Cemetery

A photo essay – Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

It was Autumn, season of the falling away of summer foliage and the start of nature’s melancholy. On the day I happened upon this place, on a walk from Slateford to Tollcross, rays of sunlight lit up corners and features of the deserted graveyard.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

There was sadness there, of course, but also a lightness and positivity. I find beauty in every season, and the shift from one to the other, the inevitable transformation, often calls for contemplation on what is passing, and what may be to come.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘Death dismantled them’ (she was writing about Rumi, Christ, Yogananda). ‘It cannot be undone, it can only be carried’.

Megan Devine
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

 ‘I looked up darkness on the Web…. there is always death. We say death is darkness; and darkness is death’.  

Because of the metaphorical dark, the death dark, we were constantly concerned to banish the natural dark’.

Kathleen Jamie pages 3 and 10 of ‘Findings’
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

There are times when we feel that death is closer than usual, and very often the news is full of it, as it is today. Some block it out because it is too hard to face, others have no choice but to deal with loss and the complicated practicalities it brings. Still others will realise that the proximity of unexpected demise can be a good thing in some ways.

“A close conversing with death … would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us …”

Daniel Dafoe 
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

For five thousand years we have used darkness as the metaphor of our mortality. We are at the mercy of merciless death, which is darkness. When we died, they [neolithic people who built Maes Howe] sent a beam of midwinter light in among our bones. What a tender, potent gesture. In the Christian era, we were laid in our graves to face the rising sun. ‘

Kathleen Jamie, ‘Findings’ p 24
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.’.

The Bible, Isaiah

This is not a religious blog, I am not a church goer, but I do notice that when we know sorrow, it means we will also recognise happiness as its opposite when it returns; when we experience grief, then, too, we will recognise love. Living through the death of someone throws the light on these inevitable aspects of life.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

English poet and hymnodist, William Cowper, described grief itself as medicine. Grief cleanses the anguish from our souls and sets us back up on the path of life so we can dance. 

Bible Study Tools
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

In these days of Covid-19 (we are still in lockdown in the UK as I write) there are a few more articles about death in the media than normal. The Guardian’s Yuval Noah Harari wrote, ‘Some might well argue that…the crisis should teach us humility. We shouldn’t be so sure of our ability to subdue the forces of nature…..While humanity as a whole becomes ever more powerful, individual people still need to face their fragility…We have to own up to our transience.”

My greatest fear is that my daughters will die, so you can imagine what I felt when I found this grave stone with the eldest’s name on. Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘the relentlessness of mortal lives. Even as we spoke the moments were passing.’

Circe, Madeline Miller P. 197
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

For me, the acknowledgement that I do not know when I will die is something I remind myself of every day. It helps me put things into perspective. I might not live to a ripe old age, so I ask myself, ‘What is the most important thing right now?’

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

Access to the Dalry Cemetery is on Dundee Street near its join with henderson terrace and it backs onto Dalry Road in Edinburgh. See Find A Grave dot com

A synchronised Edinburgh walk

When I travel away from Edinburgh, my aim is clear: either to walk Pilgrimage (taking the paths people have trodden before me, where their steps have created tangible layers of spiritual tradition); or to explore a given area, what to me is virgin territory.

But when I am home, my walks are more prosaic – to and from work and the shops for my messages (used in Scotland, meaning errands) – placing my feet on known land, pavements I have walked so many times. Then my focus is on forging new connections between familiar places, seeing the same views from alternative perspectives and finding something new in them.

On Jan 11, I joined in the Snapshot Synchronised Walk (Women Who Walk Network) taking a route from Causewayside in a near-straight line to York Place.

After a day of teaching, a good tramp is therapeutic. Via ghostly vennels, northwards along narrow-walled passageways, up slopes, down flights of steep steps, I discovered a gothic-glowing steeple, a jaundiced arch lit by 19th century streetlamps, and scary blue eyes in a repurposed church. The extra-mundane exuded from the normal.

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Corner of South St Andrew’s Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

I walked Causewayside from Sainsburys, past Summerhall with its ghoulish green up-lighting,

I meandered along the edge of the Meadows, and the South Loch Gin Distillery (which I hadn’t seen before),

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South Loch Gin Distillery, Edinburgh, Scotland

I kept the University on my left,

Until I glimpsed the rear of the National Museum.

I picked my way over the cobbles of West College Street,

Across Chambers Street,

Down steps to meet Guthrie Street half way,

Crossed the Cowgate and took a mini-right to find Stevenlaw’s Close (which I didn’t know was there). Looking right I paused to snap the Stramash Live Music Bar.

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Stramash Live Music Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland

On the opposite side of the High Street was Fleshmarket Close,

On the opposite side of Cockburn Street was the downhill flight past the Halfway House:

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The Balmoral Hotel in the distance, on the corner of North Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland

Through Waverley Station and up the other side, I crossed Princes Street and took South St Andrew’s Street where I popped my head into the old Bank of Scotland which has become a mighty fine looking hotel.

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The old Bank of Scotland building, St Andrew’s Square, now The Edinburgh Grand, Edinburgh, Scotland

I posted a thank you letter in a pastel pink envelope I had been carrying in my bag for a few days, to my sister in London.

The rain came on.

The wind blew me through the bus station (where a small bag of mini-cheddars were outrageously priced) and out onto York Place, carefully avoiding trapping my toes in the tram lines.

Rounding the corner to Broughton Street I found that the bus stop was closed – again.

All the way down that road I tripped, head down because of the driving wind,

…where I waited 7 minutes, as my coat became increasingly sodden, before taking the bus to my home by the sea.

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Sunset from my apartment, a few days later

 

Edinburgh – photos to inspire you to take a walk

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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.

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Scottish National Gallery, the Mound. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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National Galleries of Scotland, Princes Street Gardens entrance. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Scottish National Gallery, Princes Street. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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St Cuthbert’s Church, Lothian Road. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Churchyard, St Cuthbert’s Church, Lothian Road (entrance also from Princes Street gardens, west end). Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian, Lothian Road. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The Flodden Wall (George IV Bridge near Greyfriar’s Church). Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Greyfriar’s Kirk (church), George IV Bridge. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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View from graveyard of Greyfriar’s Kirk (church), George IV Bridge towards Cental Library. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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View from graveyard. Greyfriar’s Kirk (church), George IV Bridge. Towards Forest Row. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Greyriar’s Bobby (dug / dog). Notice his shiny nose where people rub it for good luck. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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St Giles Cathedral and Mercat Cross, Royal Mile. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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View from the Bank of Scotland building, the Mound – Princes Street and the Scott Monument. Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Princes Street Gardens, Scott Monument and the Balmoral Hotel (North Bridge). Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Live music at the Mound (Scott Monument in the background). Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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St John’s Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Carlton Hill with street lamps and clouds, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Drumsheugh Gardens, New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Douglas Gardens, New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The Water of Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The Old Cinema, Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Granton to South Queensferry, Edinburgh walk

Granton Harbour (built in the 1830s and historical site of the first electric car factory) to South Queensferry – an easy and utterly heavenly walk which takes you along the shore, through woodland and between agricultural pastures.

This blog contains directions for the walk, together with a collection of observations.

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Bluebell woods, Rosebery Estate, Scotland.

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Agricultural land, Rosebery Estate, Scotland.

Today was everything that is quintessentially reminiscent of my childhood in British springtime: bluebell woods and wild flowers by the path side.

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Cow parsley, Silverknowes, Scotland.

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Wild garlic.

I left at 11.20 and arrived at 4.20, but as my friend Ann said when she told me about this walk on Friday, it depends how many times you stop! I think I probably had half an hour at the cafe and half on the beach so I would allow 4 hours.

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The Cramond Falls Cafe is in the woods along the Rover Almond Walkway, Scotland.

It was shorts-n-tshirt weather.

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Broadwalk Beach Club (cafe), Cramond Foreshore, Silverknowes, Scotland. Note the wide path (car free).

Thanks to Krista for this quote onbeing.org

“The natural world is where we evolved.
It’s where our minds evolved.
It’s where we became who we truly are,
and it’s where we are most at home.”
– Michael McCarthy –

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The old light house where Janis used to store her Scenehouse (professional set design training) costumes. Granton, Edinburgh.

It starts among wasteland and industrial plots – either side of West Harbour Road.

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The Big Red Bus company Vintage Routemaster bus hire, special occasions etc run by friends.

Once away from the traffic, I saw a circle of gulls mimicking a mothers group, just out at sea; a pair of multi-coloured sparrow-small birds (red, black, brown and white) which played by the water line; eider ducks swam by – she brown and he black and white.

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The first sight of the sea – you cannot quite see the Forth rail bridge in the photo but you can with the naked eye.

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The little girl who held her mother’s hand was leaping for joy over the waves.

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Inchkeith Island in the distance, one of the many small islands in the Firth of Forth.

The tarmac way stretching from Granton through Silverknowes (1 mile) to Cramond is perfect for wheels of all sorts – scooters, roller skates and blades, prams, wheelchairs and bikes. Dad said, ‘look no hands’, and wobbled dangerously. As he passed me he muttered, ‘harder on this bike’!

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The little white blob on the left was a baby enjoying picking up stones while her mum had a quiet smoke.

It can be crowded at weekends at this stage, but at other times so very peaceful. As I passed, I caught the fragrance of elderflower and meadowsweet. The Edinburgh airport flight path is parallel to this trek so planes roared periodically overhead.

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The area is full of history, with boards located at intervals which tell you about it .

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On one side, the sea, on the other private parkland with trees in between

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Almond House Lodge, Marine Drive, Edinburgh.

Past Gypsy Brae, I spied Almond House Lodge. At the corner you can cross to Cramond Island at low tide but beware! people often get stranded.

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Cramond Island and the familiar sight of white yachts racing, Scotland.

On the left are public toilets and then a steep slope up to the village. By now you will have passed two ice-cream vans. There are two cafes: the Cramond Gallery Bistro near where the Roman statue of a lionness was dredged up in 1977, and further on past the marina, the Cramond Falls cafe. There I stopped for a delicious green tea and what was not really a scone but nice cherry cake just out of the oven. I sat in the ‘walled garden’ listening to a woman read out a most distressing text from her son.

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Yacht moored at the mouth of the Almond River, Scotland.

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Part of the marina on the River Almond. You can see the ferry house opposite where a small boat took people across in the past.

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The picturesque River Almond, Scotland.

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The weir at Caddell’s Row, River Almond, Scotland. Look out for herons here!

A duckling was nudged by its mother; a tan-headed crested grebe ducked and reappeared, its tuft upright though wet. Thin, shiny-green beech leaves seemed almost plasticky, matching the weed drifting in the river. The sound of bubbling water and the ‘creep creep’ of birds surrounded me.

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One of a pair of women in serious sun hats were the first to say ‘good morning’, an hour and a half into my walk. She was American. ‘Oh’, she said as I went past, ‘I’ve been saying good morning all this time and it’s the afternoon!’ and laughed. Later there were many friendly families of cyclists cheerfully greeting me.

The path is generally very easy to follow, but do keep taking the right hand fork if you have a choice.

Take a right at Dowies Mill Lane where there is a playpark and Shetland ponies. I realised I was already at the field I was told about and, yes, there was an immediately newborn foal in a woman’s arms. Last week’s littl’un was being trotted round the field by mum. The two other adult horses were curious, and crowded round the shed door.

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Then right again at Cramond Brig (bridge). (You could go left for the cycle path back to Edinburgh, or straight on for the continuation of the Almond Walkway).

After Bridge Cottage (above), go up the lane by the Cramond Brig Inn and keep right until there are signs to South Queensferry. The road travels through the Dalmeny Estate by a bank of comfrey, white dead nettle, dandelions, pink campion and buttercups. Flies looped the loop after each other in front of my nose. A cuckoo called; a bee buzzed by my ear; white cherry-blossom petals wafted.

Keep straight on.

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Allotment holders delight!

Look to the right to see Granton’s very own disused gas building frame thing.

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Granton’s disused gas works, Waterfront Park, Edinburgh. Taken in 2015 with the old camera!

When when you get close to the sea take the left fork signed John Muir Way (JM Way).

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A group of women came up behind me with their Glasgow accents. Actually, all day I heard almost as many foreign languages as I hear when walking in mainland Europe.

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Turn left again at the beach. Here one can take a tiny right hand détour to lie on warm sand and sit on the promontory of Eagle Rock with its chocolate seams, in a beige cove. I looked back to my right at Cramond Harbour with a beautiful view of the island.

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Eagle Rock, Scotland.

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I meditated on the sound of the waves and tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore the fly crawling up my arm. I smelled the beautiful briney sea (sing-along-a Bedknobs and Broomsticks fans).

Oyster catchers, and curlews with long sabre-curved beaks perched on the starboard side.

At the cottages, stay right on the JM Way.

There was a coconut scent of warm gorse here. The ash trees had young leaves, no black nibs to decorate them now as it is April. I stopped and hung over the dinky wooden bridge and heard a bumble bee and the trickling brook.

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The path continued beside the golf links, opposite the Fife Coastal Path.

Two geese flew over and honked. It is definitely spring – everything and everyone is in pairs. I will be honest, I want the whole world to be in love.

First I walked past the impressive Dalmeny House and very shortly afterwards, the grey stone Barnbougle Castle owned by the Earl of Rosebery and extremely private. This is where I saw my first magenta rhododendron buds. I was on cycle route 76 as well as the JM Way.

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Dalmeny House, Scotland.

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Barnbougle Castle

A great arc of precisely patterned oyster catchers alighted in front of the couple who sat quietly side-by-side at the shoreline. Later I spot them (the birds!) lined up neatly, a flock on a rock, like white cake icing.

I past a mum taking a snap of dad up a tree, son in his bike helmet looking up into the branches nervously. As I waded through springy undergrowth to get a shot, I disturbed spider filaments which clung to me and tickled as I got back to the path. There were cerise stalks and seed cases of the sycamore and pollen yellow clutch of unfurled ferns.

To my mind it was a shame about the yapping dogs on the beach and the droning of the water motorbikes; but a kid hurling stones, boys paddling and little girls rock pooling all seemed somewhat idyllic.

‘Do you trust me’ asked a lady’, shrilly? And then she laughed with a wicked stepmother sort of laugh. A black lab with a ruby, lolling tongue implied, ‘you might want to lie down but I want you to throw the stick’.

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I passed out of the Dalmeny Estate through the Longcraig Gate at South Queensferry. If you do not want to walk the way I did, you can park at the foot of the rail bridge there and walk part of the way in the other direction. You could also take the train from Edinburgh to Dalmeny Town and cycle (£4.70 return with Scotrail).

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The rail bridge over the Firth of Forth with a view of the new road bridge between its legs.

A lad said, ‘Don’t you hate it when you get a speck of sand between your toes and then there’s a blister?’

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Under the famous rail bridge I found myself on New Halls Road where perhaps 50 bikers with their beards and bald heads brummed their engines. I had a half of Holyrood pale ale in The Hawes Inn.

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The iconic Firth of Forth red rail bridge. The one they have to start paining again as soon as they have finished.

There are many steep steps to the station and tiny little signs. When you find yourself in the middle of a housing estate, go straight on (not right) and it is on the left. (I am not quite sure why I got a return except that my head is always ‘mince’ after a walk. The guard said if he had sold it to me on the train he could have refunded it!)

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7 things to do in Edinburgh when it rains

Scotland has a bit of reputation when it comes to the weather! If you live here, you know that there can be gloriously sunny, crisp days when it is a pleasure to be alive. However, it does rain sometimes, even in the summer, so here are some of my favourite places to go on those wet days!

  1. The National Museum of Scotland

This magnificent building is on Chambers Street, just 15 minutes’ walk from Princes Street in the city centre. Free entry.

Magnificent main hall of the Edinburgh Chambers Street museum
The National Museum of Edinburgh

There are interactive things for kids (and big kids!) including machines and massive stuffed animals; fascinating Scottish historical artefacts displayed in creative ways; original temporary exhibitions; plus it is warm; there is a decent cafe; free wifi ….

Frieze of Greek figures found in National Museum of Scotland
Atalanta and Hippomenes

…. jewellery, spacecraft, dinosaurs, Buddhas, death masks and the bizarre and wonderful Millennium Clock made by Tim Stead and others, which clatters and whirrs every hour, plays Bach and is just a must-see.

Huge Buddha sitting, right hand raised, eyes closed
Giant Buddha, National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street

2. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Whilst being equally grand and beautiful, in contrast the inside of this building is made of darker wood with a silent sweep of staircase. Look up in awe at the iconic painted panels of Scottish queens and kings all around its walls.

The facade of the Portrait Gallery with towers and statues
The National Portrait Gallery, Queens Street, Edinburgh

Do not miss the shrunken heads in the bijou library; the originally flavoured scones in the cafe; or the modern portraits such as the brooding Naomi Mitchison (novelist), sexy Michael Clark (dancer) and David Mach’s collage of Gavin Hastings (Rugby player). Free entry.

3. The Filmhouse

Home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can view the best of independent cinema here on Lothian Road.

The Usher (concert) Hall, steps and facade
The famous Usher Hall opposite the Filmhouse on Lothian Road, Edinburgh

With 3 screens showing work from around the world, and a lively cafe where there is often a very interesting art exhibition, you can also browse and buy from the idiosyncratic film shelves, and the tickets are affordable.

3. The Dovecot cafe by Leo’s

The Dovecot is a weaving gallery where tapestries are being woven while you walk around it!

A row of 4 chairs with Orla Kiely fabric
Orla Kieley chairs at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh

Found in the old Infirmary Street swimming baths (where there is also a small gift shop with original ware), the highlight is the amazing viewing gallery where you can watch the Master Weavers at work. This cafe, brought to you by Leos Beanery which has its own outlet at 23A Howe Street, EH3 6TF, serves delicious cakes, yummy savouries and good coffee. Free entry.

4. Glenogle Swimming Baths

These restored Victorian baths have a modern sauna and gym with Pilates and yoga classes.

Two ducks swimming on the Water of Leith, Edinburgh
A lovely day for ducks!

Located in the crook of the Water of Leith, among the attractive colonies housing area which is very near the trendy Stockbridge part of Edinburgh, you can exercise and relax, with or without children, calming your nervous system as you float, and emerging clean and sparkling afterwards.

5. Waterstone’s bookshop

skillfully written essays about the Scottish landscape , birds and sea mammals
Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World by Kathleen Jamie

Waterstone’s is part of a national chain of bookshops and is quite grand in its own way, the initial flight of stairs splitting to take you right and left to the different departments and the mezzanine floor to the cafe which has a great view of Edinburgh Castle. You can cosy down in a warm carpeted corner and transport yourself into the world of Trainspotting (Irvine Walsh’s gritty novel set in Edinburgh’s Leith) or Hogwarts of course (the Harry Potter books written in part at the Elephant House cafe by J.K. Rowling).

Book cover of Madeleine Bunting
Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey

6. St Mary’s Cathedral

Get away from the noise and crowds for some quiet contemplation in St Mary’s Episcopalian Cathedral. See the contemporary and colourful stained glass, especially the Paolozzi window; and the radiant glow of ‘The Presence’, a painting by the Edinburgh artist A.E. Borthwick from 1910.

The steeples of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
St Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh

7. Central Library

Funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, look out for the stunning ceiling of the George Washington Browne room, the hidden Fine Art library (wooden tables and chairs as you would imagine from your childhood), and a substantial local history / Scottish section.

Decorative tiles on the stair wall of the central Library, Edinburgh
Get Wisdom – tiles at Central Library, Edinburgh

Downside: the toilets are in the basement, but, upside, you get to see some lesser known art as you wind your way down there.

Finding wifi

And, finally, I know when I am travelling I need to keep in contact with friends and family and if I am having trouble with my phone I need wifi: Try the Fruitmarket Gallery cafe where you can also see contemporary art exhibitions of the highest calibre.

Silhouette of the Edinburgh Castle on the Mound
Edinburgh Castle after the rain

The National Museum of Scotland is at Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF. Tel: 0300 123 6789. Link above

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Open daily, 10am-5pm. Free admission (Charge for some exhibition). 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD enquiries@nationalgalleries.org

Filmhouse. 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ. Box Office: 0131 228 2688. Open from 10am – 9pm daily

Dovecot Studios Ltd 10 Infirmary Street EH1 1LT +44 (0)131 550 3660
Gallery & Shop open Mon-Sat: 10.30am – 5.30pm.Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony open Mon-Fri 12-3pm and Sat 10.30am-5.30pm

Discover Edinburgh: Granton to the Castle

A walk from the sea to the Castle!

It takes about an hour if you do not take photos, have a coffee, or stop to smell the flowers.

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Before you turn right or left out of the gate, cross the road and sit a while to admire our view of the Firth of Forth and Inchkeith Island.

Then turn your back on the Firth of Forth (and the Kingdom of Fife across the water – see blog here) and take the road to your left, Granton Place for the first stage:

Suburban Walking

This short part of the walk will give you a glimpse of the Granton and Boswall residential areas and I am sure you will appreciate the number of green spaces and trees. At the end of Granton Place turn left. At the T junction turn right (small park ahead where people are sure to be playing with their dogs), and cross over so that you are next to its railings. Go round and up Boswall Drive on the right and past a small shop / post office on your left. (There are not many of these left in local places in the UK, so we are all very grateful to the family who keep it alive.) You will walk along this avenue of trees and houses, past another community pasture on your right, and Wardie Bowling Club, founded in 1930, opposite (Bowls: a peculiarly British pastime). Keep going up. If you are on a bicycle, you can go right at Boswall Avenue and join the cycle track at the end of the road on the left.

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The Edinburgh cycle tracks follow the old railway lines, a vast network of quiet, safe by-ways.

Otherwise, continue walking until you get to another T junction, this time with the busy main Ferry Road and turn left. Immediately think about crossing over because you will want to take Arboretum Road which is on the other side. However there is likely to be a lot of traffic and so you might prefer to walk along to the left until you get to the crossing at the top of Granton Road facing the church, and then walk back a little way.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and Inverleith Park

Now you will have the sports playing fields on your right (they might be playing cricket if it is a weekend) and you will start to head downhill, keeping straight, crossing a mini roundabout where you have a lovely choice: either walk through the hedge and into Inverleith Park:

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where there is a little pathway parallel to the road on the other side of the hedge.

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And you have the option of a detour: to go into the park, right and forwards to the opposite corner, where you will discover Inverleith pond

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and this view of Edinburgh (from Inverleith Park) on a clear day.

Or on the left is the world famous Edinburgh Botanic Gardens where my kids and I spent many a happy day amongst the flowers, trees and sculptures come rain (there are extensive tropical glass houses) or shine.

This is a long road (it becomes Arboretum Place) but you can buy yourself a ice cream opposite the West Gate to the Gardens half way down to boost your energy levels.

Water of Leith

When you get to Inverleith Terrace on your left, cross over, and instead take Arboretum Avenue which is even more downhill because you are about to come to the Water of Leith, our city river (seen below, winter and Spring).

Quite soon take a hidden left turn (which if you carried on would take you past the lovely Glenogle Colonies (houses) to Cannonmills and Leith along the Water of Leith walkway). However, if you are carrying on into town to the Castle, take this opening but immediately afterwards open the gate on the right and go through to a tiny wooded path with the river on your left. At the end of the path is another gate (opposite the tennis courts) and you turn left out of there, walking on down to the end of that road where it joins Bridge Place (go left to the Colonies and the charming Glenogle swimming baths) veering right to come to the rather active Raeburn Place and Stockbridge.

Stockbridge

Stockbridge is a lively part of Edinburgh: full of tasty cafe food (Patisserie Florentin, The Pantry, Soderberg); Saturday brunch (Hector’s); pubs (The Stockbridge Tap); excellent charity shops (Mary’s Living and Giving, the Oxfam book); and artisan gifts (Caoba, Sheila Fleet). Not to mention the famous Sunday Farmers Market. So here is a good location to stop, browse or sit and have a coffee.

So, you have now entered Raeburn Place between the two pubs mentioned above, and  turned left past Sainsburys. Just over the bridge (past Pizza Express) on the left there are free public toilets (also not many of these now!) on Hamilton Place. At this junction / traffic lights on the right is an entrance onto the Water of Leith walkway which will take you to The Gallery of Modern Art (approximately 1 mile, 25 minutes) if you are so inclined.

But we are going uphill steeply now to the Edinburgh New Town, so walk through the shaded, sandy market place (to your left is NW Circus Place) and turn right onto Gloucester Lane into the…

Edinburgh New Town (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

This famous area of elegant Georgian houses stretches east-west on this north side of Princes Street and encompasses many delights.

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The Edinburgh Georgian New Town.

Walk up Gloucester Lane and take the second on the right which is Doune Terrace. Faced with the garden, turn right onto Moray Place (below).

The road curves round and right onto Great Stuart Street, then left onto Ainslie Place (sounds complicated but it is not!). Now it is left again as you head up through a slightly busy traffic intersection between St Colme St and Glenfinlas Street. Go up Glenfinlas Street on the right there, and carry straight on by the side of Charlotte Square where there is a memorial of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, in the middle. Charlotte Square is the home of the annual Edinburgh Book Festival (11 – 27 August 2018) and the Georgian House owned by the National Trust for Scotland). If you are lost, ask for Charlotte Square as everyone knows where that is.

Keep straight, along Hope Street (Whighams Wine Cellar is on your left – you might need a glass of grape after all that climbing!), to the department store – House of Fraser and Cafe Nero – on the corner of:

Prince (not Princess) Street

where you will see – look upwards, slightly to the left and ahead of you –

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The Edinburgh Castle.

Princes Street is our main shopping street with clothes, mobile phone, book and divers other shops on one side and, delightfully, Princes Street Gardens (I did tell you there were lots of ‘green spaces’ in this city!) on the right. It stretches all the way along and includes the National Gallery and the Scott Monument.

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The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinbugh.

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The Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.

Do not go along to the right if you are still wanting the Castle. Rather, find your way right across this busy thoroughfare and go up Lothian Road (another landmark which everyone will know). Look right because you might just see a filmstar coming out of the Waldorf Astoria hotel! The Edinburgh International Film Festival is 20 June – 1 July 2018. On the left is the grand St John’s Episcopal church with St Cuthbert’s Church of Scotland behind it.

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St John’s Episcopal church, Lothian Road, Edinburgh.

Going up Lothian Road, the first left comprises two streets: first, Kings Stables Road which takes you to the Grassmarket (a venue for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival (13 – 22 July 2018) with cafes, pubs, and designer clothes shops as well as a backpackers hostel and urban garden); and immediately afterwards, Castle Terrace which takes you where you want to go, ie the Castle.

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The Grassmarket, Edinburgh.

As you walk all the way up Castle Terrace, you will get magnificent sights of the Castle. Take the steps (if you are still fit) on the left when you are almost there, and you will come out onto the Castle Esplanade with amazing views of Edinburgh, beyond and all around. It costs £18.50 (£17 in advance if you book online) and is full of jewels and weapons. You can walk around for free. Enjoy!

Here is a link to my centre of Edinburgh walk which starts at the Castle. It might be for another day!

If you want to return by bus, walk back down Castle Terrace, turn right onto Lothian Road, back to the House of Fraser department store which is at the top of Queensferry Street and on the left (beside the delicious pastries of Patisserie Maxime) you can take the #19 bus (£1.70 exact money) and get off at Granton Square where it is a short walk up Granton View on the right.

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Sunset over the Firth of Forth from Granton to Inchkeith Island.

This blog has been written for my air bnb guests. If you have a smartphone, download the Granton View – Edinburgh Castle map before you start. Just in case you need extra directions.

More about the Grassmarket – the page takes a long time to load because of the many adverts, but there are also entertaining facts.

Edinburgh – Athens of the North

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The iconic Edinburgh Castle standing on a volcanic plug, estimated to have formed some 350 million years ago.

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It was a prison in the late 18th century, and before that a fortress involved in the Jacobite Rising in 1745.

 

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On a good day you get a wonderful view from the Castle esplanade.

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Listen out for the bagpipes! Today he must have had very, very cold fingers.

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When you approach from Castle Terrace from the west you might already be in the Highlands. It dominates the city and attracts more visitors than any other monument in Scotland, but it is therefore very expensive to visit.

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Very close by are the bonny Ramsey Garden private apartments.

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The Camera Obscura is at the top of the Royal Mile (the round turret on the left of the skyline). The Palace of Holyrood is at the bottom.

The church-like building on the right of the skyline is now the Edinburgh Festival ‘Hub’. Built between 1842 and 1845, as the Victoria Hall, to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the building was created by architects: James Gillespie Graham and Augustus Welby Pugin. Curiously the building was never consecrated as a Church. In 1929 the Church of Scotland ceased to use the building and it became a temporary home for a variety of congregations. It was named the Highland Tolbooth St John’s Church in 1956, before falling into disuse in the 1980s. (http://www.thehub-edinburgh.com/about-us/history/).

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A series of narrow ‘closes’ on the left as you leave the Edinburgh castle, take you down steep steps to The Mound with the tower of New College (The University of Edinburgh) on the left here.

The snow on the hills of Fife, over the Firth of Forth, was visible to the naked eye in the far distance.

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The Lloyds Banking Head Office and the Museum on the Mound, focusing on money, coinage and economics, where you can view a million £s.

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A statue of a piper in a kilt!

The impressive, neoclassical buildings of the National Galleries, built by William Henry Playfair in 1859 at the foot of the Mound.

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Simple interior. January sees the annual showing of the JMW Turner paintings collection. They are only able to be displayed at this time of year when the light is dim so that they do not deterioriate too quickly. A gift to the city – free entry for everyone.

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Crossing Princes Street with its clothes, books and phone shops, look both ways for Rose Street running parallel and sandwiched between that and George Street to the north. It boasts some impressive concrete poetry (English, Scots and Gaelic) and plenty of places to drink and buy whisky.

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Continue down the hill and you have left the Old Town (the Castle etc) and entered the elegant New Town with its 1767-1850 Georgian style.

Visit Scotland website: https://www.visitscotland.com

For Edinburgh Castle opening times etc: https://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/

Edinburgh Camera Obscura: https://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/

Edinburgh National Galleries: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/

Newhaven Harbour, Edinburgh

Late Winter / Early Spring 2017 / January 2018

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January 2018.

Would you ever know that this gorgeous place is a mere 20 minutes bus ride (2 miles, 3 kms) from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh city centre? Found on the south side of the Firth of Forth, between Granton and Leith Harbours, it was James IV who created it in 1504 to build the warship ‘Michael’.

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Once a thriving fishing village, today’s piscary community is tiny compared with the fleets of the past. Well known for its oysters (until 1890), and once involved in whaling, it was Scottish folk songs about the herring business which first bought it to my attention.

The hard working women and girls who gutted and sold the fish from door to door in creels (baskets), are immortalised in songs such as Caller Herring (1798, words by Caroline Nairne and music by Nathaniel Gow) and Song of the Fishgutters.

Newhaven fishergirls pose with a creel. Photo by Hill and Adamson. 1840s

There is one boat I see regularly unloading it’s crab cargo, and the articulated trucks which carry the iced fish up and down the country are parked by the fish market in the eye catching red Victorian buildings where the museum used to be. There is a retail fishmonger there nowadays, Welchs, with its astonishing array of fresh and frozen sea food and associated goods.

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This conservation area somehow manages to sit cheek by jowel with the imposing Chancelot Mill, the happily situated Holiday Inn, and ecologically designed supermarket, none of which contribute in any way to the architectural beauty of the area.

as you can see!

But you can find a very friendly welcome, comfy surroundings, and the best raspberry scones, freshly made cakes and affordable all-day breakfasts (sitting-in or to take-away) at The Haven cafe on Lindsay Road.

There are other sights to see in the area: a beautiful, wee community garden by the wall plaque.

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Plaque_based_on_the_Newhaven_Stone

You can also find the upmarket Loch Fyne Oyster Bar; and the David Lloyd health club where you can swim outside in a heated pool right beside the seaside. There’s lots of accommodation, particularly air bnb (see below).

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The famously expensive Edinburgh trams do not come here, though there was a time when they were planned to. Now, however, there is an airport bus (number 200) which takes you to your flight in just over an hour.

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The old church is now the very popular Alien Rock, climbing wall.

This area was part of a massive re-development reputed to be the size of Edinburgh all over again, going to be built on the docks and reclaimed land between Leith and Granton. The economic situation put paid to that, but there are some impressive tower blocks (Western Harbour for example) around which you can wander in the wind and some rocks where people picnic and fish with their hoods up.

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Western Harbour flats.

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The ‘secret’ beach – see if you can find it!

There is plenty to see whatever the weather: the water itself and the seasonal bird population; Inchkeith Island housing left-over battlements and a still operational lighthouse; and the view of Fife and its hills across the estuary. In the summer the massive liners disgorge their tourists who are ferried into the harbour to be whisked away by coach to see the castle. The coastguard from Granton Harbour (half an hour’s promenade to the west) are always buzzing in and out accompanying the visiting shipping from Denmark (oil tankers), Malta, the UK and further afield.

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Inchkeith Island, Firth of Forth.

Fishmarket Square is just opposite the Oyster Bar, a quaint place where a (sadly) one-off Apple Festival was held a few years ago.

The recommended pub in the area is the Dreadnought, 72 North Fort Street (the bottom end!) with open jam sessions, the ubiquitous pub quiz, and appreciated pizzas. It stocks local beers from the Leith brewery (eg Pilot), a permanent gluten-free lager from Brass Castle (the owner Toby’s brother’s brewery), plus guest and vegan ones.

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The Dreadnought independent pub stocking craft beer.

Newhaven won a Green Flag Award in 2017

Caller Herring on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFtXrT5sxRk

Chronological map of Edinburgh showing Newhaven http://maps.nls.uk/view/74400069#zoom=6&lat=6345&lon=5409&layers=BT

Air bnb http://www.airbnb.co.uk

Growing Together, Community Garden in Newhaven http://www.elgt.org.uk/projects/community-gardening/5-1-5-newhaven

Alien Rock http://www.alienrock.co.uk/

You can see who is anchored in the Firth of Forth at any one time on this website: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ports/22435/United_Kingdom_port:FIRTH%20OF%20FORTH%20ANCH

Lothian Buses, airport services: https://lothianbuses.co.uk/airport

Inchkeith Island: http://www.abandonedscotland.com/the-island-of-inchkeith/