Walking Between Worlds – 2

An account of the second part of the circular tour of Leith in which I led ten others in celebration of the Terminalia Psychogeography Festival (23rd Feb, annually). Happily coinciding with the Women Who Walk Network and Audacious Women Festival (AWF)

Graves often have angels or birds at their tops and a skull and cross bones at their base – the body dies but the spirit soars to heaven, according to Christian tradition. The way, according to the ancient Chinese, is not so very different – the soul has different aspects to it, two of which are the Po which goes down to the earth at death, and the Hun which rises out of the top of the head and joins our ancestors

Focus on women

I chose to focus on women’s stories during this walk, because, as a woman and a feminist, it is necessary to know about who came before me, I need to know my backstory. I find that it helps me sense my place in the continuum of the generations. There were also women’s events taking place in the city that weekend, under the banner ‘Do What You Always Wish You Dared’. I was involved in the 2019 Audacious Women Festival, sitting on a panel which looked at women who travel and move to different countries: how we support ourselves, make friends, manage the language difficulties and so on. That women-only event engendered a lively discussion with the audience, women of all ages sharing their emmigrent and immigrent experiences. This guided walk was open to men and women, children and dogs, and it was something I was daring to do for the first time!

The tools of the leather workers’ trade on a grave stone in North Leith Burial ground, Edinburgh

Bonnington

After leaving the Rosebank Cemetery, we crossed Bonnington Road, a toll road at the end of the 18th century. We entered into what would have been Bonnytoun (pretty village in Scots), encompassing mills and land which was part of the Barony of Broughton (mentioned in a Royal Charter 1143). Flanking both sides of the road are modern estates as well as the much older red stone, Burns Tenements (on the right) which used to be the tannery. Incidentally, we were going to be seeing the graves of leather workers with their pincer tongs and other tools adorning them in the North Leith Burial Ground, further along the way. Using the power of the Water of Leith, there was a conglomeration of businesses in the area and there is one existing mill wheel in the mill lade at Bonnyhaugh Cottages (on the left).

Who was Eliza?

Second on the right is Elizafield, named after Eliza, a native of Leith, and the woman who bore Dr. Robert Grant. I have not been able to find out anything about her and her life – her story has disappeared, perhaps deemed less important than his, despite the fact that he would not exist if it weren’t for her, not least because birthing was such a dangerous task in the 1780’s. Grant was a surgeon and left Leith in his twenties to settle, very successfully, in South Carolina (US) marrying Sarah Foxworth. The rice plantation he established in Georgia (US) was also named Elizafield, and, as was the way then, it only drew the produce and profits it did, due to the female and male slaves who carried out the work: they were, ‘the driving force behind the success of the plantation’. (Amy Hedrick, author on glynngen.com)

Historically it [birth] was thoroughly natural, wholly unmedical, and gravely dangerous. Only from the early eighteenth century did doctors begin getting seriously involved, with obstetrics becoming a medically respectable specialty and a rash of new hospitals being built. Unfortunately, the impact of both was bad. Puerperal, or childbed, fever was a mystery, but both doctors and hospitals made it worse. Wherever the medical men went the disease grew more common, and in their hospitals it was commonest of all.

Druin Burch (2009) https://www.livescience.com/3210-childbirth-natural-deadly.html

We turned our backs on Elizafield to view Flaxmill Place. Flax was used to make linen, most of which was exported. It was so successful (employing 10 – 12000 workers, many of whom would have been women although the data is unavailable), that we know the Mills were able to loan Edinburgh Council a great deal of money. The Bonnington Mills, on the banks of the Water of Leith, made woollen cloth as well as linen and much of the wool was produced by women in their own homes nearby. The owners were always aiming to improve profits and cut corners, which resulted in the controversial introduction of Flemish and French workers (accommodated at Little Picardy(ie), the current Picardy Place). The women and girls spun the cambric yarn (for the close-woven, light type of linen), to try and improve the quality of the cloth, but this took away the local jobs (sound familiar?)  

In 1686, the first Parliament of James VII passed an ‘Act for Burying in Scots Linen’, the object of which was to keep the cloth in the country. It was enacted that, “hereafter no corpse of any persons whatsoever shall be buried in any shirt, sheet, or anything else except in plain linen, or cloth of hards, made and spun within the kingdom, without lace or point.” Heavy penalties were attached to breaches of the Act, and it was made the duty of the parish minister to receive and record certificates of the fact that all bodies were buried as directed. On hearing this, we can imagine that the women in the graves we were visiting may have been bound in just such a linen shroud, made right in this place.

Women at work at the Burton’s Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh

Before the Industrial Revolution, hand spinning had been a widespread female employment. It could take as many as ten spinners to provide one hand-loom weaver with yarn, and men did not spin, so most of the workers in the textile industry were women. The new textile machines of the Industrial Revolution changed that. Wages for hand-spinning fell, and many rural women who had previously spun found themselves unemployed. In a few locations, new cottage industries such as straw-plaiting and lace-making grew and took the place of spinning, but in other locations women remained unemployed.

Joyce Burnett (2008) This webpage has some fascinating pictures of women spinning at home and in the factory

The current Chancelot Mill on Lindsay Road, Edinburgh, Scotland
Very blurred, but you can make out the yellow corn cobs on either side of the Leith flag

A little further up the road was the original site of the Chancellot Mill (now on Lindsay Place) and this was where corn was ground into flour (perhaps the reason for those corn cobs on the Persevere flag?) It was steam powered and had an 185 foot high clock tower. Producing 43 sacks an hour (twice the original prediction), it was described as ‘the most handsome flour mill in the world’!

Site of The Bonnington pub, now destroyed several times over, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh

Urban myth

They were growing cannabis in the basement of The Bonnington and it spontaneously combusted in the middle of the night, causing the whole building to burn down. True or false?

We then started to walk along the edge of a section of the Water of Leith, the border between land and liquid. Bonnington Bridge, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh

Water of Leith

I invited the group to look into the water and think of the phrase ‘time immemorial’. Legally, this refers to the years before 1189, being the date set in 1275 as the time before which no one could remember, and therefore no legal cases could deal with events before that date. ‘Time out of mind,’ recorded from the fifteenth century, is just the plain English version of the same thing.

My information came from here: https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/21/messages/258.html and http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-tim1.htm

As we crossed Anderson Place, I read out a quote from the Tao Te Ching: The Master gives herself up to whatever the moment brings. She knows that she is going to die, and she has nothing left to hold on to: no illusions in her mind, no resistances in her body. She doesn’t think about her actions; they flow from the core of her being. She holds nothing back from life; therefore she is ready for death, as a woman is ready for sleep after a good day’s work. (50)

North Leith Burial Ground

After rounding the corner of the Water of Leith and meeting the confluence of the wonderful network of Edinburgh cycle paths, we mounted the steps onto Coburg Street where the North Leith Burial Ground is situated. According to The Spirit of Leithers (a Facebook Group) it is ‘The dead centre of Leith’!

Here is the plaque saying that Lady Mackinstosh is under this ground, but is she?

The memorial stones are old (1664 – 1820) and varied: grand mausoleums, individual slabs – some half buried and unintelligible, and almost all with engravings worth seeing. This was a good time for a ‘treasure hunt’: to search for the grave of Lady Mackintosh; a long bone; angels and hourglasses (some on their sides and others upstanding, the sands of time sifting down through the narrow neck as life passes by).

The graves are thicker than usual, and this one has a skeleton head on one edge and an angel’s head on the other – death and life, North Leith Burial Ground, Leith
Angel and skull, North Leith Burial Ground, Leith, Scotland

Lady Mackintosh is famous for raising a regiment for Prince Charlie’s 1745 uprising (variously known as the Jacobite, the ’45 rebellion or the ’45). It was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. 

In fact Lady Mackintosh is not here – she probably lies under the flats next door! How many people know that they are working or living over the top of dead bodies?

Sadly, it looked as if this was someone’s more contemporary (and probably rather cold) resting place. There are many homeless people who seek shelter in Edinburgh’s graveyards. North Leith Burial Ground, Coburg Street

Previous: Introduction to walking Between Worlds and Walking Between Worlds 1 

The walk continues in the final blog of the series, Walking Between Worlds – 3

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.

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.