Europe | United Kingdom (UK), Great Britain | Scotland | Edinburgh – A walk with RLS
This fitness phase, please tell me its just a phase, has taken us out on yet another longish jaunt, that is a gentle afternoon stroll to the fit amongst us.
Another rediscovery of the places of my youth best described by RLS in his book – “Edinburgh – Picturesque Notes” upon which I will draw unashamedly for descriptions better than any I coould manage.
As it is dedicated to that game described by a perceptive English playwright as a waste of a good walk we skipped The Braid Hills and headed out of town toward Hillend. Be warned, the walk from the Morningside clock is all uphill until you reach the Oxgangs road junction and the hill goes on FOR EVER unless, of course you take a rest from the climb by following the course of the Braid Burn through Braidburn Park but be warned this diversion is paid for by the steep hill out of the South end of the park back onto Comiston Road.
R L S passed this way and wrote “For about two miles the road climbs upwards, a long hot walk in summer time. You reach the summit at a place where four ways meet, beside the toll of Fairmilehead. The spot is breezy and agreeable both in name and aspect. The hills are close by across a valley: Kirk Yetton, with its long, upright scars visible as far as Fife, and Allermuir the tallest on this side with wood and tilled field running high upon their borders, and haunches all moulded into innumerable glens and shelvings and variegated with heather and fern. The air comes briskly and sweetly off the hills, pure from the elevation and rustically scented by the upland plants; and even at the toll, you may hear the curlew calling on its mate. At certain seasons, when the gulls desert their surfy forelands, the birds of sea and mountain hunt and scream together in the same field by Fairmilehead. The winged, wild things intermix their wheelings, the sea-birds skim the tree-tops and fish among the furrows of the plough. These little craft of air are at home in all the world, so long as they cruise in their own element; and, like sailors, ask but food and water from the shores they coast”
But that was before traffic lights and city bypasses. Even still I could recognise his description as we mounted the crest and looked down over Fairmilehead to The Pentland Hills.
I think RLS and we walked the same route but he had no complex road system to negotiate: “Below, over a stream, the road passes Bow Bridge, now a dairy-farm, but once a distillery of whisky”, that stream is now a constant one, of heavy traffic, the dairy farm is a golf course and I doubt RLS found many fully equipt Sunday Walkers striding out, day Bags fully loaded with offspring in three-wheeled buggies.
We ploughed on “through dub and mire” along the fringe of the hills below Allermuir then in front “The hamlet behind is one of the least considerable of hamlets, and consists of a few cottages on a green beside a burn” nothing has changed, not the neat little houses or beyond where “A bouquet of old trees stands round a white farmhouse” and further on Swanson Farm, once the property of the friars of Whitekirk Abbey. Then over the new concrete bridge above the thundering torrent of the modern river to neat sixties suburbia and Redford Road.
Not far now to refreshment “and just in front is the Hunters’ Tryst, once a roadside inn, and not so long ago haunted by the devil in person.” once more a hostelry of the modern variety, food and wines from around the world, real ale, Sunday Papers and a welcome for walkers that might make you feel as you were Auld Nick revisiting.
Refreshed and back into town, through Oxgangs past the childhood homes of that seventies phenomenon “The Bay City Rollers” through the genteel Greenbank district and down The Ashy Path by what used to be The City Hospital and is now a warren of modern houses built I think for those with more money that sense. We stopped in for a look at a neat little three bedroomed duplex priced at something over ?400,000 before heading for the best pub in the area The Hermitage, by the clock in Morningside for a couple of pints of reviving nectar.