The weather was beautiful in Edinburgh last Monday and I decided to take one of my favourite walks along the Water of Leith and then a wander around the botanic gardens.
After a brief time out of the water for some annual maintenance and a few repairs, Jess is back in the water.
A friend from my ukulele group joined me for a weekend trip round the Kyles of Bute and on to Portavadie for the night. The weather wasn't great on Sunday but we did manage a great sail across the Sound of Bute and up the East Kyle. In 20+ knots of wind coming from the NE we managed a steady 6.5 - 7 knots.
Great night in Portavadie, service and food up to its usual high standard.
The forecast for Monday looked promising with a good wind coming from the NE but that never materialised. Instead we got a glorious sunny day with virtually no wind.
As always, the first outing threw up a few issues that will need to be sorted.
Such a wonderful sunny Spring day, I took a walk down to Portobello Beach.
Portobello Beach is towards the NE of the city and I have vivid memories of going there as a child, particularly to Portobello Open Air Pool which was a magnificent art-deco building. A salt water swimming pool, complete with diving boards, a raft and a wave machine. It was always bitterly cold but such great fun. Sadly now demolished and replaced with housing.
Portobello was once a popular destination with the folks of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and after years of decline is now making a revival.
A walk through Bruntsfield, The Meadows, Holyrood Park, Figgate Park and on to Portobello Promenade and Beach.
Jess was lifted out of the water on Saturday for annual maintenance. After a quick turn- around, she's back in the water.
There hasn't been a great deal to do to her this year unlike previous years when I have carried out quite a bit of upgrading. She was fairly clean when she came out and after a power wash she only needed a quick wipe down before cleaning, polishing and waxing the hull and applying a coat of anti-fouling.
Deck and spray-hood cleaned today and a thorough clean and tidy up below decks.
A couple of wee jobs to do next week and then she'll be ready to go.
The world famous sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Gardens lie to the South West of the island.
In 1834, Augustus Smith left Hertfordshire and took up residence on the Isles of Scilly as Lord Proprietor and leaseholder of all the islands. He chose to live on Tresco and selected a site adjacent to St Nicholas Priory - which had fallen into disrepair in the sixteenth century - to build his home.
On a rocky outcrop above these ruins Augustus Smith built his house, which he named Tresco Abbey. In addition to constructing the house, he started almost immediately creating a garden based around the priory ruins.
The gardens are are often described as a perennial Kew without the glass, it shrugs off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host myriad exotic plants, many of which would stand no chance of survival even on the Cornish mainland less than 30 miles away. Even at the winter solstice, there are more than 300 plants in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa
The Gardens also house the Valhalla Museum which features the Valhalla Collection containing some 30 figureheads, as well as name-boards and other decorative carvings from the days of sail.
The south part of Tresco Island is quite different from the north with pastoral land and long white sandy beaches. This is also the area where most of its 200 permanent residents live. There's a small primary school, a church, a small supermarket, a gallery and Tresco Abbey, the home of Robert Dorrien-Smith with his wife Lucy (who was on the guitar course). They run the business as the Tresco Estate, and own Tresco island. About Tresco Island
Tresco means meaning "island of elder-trees" and is the second-biggest island of the Isles of Scilly.
Despite its small size, measuring just 1.15 square miles in area and about 2.2 miles long by 1.09 miles wide at its longest and widest, there is quite a range of topography.
The north part of the island, being exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, is a bit more rugged and hilly than the south with rocky beaches and heath land. There are also a couple of historical buildings - Cromwell's Castle and King Charles Castle.
In the winter months, when I am not sailing, I like to take a few weekends away on either a Ukulele Weekend or a Guitar Retreat. I have been using a company called Guitar Retreats for some time and in recent years they have started using more exclusive and unusual hotels and venues.
When I saw that a week long retreat was being held on Tresco Island I booked.
I researched various ways of getting there but both flying and train turned out to be either too expensive, long waits for connections or just inconvenient times. So I drove to Gloucester, stayed the night there and then onto Bude in Cornwall to stay with Stuart and Sharon, who run Guitar Retreats and then finally on to Lands End.
However, this wasn't the end of the journey as I still had to get a plane, a taxi, a boat and finally a short walk to The New Inn on Tresco.
It was a long journey, but well worth it. Tresco is a beautiful island with a sub-tropical garden at Tresco Abbey, long sandy beaches and some great walks around the island despite it only being 2 miles long and just over a mile wide.
One of my favourite walks at any time of year is along the Union Canal Towpath and on to Colinton Village via the Water of Leith Walkway. At this time of year it can be a bit muddy in places particularly after a couple of damp days like those we've had recently. However, today was a glorious day so I set off along the canal.
The Canal towpath joins the Water of Leith Walkway at the Lanark road and that takes you along an old railway track, which ended up in Balerno, toward the village of Colinton. There's been a village her since the 13th Century and in more recent times it was a thriving mill town, mostly paper and snuff. Now it's a sought after suburb of Edinburgh.
The path follows the river until it gets to a tunnel (always some interesting graffiti), which leads to where Colinton Railway Station once stood. There is still evidence of the station if you look closely enough. The path continues under bridge, constructed in 1873, before this time the only way to cross the river was over an older bridge near next to the parish church. A gap in the wall takes you into Spylaw Park.
Spylaw Park brings back a number of memories for me. I remember coming here on Sunday School picnics. I lived in Oxgangs, barely a couple of miles away, but it seemed as though we had travelled miles into the countryside. There was always the great smell of freshly mown grass and I remember the hive of industry around the Scott's Porridge Oats Mill at the end of the park.
A path continues through the park passing Spylaw House, once owned by James Gillespie an Edinburgh mill owner and philanthropist. The house was a Youth Hostel and is now a private dwelling. Under the Gillespie Road bridge again and out onto Spylaw Street and down towards Colinton Parish Church.
The church was founded in 1095 but most of it dates to from 1908 when it was rebuilt for the final time. It has a lych gate, which is unusual for a church in Scotland, and a mortsafe. As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson frequently visited the manse in Colinton, where his maternal grandfather, Dr Lewis Balfour, lived while he was the Minister of the Parish Church. It is thought that some of his poems were inspired by these visits including The Swing. Remnants of an old swing can be seen in a tree next to the manse.
I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of Edinburgh and one of my favourite places to walk is very close by.
The Union Canal, with today's length of 31 miles (50 km), was built as a contour canal, following the 240 feet (73 m) contour throughout its length, thereby avoiding the delay due to locks, at the expense of some prodigious civil engineering structures. It was originally 32 miles in length, running to Port Hopetoun basin in Edinburgh from the junction at Falkirk. The Edinburgh terminal was a basin in the space between Semple Street and Lothian Road, south of Morrison Street. The final mile has been truncated and the Edinburgh terminal is now at Lochrin Basin in Tollcross, adjacent to Fountainbridge.
I regularly walk along its towpath. To the ast is leads towards Tollcross and the city centre and to the west it leads towards Ratho or take a path which branches off towards Colinton Dell and Balerno.