Wednesday was one of those glorious February days we get from time to time in Edinburgh so off I set on one of my favourite walks to the beach at Portobello.
After last weekend and the dismal performance against Wales in the Six Nations, I wasn't holding out much hope for the second game against France at Murrayfield. I was so confident after years of trying, we could eventually win in Cardiff - alas these hopes were dashed within 5 minutes.
I was meeting friends in The Stockbridge Tap before going for something to eat in Hector's and watch the game. The Water of Leith Walkway is one of my favourite walks in Edinburgh so I decided to leave a bit early and walk to Stockbridge. It was a wee bit damp and muddy along parts of it and it was incredibly busy with others having the same idea as me for a nice Sunday morning walk.
After a couple of drinks in The Stockbridge Tap we crossed the pavement to our table in Hector's.
It was a great match and Scotland looked incredibly good - pity they hadn't performed like that the week before. Still...
In a break from my usual walking around Edinburgh, I decided to travel a wee bit further.
I took a bus to Roslin a small village to the south of Edinburgh famous for the ancient Rosslyn Chapel. I was teaching at Roslin primary School when Tom Hanks turned up for filming of The Da Vinci Code. Of course, no one was allowed anywhere near the chapel or the set. However, he did manage a wave out the window of his chauffeur driven car as he passed.
I spent a couple of hours wandering around Rosslyn Chapel before going down to Rosslyn Castle which is now a private dwelling and let out. I then walked back up to the village and set off along the path to Loanhead and Polton.
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.
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.
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.
The weather in Edinburgh has been absolutely glorious over the past couple of days, so I decided to take a walk down to The Royal Botanic Gardens. There were lots of signs of Spring including a wonderful display of crocuses in Harrison Park.
My route took me along the canal and then down to Shandwick Place where I took Palmerston Place past the huge, three spired, gothic St Mary’s Cathedral, Rothesay Mews, down to the Dean Village and then on to the Water of Leith Walkway. “Dean” means deep gorge.
Just as you are approaching Stockbridge along the Walkway, you might be surprised by a classical Roman Temple on the banks of the Water of Leith. This is St Bernard’s Well. For decades wealthy holiday makers would visit Edinburgh to drink the well's waters. Various claims were made about its medicinal properties - a cure for arthritis, back ache, and even total blindness. At the centre of an open pillared dome stands a marble statue of Hygieia, Goddess of Health.
The Walkway continues through Stockbridge and then, just before The Colony Housing I left the Walkway for Arboretum Road and the gardens.
The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens were founded in 1670 at St Anne’s Yard near Holyrood, to grow medicinal plants. The current site was developed in the early 1820s.
Another stravaig around this wonderful city, this time to Leith. I came here a lot as a child. I remember walking down Great Junction Street on Friday afternoons with my mum and sisters to meet my dad. He was a lecturer at Leith Nautical College and at one time worked on the Training Ship Dolphin which was docked in The Old West Dock (now filled in with a Holiday Inn on the site). Much has changed but there is still much that I remember.
The ship above is painted as a "Dazzle Ship". Designed not to camouflage, but to distort a ship’s appearance when viewed through a telescope, ‘Dazzle’ was developed by the British marine artist Norman Wilkinson to counter the threat posed by German U-Boats. Using strongly contrasting blocks of colour, stripes and curves, dazzle designs transformed ships into a confusing array of multi-directional shapes, making it difficult to gauge a ship’s direction or speed.
Above, Cables Wynd House, better known as the Banana Flats. They were recently granted A listed status for their excellence in modernist urban design. Made famous in Trainspotting as a drug den.
Street art or crime? I would imagine if it's your gable end or garden fence then you'll probably regard it as the latter, but if you are the one wielding the spray can then I guess you'd call it street art. Graffiti art has historically been viewed as a form of vandalism and a nuisance to society.
However, many academic institutes now regard graffiti as a legitimate source of academic study, and it is being studied as a reaction to injustice and disenfranchisement, a way to create awareness of socio-political issues, an expression of hope for the future, an effort to reclaim public spaces, an attempt to beautify or just a way to make people smile.
Like every other city, town or village, Edinburgh has its fair share of graffiti, a lot of it isn't art at all but random gang spray painting, but some is enigmatic and arouses curiosity.