Monday, 14 November 2011

South Queensferry.Dalmeny Estate.Mons Hill.

Another nice  day forecast on the east coast.Going over the rising  hump of the high plain on the M8 Motorway between  Glasgow and Edinburgh  however I was starting to wonder if this was the best plan as  it was dull and grey up on the heights past Airdrie. But it turned out a fine day once over onto the eastern seaboard..As I was busy from very early in the morning and only had a half day left I fancied a relaxing trip this time, just somewhere with a shoreline,good views and autumn woods.There would not be many outings left with the leaves still hanging on the trees.This was a fellow cyclist I met below Mons Hill.
I arrived in South Queensferry(locals just call it Queensferry) shortly after 12.00 noon and set off on my bike.I like cycling anyway but I would not have enough time on foot to explore the full Dalmeny Estate and get back before nightfall.I would on a bike however.

Queensferry itself is a pretty town,with its cobbled main street,harbour,shops and seafront.It lies sandwiched in between  the Forth Road and Rail Bridges,looking up at both like a small child protected between two big brothers.Its a good place for a day trip in itself and has fine walks in both directions.Its also got a fair bit of history.The Hawes Inn dates back hundreds of years and was used in Robert Louis Stevenson,s book  Kidnapped, the start of which  of course was set here and  across the river at Cramond. The strange and pagan like ritual of the Burry man parade is held here every year where a local guy is encased from head to toe in sticky burrs only his eyes showing then  he walks through the town.And of course the famous Loony Dook.More Info and links on all that here. The history of all the Islands in the Firth of Forth can be found here too.It makes an interesting read. They have been used as quarantine Islands in the past and also in a cruel experiment where a woman that could not speak was placed here alone with her two infants to see if they would grow up speaking the true lanuague of God.This was on Inchkeith which is still a very remote and Isolated place today.On a modern map they no longer print" here be dragons".That would  just invite dragon slayers.Nowadays....they just hide it in the  full view :)
 For walkers and cyclists  however, the Dalmeny Estate is the jewel in the crown.Seat of the Earl and Countess of Rosebury for many generations its  mature woods, meadows, hills and sandy bays are popular with local walkers and cyclists.A circular bike route runs right round the entire estate. 
Apart from that what attracted me however was the fact I,d never been up Mons Hill.Its not high ,around 300 to 400 feet but its got a fantastic view over small shell dotted coves,Sandy beaches,miles of woodland,numerous islands scattered in the Firth of Forth,most of Fife,Lothian and the Central Belt.In short its a gem.I wasn,t really sure if you could go up it but the sign on the entry gate said you were welcome to explore the estate within reason so  long as you were respectful to the livestock and surroundings I didn't see any problem sneaking up for a quick look.There was no sign of a path however so  obviously It doesn't get that many ascents.
I,ve had my eye on this grassy dome for many years now.Its been five or six years since my last visit  here but that was in poor weather when I sheltered in the woods during a violent summer thunderstorm,not interested in climbing a summit running with water and no view.
Now was the hour.
I hid my bike behind a tree just off the tarmac path and set off to claim my prize.The view was worth the wait.

This is a zoom of Inchmickery, full of WW 2 buildings and gun emplacements to protect the Forth Rail bridge and Edinburgh from attack and behind that Inchkeith.
This is nearer at hand.Cramond Isle... and beyond that the gleaming wall of Platinum Point at Leith docks and Granton Docks.

Well pleased with my hill tick I dropped back down to the bike and continued  past Barnbougle Castle and Dalmeny House Itself to Snab Point.
On the beach here I met a fellow outdoor enthusiast and we chatted for a while to see if either of us would turn out to be a nutter or just plain weird.(Hi  Hunter) It must have went well because we decided we were both going in the same direction,towards the shoreline at Cramond.As someone who does his fair share of solo trips its really nice to meet strangers now and again  with similar interests who are happy to engage in casual conversation.It,s something that happens less and less nowadays I,ve noticed.Folk are either wary of your motives,don,t want to engage in talking or are simply too busy.But mostly its a trust issue.
I remember a few weeks ago running after a woman in a Glasgow park(not something I do often) and calling out a couple of times,not that loudly before she eventually turned around to face me.The relief in her face was obvious when I handed her back a toy her child had dropped out the pram.It was a sunny day and the park was fairly busy at the time.Yet Glasgow and Scotland as a whole fare better than a lot of countries.Turned out he was from Glasgow originally so that explains it.Glasgow folk will start a conversation with themselves  if no one else is around.
Ironically the more connected we are through phones,Internet and other machines the more detached and suspicious of each other we are getting as people.Its not a very trusting age. I,m no different to anyone else  in that respect I suppose.
Good view of Edinburgh from here and Arthur,s seat.As he was on foot I rolled the bike along the path beside him til we came out at the River Almond and looked across at the Pub in the tourist mecca of Cramond.This is a very popular spot.There are several car parks nearby and  scenic walks up the river and along the sea front.So near and yet so far.
Up until a few years ago a passenger ferry existed here,just a rowing boat and a ferryman living in the cottage that would take people from one side to the other.There has been a ferry here since the 1660s though sadly now its gone and the nearby Coble Cottage lies empty.There are plans afoot to build a bigger new one though,which given the visitor numbers to this spot makes sense.One that may take bikes linking the two half's together.Edinburgh has a great network of cycle tracks throughout the city and is more advanced than Glasgow in this respect.
Anyway I spent that much time chatting to Hunter about various rock bands, Scottish islands we,d both been to and the like that it was a shock to realise it would be dark in 30 minutes.It was the first  week the clocks had changed.An hour of light less. His car was closer than mine.I got back in the saddle and shot off.A quick look at the big house then it was steady peddling through the trees,the lights of the various towns in Fife twinkling in the gathering  gloom.Although warm before It was  certainly November now alright, cycling  fast without the sun.I also wondered if the car park at Queensferry had a gate on it that would be locked at nightfall by someone.This thought made me go like the clappers,the forest whizzing past.
Luckily this was not the case and I arrived back to a bumpy shudder along the cobbles and a welcome haggis supper takeaway at a nearby fine dining establishment.I sat on a bench at the car park in the almost dark watching several rabbits munch the grass nearby while I had my chips.The lights of both bridges ,North Queensferry and Dalgety Bay as an illuminated backdrop. A grand day out.


The Glebe Blog said...

Loved this post Bob.
Dalmeny to me growing up meant that our train had crossed the bridge and we'd soon be in Edinburgh.
I'm sure I remember too that the Primrose family were very influential in the kingdom.
Walked to Cramond a couple of times with my Edinburgh aunt.I Imagined Davie Balfour at the House of Shaws,but I don't think it exists.You weren't far away from the best fish and chips in Edinburgh at The Peacock Inn, Newhaven.Sounds like you found a good one anyway.

andamento said...

Great post, another place added for me to visit.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
Yeah, it was a good supper.
I,m a big fan of Edinburgh and its Surroundings.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anne.
I think its one you will like.

Hunter said...

Bob, it was a pleasure meeting you there and as you say nice to get chatting as most folk will just say a hurried hello and no more these days! Anyway have been back to the estate since that day as its a local walk for me....saw Buzzards, loads of seabirds and also stumbled across a Badger Sett so another satisfying walk.
Regarding the photo I asked about I thought it might have been |Canna looking over to Rum so at lest I was in the right area!
Have been to Eigg before but only a day trip when I climbed to the summit of the Sgurr but had no time to go to the singing sands beach so hopefully the next time, eh?
Still loving the blog and the goldmine of information - you deserve a medal from VisitScotland for promoting your country!
Best wishes.

Robert Craig said...

Sounds like a good wee trip.

I've often wondered about fording the Almond at Cramond at low tide, I reckon it would be doable. Not done it yet though. Good news if a ferry is reinstated.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Hunter.
I,ve always liked it over on the East.I used to know the Edinburgh area fairly well.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Robert.
Its probably OK to do but Its thick black mud over much of that area.
I remember being up past my knees in it years ago.Had to have a good wash afterwards before it dried in and set hard.

Richard Webb said...

Mons Hill is worth a visit during snowdrop time. I have been up there twice in Spring, after the snowdrops during orienteering events and it is obvious that they have quite a crop there.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Richard.
Thanks for the tip.Its a very nice estate.