Friday, 7 September 2018

Edinburgh. Easter Craiglockhart Hill. The Long Walk. Part Four.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
After our night's sleepover near the summit of the Braid Hills in Edinburgh, seen here in the above photo, we descended down a green ribbon of trees, gorse and lanes next morning towards suburbia. You can see our exact route here. From the masts walking down diagonally rightwards along the ridge line to where the houses break the woods, then trending back again after a couple of streets right to left across the middle of the photo via Braidburn Valley Park. We then followed another green corridor (sunken and hidden from view in this photo) from the large tree on the left, past the red golfer then climbing upwards again towards Craiglockhart district. This last stretch was on urban pavements but as it was surrounded by the Merchants of Edinburgh golf course on both sides, Greenbank Drive then Glenlockhart Road might as well have been out in the countryside with any large houses set well back and mostly hidden from view with straight lines of mature trees and quiet walkways deceiving any travellers that they were in a city environment at all. A very pleasant street walk with a difference.
The first sizable beside the road development we did pass, not obscured by woodland, was a modern upmarket enclave estate with one road leading in and out. Normally I wouldn't bother exploring these places but our curiosity was heightened due to the fact that the central core of restored buildings seemed to be much older than these modern faux period imitations.
This turned out to be the case and afterwards I found out why. One great thing about the internet is that it allows anyone to play detective and I found this very interesting indeed, especially as it has extra info on larger buildings we encountered later on that day. From a place to be feared in past times by Edinburgh residents to this tranquil spot today. Illuminating info in this link.

Butterfly bush in the enclave.
Some type of ornamental Hydrangea going by the leaves.
We continued on our way, still cocooned from the reality of being within a city environment by our pleasantly sylvan surroundings. Only big money has this effect- to hide the urban reality of city housing/lifestyles and disguise it instead within a park like setting.
The same complex from above.
The next prominent building we passed travelling up the same green corridor was this one ...Napier University. This is only one part of it as it has other buildings scattered around this district. It also has a hill, Wester Craiglockhart Hill, which we didn't climb on this occasion, as it's not on the official Seven Hills list. It's near neighbour, Easter Craiglockhart Hill was down on it and this was our eventual destination but it was proving illusive walking in from this direction. The older period part of this building was originally Craiglockhart Hydropathic then used to treat shell shock victims after the First World War including famous war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

I wanted to show Anne the pond, now a local nature reserve, but originally constructed in the late 1800s for curling I believe, a very popular sport in Victorian times with colder winters and reliable thick ice. Good for ice skating as well.
Another view of the pond.

Part of the Craiglockhart tennis complex where Andy Murray used to train. Getting new courts and resurfacing work here.
From this point a steep direct ascent through the woods brought us out onto the grassy upper slopes. Anne was not best pleased by this line of ascent as easier, longer paths contouring uphill at a more gentle incline were available but I was keen to see the views while it was sunny and bright... and I didn't have a hangover to deal with :o) You can see this direct route up the hill in the first pond photo. It looks very steep. It was. This wall came in handy for aiding upwards progress. I am officially " A b******d" according to my disgruntled companion- a title I wear with pride.
....and the views were spectacular. Looking out over the western end of Edinburgh's suburbs. You will notice more space, more trees here and developed more recently so not as tightly packed as the city centre districts. The more upmarket the area the greener it gets. Not complaining as some of my best urban walks are in these areas. I've always loved them since childhood when we used to visit relatives near Pollok Park in Glasgow and they lived beside a castle in an area just like this. That was me smitten for life. Wildlife, mature woodlands, and great architecture combined. The holy trinity for me. I just think of them as extra parks in any city. When you think about it cities are the real custodians of ancient deciduous woodlands- not the countryside.
and moving left to right. Edinburgh's golden acres. The spire of Fettes College, an independent private school (more a small exclusive university for the top tier of society rather than an ordinary bog standard college) Donaldson's School for the Deaf with its green turrets ( now being converted into luxury apartments) and St Michael's Parish Church in Slateford district. If ever a photograph had a gold star attached to it this is the one.
Anne was not so pleased however when I pointed out our next and final hill on the list.
"What! That is miles away from here! You are joking!!!"
As it was a genuine mystery tour I had our only map and she was bravely resisting the urge to look it up. Nothing worse than knowing where you are going :)
This is a real un-zoomed view of Corstorphine Hill, our next and final summit on the list- and she was right... it did look miles away. We had already been walking for a couple of hours to get to here and had enjoyed a breakfast on the move.
"Don't worry. Fear not." I explained. "We can take a bus from here to there at the bottom of this hill. Save the legs. No more street walking for you today my grape guzzling princess."
"Aye, very funny."
So we sat on the summit bench and admired the view. Bottles of fizzy drink had been bought earlier at a local shop near Braidburn Valley Park and I still had a packet of six rainbow cookies which I'd brought from Glasgow. (Chocolate chip cookies with different coloured smarties  embedded on top and very tasty. I had been saving them for our final celebration summit but she looked in need of a sugar boost and special treat right now so we split the pack and had three each.
The zoom on my camera was as good as a pair of binoculars so I used it on the final hill on the list. You can see a plane descending to land at Edinburgh Airport here, also the Holiday Inn Hotel (grey building surrounded by woods) and just above and slightly left of that the sandstone mansion house within the grounds of Edinburgh Zoo, which takes up the left hand slope of Corstorphine Hill. And a small chunk of the new bridge over the Forth.
Moving around further. Another view of outlying Edinburgh districts with 1960s/1970s style housing stock at a guess. Tower blocks are out of fashion now in most Scottish cities with many demolished in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh over the last 20 years.
At this point I'm going to go off at a tangent however as I visited Easter Craiglockhart Hill twice in the same year, several months apart. Once with Anne in late spring and a few weeks ago in early autumn, hence the ripe apple photo and others. Going over the various hills with Anne we both spotted this elaborate confection in stone from our Braid Hills summit viewpoint with what looks like a golfing clubhouse below it. At that time I assumed it was just part of Napier University as my map showed they had a campus in that area so we didn't think to go there and explore it as we had more than enough on our plates already. After our summit rest we carried on down past the pond and on to the next hill.
It was only when I looked it up later and discovered it's history and the fact that it was now empty... that I decided a return solo visit was on the cards. In truth it drew me in like a magnet as I've always been fascinated by old buildings and this one encapsulated everything that is magical about great architecture. The famous first lines from Colridge's Xanadu sprang to mind here almost unbidden. A magical fairy tale castle on a hillside. Although elaborate and extravagant inside and out the truth was very different I soon discovered. The former Craighouse private asylum, also built in the late 1800s in the style of a grand country hotel as this psychiatric institution was for wealthy paying guests so no expense was spared. A category A listed building and now undergoing renovation into luxury apartments.
Spectacular bird's eye view location shots in a slide show here. Also click ...The Development- History to view classical interiors

Surrounded by woodlands on all sides it's not easy to find close up as its only seen properly at a distance or right beside it. I've been around psychiatric hospitals all my life, in one way or another, but luckily not as a patient. There was one fairly close to where we lived as children growing up and of course the large grounds full of woods and streams had great adventure potential although it was supposedly strictly off limits for reasons we could not really understand properly at that time. A bit like the repulsion/fascination aspect of urban myth haunted houses in any locality although in our case the dangers were real and obvious- just not to us at that time. On bike rides over the last four decades the curiosity/attraction of these places has never dimmed and often in the countryside I've came across large remote empty mansions and explored them, including Bangour Hospital near Livingston- not so much one psychiatric hospital building as an entire township of separate individual units with internal roads, bus stops and shops. The Adrien Brody film The Jacket was made here about the dubious pleasures of full sensory deprivation and extreme restrictive confinement, locked, still alive, into a metal morgue drawer: strapped down and unable to move in any way until released days later. A strange, dark, but admittedly memorable movie about a little known treatment taken to extreme limits in this instance.
 These places are usually set in lovely peaceful surroundings however, full of abundant nature - often a stark contrast to events happening inside. (as it was not in use the last time I visited it may well be developed into......... luxury housing at a guess) It puzzled me at first how there could be so many rich folk in Central Scotland in the million pound and upwards house market until I read an article about a sharp rise in upwardly mobile people moving out of London and heading north. With the price of houses down there you could sell a comparatively modest dwelling and buy a detached mansion and grounds up here and still have cash left over to live on. According to news reports London seems to be getting more violent by the year, clocking up more murders than New York recently which may be a factor. I have noticed houses prices in Edinburgh, even in the outer suburbs are around ten percent higher than Glasgow's equivalent properties when matched together.
Murrayfield stadium. Home of Scottish Rugby.
Oxgangs and The Pentlands.
Although written in less enlightened PC times I've always liked this powerful song which I first heard in my teenage years early 1970s. Although Ziggy Stardust was the LP that propelled David Bowie into the major league it was his song writing ability on earlier albums like Hunky Dory and The Man Who Sold The World that captivated me the most, then as now. Unusual subject matter for that time when these places were still very much 'out of sight out of mind.' and a taboo discussion area even today although DB had a well documented reason for his interest due to a family connection. Almost a wish fulfillment in the upbeat lyrics here that never matched the grim reality, sadly. Somewhat ironically, many of the greatest thinkers, artists and creative talents of each new generation might well end up here at some point. Probably the thing that separates them from the rest in the first place leads them to be more susceptible. A nostalgic gem and still a masterpiece. Fantastic descending guitar work on this song which helps to sets the tone while the lyrics rise up as a counterbalance. Although the title is All The Madmen women traditionally make up the largest percentage of mental health patients in most countries, no surprise when they often shoulder the biggest burdens in any society, bringing up children...and husbands, working and housework combined, social restrictions on lifestyles, sexual abuse, in marriage or out, and harsher judgements regarding conduct etc etc... Also troubled men are far more likely to commit suicide rather than seek help or talk about it.


Anabel Marsh said...

Lots of interesting hidden history (well, hidden to me). A poorhouse and an asylum - not sure i’d want to live in them however luxurious. Such sadness in those walls.

blueskyscotland said...

A bit like graveyards, sometimes sad for affected humans but city havens for wildlife. Magnificent set of buildings so nice to see them restored and repurposed and they seem to be selling quickly. Beautiful grounds and woodlands with exceptional views over the city. I could live there quite happy and feel like a king.

Carol said...

Anne sounds a bit like Richard out walking - I'm constantly having to urge and bribe him onward! Bit like riding a lazy horse!

Have you ever 'curled'? I've never even seen it done...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I don't think she would thank you for that description:) She was keen enough to do the trip but she's an ordinary person- not someone who is super fit and hill walks every week as she has other interests and commitments usually. She did enjoy it as did I but neither of us is the type to relish a 20 mile hike without a lot of interest on the way and plenty of stops. I think she did brilliantly and was great fun to be with.
I've only curled with flat stones across a frozen loch for fun not the real thing with proper curling stones.
By the way I was watching David Bowie tonight on TV- Best of Glam Rock thing and I'm convinced the whole Ziggy Stardust persona owes a great deal to mental institutions like the one in the video and much of his creative drive throughout his career.

Robert Craig said...

An epic trip and I take my hat off to Anne, there are not many ladies who could be persuaded to kip down on the Braid Hills without even a tent!

Craighouse asylum used to be one of the Napier University campuses, I have fond memories of banging away at a baby grand piano in the music department. It is a confusing building to navigate around, perhaps deliberately so in case an inmate escaped?

Btw by coincidence I finally did the Edinburgh Seven Hills this month after years of trying to persuade a friend to join me, I have rarely had so much fun on a run. Wrote about it here:

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Robert,
Yeah, I'd definitely take midge nets if sleeping out again just to keep stuff off the head and face. Had a couple of earwig visits during that night. Not my favourite insects. Don't think she'll be doing it again anytime soon.

Andy said...

Amazing how there is so much interest in just the suburbs of a major city that you'd never find without research or plenty of wandering and a keen eye. As always, enjoyed my virtual tour

Robert Craig said...

As for Edinburgh being one of the world's cities with the largest percentage of green space... it's not quite true. Claims to that effect are based on the Edinburgh city council boundary - half the city by area is south and west of the city bypass, so part of the Pentland hills, Balerno, Dalmeny estate, and the farms in between count towards Edinburgh's green status.

Despite that the central area is not bad with Holyrood Park, the Meadows, Princes St Gardens, Inverleith Park & botanics.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy.
R.L. Stevenson's quote. "To travel hopefully is better than to arrive is very true. I'm still enjoying finding new places in Edinburgh I don't know about but some of the thrill definitely disappears once you map it all. Some more surprises to come off the beaten track next. It's not called the long walk for nothing.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi RC,
Read it somewhere in a quality paper colour supplement several months ago. City boundaries can be peculiar though. More amazing for me was to learn that Leeds 3rd in UK at 720,000 is much larger than Manchester 9th at 420,000 in population by a fair margin yet when you look at any map of the UK Manchester is always really prominent and Leeds is often left out altogether(as in certain BBC Weather maps)giving the impression that Manchester is massive. Both Liverpool and Edinburgh rank higher which is not the perception most would have of Manchester at all due to it's heavily populated outer districts and surrounding towns merging with the city limits giving it a much greater status for built up urban population hubs. I would have put London, Birmingham, Manchester as the top three biggest cities.