Sunday, 25 June 2017

Musselburgh. Joppa. Portobello. The John Muir Way. Edinburgh's Seaside Coast.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
On the same day that I was through in Edinburgh a few months ago and did the Edinburgh Castle circular walk in the late afternoon it had already been a productive day out. An early rise, bus into city centre, and then a Glasgow to Edinburgh bus ride followed by a number 30 in Princes Street saw me eventually reach Musselburgh- over 3 and a half hours later. Part of the problem was that the number 30 to Musselburgh, being a bus route, seems to travel round half of Edinburgh before departing the city then repeats the trick in the large town of Musselburgh itself by visiting nearly every street and place of interest before reaching the final destination at Fisherow. Fun though it was to trundle out to various outlying retail parks, housing estates, railway stations and then a free tour past Queen Margaret's University I was nevertheless conscious that time was a ticking away from me.  (On the return leg I got a number 26, Seaton Sands, from Portobello, just inland from the beach, and it took half the time of the number 30 being a more direct route through the city.  With hindsight I'd take the 26 every time.) Above is Musselburgh Harbour and Arthur's Seat ( The ancient volcano situated in the Scottish capital's heart.)
The reason for coming here was to revisit The John Muir Trail briefly, and coastal walk as I realized, looking at an Edinburgh map some months ago I had never explored this section between Musselburgh and Portobello before. Warm and muggy predicted in the west  when I left Glasgow, by the time I got through to the east coast seaboard a strong steady wind and white horses were intent on producing a frisky sea. Small dogs were having trouble standing up at the seafront due to a steady roaring gale. Some would call it a howler of a day but it was still sunny at least and the wind strength meant I could keep my jacket on without overheating although it was not a particularly cold wind. At times during this walk it became very hazy with a sea mist coming and going so the wind maybe helped to keep that away. A view of the main swimming beach here, above.
Musselburgh I had visited before and enjoyed it here. A nice harbour, beach walks in both directions, adequate shops, and an interesting history.
Also a town on the John Muir Way and The North Sea Trail, the mega long distance latter going through Scotland's east coast then on-wards down the east coast of England then through the various coastal communities and countries that border the North Sea with,  the Low Countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway all on the list. Over 3000 miles long, conceived at a time when the UK was still a part of Europe.

 John Muir Way link. 130 mile walk between Helensburgh and Dunbar, usually done in a week to 10 days depending on speed and mileage walked per day.
In the other direction from Musselburgh Harbour lies Musselburgh Racetrack,  Ash Mountain, and the Ash Lagoons below it- an almost monotone grey, sterile landscape like nothing else in Scotland- caused by the depleted waste deposits from a nearby coal burning power station and dumped here over many years but loved by many birds- like a grey Scottish version of flamingo potash shallow lakes amid bleak empty scenery abroad. You get a little glimpse of that type of environment here.... but I'd already been several times so not today.
So Portobello it was. Edinburgh's Seaside burgh from a time when folk still took UK holiday's along the British coast. Although Portobello has an exotic name this didn't save it from the same neglected plight of many former tourist seaside resorts but it is making something of a comeback in recent years for day visitors and seems reasonably popular once more.
The rough wave action coupled with the infamous east coast swell meant that the beaches were littered with a colourful collection of shells and bright objects.
At low tide this 5 km walk should be fairly straightforward around the coast but as it was now afternoon I was hitting it close to high tide levels so that and the wind strength made it interesting.
Back garden escaped flowers gave some sections a bright splash of colour.
Like the wild sown hanging gardens of Joppa, seen here. A biblical name perhaps so why not? The ancient town of Joppa mentioned in the bible became Jaffa in modern Israel, many, many years later, famous world wide in the mid 1900s for its beautiful oranges.
Rather than go along the main street through Joppa, which you could easily do, I was stubbornly determined to stick to the coastline where possible and had been happily rock-hopping along the shore front, under a long seawall of back gardens.  At this point however it looked tricky ahead and a combination of unpredictably high drenching sea spray off the waves, wet slippy cobbles sloping into the frisky sea at a deceptively easy angle and natural survival skills saw me creeping under the last few houses, ridiculously high up, along a near vertical via ferrata traverse ladder of homemade ancient iron spikes,finger cracks in walls, and tiny wet footholds.  And that was the good bit.
The section beyond the last house to the stairs back up onto the promenade looked OK from a distance but when viewed close up, as seen here from the opposite side, it was strictly a hands and knees affair, and a long unpleasant crawl over large boulders, where sodden seaweed, and  sudden jets of spray spurting upwards through numerous high tide gaps between said boulders straight into your face awaited the luckless crawler. Looking down at the route from above I was very glad I'd bottled out this last section, turning back when unsure of traverse success and increasingly large wave heights, and common sense had thankfully prevailed as a ten foot high sea wall meant that escape was impossible once committed to the 'boulder field of  needless degradation and depravity.'     Or that's how it seemed to me viewing this lucky escape and let off.
My bruised sense of dignity at being discovered by locals crawling over rocks at an advanced age like some scaly creature from heraldry eventually triumphed over my equally laudable intention to stick to the coastline...  at all costs.
Next came Joppa Rocks, famous in Scottish geology circles, though reached at high tide here. There's not much in Joppa as its just a suburb of Portobello- pleasant enough place to live but not a lively seaside resort. Quiet and mainly residential now by the looks of it.
Next came Portobello beach itself, 3 km of fine sand and esplanade running the full length of the town. If younger I would have attempted a 'Chariots of Fire' style slow motion run and leap over the long line of sand stabilizers fading into the misty distance but reserved my energy for other endevours instead.
Some nice period buildings lined the seafront, reflecting the Victorian and Edwardian grandeur of a stay at home holiday Britain when two weeks at the seaside every summer was a generations old tradition.
The still open Swimming Baths. A good sensible idea as only an adult strong swimmer would have a chance against such large waves with the wind that day. A couple did brave the heaving seas outdoors that time but they each had heavy duty wet suits on and looked like experienced coastal swimmers.
Up until this point I'd only passed a few walkers, mainly out excising dogs, but now, passing the shopping and entertainment district (Public Toilets here and at Musselburgh sea front.) the crowds appeared. Maybe about 100 or so folk, mostly students or families playing together. That may not sound like much but given the wind and sea strength on this particular weekend  I was impressed it was busy at all.
Oyster catchers.
Bottle Kilns for producing glass products. Part of Portobello's interesting past.
As usual the beach was empty again after the shops were left behind. Still Portobello district.
Looking back along the beach towards Musselburgh Harbour.
George Street. Number 26 Seaton Sands bus to Portobello and Musselburgh passes by here.
Back in Edinburgh once more and just time to squeeze in a castle circular walk before heading back to Glasgow. Interesting day. Around a 2 to 3 hour beach walk between M and P but can easily extend it into a longer walk if required.

 A loving homage to the old west of dusty inland America, great artwork and a memorable song, performance and delivery makes this five minute wonder special.


Anabel Marsh said...

I confess I have never been to Musselburgh or Portobello, apart from once going (by train) to a meeting at QMU in my working days. I don't know why, I keep meaning too. However, if I do go I shan't be crawling over any rocks!

Linda said...

I have never been outside of Canada except to the U.S., so your photos and tours make me feel as though I have been to places I have never seen! Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating and lovely tours!

Linda W. said...

I just watched a Rick Steeves special last night. He was exploring Edinburgh and I thought of you and your blog! Was fun to see some of the places you've written about.

Carol said...

By 'eck lad, you would have looked silly crawling along those rocks if the locals happened to peer over!

Those bottle kilns are interesting - never seen any of those before!

Rosemary said...

I passed through Stourbridge recently where they also have wonderful brick bottle kilns where they made glass and still do I believe - sadly I did not have chance to photograph them. What wonderful structures they are and ab important part of our industrial heritage which fortunately are still standing in several areas of the country.
Love that vision of you endeavouring to crawl all over the seaweed covered rocks.

Anonymous said...

A great urban beach walk, real eye opener that you don't need mountains to make a great walk. Interesting that Rosemary mentioned Stourbridge. It's my home town where I was born. I had many relatives who worked in the Glass industry. Its still going although at nothing like the scale it once was.
Great tune as well, excellent tribute to a great game although I never got around to finishing it!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
I know I've visited Portobello as a young child with my mum on a day trip but my memory of going there, or the reason, is pretty vague. Re-acquainted with it many decades later on east coast bike runs but never along the beaches and only in passing. Musselburgh, North Berwick and Dunbar all have enough in them to reward a sunny day trip with good walks, local shops and places of interest.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
I came across his travel Doc on Edinburgh on You Tube a few months ago. A good entertaining film but like most visitors coming from outside Scotland he has a slightly different image of the country from folk who live here... and pronunciation of names came and went a bit :)
For example- I've never listened to The Queen's Speech all the way through -ever- not because of a dislike of her majesty or any Scottish Independence issues but due to a lifetime of avoiding it as it's always been boring and uninspiring anytime I have caught parts of it on TV and I've been trained early to always run for the exists in cinemas as a child before you had to stand for 'God Save The Queen' in the early 1960s along with half the nation. Likewise, as a Scot, I'm not that keen on Burns( as baffling to read and understand his works for a native as for any visitor) Whisky(too expensive to drink these days for ordinary natives compared to much cheaper vodka)Deep fried Mars Bars ( They do exist but I've never met a Scot yet who has eaten one.) Haggis and porridge, (two filling and heavy meals that I could only eat and enjoy as an occasional alternative a few times a year.) Bagpipes. (A fine instrument best experienced at a distance when you can hardly hear it.) Kilts (I never fully trust anyone wearing one if not involved with the tourist industry, clan heritage, going to a wedding or other sporting venue as anyone who wears one full time that doesn't have to is probably A. fairly weird and eccentric, B an outlander and not from Scotland anyway :o) Long ago the Victorians turned Scotland into Disneyland in a deliberate fashion makeover of historical fact so a lot of our myths and heritage that tourists seem to love and lap up is completely false or distorted but that's what sells worldwide very successfully :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
yeah, a lucky escape there as I was nearly going for it, not realizing from the other end that it would be a slippy unpleasant crawl once past the houses.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Nice to see them restored and saved. What I've learned doing the blog is that most towns then, even small ones, had a great diversity of industry within them and each place was famous for something produced there- not sure if that's still the case now. Certainly in the case of Paisley, a large town built around the vast thread and fabric mills, which was rich, optimistic and thriving then, with busy shops, vibrant local business, and mainly happy citizens up until the late 1960s... it's sad to see its post industrial decline in the 2000s. A similar fate for many places I suspect UK wide outside of a few modern finance and international trading hubs, like London, Edinburgh, and the South East.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy.
An enjoyable beach walk and fairly varied. Not having children I don't play the games
at all but I can appreciate them as modern skillful cartoons and memorable songs and the artist featured is very good at turning them into five minute films that capture the essence and story line succinctly. I also believe they have far more to offer in the future at the rate they are evolving- like say coupled with advanced 3D printing technology to create and enhance/alter the next 50 years dramatically. It's already hard to tell the best examples of open game landscapes from the real world around us and that difference can only get thinner every year then eventually merge together. Is it too far fetched to envisage living, breathing cartoons walking beside us every day as valued companions? Big money in it so it may well happen. We already have computer voice helpers in many homes in 2017 so maybe not such a leap of imagination after all.

Russell said...

As always, great photos. A couple of years ago I was upstairs on a double decker bus going alongside Musselburgh race course during a race. Despite skelping ma erchie as hard as I could the horses still beat the bus.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Not a part of Scotland I have visited, so very interesting. It sounds like you did well on those rocks! Great photos, as usual. By the way, we were still part of Europe last time I looked... :-)

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

I enjoyed reading. Sorry your travelling took so long.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Russell.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Mike.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andrew.