Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Edinburgh. A Night Out. The Long Walk. Part Three.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
The reason we were hanging around, killing time on the summit of Blackford Hill, is that we were planning to break walking around all six of Edinburgh's Hills into two days. Four hills the first day and two the second day. ( We were skipping Arthur's Seat as we'd climbed it at Christmas.) Salisbury Crags seen here, above, from Blackford Hill Summit.
The volcanic lump of Berwick Law and Portobello area.
St Mary's Cathedral with the afternoon heat building.
Platinum Point Flats and a ship in the Firth of Forth.
Of all the seven listed hills within Edinburgh arguably the Braid Hills, seen here, are the least frequented by normal walkers. With golf courses running along both slopes on this small hill range it is only the central spine that is open to non golfers and several paths crisscross that  area culminating in the twin masted summit at 675 feet. Prior knowledge of the terrain made me think this was the best place to split the walk  so we were timing it to arrive here around nightfall.
Looking back at Blackford Hill, (single transmission mast,) from Braid Hills.(two masts... and an easy way to tell them apart from a distance) The two hills run into each other connected by the Howe Dean and along with several adjoining golf courses make up a sizable expanse of undeveloped ground- mainly short grasslands dotted with gorse, occasional trees and cliffs.
I always see birds of prey here. Another Kestrel. Along with foxes, stoats and buzzards. Prime mice, vole and rabbit country.
The path up is fairly wide to start with then changes to grass slopes higher up but always at an easy angle... a straight line route is found to the summit situated between the Braid Hills Driving Range and Meadowhead Farm.
Once near the top views opened up towards the Pentlands, a higher hill range just outside the city limits which has an artificial plastic ski slope at one end. Some spring snow still left despite the heat.
A good view of it here with only a couple of folk skiing down it. It gets much busier in the winter time and functions like a real resort when under snow. The plastic surface is much faster when its wet, after rain.
By this time it was fairly murky conditions and we only had to wait another hour for dusk. During the Perth trip at Christmas I realized I didn't have much of a back up if I missed the last bus home other than staying in a hotel or B and B/guest house so for £10 I had bought a cheap lightweight 3 season sleeping bag and I had a torch with me. On impulse I bought two cheap identical sleeping bags, which I now had in my rucksack, ready to use. These could be compressed right down to grapefruit size, a handy piece of equipment to carry along for emergencies although at that price I was not expecting much in the way of quality or heat retention. Really just meant for festival type summer camping trips. The forecast was for a dry clear night and as it hadn't rained for ages the ground was bone dry short grass... so no tent was necessary. I'm pretty sure camping is frowned on up here anyway, being withing the city, so we were sleeping under the stars using just bags and a shower curtain (my own) as a ground sheet/and or rain/ dew cover. No camping gear or stove either, just three sets of assorted cold sandwiches. It was a warm night so no big deal.
We picked a spot near the summit on short grass but semi hidden and away from the path network.
I was keen to try out my sleeping bag and Anne had agreed to it as unlike me she had to pay for buses city to city and for local routes. Although OK with it she couldn't really afford accommodation expenses on top of bus fares or doing the hills separately on day trips, money or free time wise which is why it was a one go event.
She'd never slept out before under the stars without a tent to go into and even for myself, a camping veteran, going completely tent-less was a handful of times only novelty.
What the Braid Hills look like from a distance. Rural but also suburban. This is only one part of the range in view.
We had to wait for the last dog walkers and stray locals to depart before we could relax and settle down properly- the hill all to ourselves. There was no sunset to speak of- it was too murky for that so it just got dark, slowly but surely.
Anne was disappointed with that sunless east coast performance so here's one I made earlier over on the west coast.
 My companion had a surprise waiting when darkness fell as we settled down side by side in our sleeping bags. A sizable bottle of wine appeared from her rucksack and two packets of cashew nuts.
"That's very generous." I  complimented. " I wasn't expecting that. Perks of being a tour guide."
" No, that's for me- get your own stuff."
Later on she relented and I was allowed some of the swally although she drank most of it. I've never been a wine fan. I then swapped two chicken sandwiches for a packet of nuts as she was starving, and quietly bitching about the outdoor life in general by the time midnight came around. ( Lying on the bare ground was admittedly colder and less comfortable than having a soft sleeping mat under the body and we did wake up sore and less refreshed as a result.) I was just relieved we had no midges, clegs or rain to worry about. Even though it was a short night we didn't get that much sleep... or I didn't, being still sober and a light sleeper usually.
We had a lot of visitors during the night- first an inquisitive fox... then a noisy owl, then a pest of a cat that wouldn't go away and came back several times to sit a few feet from me, silently watching, staring at my unprotected nose, even licking it when I nodded off briefly. A prelude to eating my face I presumed if I didn't put up a fight so I wanted it gone.
Despite being apprehensive beforehand Anne slept away no bother thanks to being half pissed. A wise move. I don't drink much these days and can go for months without alcohol. Changed times. 
In the morning we packed up, leaving nothing behind obviously, and made our way down off the far end towards Braidburn Valley Park. I only picked this green oasis on the map as a pleasant route towards our next hill but it turned out to have strong literary connections, as seen here. Before it was a park it used to be a shallow glacier formed valley with two farms in it, containing an ancient pathway leading from city to the Pentland Hills. No doubt useful for driving cattle and sheep down off the heights towards the hungry masses.
Info board here.
The hotel where Miss Jean Brodie stayed- in the famous book by Muriel Spark.
Looking back towards the Pentlands from the Braidburn Valley Park. Not having had any breakfast, (as someone scoffed it the night before,) a clear headed, bright eyed Pooh Bear and an ever so slightly hung over mumbling Piglet made for a shop selling rolls and bacon... or eggs or hot sausages... or anything else for that matter. Food was a priority... this tour guide could easily swallow a toasted Heffalump... it wouldn't touch the sides.   Braid Hills just seen in the distance here, below.... A memorable night...

To be continued... 

Incredible to think the fastest elite runners can do the entire seven hills race and the 14 miles  2,200 foot ascent and descent course in under 2 hours. Mind boggling stuff and you can see an interesting short compilation video of that full event here. Never mind, we still enjoyed our taking it easy version. I've always preferred walking to running myself, even at school, and I was in a running team then and fairly good at it for that level but never a serious long distance running fan at any time.  Different strokes for different folks.


Ian Johnston said...

Enjoying this series Bob, a really interesting route

Anabel Marsh said...

Interesting to learn about some lesser known parts of Edinburgh - but I can’t imagine sleeping out like that!

Linda W. said...

Sounds like an urban adventure! I can't believe your companion wouldn't share her wine.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Ian,
I really enjoyed it. Urban backpacking.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Edinburgh is a really interesting city away from the usual haunts and the tourist hot spots. Very elegant buildings everywhere as it's a richer city per head of population.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
She probably thought I should have brought my own alcohol. Quite right too. I've been on mountains in the past and carried loads of water where others just went lighter then expected me to share mine. I had fun watching them suck thin puddles for moisture and soggy cracks in the ground- teach them to be more self reliant next time so she's a woman after my own heart :o)

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Wonderful hike and exploring, and yes, under 2 hours is truly mind boggling!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers, Spare Parts and Pics,
Can't believe we took two days for almost the same route at walking pace yet still found it hard going even with rest stops. I might be old but I'm still reasonably fit as a hill-walker. Mind you fastest times for the London Marathon route at 26 miles long are roughly the same- 2 hours elite male.... 2 hours and 17 mins elite female times.

Mark said...

"I don't drink much these days and can go for months without alcohol."
Me too! Not so much things catching up with me, as changed habits and tastes.
Again, brilliant post - am really enjoying your trip vicariously. I rarely see Kestrels locally these days, in keeping with their general decline, so am always chuffed when I do spot one.

Carol said...

Those plastic ski-slopes are weird. I remember seeing, very distant but standing out very much, a false ski-slope of some kind across the valley by Trawsfynydd in Wales - amazing how far away you can see them. I bet they're terrifying to use as, if you fall off, there's no nice, soft snow drifts to plunge into!

The shower curtain idea for bivvying is a brilliant one - I'll remember that!

blueskyscotland said...

Same here Mark,
I just grew out of drinking and going to pubs and I don't miss it at all. Saves a lot of money but I've also had several age related health problems over the last few years- not serious but ongoing and enough to make me realise that good general health is not a given anymore but a luxury that can be taken away at any time if you abuse it.
I also found my knees starting to pack in after decades of work and hill-walking punishment so I don't do many large hill walks anymore as I don't want to screw them up completely.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I've skied down that one in the photo a few times. It's surprisingly steep at the top for an intermediate like me with not much room to turn and slow down. I have heard snapped thumbs can happen on plastic- not as forgiving as snow if you fall at speed.
The shower curtain is good as a bivi sheet if it rains but you really need a carry mat under you for insulation, especially in the winter months. Loads of creepy crawlies also find you without a tent as protection- something that neither of us liked much.
I don't think Anne will be a fan of sleeping under the stars after this experience.

Carol said...

Loads of creepie-crawlies used to find us every night we camped out in our back garden as kids as ground sheets weren't sewn-in in those days. I used to wake many a time in the middle of the night with a slug slithering across my face! You kinda got used to it!

Andy said...

Excellent series of posts and a real thorough examination of the city from on high. Views over cities from high places are mesmerising and I could look at them for hours. My mate used to live in Morningside but i had no idea these two hills were on the doorstep - we were too obsessed with the Highlands and mountains in those days. Great stuff :)

blueskyscotland said...

Not that keen on slugs near my face Carol as loads of dogs die from eating slugs. Cats can also infect humans with a nasty parasitic disease.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
We enjoyed it and judging by some of the headlines this year some of the hills within cities are much quieter than the Scottish Highlands in summer with fleets of club cars touring single track roads and causing large tailbacks, nowhere to park when you do arrive in certain villages, and thousands descending on places meant for a few hundred visitors at most.