Friday, 14 September 2018

Edinburgh. The Long Walk. A Grail Quest. The Final Part.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
It took two local Edinburgh buses to get from Easter Craiglockhart Hill to Corstorphine Hill, the last summit on our seven hills of Edinburgh tour.
Edinburgh Zoo was our drop off point and by that time Anne and I were both refreshed and rested from our journey across the city with plenty of new districts observed from the upper deck. I've been in Edinburgh Zoo a few times now- £20 adults £17 concession.- so we didn't go in.
Corstorphine Hill contains the largest concentration of public access mature woodlands within the Edinburgh city boundary but on the zoo side it also has a few open slopes of short grass and meadows with views. The summit and the far side have no views at all only deep woods and paths snaking under them. A real 'Mirkwood' of a place and large enough to get semi lost in for a brief time.
The high flats of Wester Hailes and the outlying Pentland summits here from the open meadows, halfway up. Spotted a roe deer here, even though it's a popular hill for dog-walkers.
Being contrary we didn't stay in the open meadows long but cut across sideways on a  heavily overgrown back trail filled with brambles, thistles and other jaggy plants.
"Can you explain to me why on earth are we leaving a perfectly good easy grass path for this jungle hell hole?" Anne inquired, not without good reason as it was hard going through the undergrowth at this point and painful.
"All will be revealed shortly." I explained. "Trust in me." I hissed like the snake in the Jungle Book and increased my eyeball size with a fixed manic stare.
And it was revealed. Shortly after. A grazing zerbra. This little known trail leads past some of the zoo paddocks where you can see the inmates for free. Channeling a reminder of my old childhood psychiatric hospital grounds illicit explorations here made me all nostalgic and the thrill of seeing something you would normally have to pay for was an added bonus.
"Aw, poor wee bugger." Anne was smitten by this little convict.
" Typical Australian." I joked. "Happiest behind bars of some description."
I thought about it for a minute. "You know, we are incredibly lucky in this country. It might be cold and wet in summer but we don't get much snow for being this far north, it's green most of the year, and all our insects and animals are harmless. Sleep out on a hillside without a tent in Australia, or anywhere hot for that matter, and the stuff of nightmares will come to find you every night. I've seen it first hand. I've been there. Spiders bigger than apples- poisonous centipedes the size of spaniels- giant lizards that can take a leg off in one quick gulp. Last night was nothing. A few wee friendly British bugs."
"Aye, right enough." She conceded.
"Kangaroos." I pointed out.
" This is brilliant. How did you find this trail."
"Male intuition."
" Any other surprises up your sleeves H.P?"
Just then I noticed a small furry creature crossing the tree canopy above to a position within the enclosure.
"Yep. Himalayan Tree Monkey"
I pointed it out.
" That's a squirrel isn't it?"
"Nope, Himalayan Tree Monkey. It's inside the zoo so it must be an exotic species and I recognize it."
"Do they even have trees in the Himalayas?" She asked smiling, confident it was a squirrel but just a touch uncertain, knowing my knowledge of animals was far better than hers. This is a zoom so it wasn't as obvious a view as this, being further away.
" Yes, they do have forests in the valleys. It's a distant relative of the Yeti, mon cousine, like the difference between Giant Pandas and Red Pandas."
"Your talking bollocks again."
"Wouldn't be the first time. Had you going though. Didn't it. "

Although mainly covered in large mature trees there was one point, at the rest and be thankful, that views across the city opened up again and we could see our first hill of the trip. Calton Hill.
" That seems like a full week ago." Anne marveled.
" I'm told I have that effect on some people." I answered dryly.
"We've certainly packed a lot in."
"We have and it's not over yet."
We were now on the John Muir Trail, father of American conservation and long distance walking in wilderness guru, but brought up near here on the Scottish East Coast at Dunbar. This is a multi day route named in his honour and also features in the Robert Louis Stevenston book Kidnapped. Scotland has two famous 'rest and be thankful' hill stops- maybe more.
At this point we could have continued down the other side of Corstorphine Hill and walked to the sea at Cramond where I intended ending up originally. Many great walks end by the sea or ocean- so a fitting finish line but that was still a good distance away across urban, built up streets and traffic.
Instead, on an impulse, we boarded the no 26 bus, seen here, which took us direct from the woodland edge at Clermiston down to Portobello Beach instead. Edinburgh's seaside. It's one of my favourite local buses and I knew from the time looking at my watch the tide would be out when we arrived.
Portobello Beach. A fitting end to our walk............................................ only it wasn't.
Looking across the sands towards Joppa. I'd already done the Musselburgh to Portobello beaches walk, (a previous blog post) but had never attempted walking in the other direction- from Portobello to Leith so that was my new territory treat to myself.
"Oh bloody hell! How far away is that? Will it never end!!! " Anne wailed at the thought of the extra distance.
" Not far." I promised. " and a walk filled with seven modern wonders.I guarantee it."

" Ta Raaaa. A Portobello mermaid." I stated halfway along the coast 20 mins later.
" Is that it."
"Yep. The First Wonder. Looks a bit like you. Three fingers and a thumb. Are you sure you've never been spotted on the beach sunbathing?"
"Cheeky ********."

"The Second Wonder. As in how come these places are almost invisible to society at large." I elaborated. " A deliberate look away attitude and silent collective agreement to ignore anything going on there as a 'necessary evil'. I've seen them in various countries abroad and they are usually in the worst part of any landscape as a punishment- boiling hot empty deserts- fetid swamplands- remote plains- bleak moorland in our case- really out of the way places deliberately picked so that most people never see or visit. Out of sight- out of mind. The modern version of the old asylum hidden in the woods."
" Mmmm. Never thought about it like that." She conceded. "Hey, how come you know there's seven wonders on this coast if you haven,t been along here before?"
" Yes, I wonder that as well. And behold!. The Third Wonder appears! Thank you. I like your style."
She had to laugh at that.
"Exploratory platform. Wonder what they are drilling for?" I raised an eyebrow and silently mouthed 'The 4th wonder.'
" I wonder how long this walk is?" She asked, playing along "Where exactly are we going now?"
"Remember I promised you a grail quest as well as a seven summits mystery tour?" I asked.
"Well, here it is. The biggest mystery of the trip."
The remarkable facts in this short link.

On a previous no 26 bus ride I had been intrigued and stunned to get a brief glimpse of this monument looming over the rooftops of a residential district, far away from any of the usual tourist haunts, other monuments, and completely isolated in a cosy suburbia of low bungalows miles from the city centre. No greater oddity exists in Edinburgh.
" Now that is a real wonder." She admitted.
" Biblical marble story panels. The Red Sea drowning the Pharaoh's troops, horses, and chariots."
"Amazing decoration." My companion agreed.
" The Song of Moses and Mirriam, rejoicing after the enemies of the Israelites have been heavily smited by God. Totally cuffed rotten by the hand of the almighty into submission."
"A worthy end to a great walk. Why so many bare breasts in classical sculpture though?" She wondered. "and why did they always use marble for people back then?"
"Ah, that is The Seventh Wonder." I declared. "Humans were actually made of solid marble back in that time and often went about topless because they never felt the cold. Why do you think classical figures are always carved in white stone and half undressed. Always. It's just art imitating real life. Or the ubiquitous saying "They were hard in those days." What do you think they really meant by that? It's a well known fact. Look at the people of Pompeii. Real life ancient humans. Touch them. Stone not skin. Obvious and simple. Ancient history. Fascinating stuff. The Marble Age. ...Just like in the near future we will be half human and half machine combined. It's happening already with the sleepwalkers consent. The Cyborg Age is now upon us."
And so it was told.


Anabel Marsh said...

What an expedition! Anne must be very tolerant to let you lead her on such a merry dance. £20 for the zoo! No thanks.

Kay G. said...

John Muir and Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, two men that I truly admire and you have mentioned them both in this blog!
Zoos have become very pricey.

blueskyscotland said...

Yup. She's a gem to put up with me. I suppose they have vet fees, bigger enclosures,expensive food bills and wages to take into consideration.
Going by my own experience the epic trips into new areas are the ones you remember most vividly, even decades later, so I wanted to recreate a little of that experience for Anne with her own epic and one she would hopefully remember for life.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Glasgow used to have its own Zoo but it closed down years ago. Not as much spare ground as Edinburgh's I seem to remember so smaller cages which went out of popularity in modern times. Hard to run a successful zoo or safari park these days. Meat is really expensive- even for humans- not had a lamb chop for years myself as I grudged paying the money for such minuscule rewards on the plate :o(

Rosemary said...

All of these visitor attractions are so expensive these days - that is why I belong to the NT it works out so much cheaper if you are a member.
Anne is very long suffering but she obviously knows you well - actually I think that we have all cotton on by now.
That was actually a very interesting walk that you both took taking in John Muir, Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson, the zoo, and that wonderfully carved marble monument.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Yes, you could easily clock up £100 pounds plus visiting just three major attractions in Edinburgh, especially if you have children as most are around the £20 to £25 mark to get in. There are plenty of free things to do in Edinburgh of course, usually featured in this blog- like the Botanic Gardens. I'm lucky in that I've been into most things in Edinburgh years ago, like the zoo and the castle, when they were much cheaper or free to visit.
By way of contrast Glasgow might not have the refined sophistication and volcanic backdrop of Edinburgh but the major attractions in my home city are mostly still free (at present), or under £10, and great value for money.

Carol said...

Ha ha, like the Aussies and bars comment! Very apt... (I like Aussies actually)

I've spent a lot of time sneaking around the outside of castles and the like trying not to pay and get a good view - it's amazing how often they guard against such interloping at some places - Warwick Castle was one. Also near Melrose - an Abbey I think.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
an 'insider' joke as Aussies do seem to pop up as bar staff everywhere around the world and most are good at it- cheery, laid back yet hardworking in the main- and when you visit Australia it's very much a back garden and beach culture over there,probably due to all the poisonous insects and animal life outside the cities. It takes balls for a newcomer to go camping in the bush in Oz, even with a sealed tent. I wouldn't fancy it until I'd learned to spot the dangerous from the harmless.

Although I have to watch my money more these days ordinary wages do not seem to have kept pace with inflation or attractions. Two adults £18:50 and two children £10 for(5 to 15) comes to around £60 for entry to Edinburgh Castle alone. And that's just one thing so visiting tourists doing the rounds must spend a few hundred quid even before accommodation. Edinburgh is a supermodel in a high class restaurant- Glasgow is a friendly neighbour happy with a hot dog and a coke. Having said that folk seem happy to pay that price for E.C. as it's No 1 on visitors lists and a very busy and popular attraction.

Andy said...

No idea how you keep finding these odd architectural treasures and gems but I'm enjoying the tour anyway! :)
That tomb is very odd especially seeing it in a housing estate

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
I mainly spot them from buses but I've also got a large scale Edinburgh map. I try not to do too much online research beforehand as I like the surprise element then look it up later once I've been.
By pure coincidence I picked up a book last week, a detective story, all about Edinburgh, it's Victorian mental institutions and some of the things that happened there. Fascinating stuff to learn after my visit.