As much as we would have loved to stay longer exploring the NC500 time was running out. Edinburgh was always going to be on the list of places to visit in Scotland as neither of us have been there before and having read many books set in and around Edinburgh it would be a chance to get a feel for the city and see for ourselves all the landmarks mentioned. We drove from Thurso to Edinburgh in one jump coming down through the Cairngorms which took pretty much all day but accompanied by spectacular scenery was a pleasant drive.
We pitched up at a Camping and Caravanning Club Temporary Holiday Site just inside the Edinburgh ringroad. It was in an ideal location with a bus stop just outside which made getting into Edinburgh stress free and at £8 per night was perfect for us. I was pretty bowled over by the sheer scale of the city with so much to see and do: Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Arthurs Seat, Calton Hill, New Scottish Parliament, Scott Monument as well as many museums, galleries and exhibitions. We always, though, like to see a city through its green spaces preferring to explore on the outside rather than the inside. You are spoilt for choice in Edinburgh as it is chock full of green spaces.
After walking the length of the Royal Mile linking the Castle to Holyrood Palace we had a stroll through the 640 acres of Holyrood Park and walked up the 250 metre hill known as Arthur’s Seat where you have panoramic views of the city and surrounding area below.
We had a quick peek through the railings at Holyrood Palace before climbing up Calton Hill with the half finished Parthenon at the top (started in 1822 as a National Monument to the dead of the Napoleonic Wars it was never finished as the wonga ran out).
Then we went on through Princes Street Gardens to the broad Georgian facades of the New Town for a poke about.
We finished up in one of the Wetherspoons pubs on Princes Street. It seems that Wevs is where we always end up! This particular one was in a grand building that had once been a bank which is where it got its name from – The Standing Order.
The following day we stayed on the bus through the city and got off near the port at Leith.
The historic port with a medieval core of narrow streets and warehouses dating back to the 13th and 14th Century is now home to luxury waterside flats, offices, restaurants and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
After a quick photo shoot of the Britannia from the top of the multi storey car park we picked up the Waters of Leith footpath to take us back towards the city. The path runs 12.5 miles alongside the Water of Leith from the docks at Leith to Balerno. We walked four miles or so of it from the docks to bring us out at Dean village. The first couple of miles from Leith were ok but not that picturesque and because of ongoing building work the path has been diverted at various points. Getting closer in to the city though it was just lovely, very leafy and green with pretty terraced houses lining the river.
When we got to Dean village itself we felt we had just come into a medieval town in France.
Having really enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series of books, which chronicles the fictitious lives of its eclectic residents living in the apartments of a Georgian town house, I was keen to seek out where it was. No. 44 doesn’t actually exist of course but Scotland Street does.
If you haven’t read the books then I do recommend them with some lovely characters including Cyril, the beer drinking dog with the gold tooth, owned by Angus Lordie the portrait painter, Big Lou who loves to dole out advice in her coffee shop and the long suffering six year old saxophone playing Bertie who has an over bearing pushy mother.
Having now got to know the area a little better I feel I need to read the books all over again.
So that was Edinburgh. Before we left Scotland we back tracked to Falkirk to have a gander at the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat-lift, linking the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal. Opening in 2002, the Falkirk Wheel replaced a series of lock gates which had been demolished years ago to make way for housing and for the first time in forty years coast to coast navigation of the canals was re-established.
We parked up to have a look at the Kelpies, Andy Scott’s horse head sculptures, four miles east of the wheel before walking along the canal to the Falkirk Wheel. Well, how can anyone not love the Kelpies? We thought they were just superb.
Monuments to the working horses that played their part in the Industrial Revolution which shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area and unveiled to the public in 2013 they really are worth a visit.
Sadly, due to a technical fault, the Falkirk Wheel wasn’t in operation after we’d walked the four miles along the canal to get to it! Ho-hum never mind. Tea and millionaires shortbread in the cafe alleviated some of the disappointment. It did seem like a long four mile walk back again though.
And there ended our tour of Scotland. It is fair to say that Scotland dug deep into its pockets to bring out such lovely weather for our seven week tour which we are very grateful for. I think we have seen Scotland at its best which, for us, is up there with the best we have seen so far on our trip. Scotland and Slovenia are now my joint favourites and I expect we’ll be back again……and again……and again. The Highlands for me were the highlight with so much more to explore and get to know but, after a pitstop in North Yorkshire to see my parents, we needed to press on South. We have work to do! We start our jobs working on a campsite in Cornwall next week so must crack on. Back to work, mmm, now that’s going to be a shock to the system!