When most people think of Edinburgh, they think of the Castle, the Royal Mile or the city centre more generally. I have been around the city for most of my life and I know full well that the best bits of the city are those places not everyone knows about, a little off the beaten track, not too far but just enough to see something good. Every so often, I see photographs of Newhaven Harbour, a small harbour in the north of the capital, just along from Ocean Terminal. The photos are usually from sunrise or sunset but with the long days just now, I’m not getting from my house in Glasgow to Edinburgh for sunrise or home after sunset. In all my years, I have passed Newhaven by but never been for a wander around, at least until yesterday.
I took the bus to Leith where I had lunch (details in yesterday’s post, It’s better to be single…) before walking along past Victoria Quay to Newhaven. It was cloudy and a little cool, a complete contrast from the gorgeous sunshine I had left in Glasgow. I didn’t care since I am one of those oddballs who prefers to be a little warm rather than absolutely roasting. Besides I could see some blue sky though at that point it was over the Forth and Fife. The harbour was full of yachts with one lone guy working on one. It was low tide so the harbour was all mud. But the smell of fish was present and correct, as were the sounds of seagulls, even above the noise from the busy road adjacent.
The harbour was like many others on the east coast, horseshoe-shaped with two piers at either side. On one was a lighthouse, probably built in 1837, an elegant white tower that is now defunct but remains a prominent landmark. A lighthouse is usually enough to make a place for me but it was a clear day and I could see across the Forth towards Kirkcaldy where tower blocks and houses could easily be made out and to Inchcolm Island too. I walked down the tidal defences to the shore line, looking out beyond the buoys to a flat Forth. I sat a while by the lighthouse, watching the clouds shift in just a few minutes, changing the day completely from cloudy to sunny and warm. I looked along the skyline, along the city to Granton and its gas tower towards the Forth Bridges, three of them now, then across to Fife. I sat for maybe twenty minutes, just gathering my thoughts, before heading away.
I walked to Ocean Terminal, a shopping centre with the Royal Yacht Britannia attached. I know it well since it is usually a quieter place to shop than Edinburgh city centre. It is also noteworthy for the great views across the city from the front and across the Docks at the back. I went up to the back of the Shopping Centre to stand a few minutes looking out at the boats.
After that, I decided to head back into town but as I so often do, I decided to take the long way round, via Queen Charlotte Street, Leith Links and Easter Road. As I came near to Leith police station, I happened to glance down Maritime Lane at a fine building at the other end. In one of those pleasing stumbling-upon moments, I found a neat piece of graffiti, which stated ‘the things I love are not at home’ with a loveheart below. I liked that a lot. While I love my home, I can’t help but agree. The things I love tend to be found when I am out in the world, sometimes far from home.
The last time I had been in Leith Links was at the end of the Scottish Cup victory parade last weekend and I was among a fair few thousand people trying to get a glimpse of the hallowed trophy. This time, it was much quieter and I stood atop what has been christened Hanlon Hill. Pleasingly, one of the sounds around me was a kid from the local primary school. He was singing:
‘2-1 down, 3-2 up
David Gray has won the Cup’.
That’s good education right there. Numeracy and rhyming, with a fair bit of local pride chucked in.