Railwalk: New Town to Newhaven

As ever, this one wasn’t planned. I turned out of Waverley Station one Bank Holiday Monday and decided to go for a wander around the capital. I walked up the eastern side of St. Andrew Square and looked down Dublin Street towards Fife. It’s one of my favourite views, standing at a high point looking down on city greenery and houses before the blue Forth and Fife rising high behind. This particular Monday I had no plan and decided to walk down Dublin Street, maybe towards the Botanic Gardens but instead to the Scotland Street railway tunnel. Once railways ran all across Edinburgh, the network much curtailed now. Work has been done to open up old railways as footpaths and one runs from Royal Crescent in the New Town all the way to Wardie Bay at Granton. I decided to take it, stopping first to read an information board which talked about St. Bernards, one of Edinburgh’s football teams, who used to play at a nearby ground now occupied by industrial premises. Trains ran through a tunnel from here to Waverley Station, a mile or so to the south. Today a basketball court sits in front of the gated-off tunnel, the sounds of play from the nearby adventure playground far louder than the echoes of trains that once ran.

Another tunnel ran under Canonmills, liberally daubed with graffiti and lit by narrow artificial lights and the bright sunlight at the other end. I soon came to the side of a Tesco, the path splitting there, and then near Warriston, a rugby pitch to the left and the Earl Haig poppy factory to the right, the Water of Leith wending its way under and through. Signs pointed in three directions, to cycle or walk to Goldenacre, Trinity, Newhaven and Granton one way, back to the city centre or even to Bonnington and Leith east. Bridges crossed overhead on a regular basis, the street signs giving an indication of how far I had walked. One, near Ferry Road, was long, cool and dark, a slightly eerie feel to which a photo could do no justice to convey.

The path wound round and a house stood, a wall at just the right height for a platform, the house with a canopy at the front. Someone lived there, which was cool, the palm tree giving an unreal air to the whole spectacle. Barely an hundred yards later, I reached the main road, now at the end of the Trinity Path, having covered the Warriston Path too. I could see the Forth and the gas rings at Granton, Fife beyond. I turned right towards Newhaven where I stood by the lighthouse and looked out. The railings were lined with padlocks, marking eternal love, while I reflected that nothing is ever permanent and new uses are found for the old, the long view rather than just living in the moment.


Saturday, Saturday

Manchester Piccadilly railway station

New V and A museum, Dundee


Our agenda this morning is upcoming travels, books and any other business. Maybe in that order, maybe not. We’ll see. It’s Saturday morning and I am going all the way to Parkhead later to watch the Hibs. I am currently off for ten days with a few travels planned for the coming time. I have a couple of trips sorted already. I am off to Manchester on Tuesday and Dundee on Thursday. I will be in Edinburgh next Sunday and at some point I will try and get to Dunbar. I think I’m due a fix of my home town. Beyond that I’ll be having a few lie ins and trying my very best to read some books, maybe getting round to a few Glasgow jaunts too, probably resulting in a right few posts for the blog in the process. Manchester should be interesting. At time of writing, I have done absolutely no research for Manchester but I’m sure I’ll manage to cobble together a decent day.

I haven’t read so much this week. I have a lot of books on my tablet plus I’ve still got Maria Sharapova’s autobiography and We Only Want The Earth, Sandy Macnair’s rundown of Hibs’ fortunes last season. Also sitting by my bed are For Every One, a book of poetry by Jason Reynolds, which I bought mainly because it’s published by 404 Ink, an independent publisher from Edinburgh behind Nasty Women and bringing Chris McQueer to the world’s attention. The world or this corner of it are immensely grateful for that. I also have The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn still. Digitally, though, I have the latest Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves, which I might work through on my various journeys this week.

I did read The Railway Adventures by Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall, the duo behind All The Stations, the YouTube series from last summer going around each and every railway station in the land. It was a nicely illustrated book but I liked the attention-to-detail, the asides and quips that made it feel personal rather than just another travel guide.

Restalrig Railway Path

Talking of which, I’ve been thinking about last Sunday’s post, which was a walk along the Restalrig Railway Path. At the moment Sunday posts here are a bit freeform. Tomorrow’s, for example, is about the view from Park Circus here in Glasgow. Anabel’s comment on the Restalrig post got me thinking about the lesser-spotted parts of Edinburgh, the bits that aren’t on the tourist trail. Edinburgh, to many, is about the Old Town and Princes Street, maybe a diversion to the Botanic Gardens or the Royal yacht down in Leith. That stuff doesn’t interest me, or not very much. Off the top of my head, I have a few thoughts, either posts that I can write here from memory or would need a visit. For starters, though, I can recommend the beautiful Colinton Dell, on the Water of Leith walkway and which I hope to visit next weekend, or the equally lovely Hermitage of Braid, which I was in a few months ago. Both of which are well outside Edinburgh city centre though very reachable via public transport (Colinton Dell is near Slateford train station and served by many buses, particularly the 44, while the Hermitage gets the 5, 11, 15 and 16, if memory serves.)

Since I started writing this post the other night, I have added to the to-read pile. On Thursday I was killing time at Braehead on the way to work and ended up in Waterstone’s. Fatal mistake. I bought a new compilation of writings by Nan Shepherd, Wild Geese, which currently sits in my backpack. If it’s anything like the book of Muriel Spark’s essays I read a few years ago, it will be a big hit. My favourite book is The Living Mountain and the most popular post on this blog, thanks to Google, is It’s a grand thing to get leave to live, since those words appear on an RBS banknote. This new collection has been edited by Charlotte Peacock, whose fine biography of Nan Shepherd Into The Mountain came out last year. Charlotte Peacock also has a blog, which I can heartily recommend too. I think Wild Geese will be one of those books to savour and read slowly to get its best effect, like The Living Mountain and the best books, in my experience.

Anyway, that’s us for today. As ever, thanks for reading, liking, following, commenting. Tomorrow’s post here features Park Circus and Streets of Glasgow on Wednesday features Woodlands Road.

Have a very nice weekend.

Railwalk: Restalrig Railway Path

I had seen signs for the Restalrig Railway Path a few times on the way to Easter Road but it was only when I was on a roundabout walk of Edinburgh that I finally ended up on it. From Salamander Street I saw a bridge over the road with people cycling across it and that swayed my decision. I turned onto Leith Links then onto the path. Walking above the street was great, feeling removed but not detached from the city around me. There were a few cyclists and walkers, even a family foraging for berries. To the left was Seafield Road, industrial premises and the sludge works, the right the crematorium and cemetery, trees lent greater beauty by a coy sunshine. I hadn’t been in the area since a funeral a few years back and thoughts turned definitely on. Behind the crematorium is the site of the old Eastern General Hospital, now a care home but once the place where babies from the east of the capital and East Lothian were born, including me. I didn’t check to see if they had put the plaque up yet.

The path soon curved and there were more trees. I soon realised from a sign that I was now in Restalrig, at the other side of a golf course from where I went to primary school. The path now sat in a dip with houses at either side. Nearer Lochend allotments came to my right and smart flats to the left. Bridges came at regular intervals with signs telling the casual visitor where they were, which was appreciated as while I was on very familiar terrain, I had never been on this path before. I knew I would soon come to Hawkhill Avenue, round the back of Easter Road. The cantilever atop the Famous Five Stand peeked above the wall, the modern Lochend Butterfly flats dominating the landscape. A kid cycled around and around the path, waiting for his mum and dad to catch up. I turned left onto Hawkhill Avenue and I was back in urban Edinburgh once more. Some time I’ll finish the walk, finishing near the top of Easter Road the street, but it felt right to finish near my spiritual home, even on a quiet Sunday.

Thank you for reading. This is the first of a new series here on Walking Talking, probably occasional rather than weekly. Something entirely different will be here next week.