A Bit Aboot Edinburgh

I’ll backtrack a bit, with a few things about Edinburgh:  It’s a little like going to New York city, if you can imagine Manhattan built on steep little mountains, and begun well before the twelfth century; it’s just constant motion, a lot o’ lot o’ people all on the move.  Its streets are also canyons, of stone rather than concrete.  It was once a walled city and the later building kept to that tradition; the blocks are solid masses.  In Old Town, they’re punctured by narrow closes, passageways to the walled interiors, which are courtyards, sometimes more shops, often gardens, or wynds, narrow twisting alleyways, often with stairs to accommodate the land. Yet almost all of it closes down at 5pm, except for the pubs and some of the restaurants.  It was a big deal to find the internet café, and to have it be open till nine.  It’s bustling. It’s big.  I stayed mostly central; my B & B was on the far edge of New Town, near Cannonmills, and I didn’t get much further south of Old Town than Lauriston.  I didn’t get to Leith and the waterfront at all (think Irvine Welsh), though I’d planned to.

It’s gorgeous, like nowhere else on earth.  It’s crass with wall-to-wall made-in-China tartan tchotchke shops in old town, and tours and tour buses, and it’s peaceful and lovely in its version of Central Park, the Princes Street Gardens, a natural valley dominated by the Castle.  The Scots do gardens very, very well, formal or informal; they take them seriously and they’re made for the eye, whether distant or close, and lovingly tended, though they contain way too much bad, highly sentimental monumental sculpture and downright goofy ornate fountains. Gardens and huge parks are all over the city, and the people are out using them.  And even houses that may have less than three square feet of open space have something growing in that space.

Actually, everything in Old Town is dominated by the castle, high on its central rock.  It’s magnificent, foreboding, stately and a little eerie.  I am still fascinated by how it just grows right up out of the bare rock.  And down past New Town, at the far end of the botanic gardens, miles away, the castle still ruled over the landscape, as I sat and watched about 15 swans gliding in a serene, gigantic, green and lovely park.  Here are a few photos of all of that:

Old Town


Faod mi mo choimpiutair chleachdadh an seo?

(Can I use my computer here?)

I am in the Highlands.  This is why I came.  

I’m in Inverness (Inbhir Nis), where I just now got access (for the past two days there’s been something wrong with the wireless where I’m staying).  Yeah, you can get online at the library free, but you’re limited to two separate 15 minute sessions per day, and there are no usb ports there to upload a blahg from.  Otherwise, access is outrageously expensive…the going rate translates to $1 for 5 minutes!  I have wireless for one more night, and then I’m off to Orkney.  Then back to Inverness, but to a different, cheaper guest house, then to Lewis, and then back again.  Inverness is ‘the capital of the Highlands’, and all the railway & bus lines end up here, so it’s my base. Except when I go to the islands, I’m sleeping here & making day trips with my nifty rail, bus and ferry pass.

My response to being here again is so huge and exquisite and multifaceted that I can’t find words for it.  But it’s ongoing, and it began shortly after the train left Edinburgh and the city dissipated and the hills began to appear…and then the first bilingual town sign.  We went up through the Cairngorms, and since my words won’t work, I’ll show you the trip, shot from the train windows. Missing from the sequence of landscapes are patches of forest before the mountains and after.

First, my last walk down…and then back UP…this hill in Edinburgh.  I was staying at the very bottom.  Trust me, this photo doesn’t convey the grade.  But, there was a nice view of the Firth of Forth in the background, to commemorate by last Edinburgh day.

There were fields and field of this bright yellow stuff planted in the farmland…the darker yellow on the hill is (I think) gorse…it’s blooming everywhere.

The hills begin.  My heart beats a little faster, or fuller, or deeper…

…and then the forests start, and while we’re hurtling through dense trees, the hills grow.

Somewhere in the forested part, we passed the Grampian mountains, and then we headed into the strange, moody, deceptively desolate Cairngorms.  The sky did its thing, set the stage:

And on into Inverness.

The River Ness (yep; it flows out of Loch Ness, six miles away).

Chi mi dh’aithghearr sibh!

(See you soon).