A Few Thoughts on the Scottish Winter: and the Water of Leith

Is it spring yet?

What? No?! It’s only *mid February*?! How can that even be possible?! I’m sure I’m right in saying that January was at least 14 or 15 weeks long, yes?

Winter in Scotland can be a bit challenging. It’s dreich, it’s cold, it’s icy – and if you’re anything like me, you have the permanent Fear that you are going to go arse over tit just venturing a few feet from the front door. It’s a pain in the ass – and often feels like summer never happened / will never ever happen again. Ever.

That being said, Scotland isnae feckin Russia. Or Iceland. Or Canada. We need to get a grip and deal with it. One thing that really boils my piss is when The Bastard Weather actually makes the TV news. Seriously, wtf is that about? We live in Scotland. It is winter. If it snows, or is cold or is icy, that should not come as a massive surprise to anyone – and, unless there is literally NO news – like, NONE – it shouldn’t be reported on as a “Thing”. Especially in the central belt: FFS, folk who live in the Highlands where they face the genuinely real possibility of having their local roads cut off for weeks on end because of snow must think we’re a bunch of wusses down here in the Lowlands.

All that being said, it has been bloody freezing lately and – since late October 2017 – the main temptation for me has been to hide under the duvet, dressed from head to foot in an array of woollen garments, whilst drinking hot toddies* and clinging onto my fluffy-covered Primark hot water bottle like a life raft.

(*A Hot Toddy: whisky-based hot drink, often involving honey and lemon – think Lemsip with booze. One possible recipe here.)

However! This year, fitting in with my whole “I will be fit and healthy, yes I will – no, really!” philosophy (or at least my “let me not get so fat and lazy again that I get chest pains from lifting up the remote control” philosophy), I decided that the cold, grey weather wouldn’t stop me Going Outside and Doing Things.

Overall, this endeavour has been fairly successful: I’ve dragged my ass out walking a lot and have run a fair bit too (unless there was snow on the ground; or it was really windy; or really wet; or the pavements were icy; or I got a better offer… Ahem).

Take last Sunday, for example. I headed to the south side of the city for a run with my running buddy through the Hermitage of Braid, then through the woods behind the Braid Hills. Bloody lovely it was too. Nae photos of the route cos I didn’t have my phone, but you’ll have to trust me that the views towards the end down through the city to the Forth and across to Fife were joyous. What was less joyous was the mud. Oh was it muddy! It was properly rainy the day before so the normally quite muddy paths were actually just massive mud pools, with any resemblance to actual paths seemingly long gone. Look at my poor trainers at the end of it!


To try and avoid a completely sedentary lifestyle, as well as being a (very slow) runner shuffler, I am a huge fan of nice long walks – especially around and about my home of Edinburgh. Luckily, there are some great places to walk all over the city – and just outside it too. And, on the whole, I have made myself get out walking a lot this winter – even when the bitter cold has struck. We are really spoiled in Edinburgh for walking routes, and many of these places may be unknown to the casual visitor to the city.

One of my favourite easy walking routes in Edinburgh is along the Water of Leith. The Water of Leith is a 22 mile river which runs right through the city – and there’s a path that goes the entire length. It starts (or ends, depending which direction you go in) in Balerno which is right in the west of the city and ends (or starts, if you like – see above…) in Leith, where the river meets the Forth. Over the years, I must have walked this route – or, at least, parts of it – hundreds of times. And I’ve done the whole thing in one go three or four times. Many of my weekend walks are based around the WoL and, since some bits are quite nicely sheltered, it’s a good winter option.

Just a very few highlights of the Water of Leith (note – the photos below were taken back in early November 2017, when you could *just about* argue it wasn’t quite winter yet. I can assure you that more recent walks there have been much higher in the dreich quotient!)

  • 20171120_143929Very close to the start (or end – you know what I mean by now!) in Leith, there’s a lovely wee bit which has stone plaques in the ground with lovely poetry quotations on them. Though – beware: this is also the spot that has lots of pigeons and other assorted flying rats – so the potential for getting hit by bird shite is relatively high.
  • St Bernard’s Well – this is just as you leave Stockbridge (Stockbridge is an area just south of the New Town and is Well Posh: like, they have more artisan cheese shops than newsagents and there’s a significantly higher proportion of M&S than George at Asda frocks in the charity shops – you get the picture…) and marks the spot where a natural spring was discovered that could apparently cure just about anything. The actual monument is open on occasional Sundays over the summer months. Grown Up Boyfriend and I stumbled upon one such day and the inside has been renovated with murals etc (apologies I neglected to take photos of this #crapblogger).
  • The AIDS / HIV memorial just as you get to the entrance of the Gallery of Modern Art – a beautiful spot, just near a waterfall, with touching quotations about love and loss.
  • Murrayfield Stadium – you walk past here as you go through Roseburn Park and it does look pretty cool from that angle. Obviously, it’s less serene in February when the feckin Six Nations Rugby is on: during home games, the whole place is overrun with wankers rugby fans sporting hats in the shape of leeks / dressed as Napoleon (spotted last weekend by a friend of mine…) / wearing crap kilts etc etc…
  • Colinton Dell – this wooded bit between Slateford and Colinton Village is very bonnie: winding paths go through the trees and there are some beautiful spots: worth taking your time at this bit. Incidentally, before you cross the road at Slateford and head towards the Dell, there’s the excellent Water of Leith visitor centre, which has a good exhibition about the history of the river: and they have a cafe! Cuppa alert.

A couple of weeks back, with a pal, I walked the Canonmills to Roseburn chunk of the WoL, then walked back into town through Haymarket. Walking with this particular pal is great fun: she is as much of a gobshite as I am so we just blether and blether and blether, generally imagining what it’d be like if We Ruled The World. The only issue is that this pal is absolutely dog DAFT and has to stop and talk to all the dogs – and their owners – that we pass. Every. Single. One. So, a walk that might take a normal person an hour takes us double that. Sigh. I don’t really mind, I suppose: as long as there’s wine at the end of our walk – and there always is.

Ach, it’ll not be long until spring has sprung, I suppose: the crocuses are popping out in the Meadows, it’s just about light when I leave work in the evening – and my bobble hat has gone back in the drawer. Mind you, it snowed again just the other night so that may have been a premature move on my part. But, in the meantime, it’s big coat, double-socks, scarf – and continuing to put one foot in front of the other (and avoiding the black ice 😉 )


One thought on “A Few Thoughts on the Scottish Winter: and the Water of Leith

  1. I so agree. It’s been bone crunchingly cold. I also agree that we are wimps – get a thicker jacket is the solution.

    Oh and your reference to St. Bernard’s Well evoked childhood memories. We walked along that stretch a lot as my auntie lived in Stockaree (as it was known before it was posh).

    Good old read, pal. To paraphrase the late great Brucie – keep writing!


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