Yes, I know, I know!! I’m a shit blogger who hasn’t bothered her arse since the end of last year. But, but <begin begging excuses> I’ve been busy! So very busy! Well, by “busy” I really mean spending most of my time cultivating a lovely New Thing with a Nice Man (ie going out all the time, eating and drinking and generally having a Jolly Lovely Time). Eight months on and it’s going rather swimmingly (ie, we’re still at that stage where the G Man thinks all my neuroses and annoying habits are charming and quirky – give it time…) – so, in between all the smug Instagram posts of us happily frolicking in various pubs and restaurants and enjoying weekend mini-breaks, finding time to write has been tricky. I’m also just a lazy fucker <end begging excuses>
Today, though, I have a day off work! And – miracle of miracles – I did my Big Shop yesterday and cleaned the flat on Saturday so I find myself with a free day! Well, to be fair, it’s taken every effort for me to boot up the Chrome Book and get started rather than picking up the Kindle and curling up on the sofa to finish off the latest Ian Rankin.
(Quick digression: seriously, if you haven’t read Ian Rankin’s stuff, gonnae? This latest one – In A House Of Lies – I started yonks ago but kept having to switch away from it to read my Book Group books (humph…) so I started it again yesterday and it’s just bloody great. I am a big crime fiction fan (blog about the Scottish crime writing festival Bloody Scotland here) and I don’t like to pick favourites, but Rankin really is a master story teller. There’s just always an undercurrent of threat, but with some excellent humour. And I still love reading about real places that I know well. And nasty murders. And beatings.)
So, in the last six and half months since I put fingers to keyboard there have been quite a few lovely wee trips to various bits of Scotland. For example, we had a fabby trip to Skye back in May:
The G Man had never been there!!! Can you imagine the joy I had introducing him to the place?! Luckily, he bloody loved it. Just as well: if he hadn’t, it would more than likely have been the end of a beautiful friendship… I won’t bore you all with another Skye blog post (there’s one about the Fairy Pools etc here if you need a Skye-fix…). Today, I’ll stay closer to home.
As previously mentioned, I live in Tiny Flat on Shit Street, in Edinburgh. I have lived here – on and off – since June 2002 and, although I keep saying “Right, that’s it! I shall move to a bigger flat on a slightly less shit street!” I still find myself here. This is mainly for the following reasons:
- Edinburgh property prices. For. The. Love. Of. Fuck. You are having a laugh.
- Connected to 1 above, I am not quite ready to move to the ‘burbs or – shudder – Fife*, where property prices are not quite as Utterly Completely Insane
- I am *very* lazy (see opening paragraph above)
- Despite the fact it’s Shit Street, it is, in fact, just a 20 minute walk to many Not Shit places, such as the Royal Mile, Princes Street and Leith. So, meh, what can you do?
- The local Scotmid now sells chorizo.
So, going back to point 3 above, today’s blog post is all about my local park, Holyrood Park.
I may moan about where I live (ooh, and I often do…) but sometimes I have Word With Myself about the fact that this place is pretty much on my door step (well, a ten minute walk, or so). It’s a huge expanse of greenery and rocky bits tucked behind the Royal Mile, connecting Abbeyhill with Duddingston, with lots of cool bits in between.
It’s essentially the Queen’s back garden, as it’s right next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse where she bides when she’s in town. The Palace is pretty cool looking from the outside (I haven’t been inside since I was a kid cos I am FAR too stingy to give the Royal Family any of my hard-earned cash when most of the other museums in Edinburgh are free…). It’s got a ruined abbey that dates from the 12th century:
…as well as the newer bits that Her Maj frequents, and a big art gallery – right opposite the Scottish Parliament building (which I spraffed about in a previous blog here).
Probably the most iconic part of the park is Arthur’s Seat, the craggy hill (an extinct volcano) which dominates the skyline there. Despite the fact I’ve lived in the ‘Burgh for 22 years (fuck…) I have only ever been taken up the Seat (oo-er Matron) once, so I must do that again soon. It’s a relatively easy climb, though it does still give me The Fear when I see tourists starting the trek in flip flops. Sigh. It’s still a feckin rocky hill, people! Don’t you worry about twisted ankles?!
To one side of Arthur’s Seat are the Salisbury Crags, which provides a much easier trek which I do on a regular basis:
This pic was taken from the Pleasance, looking back to the top of the Crags. You get some great views from the top of the Crags – across the (probably wrongly…) infamous Dumbiedykes estate, over to the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle:
If you go a bit “brown trousers” with heights, you can stick to the path that goes round the bottom of the Crags to the south end of the park – great for a wander, and fab views back to the Forth:
St Margaret’s Loch – to the north of the park, not far from the Palace and the Meadowbank entrance – is a really beautiful wee spot. I love taking an evening stroll to the loch and up to St Anthony’s Chapel above it:
Oooh, I’m quite proud of that photo!
The loch is home to some slightly grumpy swans – grumpy possibly because, despite the numerous signs telling folk not to feed them on bread, idiots still insist on doing this, so they are probably all suffering from windy-pops from excessive carb intake.
You get some lovely views over to the city / Leith from up beside the ruined St Anthony’s chapel:
OK, maybe it was a bit dull and dreich when I took those photos – you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Just at the side of St Mary’s Loch is the big hilly road (the whole road is called Queen’s Drive) that winds round the side of Arthur’s Seat. This is a running route that myself and my running buddy do when we are feeling brave. It is – to give it the technical term – As Steep As Fuck – and usually nearly kills us. I say “run”; think more like a slow shuffle. I still remember the triumph we left a few years back when we ran up the whole way without stopping for the first time: I think we both thought that our hearts were going to burst out of our chests a la John Hurt in Alien. But, it always feels awesome when you get to the top, seeing Arthur’s Seat from the other side, and heading past Dunsapie Loch to the back of the park, with views down to Duddingston Loch and across to the south of the city. Then, as you come back round the road, you are rewarded with awesome views of pretty much the whole city:
There’s still a whole bit at the south to explore from there which includes a wee detour to the Innocent Railway. The Innocent Railway path runs under the park, then through Duddingston and onto Craigmillar and Brunstane in the East of the city. There’s a good article about the history of this old railway line – now a cycle / walking path – published by The Scotsman newspaper here.
The Innocent Railway tunnel goes right under the park and is a bit spooky. It’s long, dark and cold: in fact, the perfect location for some kind of nasty doings that you might find in the books of the afore-mentioned Mr Rankin. Though, happily when you come out at the Newington end of the tunnel, it’s only a five minute walk to one of my favourite pubs, The Auld Hoose:
Incidentally, the Auld Hoose claims to serve the largest portion of nachos money can buy in Edinburgh. I have yet to partake personally, but I have witnessed them go by. I can confirm they are HUGE and, even I – as a supremely greedy human being – would need at least 3 or 4 equally greedy pals to finish them. Maybe. The pub also has a good metal / goth jukebox – something sadly lacking in Edinburgh these days. So, if you want to give yourself a cheese baby whilst listening to Mastodon, you know where to go!
Alternatively, if you exit the park from the palace / parliament end, the place for an after-walk pint is The Regent. They also do nachos. They do not claim to be the biggest in Edinburgh – but they are still rather good. But their stovies are better. Drool.
There is SO much more to say about Holyrood Park, but I can feel my Kindle and a large G ‘n’ T calling me, so I’ll wrap it up. Suffice it to say, Edinburgh residents – and its visitors – are spoiled by the fact that it’s there, it’s free, and it’s quite stunning. Just keep the noise down so you don’t wake up Liz and Phil 😉
(*Just kiddin’ – Fife is grand 😉 )