Not gone to Birmingham
We should be in Birmingham. Except that we haven’t gone there. We are still in Edinburgh. My younger brother, Peter, has a 70th birthday this weekend. Sadly he isn’t very well: what he thought was long COVID turned out to be a brain tumour. He was bravely going ahead with a party beside the river outside Evesham. But his daughter, Rosie, has diagnosed positive for COVID, and so the party is off. At least for the time being. He’s feeling pretty low at the moment, probably a reaction to hefty doses of radio- and chemo-therapy. Pray for him if you will. And for his wife Alice.
Home in Edinburgh
We were going to stay with my older brother and his wife in Birmingham. But their daughter is in a bad place too, so instead we are unexpectedly at home. I realise that I am not very good at being flexible; at making plans, or in this case altering them, at short notice. But we began Thursday by walking down to Waverley Station to talk to the booking office. It seems that one of the by-products of COVID is that LNER are refunding in full all tickets unused because of illness. Even the cheapo Advance Singles that we had bought. A big Thank You to Kate, the Refund Queen.
In a spirit of adventure we took the far back exit from the station, and came out in Calton Road with a fine view of the neo-classical Waterloo Bridge above us. The bridge was built, or at least begun, in 1815 in order to connect the previously isolated Calton Hill with the eastern end of Princes Street. It bridges what was a steep ravine and the main arch is some fifty feet above the street below.
A little further down the street we came to the historic Calton New Burial Ground. This was built as a supplement to Old Calton Burial Ground, and sits on a steep south-facing slope. Near the entrance are the tombs of the Stevenson family of light-house builders, one of whom was the father of Robert Louis Stevenson. In the top corner there is a romantic looking watch tower, built to deter body-snatchers. The tower was apparently occupied as a house until the 1950s, and was once occupied by a family with ten children. The cemetery offers splendid views south-east over Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament towards Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.
A walk round Loch Leven
The following day I took the X.56 bus across the bridge and up to Kinross to walk round Loch Leven. The circuit is about 19.5kms, depending on which website you believe; plus a bit more for getting to and from the bus stop. The surrounds of the loch are a Nature Reserve, and there is a surfaced cycle path all the way. Which means rather a lot of lycra-clad cyclists !
It’s an easy, flat walk with a total dénivelage of about 20 metres ! The RSPB information centre and cafe at Vane Farm below Benarty Hill is currently closed pending renovations. But there is a pop-up cafe, which serves excellent coffee together with a fine view over the eastern end of the loch.
Apple were doing one of those enormously frustrating things, demanding my Apple user name and password, and a 4-digit code [I don’t have one] before I could open my phone. Eventually I got it to work, to take a few photos and to tell Susie where I was.
It was a busy day at the tiny Scotlandwell airfield with several gliders being towed into the air. I remembered how these silent, silver apparitions used to spook Gus, our Border collie, when we walked him on Bishop Hill some thirty years ago on the way to Concern for Scotland meetings with Stephen Anderson in Perth. It’s funny how the second half of the walk seemed significantly longer than the first half. But there was still time for a pot of tea and a chocolate brownie in Kinross before getting back on the bus for Edinburgh.
And I sat on the bus coming home just wondering whether to have a go at [some part of] the Camino [to Santiago de Compostella] next year. Will the daily stages be too long ? Do I know anyone who might like to walk with me ? At roughly the same pace.