Jo’s Monday walk : A Royal Odyssey

It was not a promising beginning!  I stuck my head out of Edinburgh’s Waverley Station into damp and dreary grey skies.  No-one gave the bedraggled looking ice cream vendor a second look.  Still  I was bubbling over with excitement at a precious few hours in this beautiful city and determined to make the best of it.   Where better to start than The Royal Mile?

Approximately a mile long (surprise!), it rolls gently downhill from Edinburgh Castle to the gates of Holyrood Palace.  Did you know that miles can vary in length?  I was astounded to find that they can indeed, and that a Scots mile is longer than an English mile!  No wonder my feet got tired in Edinburgh.  The English statute mile was established by a Weights and Measures Act of Parliament, in 1593, during the reign of Elizabeth I.  “A mile shall contain 8 Furlongs, every Furlong 40 Poles, and every Pole shall contain 16 Foot and a half”.  For more clarity, read this link.

You will observe that Edinburgh has its share of ‘tourist tat’ interspersed with venerable historic buildings.  There’s room for all.  The Royal Mile is actually comprised of five consecutive streets- Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High St., Canongate and Abbey Strand.  I joined High St. directly from North Bridge and was ambling down towards the Palace.  Many closes and alleys invite further inspection, but I’m drawn towards the World’s End pub on the corner of St. Mary’s St., a former city boundary.  After the English victory over the Scots, in 1513 at the Battle of Flodden, a city wall was built around Edinburgh. Parts of the Flodden Wall still exist in the pub foundations.  Brass studs in the road mark the former position of the Netherbow Port, a gateway in the wall.

John Knox House stands on the opposite corner.  The gateway was removed in 1764 to improve the flow of traffic where the road narrows. Beyond lies Canongate, literally ‘the canon’s way’, used by the Augustinian monks from Holyrood Palace.  Until 1856 Canongate was not only a street, but the name of the surrounding burgh.  It was separate from Edinburgh and outside of the Flodden Wall.

The damp persisted, but it didn’t stop my enjoyment of a totally unexpected city garden.  I had stumbled upon Dunbar’s Close, complete with wonderfully cobwebby Scottish thistle.  This 17th century garden was created by Sir Patrick Geddes, an eminent Scots biologist who was aware of the relationship between health and environment.  It was restored to its current condition in 1978.

At the bottom of the Royal Mile there’s a choice between the modern and inspiring Scottish Parliament Building and historic Holyrood Palace.  You know which I chose, but I neglected to allow you a little glimpse inside.  I think you might enjoy this 2 minute video.

Suitably impressed, it was time to make my way back up the Royal Mile.  This time I continued on to Lawnmarket, and the Mercat Cross on Parliament Square.  Royal proclamations and the summoning of Parliament are traditionally announced here, and a bubble blower was having fun with the crowd.  St. Giles Cathedral, on the opposite side of the square, dates from the 14th Century and is the High Kirk of Edinburgh .

The real piper, or a dummy at the traditional kilt store?  I liked them both.  I had reached the Bank of Scotland, in all its magnificence. Have you noticed that the clouds have lifted and at last the sky is blue?  Curious about The Mound, I headed that way.  Apparently it’s an artificial hill, built to fill in a loch that was part of ancient Edinburgh’s defence system.

I don’t know about you but I was getting tired and hungry.  Up on The Mound, I found the perfect thing.

Haggis, neeps and tatties, of course.  Now, I’m not going to take you too much further but my digs are at the far end of Princes St.  I decided to walk through Princes St. Gardens. You’d like a quick look, wouldn’t you?  The mist is just rising over the castle.

Did you spot the statue of Wojtek and the Bear?  You probably don’t know the amazing story of the bear who went to war.  A group of young Polish girls were taking his photo, but moved aside for me, with a giggle or two.

I’m going to say my farewells here.  I checked into my accommodation, then did the Water of Leith walk that I shared last week.  You can get back to our start point at Waverley Station by tram, if you’d like.   I never did manage a tram ride in Edinburgh.  Maybe next time?

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Hope you enjoyed this walk.  I’m going to be putting my feet up for a week or two, but first I have some wonderful shares.  Thank you so much to everybody for your enthusiasm and support.  My apologies that I won’t be able to share for a while, so please do make the most of the following :


I cover a decent few miles, and so does my good friend Becky.  But sl-ow-ly!

Strolling along the Thames Path- part one!

‘Leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again..’  Or boat, in Drake’s case :

Leaving through backdoor

Them boots are made for…  Cardinal!

Hiking Boots

I hope Lady Lee has good boots too!

Hiking in Tenerife

It’s many a long year since I was in lovely Inverary.  Let Anabel show you around :

Inverary and Auchindrain

Islands around Toronto are always a novelty.  Go hopping with Jackie!

Island hopping

And look at local murals with Trav Trails :

City Walks

What would you expect to see in Bern, Switzerland?  Let Laia show you the sights :

Bern : music, roses and … bears?

Making me yearn for the Algarve, Miriam fills my senses with salt spray :

Walking Cape Schank

Some of you will know Kathe from Six word Saturday.  She’s sampling a little Scots whisky on this walk :

Yesterday’s short walk to Muir of Ord’s Distillery

And Liesbet is keeping us fit with a bit of rock scrambling :

WW- Gorham Mountain Train in Acadia NP, Maine

But there’s a gentler way too :

The Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park, ME

Susan has made it to the Baltic, and found a parade and some idyllic shops :

Walking Stockholm, Sweden

Or how about a crazy but beautiful Art Party, with Kathrin?

Anne & Mark’s Art Party 2016

Get those trumpets ready to sound the fanfare!  Here comes Badfish :

Strolling Through Prague : One fine day- Part 1

There won’t be another Monday walk until 17th October.  Sounds ages away, doesn’t it?  I’ll try to keep in touch but I don’t have WiFi in the Algarve. It’s wonderful just to switch off from social media and indulge in friends and places.  I’ll miss you, so please take care of yourselves while I’m gone.

Clandestine- Cloak and dagger in Holyrood Palace


Few places are more redolent of Scottish history than Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the principal residence of the kings and queens of Scotland since the 16th century.  On a mist-shrouded day I approach the Royal Arms of Scotland over the gateway.  I know that the cloisters within are as far as my camera can take me, yet somehow I don’t mind.

Audio clasped to my ear, I gaze around me.  Aged tapestries clothe wood-paneled walls, the furniture worn but sumptuous.  Not hard at all to picture Bonnie Prince Charlie in this setting.  The ancient floors creak and give under modern shoes.  In the endless Great Gallery I sink onto a stool to absorb the weight of majestic paintings, commissioned by Charles II.

Through the King’s Ante-Chamber, his Bedchamber and Closet I have crept reverently, but the spell of this house is all bound up in the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots.  Arch rival to Elizabeth I, her life was surrounded by intrigue and plots.  You can almost feel the anguish as you mount the stairs to her chambers at the top of the palace.  Held prisoner here, her embroidery box sits poignantly on a table, with the bible she used for her devotions.  Mary occupied these rooms from 1561 to 1567, and it was here that she witnessed the brutal murder of her secretary, David Rizzio. Married to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, at Holyrood in 1565, the following year Darnley was among those wielding a knife when Rizzio was stabbed 56 times.  ‘Cloak and dagger, furtive, covert, stealthy, concealed’- all are contained in the definition of Clandestine.


The life of the Palace began much earlier, in 1128, when an Augustinian abbey was founded at the order of King David I of Scotland. The Holy Rood, or Black Rood, was a relic of the True Cross of Christ which had belonged to David’s mother, Queen Margaret.  The abbey guesthouse was used for royal visits, until construction of a palace began in 1501.  Whereas the palace has grown and endured over time, the Abbey was reduced to a ruin in 1544, when Holyrood was looted and burned.  Full restoration was never undertaken but the ruins are hauntingly beautiful.

I gazed out, through the grills, to the park where a captive Mary once practised her archery.  Today the monarch spends one week a year in residence at Holyrood Palace. How times have changed!  You can view some of the history here.

I have made only a very tenuous link to today’s Thursday’s Special.   As I explained to Paula, Traces of the Past might make a better home.  But I’m the impatient type and can’t wait until 6th October for the next edition.

Have a look at what Paula makes of Clandestine.


Jo’s Monday walk : Water of Leith, Edinburgh


I do find Edinburgh an entrancing city, and one that has so many aspects!  I hopped off the train at Waverley Station into dire Scots weather, determined to make the most of my two days.  Holyrood Palace was on my list, and I reveled in all of its history.  A proposed hike up Arthur’s Seat was doomed by the veil of mist, but I still had another card up my sleeve.  There’s something mysterious sounding about the Water of Leith, and I was all set to unravel the mystery.

“A silver thread in a ribbon of green”.  How inviting that sounds.  The Water of Leith Walkway extends for 12 and a half miles, the river rising in the Pentland Hills, and flowing out to sea at the Port of Leith.  I intended to walk only part of its length, as my accommodation was close to an access point at Dean Bridge.  Designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1832, the bridge loftily spans a gorge, en route for South Queensferry.  I could see the pathway, winding beneath the bridge, but no obvious way down there, as private gardens border the river.  I had to backtrack, down through Dean Village, only to find that section closed due to subsidence.

Dean Village is the site of Lindsay’s Mill, one of eleven water-powered mills that rumbled through this valley in the 17th century.  The weir held back the flow of water to drive the mills.  Nowadays the area has been converted to smart modern homes but reminders of the past are everywhere, if you look.  Bell’s Brae was a granary, built in 1675.  I left the dog having his splash in the water and climbed back up to the bridge.  When a nice old gentleman pointed me in the direction of Stockbridge, I set off to rejoin the walkway.

I love the feeling of being in the countryside, in the middle of the city, and it wasn’t long before I’d edged away from smart Stockbridge and its stylish waterside homes.  Arboretum Avenue hints strongly at the Botanic Gardens, not too far away.   The path dodges and weaves from one river bank to another, and I’m pleased to spot a reassuring sign.  Still on track!

There are bridges aplenty and I’m rather glad I’d printed off details of the walk, or I’d never be sure when to cross over.  The terraced houses are the Stockbridge Colonies, originally built by a cooperative to provide low cost housing for mill workers. At Canonmills I again leave the river, to cross a busy street and yet another bridge.  My attention is caught by a young man, whose eyes are fixed on the river.  Following his gaze I’m thrilled to see a large heron, unperturbed by the presence of humans.

Flood gates control this stretch of river, a warning that things are not always so tranquil. Ducks peck and glide.  A parkland opens up before me and, around the corner, a lovely surprise.  A fast flowing weir is home to a pair of swans who preen for my delectation.

Ahead lies a quirky section,  where I pass through an industrial estate with a sense of humour.  I know that I’m not too far from Leith, where I hope to relax and enjoy the evening sunshine.  This walk has been full of surprises.

Just one last bridge to go and I’ve reached the Shore of Leith.  A place full of history, it started life as a medieval settlement and merged with the city of Edinburgh in 1920.  The port is still a commercial enterprise but old Leith has a wealth of charm.


In the quiet of late afternoon I read the displays telling me that Leith was once bustling with activity as tall masted ships unloaded their cargoes. Fish, coal, grain and hides were exported to northern Europe and the Med, in return for wine, fruit, spices and cloth.  As ships grew too large for this shallow river mouth, the harbour was moved north.  New life has been breathed into old bones and the result is a pleasing melange.

Let’s sit a while with Sandy, with his gently smiling face, before we take a closer look at the Royal Navy War Memorial.  The details are on a display board in the square facing the water.  Calm reigns supreme under Sandy’s benign gaze.

So many facts, I can’t begin to reproduce them all, but if you delve into this Wikipedia link I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.  I didn’t have time to walk as far as the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen’s former floating home, now docked at Ocean Terminal. Reason to come back one day?


A fascinating place, I think you’ll agree?  I didn’t intend for this post to be so long, so my apologies if I don’t offer you haggis, neeps and tatties. Just take my word for it- they were delicious.  Kettle on time, at last!

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Thank you so much for your indulgence and your generous support.  Again I have some wonderful walks to share and it’s all thanks to you.  If you’d like to join in at all, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or click on my logo above.  You’ll be very welcome.


Always charming, often funny and never boring.  It has to be Drake, doesn’t it?

Speedy walk on water

I’ll never be able to produce jaw-dropping photography like Cardinal’s, but I can admire :

A Walk Through Praha- Part 2

I cannot resist sharing Meg.  She finds such pleasure in the small things in life :

Walking Warsaw with a friend

And rather more seriously, some Polish history :

A walking tour of Jewish Warsaw

BiTi’s here again, with some great photos.  Shame I’m no cook!

Ballymaloe Cooking School Gardens

Remember Smidge?  I stepped back into her territory last week so I thought I’d give her a shout :

I heart North Berwick

And for those of you who don’t know, lucky Sue lives on Samos in Greece :

The house with the pink shutters- The Potter, Samos Island

You know that game, ‘Where’s Wally?’  I’m playing ‘Where’s Susan?’ :

Walking Oslo, Norway

Kathrin takes us down Memory Lane to an area of Cologne in Germany :

My weekly ramble

Delighted to welcome Amanda to my walks.  Make sure you don’t miss this one!

Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part  II

That’s it for another week!  Perhaps now is a good time to tell you that I have one more walk for you next week and then I’ll be taking a 2 week break in the Algarve.  Poor me!  If you’d like to join me next week get those walks in soon.  Have a happy one!

Six word Saturday


Didn’t we have a lovely time….



…the day we went to Edinburgh.

Sing along!

I’ve tried to give you a feel for our day together but it can’t show the laughter and the smiles.  We saw the castle, from afar, wandered a bit, found the National Museum of Scotland, and even had time for a trip to the Botanic Gardens.  Jude is quite a private person and refused to sit on that bench for a photo, but we agreed it was a splendid bench.  I pinched a discreet shot and I hope she’ll forgive me.

We found the roof terrace of Harvey Nicholls for a celebratory cocktail (thanks, Debs!), moseyed around the corner to an Apothecary Garden that Jude will tell you all about, and ended with a meal in the mezzanine restaurant of the Guildford Arms.  Then somebody blew the whistle and we had to scurry along the platform of Waverley Station.  Last swift hugs, and it was over!

Jude is still there, enjoying the sunshine, but I expect you’ll hear more when she returns from the Borders next weekend.  I’ve still got the swollen hoof so no zumba today, but I did enjoy the reminiscing.  Don’t suppose you’ll be surprised that it’s an Edinburgh walk next Monday.  Have a great weekend and I’ll see you then.  Six words?


Edinburgh- looking up, and looking down!

Numerous cannons look down on Edinburgh city

Numerous cannons look down from Edinburgh Castle on the city

I spent a great deal of my time in Edinburgh last weekend looking up, or looking down.  To begin with the sky was bleak, making the perfect background for my WordPress snow.  I’m really not looking forward to the real thing, but so far we’ve been lucky.

This morning I’d like to share some photos on Debbie’s challenge, at Travel with Intent.  It’s all about looking up, or down.

I looked up hopefully at the sky. Just a hint of brightness?

I looked up hopefully at the sky. Maybe a hint of brightness?

In Princes St. I looked down on the gardens

In Princes St. I looked down on the gardens

And on the Christmas market

And on the Christmas market

And on the ice skaters!

And on the ice skaters!

The children looked up hopefully at the carousel horse.

The children looked up hopefully at the carousel horse.

Over on Calton Hill I looked up at sunkissed tombstones

Over on Calton Hill I looked up at sun brightening the tombstones

And down to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament

And down to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament

Then up at the setting sun

The sun was beginning to set

Over the distinctive architecture of the Scottish Parliament

Over the distinctive architecture of the Scottish Parliament

And all the way down the Royal Mile

The rosy hue stretched all the way down the Royal Mile

As I walked back across North Bridge

And draped a scarf over the skyline as I walked back over North Bridge

This time last week I was really excited at the prospect of visiting this lovely city. I’m so glad I did.  Happy weekend everybody!

Don’t forget to join the challenge if you’ve been looking up or down lately.

Edinburgh- city of kilts and bagpipes

The lion and the unicorns grace Edinburgh Castle

The lion and the unicorns gracing Edinburgh Castle

The first sound I heard as I hopped off the coach at the end of Edinburgh’s Princes St. was the wail of bagpipes, leaving me in no doubt at all that I was in Bonny Scotland.  Renowned for my lack of sense of direction, no matter how hard I look at a map, I wandered onto North Bridge, gazing around for a landmark.  The city rose and fell all around me and, with a little sigh of relief, I spotted the Castle on its lofty mound.  Destination one was established!  Of course, the direction was up.

I had timed it nicely to arrive for the one o’clock salute.  The press of people was tight as we waited for the cannon to explode.  At the same time that the cannon is fired, across the city on Calton Hill a timeball drops on Nelson’s Monument.  Visible from afar, its original purpose was to enable the captains of ships on the Firth of Forth to set their chronometers for accurate navigation.

A nice moment occurred as I chatted to a neighbour.  A native of the city, he had never before managed to witness the dropping of the timeball.  I told him that I hadn’t been sure whether to head for Calton Hill or the Castle itself for the event. Neither had he, but he proceeded to show me that he had successfully recorded it on camera for posterity.  I wish I could show you!

But you'll have to make do with the cannon!

But you’ll have to make do with the cannon instead!

The sky was beginning to lighten as I made my way to my next destination- the Scott Monument on Princes St.  Not that I knew the way.  I followed my nose down some steps and eventually ended up lost in enormous Waverley Railway Station. From there the only way was up again.

I could have been tempted!

I could have been tempted!

Next I headed for Calton Hill itself, curious to see up close the reason for the city’s nickname “Athens of the North”.  Sure enough, there was the incomplete Parthenon!  Funds did not allow for completion at the time of building.  It matters little now because it is part of a wonderful green space in the city.

I imagine you’re starting to tire a bit now.  I left the house before 7am to catch my coach, but the knowledge that I had just this one day spurred me on.  I won’t keep you much longer.

The day was sparkling as I headed downhill through a different cemetery to the Palace of Holyrood.  The queues didn’t allow me time to go in, but I managed a quick swish through the stylish Scottish Parliament building.  The sun was beginning to set and the lights to come on as I headed back up the Royal Mile.

Magnificent Arthur's Seat, viewed from Calton Hill

Magnificent Arthur’s Seat, viewed from Calton Hill

Just time to pop my nose in Jenners to see the Christmas tree and marvel at the rides in St. Andrews Place.  The kilts were still twirling and the pipes a-calling as I returned, most reluctantly, to the coach.

High riding at the Christmas Market!

High riding at the Christmas Market!

Jenners Christmas tree

Jenners Christmas tree

Six word Saturday


Gone to Edinburgh.  NOT Christmas shopping!

I’ve booked a last minute seat on a Christmas shopping coach trip to Edinburgh, just for the day.  It’s years since I was in Edinburgh, and never at Christmas, so I’m quite excited to see Princes St. with its fairy lights.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh- courtesy of Wikipedia

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh- courtesy of Wikipedia

Doubt I’ll get up as high as Arthur’s Seat, but you never know! I do know it will be COLD though.  Leaving at the crack of dawn so I won’t be able to link to Six word Saturday till I get home. See you then!