also known as my walk to work
I’ve been in Edinburgh for a few weeks, now, working long hours, and one of the highlights of my stay has been, strangely, my walk to work.
I’m staying in Marchmont, which is something of a student ghetto. It’s all terraces of big, stone, Victorian buildings. The neighbourhood seems very nice, although for the longest time – until I switched to the night shift which starts in the afternoon– I never saw any of the stores while they were open.
I then cross the Meadows down a tree-lined avenue with views to Arthur’s Seat. Once upon a time, the Meadows area was actually the site of a shallow loch. It was drained in the 17th century and used as pasture land. In the 19th century, a law was passed banning any building on the site, and it has been a popular park ever since.
Arthur’s Seat is part of Holyrood Park, the former hunting grounds of the Scottish kings. It is a ridge of land that reaches 251 metres high and is all that remains of an ancient volcano.
Leaving the park, I pass Greyfriars Kirk. Built in the 17th century on the site of a Franciscan friary, it is a peaceful nook on a busy corner, with its graveyard almost completely encircled by the buildings that back onto it. If it weren’t for little Bobby, it might have been forgotten entirely.
Greyfriars Bobby was a little dog whose master, John Gray, died in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby, heartbroken, sat watch over his master’s grave and would not be removed. Local shopkeepers and neighbours kept him fed and cared for. Bobby died in 1872, 14 years later, and was buried just inside the entrance to the kirkyard.
There is a little statue of Bobby outside the Kirkyard, which is always mobbed by tourists. I have given up trying to dodge the cameras and now just walk through the shots. Rude, maybe, but I’m on my way to work, and if I waited for them all to finish, I would never, ever leave that corner.
Heading up George IV bridge, I have nice views down onto the Grassmarket, and then pass by The Elephant House, a café that claims to be “the birthplace of Harry Potter”. Apparently, J.K. Rowling used to sit in there to write while she was working on the first books of the Harry Potter series.
I could then head up on to the Royal Mile, but it being Fringe time, I only try that if I have a lot of time to spare. It’s chaos. Fun, but a complete zoo. Instead, I skirt along Victoria Terrace, which runs both down to the Grassmarket and up to the Royal Mile at the same time. One of the many things I love about Edinburgh. With all the different levels, this city becomes the only place you can walk into a building on the ground floor, go down four flights of stairs and come out at ground level.
And, when I finally arrive at the front door of my workplace, I have an excellent view up to the castle and Castle Rock. We can hear the cannonfire from the Tattoo, and when the show lets out, all the soldiers and pipers and dancers file past our front door.
So, while I don’t have time to go out and actually do much touristing around Edinburgh, at least some of the sights have come to me.