The Walking Group is proving to be very popular, and all the walks to date have been much enjoyed by those who attended. If you would like to receive emails with the information about the forthcoming Walking Group walks, or go on them, please email the office for more details! Email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Forthcoming Walks in 2023
More information about these walks will be available in due course, but at least the dates can be put into the diary!
Saturday 30th September, 11am; From Morrison’s Haven / Prestongrange Museum to Cockenzie House Co-ordinator: Janet Hodgson
Route: Morrison’s Haven to Cockenzie House and Garden following part of the John Muir Way.
Meeting point: Morrison’s Haven opposite Prestongrange Museum building. There is a path in towards the shore and some parking.
Getting there and back: A 26 bus serves the start and finish points. The entrance path is between two bus stops so either get off at Prestonpans Prestongrange Museum stop and head east or the Morrison’s Haven stop and head west. If you leave your car at Morrison’s Haven you would need to walk or get the bus back as the planned walk is linear
Start time: 11am; Distance: about 5km
General: mostly good surfaces, fairly level. Remember it could be windy along the coast.
Finishing point: Cockenzie House and grounds are interesting. There is a café there for food and drinks or bring a picnic to eat in the grounds.
If you would like to hear up-to-date information about these walks and are not already on the Walking Group email list, please email the office and ask to be added to it!
Summaries of our Previous Walks…
Walks in 2023
Wednesday 23rd August, 2023: in the footsteps of Alan Breck and Davie Balfour (Walk co-ordinator, Janet Hodgson)
A report will be available soon on this woodland walk. It traversed Corstorphine Hill, visited the Clermiston Tower commemorating Walter Scott, took in the view from the Rest and Be Thankful, and saw the statue of two characters from Kidnapped, Davie Balfour and Alan Breck sculpted by Sandy Stoddart and unveiled in 2004 by Sir Sean Connery.
Tuesday 8th August, 2023; Dean Village to Saughton Park via the Water of Leith; By Hilary McDowell, participant; Walk co-ordinator, Janet Hodgson
Nine of us plus one little black pup, had a most enjoyable stroll along beside the Waters of Leith from Dean Village to Saughton Park. The weather was glorious with the sun shining and no need for jackets. This walk was very familiar to some of us but new to others. Even for those who had been along this stretch before, it was a pleasant surprise to find that a considerable section which had been closed for a good few years had now reopened. (It was along the former detour that folk used to get lost as the signage was not great.)
Janet, our guide, made sure that we were all comfortable with the speed and terrain. We enjoyed the wild flowers and seeing how many berries there are on the holly bushes. (Some believe that forecasts a hard winter. I think it shows it was a favourable spring. We will see who is right. At least there will be plenty for the birds later in the year as well as some for Christmas decorations!) The herbaceous borders in Saughton Park were at their best.
It is an interesting exercise to see how so many different means of communications link throughout the City, whether road, cycle path, rail, canal etc. I suspect that those in the party who had not explored this path will want to undertake other stretches. Finding which bus connects at various places make it very possible to choose how far you want to walk and the views change so quickly. We love this walk at all times of the year as it varies, depending on the season and, of course, the company! Thank you Janet for organising and leading it!
Thursday 20th July, 2023; The top section of the Water of Leith from Balerno to Slateford By John Smith, participant; Walk co-ordinator, Roddy Simson
We met together next to Balerno High School ready to follow the Water of Leith as far as Slateford. Unfortunately, construction work meant that the walkway was closed and we were left scratching our heads!
Not letting this stand in our way, we headed into Balerno and took the rougher route passing Currie rugby club, Malleny House and on to the Lmyphoy Road. It was interesting and attractive as it passed through fields of ripening crops and lots of horses and we saw quite a few orchids growing in the verges. The view was also spectacular as we could see over to Fife and the Pentland Hills above us. Cutting through the ancient graveyard at Currie Kirk, we rejoined the Water of Leith walkway. To our pleasant surprise, we found that the pathway has been relayed to a very high standard making it easy to walk on. Following the river to Colinton, we took a detour to visit the recently restored wrought iron fence designed by Phoebe Anna Traquair, who lived in Colinton and was internationally renowned for her work in the Arts and Crafts movement.
After a quick lunch we picked up the walkway passing through the old railway tunnel which has now received a new lease of life having been painted with murals celebrating Colinton through the ages. The official website describes it as having been transformed from “a dark and scary tunnel into a safe and welcoming home for Scotland’s largest historical mural; celebrating the industrial, social, artistic and literary history of our community”. The walk carried on through lovely old trees which were standing in their prime and finally finishing at Stockbridge.
I can fully recommend this walk as there is lots to see, it’s basically flat as it follows the old railway line and there is also a bonus that the Lothian 44 bus follows much of the route and it is easy to jump on and off depending on the length of walk you feel up to. Our thanks to Roddy for leading this walk.
Thursday 29th June, 2023; Fisherrow Harbour to Portobello, Congregational Walk for St Peter’s Day:
It was a beautiful evening, and once again lots of fun was had on our flexible and very accessible Congregational Walk to celebrate St Peter’s Day! Walking from Fisherrow Harbour to Portobello, we finished with sharing a picnic or packed tea by the sea.
Saturday 27th May, 2023; Blackford Glen Road to Swanston By Tricia Anderson, walk participant; walk co-ordinator, Roddy Simson
It was a balmy, slightly cloudy day as we gathered for our church walk. Roddy had collected 12 folk to do the three and a half miles from Blackford Glen Road to Swanston. The afternoon began with introductions as not everyone was from St Peter’s: there was a family from Lincoln, and a friend of a walker.
It was a wonderful walk! Nature excelled herself as everything has suddenly flourished and grown so we were walking under a canopy of luscious green leaves. Along the river, the lad from Lincoln was in his element as we found a football floating which was rescued and then kicked and dribbled virtually the whole way. At Braid Burn some rock hopping took place and when we passed a rope swing attempts were made to find a way to jump on it but fortunately it was too far to clamber as it looked decidedly unreliable. Instead one brave soul climbed up a slope along a fallen tree.
Apart from being in nature and breathing the fresh air, what is wonderful about the walks is the mixing and different conversations that take place. The mum of the two children with us commented that she ‘loved watching her children engage in conversation with different people of different ages. It is such a wonderful opportunity for intergenerational conversations with folks from all sorts of different backgrounds’, plus a chance for others to get to know the people we see each Sunday, a bit better.
As we neared Swanston some of us made a short detour to see a broad slab of red sandstone, possibly from the neolithic period known as The Caiy Stane. It is in a residential area, standing at over nine feet high and it is unlikely that many even know it’s there.
And so to our half way point and wonderful home-made refreshments at the tea shop complete with fantastic views across the Swanston golf course and beyond. By the time we got there, our numbers were depleted by two and only five walked back the way we’d come! But that’s the beauty of these occasions: do as much or as little as is practical and enjoy the experience as well as explore new paths, talk in more depth than usual – and find prehistoric monuments!
Thank you to Roddy and Lenore for a beautiful, enjoyable and warm (in every way) walk.
Saturday 10th June; Linlithgow Loch, By Liz Mackay, Walk co-ordinator
We all met up as arranged in front of Linlithgow Palace and found our way onto the path round the loch. Despite the sun and beautiful day, all five of us all needed our wind proof jackets. From the other side of the loch the view to the palace with the sun full on the east side with its main entrance caused a major photo stop.
As well as the gulls, swans and ducks we saw a Canada goose and a grebe with young. Finally those with a picnic went to find a bench while the others resorted to the coffee shop.
Foraging / Litter Pick Walk: by Kristee Boyd, Walk co-ordinator
A huge thank you to Christine and Laura for setting up our Foraging and Litter Picking Walk on 10th March. Laura organised litter picks, gloves and bags for everyone and Christine kindly brought along a basket of samples of various foraged items for us to try. She did this as it’s usually not a good idea to eat foraged items from the edges of garbage-strewn walking paths!
Our group of 12 braved some pretty wet weather initially, picking up loads of rubbish around the ASDA Jewel area. Thankfully, the sun finally came out and we were able to identify plenty of useful plants, including nettles, dock, cleavers, blackthorn, hawthorn, elder, hazel, gorse, dandelions and garlic mustard. Christine taught us how to tell the difference between similar plants, such as wild garlic and three-cornered leek. We ended with some delicious homemade nettle and chickpea dip and a taste of dandelion tea, both provided by Christine.
It was agreed all round that the walk was a nice idea and we hope to do another in the future!
Many thanks to ‘Faith in Community Scotland’, who gave us funding for the litter pickers, which will certainly be used again in the future.
Saturday 15th April, 2023; Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park to Ellen’s Glen
by Janet Hodgson, Walk co-ordinator
On Saturday 15th April several of us set out on a fine afternoon for a walk though Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park – now a local nature reserve. Although this route cuts across busy south Edinburgh it is hidden away, off road apart from one brief crossing.
We started on Burdiehouse Road, an area once renowned for its limestone deposits; three lime kilns remain nearby. The name Burdiehouse is thought to be a corruption of Bordeaux as a result of the number of French immigrants associated with Mary Queen of Scots. We meandered along by the burn with the trees just starting to come out, plenty of wild garlic to be foraged. Lasswade Road was crossed where there had once been a hamlet of Broken Bridge, then we re-entered the park and continued following the burn to Ellen’s Glen.
This area was once Stenhouse hamlet but in the 1960s the council named a large estate on the other side of town ‘Stenhouse’ so the name was changed. Ellen was the sister of a Robert Alexander who owned much of the land, and on one cottage he engraved ‘Ellen’s Glen’. The road running through Ellen’s Glen and the lanes at its start and finish are the remnants of the Via Regis or King’s Highway, which was first mentioned in 1283 as an ancient path used by the monks from Melrose and Newbattle Abbeys as their route to Edinburgh stopping at Liberton Kirk. The road was also used by the Gilmerton carters taking coal, lime or sand into Edinburgh. Returning empty, the horses raced down the hill and one very large stone, a pall post, remains today which was to prevent the cart wheels from damaging the buildings.
From there we entered the very shady Moredun Woods with their carpet of beautiful wood anemones to end at Gilmerton Road.
Walks in 2022:
Saturday 15th October, Blackford Pond to Swanston & back. This walk from Blackford Pond to Swanston and back was great fun! Thank you to Roddy for co-ordinating and leading it.
Tuesday 4th October, 2022: ‘Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ by the Bonnie Banks o’ Braid‘ By Janet Hodgson, co-ordinator
A band of 5 walkers set off from one of the entrances to the Hermitage of Braid Nature Reserve around 6pm. Having been a very wet morning we were blessed by dry, mild and calm weather. The walk skirted Blackford Pond with the swans and cygnets resting, past the allotments uphill and down to the Braid Burn which was flowing quickly. We took a side path and came down by Hermitage House built in 1785 by architect Robert Burn (no Rabbie relation). Nearby we saw the Dovecot which once had about 2000 nest boxes to house the pigeons which were eaten by the family in the big hoose. The garden area just below it has been restored and is well worth a visit.
The Hermitage area was gifted to the city for use as a public park and is another delightful space which we can all use with many side paths worth meandering along. There are many lovely old trees with wonderful shapes and the leaves were just starting to show their autumnal colours.
We walkers continued on by the burn until we finished our evening walk at Braid Rd. A great breath of fresh air!
Friday 9th September, 2022, Bruntsfield Links to the Grange & Sciennes By Sue & Michael Rotter, Participants. The co-ordinator was Janet Hodgson
The following article can be downloaded here, together with the accompanying pictures.
This walk around interesting parts of south Edinburgh, passed many historic landmarks which most of us had not known or observed before, with some excellent descriptions given by some members of the group who knew a great deal about them. The walk was led by Janet Hodgson and is here reproduced in some detail to allow others to trace the same path and explore these places too.
Eight of us met at the south west corner of Bruntsfield Links for a quiet evening stroll. The weather was pleasantly cool and slightly cloudy, but there was no rain. We began by walking down Leamington Walk past the grand Georgian building of the original James Gillespie’s High School for Girls, remembered by Muriel Spark as ‘the school on the links’.
We passed the entrance to General Maczek Walk, named in honour of the great Polish tank commanding general who fought in both World Wars with remarkable success, and leading a Polish tank unit that trained and was based in Scotland during the Second World War before fighting in France. Afterwards he lived in the adjacent Arden Street to reach the age of 102 and was very much loved. The Walk was so named after a proposal by one of the participants who was with us on the walk.
We continued beside Melville Drive to Argyll Place, then across the road to Jawbone Walk (also known as Coronation Walk). There is a round paved gentle mound to indicate the location where two whales’ jawbones had been erected in 1886 for the International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art held on the Meadows. These bones were sent as the Zetland and Fair Isle exhibit. The jawbones had deteriorated somewhat, so in 2014 they were moved for restoration to a museum (unknown location). It is hoped that a fiberglass or similar reproduction will be made and placed in this location in due course.
The walk then followed Jawbone Walk and soon came to the small water fountain as a memorial to Helen Acquroff Sister Cathedral who was born in Newington. She was a great musician, singer, a prolific writer of hymns and songs and an enthusiastic supporter of the Scottish Temperance League. Blind from the age of 11, she was influential in support for blind schooling in Edinburgh. The appended name Sister Cathedral apparently comes from a performance she gave at Glasgow Cathedral which was particularly memorable.
After crossing the Meadows, we followed George Square Lane and Meadow Lane to see the building of the Orthodox Community of St Andrew, with its door messages written in Greek and Russian and a further language which we could not identify for certain.
From Meadow Lane we entered Buccleuch Street and stopped at the Archers’ Hall with its interesting carved stone sculptures and learned a little of the important historical role of these archers to the monarch. Recently they were much in evidence accompanying the late Queen’s coffin. Their shooting gallery is apparently the low long modern building next to the Meadows, so it shows how seriously the archery is still taken by them.
Thence we passed into the little narrow cobbled street of Boroughloch and saw the site and entrance into the old Boroughloch Brewery which used water from the Boroughloch (long since drained to make the Meadows).
Re-entering the Meadows, we crossed on Boroughloch Walk, across Melville Drive and up Livingstone Place to Sciennes Road. We learned that Sciennes is named for Siena (an old Scottish distortion it seems) named for St Catherine of Siena’s Convent which was a daughter house of the corresponding institution in Sienna. St Catherine’s Convent was originally sited in what is now St Catherine Place and apparently one of the houses in that street still has a historic stone in the garden that marks its location.
From Sciennes Road we entered the narrow and unassuming Sciennes House Place which contains an old house where Robby Burns met and influenced the 16 year old Walter Scott (noted by a plaque on the wall), followed by the old fire station on the LHS (now with modern glass windows and door) and the old Police Station at the end on the RHS (looking somewhat forgotten).
As we left Sciennes House Place entering Causewayside, the modern building opposite is on the site of the former Wash House.
And so down Causewayside, past the Scottish Map Museum, down to Leslie’s Bar for a welcome and very comfortable drink in a historic pub.
We owe a big thank you to Janet for organising such an interesting, varied and informative walk!
Friday 26th August, 2022, Millenium Wood, Braid Burn & Braid Hills. By Laura Bird, co-ordinator
A drizzly afternoon punctuated by downpours caused most of the walkers to phone or text me trying to call off our ‘pop-up’ Blackford and Braid walk. Fortunately most were persuaded (or strong-armed) to persevere and six of us convened in the Observatory car park with waterproof boots, jackets and brollies.
In the end the weather was fairly kind to us. But given the sky’s threats, we didn’t dilly-dally and marched downhill through the Millennium Forest Community Woodland, planted on an old landfill mound, to the Braid Burn. Like the grand old Duke of York’s men we then marched back up the Howe Dean path, a steep wooded gorge. Turning east at Braid Hills road we reached the little hamlet clustered round the 15th century fortress, Liberton Tower. At this point nature reserve gives way to arable farmland. On a sunny evening the yellow stubble glows with golden light below views over the Firth of Forth. On our grey, leaden walk we instead found joy eating the delicious brambles growing along the edge of the path.
We are truly blessed on the south side of Edinburgh by the Green Belt policies of our forebears. Blackford Hill was bought by the Edinburgh Corporation in 1884, and the adjacent Hermitage of Braid estate was gifted to the city of Edinburgh in 1938, by its final owner, John McDougal. In 1957 the Edinburgh Green Belt became a designated area to control urban growth, protect farmland and to conserve the setting of the city. Alas, current government planning policy is, at best, apathetic towards the Green Belt. The nine acres of grassland and mature trees at Midmar Paddock, part of Blackford Hill, is still under threat. The rewards for the private owner and successful developer are no doubt substantial, but would also be a great loss for the thousands of people who enjoy time in nearby nature.
Walking and chatting is a great way to get to know acquaintances better and Blackford, Hermitage & Braid are on the doorstep for many of us at St Peter’s. Hope to see some of you again on another walk.
Saturday 6th August, 2022, Fife coastal footpath between Dysart and East
Wemyss. By Alec Mann, co-ordinator.
Eight of us met at Dysart Harbour where we had a good lunch at the
Harbourmaster’s Cafe. The walk was mainly through the Wemyss Estate, once a coal-mining area. It
passed many places of interest; Pan Ha’ and St Serf’s Tower define the view of Dysart from the sea. Frances Colliery, closed in 1984, has a memorial and preserved winding gear. Old Wemyss Castle, now ruined, has an interesting arched boundary wall with two round towers. West Wemyss looks almost Mediterranean from a distance but has some fine buildings boarded up and left to rot. Wemyss Castle, the Wemyss family’s home, is hidden from the coast path but traces of an earlier castle can be seen on the cliffs above. Some seals were also basking on rocks near West Wemyss.
After East Wemyss came the highlight of the trip: the Wemyss Caves, which
contain Pictish carvings believed to be about 1500 years old. We visited
two: Court Cave where we saw one set of carvings, and Doo Cave which has no
carvings but has nest-boxes for pigeons cut out of the walls.
Wednesday 6th July, Ratho to Water of Leith Centre, Slateford By Liz Mackay, walk co-ordinator
While walking, we had a lovely feeling of being right out in the countryside, and a picnic was enjoyed in the Hailes Quarry Park. We then continued rest of the way to Slateford where refreshments were much enjoyed by all in the Water of Leith Centre. Our attention was drawn by a participant to a plaque on one bridge commemorating John Scott Russell. He was a naval architect who studied the bow waves of the barges here and discovered Russell’s solitary wave or solitron. He thus improved ship design. Now this principle has been found in light waves too!
Wednesday 29th June, St Peter’s Day: Fisherrow Harbour to Portobello Promenade.
This very flexible congregational walk on St Peter’s Day was greatly enjoyed by c. 28-30 members. It was a beautiful evening, and finished with everyone eating together – either a picnic brought by individuals, or fish and chips. It was great having more walkers able to join in throughout the walk, as work or other commitments allowed. A very fun evening was had by all!
Wednesday 15th June, Cammo Estate and the River Almond By Janet Hodgson, walk co-ordinator
We were pleased to have some warm and calm weather for our walk in Cammo Estate and around. Nine of us made it though two were delayed by circumstances beyond their control. Cammo is on the west edge of Edinburgh and most people had never visited it before. It is now a Nature Reserve belonging to Edinburgh. Quite an oasis of green and worth a trip if you have never been.
It has quite a history… Lands at Cammo belonged to the Abbey of Inchcolm until c.1400 and thereafter the estate passed through a series of owners until owned by the Menzies family. In 1693 Cammo House was built for John Menzies, and the house is thought to be the inspiration for House of Shaws in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped. Sadly the house was allowed to go into decline and little remains of it. There are however still the remains of what would once have been a wonderful walled garden and stables.
In 1980, Cammo Estate became the UK’s first Wilderness Park and was handed over to the public.
Cammo is a great place to be a saunterer as there are many paths heading in all directions, so you can easily take the way less travelled. There are many interesting old trees.
We walkers had a good wander via the walled garden, old stables, canal, remains of Cammo House and out by the River Almond over the picturesque Grotto Bridge. We then followed a path by the Almond to end up at Old Cramond Brig.
Sadly the coffee house at the end had just closed for refurbishment!
Saturday 14th May Co-ordinator of the walk: Janet Hodgson
Capital view walk traversing the lower slopes of Caerketton Hill to the historic Swanston Village, returning by lower track to start.
The walk was, indeed, capital. It started off well for me as, on my approach to the start, I was greeted by the sight and sound of four swifts screaming their way into town.
Ten of us plus Millie the dog gathered at Hillend Country Park. From the car park area we climbed steeply up through woodland – a fair amount of cardiovascular exercise here. The route continued through vibrant gorse to reach a bench with a view. Though a bit hazy in the distance there was a great panorama of Edinburgh laid out before us, the Lomond Hills to the north, the Bridges to the west and Berwick Law to the East. After a more gradual ascent we headed north west under the slope of Caerketton Hill and passing above the ski slope.
The route then descended and passing some Highland cows and then Exmoor ponies we followed Swanston Burn to reach the historic village itself. It dates back to the early 13th century when a community developed round a farm, and there are still some thatched cottages here dating from the 17th or 18th century. At one time there was a school here; it closed in 1931, but the bell still hangs on the gate! Robert Louis Stevenson used to spend his summers here in the late 1800s when his parents rented a house there.
To complete the walk we headed east along a good track to reach our starting point although there was a deviation where some enjoyed a coffee sitting on the outside picnic benches in the Steading, which is conveniently just beside Hillend.
Although it was blowy on top the weather was excellent for walking – dry, sunny but not too hot for the ascent. The walk took about two hours, which allowed plenty of time for chats between the different people on the walk.
Thursday 28th April, South Queensferry to Cramond Brig By Chris Martin, Participant. Co-ordinator of the walk: John Smith
South Queensferry to Cramond Brig, the site of the old Cramond ferry, following the John Muir Way via Barnbougle Castle and Dalmeny House.
We started at the Hawes Inn and was a lovely day for walking. Dry and bright with the surface of the Forth completely still under the big bridges. Much of the walk was in the grounds of the Dalmeny Estate.
We four participants came past Barnbougle Castle, which began as a 13th century tower house, now cleaned up and used for holiday rentals; and then to Dalmeny House, completed in 1817 for the 7th Earl and Countess of Rosebery. We ate our picnic lunch on the edge of the Forth, directly under one end of the airport flight-path.
The old Cramond ferry has not operated for many years, and we ended the walk with coffee and tea at the Cramond Brig hotel. The walk was about 11 kilometres. Many thanks to John for organising us.
Wednesday 13th April, Roslin to Penicuik via Roslin Glen, By Alec Mann, Co-ordinator of the walk
Five of us went on this walk. It was cool and cloudy, and it had rained for most of the previous day so there were some puddles and mud.
We started at Rosslyn Chapel, and walked down to the gorge of the River North Esk, with a look at Roslin Castle, then down a lot of steps to the river and Roslin Glen Country Park. The banks of the river were covered with wild garlic and tricorn leeks. The North Esk, like the Water of Leith which we followed on our last walk, is a fast-flowing river and in the past it powered several water mills. After crossing the busy Roslin-Rosewell road (the only through road we had to cross) at a hairpin bend, we passed the remains of a gunpowder works, with buildings well separated in case of accidents. The works (but not those ruined buildings) produced gunpowder until the 1950s.
We then had to leave the river briefly and climb lots of steps to reach the former Rosewell-Penicuik railway line, now converted to a foot and cycle path. Continuing along the river valley, the path goes over a long curved viaduct and through two tunnels to Auchendinny and Eskmills, passing the sites of several paper mills. We then followed a side path beside a mill race. Near Valleyfield a stretch of the river flows quite slowly and has a sandy beach with some steps leading down to it.
The path ends at Valleyfield, now a housing estate, and earlier the site of another paper mill, but during the Napoleonic Wars it housed a large prisoner-of-war camp. Several hundred prisoners died in the camp, and after the war a monument to their memory was erected on the site; it now forms the focus of one of the housing estate’s streets.
Near the bridge at Penicuik are two buildings (the South Kirk and Park End) designed by Frederick Pilkington, architect of Barclay Church here in Edinburgh, in a similarly eccentric style. On a hill to the south stands the impressive ruins of Uttershill Castle.
We finished the walk with lunch at a café before returning home. One of the participants had arranged for his wife to meet him at Penicuik, so they gave a lift back to Roslin to those who had left their cars there.
Saturday 2nd April, Balerno, walking along the River Leith to Slateford. (Co-ordinator of the walk: Roddy Simson)
It was a beautiful day as a group of five members left Balerno to walk towards Leith along the Water of Leith. Much chat was had as the map was followed, which had various interesting historical facts. As our packed lunches were eaten in Colinton Dell, another walker joined in. It was a very good ‘flexible’ walk where one could join in or depart as they wished.
The murals in the Colinton Tunnel, Scotland’s largest heritage mural celebrating our history and heritage, follow Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, ‘From a Railway Carriage‘. At the other end of the tunnel, Roddy pointed out his mother in the final mural of everyone standing on the platform with a steam train departing! More information about the old railway tunnel can be found at, www.colintontunnel.org.uk.
A wonderful walk finished with refreshments at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre at Slateford, the building being a renovated schoolhouse.
Sunday 20th March, 2022, Arthur’s Seat, By Michael Rotter, Participant
Sunday 20th March was a gloriously sunny day with a full blue sky and very warm for this time of year. Following the service and coffee, 11 enthusiastic walkers set out from the church and made their way to Holyrood Park. The plan was to climb Arthur’s Seat, but as we entered the park it was clear that the top of the hill was covered with a great crowd, and the routes up were also very busy. So a decision was made that we would walk to the top of Salisbury Crags instead. The path was certainly more rough and challenging than the main Arthur’s Seat route, so some rock hopping tested our agility. As we reached the top of the crags the wind was blowing quite strongly so there was a little search for a suitable spot to have our picnic. The view of the Forth out to Inchkeith island was absolutely stunning, with a lovely panorama of Whinny Hill and Arthur’s Seat to our right.
We continued on our way down through the gorse bushes towards Queen’s Drive until we reached the valley bottom. The party then divided, with several climbing up to visit the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel, whilst the others made their way up the Hunter’s Bog valley to our starting point. When the two groups met again, we sat on the rocks for a while in the sunshine, before heading back to the church.
It was a wonderful outing and a great way to begin the 2022 walks. A big thank you to Liz Mackay who organised and co-ordinated the walk and kept us going!
Tuesday 26th October, 2021, Almondell and Calderwood Country Park, By John Smith, Co-ordinator of the walk
Entering the Almondell we passed the Nasmyth Bridge, built around 1800. The guidebook describes it as being built in a ‘romantic fashion’ with parapets and stone seats for visitors to enjoy the view. The bridge collapsed into the river in 1973 but was sympathetically restored in 1997 as one of the first Heritage Lottery funded projects.
From the bridge, we skirted the high ground of the East boundary and ended up at the North Gate before following the road back towards the visitor centre.
Almondell House was built in the 1790’s but sadly fell into disrepair. In 1969 the Territorial Army used it as a training exercise and blew it up with explosives. The foundations are now used as the disabled car park. The old stable block has been converted into a visitor centre with a picnic and play area, café (with a very limited selection at this time of the year) and information centre. Outside the centre can be found the Kirkhill Pillar which had been designed by David Stewart Erskine, the 11th Earl of Buchan. In 1776, he had created a scale model of the solar system and engraved the calculations that he used on this stone pillar. Sadly none of us could make any sense of it but it made an interesting stop on the walk.
We then had to make a decision whether to head back to the cars or join the path that follows the canal feeder. Decision made, we followed the feeder with the view that we could turn back at any stage. As already mentioned, this feeder runs for 3 miles and skirts the Almond valley disappearing into underground tunnels in places and reappearing as a gentle flowing stream. The path was single file and in good condition so it was not surprising that we managed to follow it to the point where it joined the Union canal. We were then able to stand on the canal aqueduct and look back up the Almond valley before we retraced our steps back to the visitor centre and onwards to the South car park to pick up the cars before heading to a local garden centre for well earned soup and sandwiches.
Wednesday 13th October, 2021, Roslin Glen, By Alec Mann, Co-ordinator of the walk
We met at the famous 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel. Next to it is the old Rosslyn Hotel, dated 1660, and visited by various notables such as Dr Johnson and Boswell, Wordsworth, and Edward VII. (Not to be confused with the ‘Original Rosslyn Hotel’ in the village, which is 200 years newer.) We walked down to Roslin Castle, situated on a high promontory above the North Esk, approached by a bridge, before walking under this bridge down to the Esk and following a rough path down river, mainly through woodland with its beautiful autumn colours. There were lots of ups and downs, but mostly downs.
At times the river could be seen far below. Despite recent rain, the path wasn’t as muddy as I had feared. Halfway along, we passed Hawthornden Castle on the other bank. After another long downhill stretch, we reached river level at Hewan Bank nature reserve where the river takes a sharp 180-degree turn, and the only way out is up – a zigzag climb, with over a hundred steps, to the ridge between the Esk and Bilston Glen. Nearby on a hill are scanty remains of a prehistoric fort (which we didn’t visit). We got a glimpse of the A-listed former railway viaduct that leaps over Bilston Glen with a 330-foot steel truss span; it now carries a cycle and foot path.
Heading back to Roslin was a much easier stroll along level paths and roads, and we passed the monument to the Battle of Roslin (1303), one of the skirmishes in the War of Independence. The walk took two and a quarter hours, exactly as advertised, and we ended with lunch at the Original Rosslyn Hotel before returning home.
Friday 27th September, 2021, Cramond Island, By Liz Mackay, Co-ordinator of the walk
It was the first day of autumn with pouring rain first thing but five hardy folk turned up. With the tide far out the view was a bit dismal, with the best looking route being the higher walkway. It suddenly ends with small tricky steps down to the lower path. The first impression on the island was of solitude despite an obvious path, a vandalised signboard and Google’s warning of crowds. Almost immediately people came out from behind the trees towards us, and glancing back along the causeway there was a large group of children following. Our inspection of the island was fairly thorough but due to the weather, we were not stopping for our snacks. Back on the mainland there was nowhere for coffee but the sun tried to come out and a picnic table fitted the bill as we enjoyed lunch together.
Friday 10th September, 2021: Bavelaw circuit, passing Threipmuir Reservoir and Black Hill. Led by Roddy Simson, report by John Smith, a participant
Five intrepid walkers met at car park at Threipmuir Reservoir, south of Balerno, to tackle the walk round the reservoir. The forecast for that day had not been promising and sadly put off a few of our walking group from attending.
However, undeterred, the participants headed off with great gusto on the path following the northern edge of the reservoir until we reached the dam between Threipmuir and Harlaw Reservoirs. The top of the dam gave us great views of both reservoirs and from there we picked up the path which then took us to the Black Springs which is the most easterly point of the reservoir.
There is no path to the south of the reservoir, so we had to jump a stile and head up what could only be classed as a mountain goat track which skirted the side of the Black Hill. The effort was well worth it and from the highest point, which would have been 100m above the reservoir, we were treated to spectacular views towards Edinburgh, Fife and West Lothian.
In due course we picked up one of the main paths which, had we turned left, would have taken us to Glencorse reservoir beside the Logan Burn. The right turn took us towards Bavelaw Castle and beyond to where the cars were parked. This part of the walk took us through tree plantations enclosed by deer fences as well as natural areas where indigenous trees had been planted. The final part of the walk took us along the imposing tree lined formal drive of the castle and over the dam between Threipmuir and the Bavelaw Marsh.
While part of this walk was challenging, the views made it all the worthwhile. As a bonus we had no rain and when the sun poked through the clouds, which was often, we were treated to a spectacular sunset.
Many thanks to Roddy and Lenore for leading the group on such a lovely walk!
Tuesday 10th August, 2021: Harlaw Reservoir to Flotterstone, By John Smith, Co-ordinator of the walk
On the 10th August, five intrepid walkers met up at the Harlaw reservoir car park to trek to Flotterstone. From here, our route took us through farmland with a gradual climb. Looking back we had an uninterrupted view towards Livingston to our left and Edinburgh to our right. In between, we could see the three bridges, the Forth and Fife in the background. The path took us between Harbour Hill and Bell’s Hill before starting our descent towards Glencorse reservoir. Unfortunately this part of the walk was hard going as it was a steeper decent and the path was badly eroded in places so we had to tread carefully.
Thankfully we all reached the reservoir unscathed and we followed the tarred road beside the reservoir before skirting off to a path that followed the burn to Flotterstone. The group headed to the Flotterstone Inn for a light lunch.
Another walk with no rain but a bit cloudy – perfect walking conditions.
Friday 30th July, 2021: East Lothian: Haddington to East Linton, along the Tyne River. Led by Duncan McKinnell, report by Chris Martin, a participant.
On Friday, July 30th, four of us met at Haddington, the traditional capital of East Lothian, to walk along the river Tyne to East Linton. The walk started close to St Mary’s Church, crossed the historic Nungate Bridge, and passed through a short residential/industrial area before settling into a well-surfaced cycle path on the north bank of the river. It is a gentle walk by the river, though a bit muddier after Abbey Bridge.
The most spectacular feature is the ruins of Hailes Castle, which comes abruptly into view on the other bank. We crossed the river on a foot-bridge to double back for a picnic lunch in the castle ruins, followed by the obligatory group photo. From there it was an easy walk under the elevated concrete bridge carrying the A1 into the historic village of East Linton. Two of our group made a bee-line for the pub, from where they were retrieved in time for the short bus ride back to Haddington. Another enjoyable church walk. It was just a shade over 10 kilometres.
Many thanks to Duncan for his confident leading of us.
Friday 16th July, 2021: Elie to St Monans, East Neuk of Fife. Led by Rev Nick Wills, report by David Gibbon, a participant.
The St Peter’s Walking Group walk from Elie to St Monans along the coastal path took place on one of those memorable summer days when the sun was blazing hot and the sea was Mediterranean blue. Not a challenging walk, but an easy saunter. Thirteen walkers left from Elie High Street and admired the view from the harbour before walking up to the Lighthouse nearby. Nick, who was leading the walk, had all sorts of interesting and fun historical information to tell us during the walk. One stop was the ruin of Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower, built in the 1770’s in Ruby Bay, on the East side of Elie. Incorporating a vaulted chamber as a changing room, the story goes that a servant would ring a bell to ensure the locals stayed away while Lady Anstruther bathed naked in the water!
Next we passed the ruinous Ardross Castle. Built by the Dishington family, it was sold to Sir William Scott of Elie in 1607, before being passed to Sir William Anstruther at the end of the 17th century. Although a ruin, the vaulted basement is visible above ground, as are the ruins of a later extension.
Closer to St Monans is yet another third dramatic ruin, Newark Castle, which is in a magnificent situation overlooking the North Sea. Hidden from view are vaulted cellars. It is thought building began during the 13th century, a time when the Scottish King Alexander III spent some of his childhood there. The Kinloch family began building the current castle during the 15th century, before it was passed to the Sandilands of Cruivie. Bought in 1649 by David Leslie/Lord Newark, a prominent figure in the English and Scottish Civil wars, in 1682 it was passed to the Anstruther family, and finally to the Bairds of Elie. In between these historical buildings, there are some equally dramatic geological formations, which 14 year old Tom conquered with ease.
Some of the group walked back to Elie. I got caught on the phone in the pretty village of St Monans and lost those who were catching the bus. On the bus back to Elie was another walking group member who had missed the start and walked on her own all the way to Anstruther. It was, however, a glorious day for walking, and the views were stunning.
Thank you to Nick for planning and leading the walk, and for sharing such interesting information during it.
Tuesday 6th July, 2021: Torphin area: Lower slopes of the Pentland Hills By Roddy Simson: Co-ordinator of the walk
Despite an unpromising forecast we had an excellent turn out of 12 walkers for our walk in the Torphin area. In the event, the weather was far better than had been predicted and even though we had some rain, we were rewarded with beautiful scenery. Starting from Torphin, we headed across the former Torphin golf course to Torduff Reservoir. This was built between 1848 and 1851 by the Engineer James Leslie as part of the Edinburgh Water Company’s response to the drought of 1842 that had left Glencourse Reservoir completely dry. In the following years 5 more Pentland Hill reservoirs were built to feed the growing population of Edinburgh: Harlaw, Threpmuir, Bonaly, Clubbidean, and Loganlee.
Before construction began, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1847. It was innovative in as much as it required the Edinburgh Water Company to provide a constant water supply to homes, a concept that had been championed by the sanitary reformer Edwin Chadwick. Prior to this time Edinburgh’s water had been described as ‘extremely deficient both in quantity and quality’. The entire scheme was achieved despite the cities burgeoning population.
Torduff reservoir is one of the most picturesque in the Pentlands with steep rocky slopes on the South-eastern side and many wildflowers on the North-western side where the road ran. After reaching the top of Torduff, we soon climbed the short steep section of track to Clubbidean Reservoir, now used largely for trout fishing. Stopping for a welcome drink at the far end of the watercourse, we got clear views of late prehistoric earth mounds marking the site of an ancient defensive settlement, showing the area to have been inhabited for many centuries.
Next, the walk crossed level farmland with lovely views over the Pentland Hills before turning right to Easter Kinleith Farm and returning to the car park. The walk ended with a stunning clear vista across the Firth of Forth, West Lothian and Edinburgh.
Thanks to everyone who came and made it such a pleasant and social morning,
Blackford Hill & The Braids, Friday 4th June, 2021: By Lenore Simson, a participant
We had a lovely walk around Blackford Hill on the evening of 4th June. We met at the Observatory car park and walked over the hill, down into The Hermitage then over the road to Braid Hills Golf Course and back up the hill to the car park again. The weather was warm and sunny late on in the day and the views across Edinburgh were fantastic, across to the Castle, the Firth of Forth and the Pentland Hills.
Gloria has great knowledge of the area and was able to give us lots of different options for routes to take, so we made it up as we went along. The walk was from 6pm to 7.30pm and we arrived back at the car park at exactly 7.30pm thanks to Gloria keeping us on track! There were five of us on the walk which was a good number to be able to talk to everyone; it was a very relaxing, enjoyable time.
Aberlady Bay, Tuesday 1st June, 2021: By Duncan McKinnell: Co-ordinator of the walk
Six hardy St Peter’s souls met up at Aberlady Bay on the first day of meteorological summer – and a fine summer’s day it was too, with the haar thankfully staying out to sea.
Aberlady Bay has the honour of being Britain’s first local nature reserve, having been designated way back in 1952. We started off over the mud/sands on a wooden trestle bridge to take us onto a broad area of coastal heathland full of wild flowers and bird sound – easier to hear than to spot the musicians. A short stiff climb over the dunes led us to the vast expansive sands of Aberlady Bay and a good beach walk admiring the proliferation of shells.
Reaching the eastern headland we had a choice – round it and get wet, or scramble up the rocks onto it. Inspired by Pat’s mountain goat skills, we chose the latter. That led us on to Gullane Point where we stopped for lunch and to enjoy the stunning views – west to Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands, east to North Berwick Law and north into the mist to Fife and the Isle of May.
After lunch we continued east to Gullane Bents, looking down on a busy beach, before turning round and heading back, this time skirting the renowned Gullane golf courses and returning to the bridge and car park – a bit hot and sweaty and in need of some refreshment. Duck’s in Aberlady was just the job – tea and cake in the garden.
All in all a lovely day. Just don’t ask the organiser for directions!
Craiglockhart and Colinton Dell: Wednesday 19th May, 2021: By Ian Gillespie: Co-ordinator of the walk
An eager crew of 7 upstanding souls met outside Ian’s house in spite of the grey clouds. Everyone was on time – an unexpected and excellent start! We set off to descend into the bowels of Craiglockhart Dell and discussed a little history of the estate as we headed down to the water of Leith.
Craiglockhart estate was owned by the Monro family from 1773 for 128 years . Alexander Monro primus was the first Professor of Anatomy in the Edinburgh School of Medicine and co-founder with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He passed his role seamlessly to his son Alexander secundus when he was only 22yrs old and had not yet graduated in medicine – aye those were the days!! However such was his quality as a teacher that he eventually outshone his father and the reputation of the medical school blossomed throughout the world attracting many students and considerable revenue. He also did much to improve the beauty of the estate planting many trees to form ‘a pleasure ground with winding paths and shady bowers’ for the benefit of local residents. Unfortunately Alexander tertius also inherited the Chair of Anatomy and proved to be a dismal failure and eventually he resigned – a huge wave of relief to the University. One of his rivals was Dr Robert Knox, also an anatomist, whose association with the notorious bodysnatchers Burke and Hare resulted in his downfall!
We crossed one of the intact bridges over the Water of Leith to the pathway outside Redhall walled garden (there were no takers for plants) and along beside the water’s edge keeping eyes open for otters and kingfishers, but they must have seen us coming! I was disappointed to be unable to persuade anyone to join me in paddling in one of the more accessible stretches of water – perhaps it was the warning from me that St Peter’s could not be held responsible for any member of the group subsequently found floating in Leith docks! Onwards and upwards onto the old railway pathway looking down on the weir and adjacent bridge, still awaiting repair by the City Council.
The group as a whole showed no signs of flagging up the incline to Colinton tunnel and were suitably impressed by the spendid mural completed by lead artist Chris Rutterford and a team of professional and volunteer artists with local sponsorship. It illustrates the Robert Louis Stevenson poem ‘From a Railway Carriage’ (A Child’s Garden of Verses) which I still remember reading to my children at bedtime!
Stevenson had family connections with Colinton as his maternal grandfather, Revd Lewis Balfour, was minister at Colinton church – his grave is in the churchyard.
There was limited enthusiasm to detour down to the churchyard where James Gillespie is also buried, so we marched on to Spylaw Park to view the house of James Gillespie. He was a clever businessman who made much of his fortune selling snuff and tobacco and built a mill next to his house. In fact there were many mills along the water of Leith from Balerno to Slateford and a number of stations which encouraged the development of villages along the route such as Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, etc. The special trains built for the route were called the ‘Balerno Pugs’ and were very popular with tourists and locals until the railway closed in 1967. It is now a very popular route for cyclists and joggers.
At this point we all agreed to return the way we had come, as it was mostly downhill, and took a shortcut through the old Heriot Watt playing fields on the way back to our back garden, where Morag served us all with birthday refreshments and coffee cake. John gave a short oration and toasted my birthday – much to my embarrassment!! Everyone seemed to enjoy the afternoon and it is a great way to get to know people that you might not necessarily chat to over coffee on Sunday morning.
The First Walk of St Peter’s Walking Group:
Herriot Watt Riccarton Campus, Currie: 10th, 11th & 12th May, 2021: By John Smith: Co-ordinator of the walk
John Smith was the leader for the first of the new walking group treks. This was an easy one to start with a gentle walk of just over 3 miles round the perimeter of the Heriot Watt University and Research Park at Riccarton close to John’s home in Currie. John was joined that day by Pat, David, Ian and Morag, all of whom enjoyed the delights of a circular path through mature trees, and with the smells of wild garlic and bluebells awakening the senses.
While the university is quite new and the buildings modern, they blend into the countryside. Much of the campus comprises trees, some agricultural land, playing fields and landscaped gardens giving the university a very welcoming feel to it. The research park is far from being fully developed with a large number of technical and scientific firms with strong connections to the university based there. In the past few years, companies such as Scottish Water and the Scottish Blood Transfusion Centre have also set up their headquarters, bringing employment to the area.
Our walk started and finished at the Oriam (which is Gaelic for ‘gold’) Sports complex. This is a performance centre for several international squads and John often sees the Scottish mens and ladies rugby players, the Scottish football squads and Hearts teams all training here. It is a massive building housing a full size football pitch as well as games halls, squash courts, gyms, swimming pool and a café, which supplied everyone with hot drinks to finish off our walk. These were enjoyed sitting on picnic benches outside the complex.
While not all our walkers could manage on the 11th, John suggested that he could repeat the walk a couple of times that week as he has walked this route most days since lockdown. Alex joined John on the Tuesday and Liz on the Wednesday. Except for a small shower on the Monday, the weather stayed dry and hopefully this will be a good omen for future walks.