St Peter’s Walking Group

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! office@stpetersedinburgh.org

During August, walks may be organised at very short notice. If you would like to hear about them, please ask to be put on the Walking Group email list!

2022 walks;

Saturday 6th August, Time 2pm    By Alec Mann, walk co-ordinator

Fife Coastal Footpath between Dysart and East Wemyss, including the Wemyss Caves and Macduff’s Castle. 2pm

This walk is about 5 miles and will take about 21/2 – 3 hours. The historic Wemyss Caves contain the largest collection of Pictish carvings known – carved over 1500 years ago! There are also several crosses, carved by the first Christian missionaries to visit the area. Thought to be built in the 11th Century by the MacDuff Earls of Fife, the ruins of Macduff Castle sit on the cliffs above. (At the end, a local bus will be caught to return to Dysart from East Wemyss.)

Please contact the office before Friday 29th July if you plan to go on this walk.

Summaries of our Previous Walks

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.