A week ago today I took a trek into Edinburgh. Beautiful windy day. Lots of sun. Even the walk up the drive to the castle gate felt like an adventure.
Wasn’t sure whether there was a proper stopping point for #49 or if I was meant to flag it down. Felt good to walk, and I did. Past trails leading into pastures, a few cottages on the other side of the road. I like the way there seem to be walking paths in this country, different from sidewalks, most anywhere you might want to go. It was my first day out of the castle, and all I could see were details. A brick in a wall. A rose on a trellis. A man’s teeth. His son’s ears. Though it might have been the other way round. After 35 minutes, the countryside left behind, we circled the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh Medical School and entered the city from the south on Nicolson Street. At Clerk, I noted a sign pointing to the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Hopped off the bus at North Bridge, which doesn’t cross a river, but feels as if it does. Saw the signposts to the Royal Mile, but wanted to go my own way. To find a way by chance.
Princes Street turned into Waterloo Place at Leith and Waterloo turned into Regent Road. I was looking for a cutoff to Royal Terrace. All I could see was a walled estate to the left and what had to be Arthur’s Seat beyond a government building on the right, the train tracks leading back into Waverly Station below.
When I came to Abbey Hill, I was sure I had missed the turn or there wasn’t one, but waiting for the light, looked over my shoulder and there was the sign I needed: Carleton Terrace Brae and another–leading to Royal Ter. Regent Ter. Carlton Ter. Crossed Abbey Hill first, thinking I might stop for a coffee.
a shop that refurbished bicycles,
and a woman sitting on her third story window sill, clipping her toenails, which interested me because I had just been wondering where I was going to clip mine. Walked a bit up London Road. The bus 49 passed on its way to Portobello, site of another public pool I’d read about with cold sea baths and Turkish baths, but turned back
and made my way up toward
Royal Terrace, where I found not only a lovely curving road at the top of the hill, but possibly the best views of the entire city, including the Firth of Forth and all of Calton Hill.
and just afterwards a man with a cane and a dog called Jack. I have a key to the private garden, he told me, unlocking the gate. You can walk through the inner park with me if you like. It’s for residents only. I’m not going to do anything to you. I held the gate open with my ankle, took a photo of him and Jack and walked on.
and a father with his daughter getting ready to climb Calton Hill, both of whom reminded me of a father and a daughter I used to know. And then the rain came down. The first real rain since I’ve arrived.
I pulled on my rain jacket and walked down the Leith and through the construction site of the city center, though it wasn’t long before I found the ways and alleys that appeal to me the most, Dublin Meuse, Drummond Place, Royal Crescent, and Fettes Row, past the Queen Street Gardens to Heriot Row
Caught #31 at the bridge just as the sun was setting. I recognized Bonnyrigg when we came to it, but it was dark when we reached Polton Hill or Mill, and I knew the bus was circling back to Edinburgh there and wasn’t sure which way to walk.
I came in on the 49, said I to the driver. Is this the way to Rosewell?
You can wait here for the 49, said he.
I’m walking to Rosewell, a woman said. With these long legs. You can walk with me if you like.
Go with her, said the driver. And I did.
We walked hard and fast in the dark and talked the whole way about following men away from the sea. There’s your castle, she said. I thanked her and remembered the numbers for the code that open the gate and it worked and, after all that walking, the dark way through the trees wasn’t scary at all and the gravel crunched and the light came on and there was H at the door and I was home.