Our Morocco Trek re-union was held in Edinburgh over the period Friday 26th to Wednesday 31st August 2011. Our Agenda took in walking, sightseeing as well as a bit of culture in this wonderful old City. Pia had secured a flat in the prestigious New Town on Dundas Street, a stones through away from George Street and thus an ace location as well as being a first class flat.
All of us were arriving on Friday from across the UK, meeting at the flat firstly and then going out to sample the Festival atmosphere. The Edinburgh Festival is a generic term used to describe the cultural explosion which takes place in the City in August each year. It is in fact made up of a variety of festivals and events including the International Festival, The Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Jazz Festival and Edinburgh Mela. The Edinburgh Fringe is not only the largest arts festival in the world; it’s the most important, the most exciting and undoubtedly the most fun. It grows each year and in 2011 there were approximately 258 venues, 2542 shows and 41,689 performances.
We went up The Mound and down the High Street, sampling some street entertainment as we went. Our first pub stop was the Albanach on High Street which is recommended on the City’s Pub Trail and here the beer was ever so good. We turned to the right at the Tron Kirk and went into Hunter Square and down Blair Street to the Cowgate sampling the Fringe Venues such as The Underbelly. The atmosphere was magic. We were soon in the famous Grassmarket and somewhat peckish we stopped at Mamma’s for a light meal. The Grassmarket was “buzzing” as we made our way back to Dundas Street at a late hour and we were well aware we had an early start next morning as we were walking in The Pentland Hills.
What is particularly good about these hills is that there are so many walks and variations. Pia had been here before and like so many others found that it’s just not possible to tire of them. We had opted for a linear walk taking in around 10 individual tops.
We had an enjoyable breakfast at Henderson’s before we caught the No102 Dumfries Bus on Lothian Road which was dropping us off at Flotterstone at 10.15am and the start of our walk for the day. The weather was kind to us all day staying dry but cold at times on the higher hills. Our first hill was Turnhouse Hill, then Carnethy Hill at 571m and then on to Scald Law at 579m the highest point of the day. We took a slight detour from the main path to get to the top of South Black Hill at 563m, before getting to the tops of East Kip 534m and West Kip 551m. West Kip is a mountain in miniature and is perhaps the shapeliest; having a narrow and rocky summit that is gained by an all round steep ascent. Our first intention was to follow the path down to Nile Mile Burn but due to good progression we decided to do Spittal Hill 526m and Patie’s Hill at 500m before coming down near Carlops at the back of 3pm and telephoning for a local taxi to take us to Roslin to see round the famous Roslin Chapel. After a drink at the Original Roslin Hotel it was back by bus to Edinburgh.
We had decided on an Italian meal and my recommendation was to go to Bar Roma in the West End, a well established restaurant I had known when I worked in the City many years ago. We all had a wonderful time where food, wine and service were just ace in a packed restaurant with a lovely ambiance.
Sunday morning saw us up nice and early and having breakfast on George St before heading to the bus station for the X59 Stagecoach bus to Leven. We gained Fife Dayrider tickets (not five!!) and we were on our way at 10.35am on a dull but dry morning. On a Sunday the X59 changes to the No 95 (at Leven) which takes you up the Fife Coast to St Andrews.
We were off the bus (and Pia negotiating with a taxi!) before we discovered this but we were soon back on and at 12.20pm we were in Elie to walk eleven miles (17.6kms) on The Fife Coastal Path, ending our day, we hoped in Crail. The Fife Coastal Path runs from the Forth Estuary in the south, to the Tay Estuary in the north, stretching some 150kms and is part of Scotland’s Great Trails. This was just a wonderful walk passing through the small fishing villages of the East Neuk. We saw lots of wildlife and historic sites along the route. After Elie we passed through, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Cellardyke and Crail. At Pittenweem we shared a smoked mackerel and smoked nuts, which were so enjoyable. We encountered a few light showers of rain but at Caiplie Caves this became heavier. We arrived in Crail at 5.20pm and only had a few minutes to catch our bus which we took back to Anstruther where we stopped for fish, chips and mushy peas at one of the busy fish restaurants on the harbour. At 6.50pm we boarded a bus which took us back to Edinburgh at the end of a wonderful day in The Kingdom of Fife.
With two of our party having to go back to London in the evening Monday was designated our culture day. It was a very relaxing breakfast in a café in Stockbridge before a walk by the Water of Leith to Dean Village. We then went on to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to see Tony Cragg’s first museum show in the UK for more than a decade. This proved a very enjoyable experience seeing the fascinating work by one of the world’s greatest living sculptors. We decided to have lunch in the gardens of the Gallery. It was then a stroll back to the City Centre and through the Grassmarket up to Chambers Street and we were bound for the National Museum of Scotland. Our first target here was to get to the roof garden to see the “jaw-dropping” views over the City – we were not disappointed.
What a wonderful experience in this unique building with some 20,000 objects, displayed in 36 galleries grouped in five collection themes – Natural World, Art and Design, Science and Technology, World Cultures and the history of Scotland from its beginnings right up to the present time. You do need a map of the various floors to help you get round and to enjoy this wonderful place. I came away totally amazed that between the 1820s and the 1920s more than 2 million people left Scotland for a new life in Canada, America, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. On exiting the Museum we headed for Greyfriars Bobby and a welcomed drink and to discuss the highlights of our Day of Culture.
Our day was far from over as we were now heading by bus to Ocean Terminal and Leith to see The Royal Yacht Britannia and to have our evening meal in one of Leith’s fish restaurants. Entrance to the Yacht was sadly closed but we were able to look down on the vessel from Ocean Terminal. It was then a short walk to look at the various restaurants and we chose to eat at The Shore at 3 Shore which we very much enjoyed before getting a taxi back to our flat. Another full, active and enjoyable day had passed.
Tuesday after another delightful breakfast on George Street, we needed to run for our train to take us to Dunbar and with major structural alterations at Waverly Station we only managed to get our train with a couple of minutes to spare. We commenced our walk at the harbour at 10.45am and it was out intention to follow the John Muir Way and then walk on the lovely beach as the tide was out. It was a lovely morning with a good breeze and surfers were enjoying themselves amongst the large waves as we headed for the River Tyne estuary. We had our lunch on the beech and not another person was to be seen. We decided to rejoin the John Muir Way and walk as far as the end of the estuary before making a decision as to what route we would continue to take. While we did think about going as far as North Berwick this was not going to be possible so rather than walking back to Dunbar on virtually the same route we decided to follow the John Muir Way (well waymarked) to East Linton and from there we would get a bus back to Dunbar or indeed Edinburgh.
We arrived in East Linton at 2.45pm and took the first bus back to Dunbar after a brief snack in a local café. We just caught the train at Dunbar (it was 10 minutes late!) bound for Edinburgh and we were back at Waverly at 4.20pm. It was now time for individual shopping and we agreed to meet back at the flat for around 7pm. We had drinks in The Dome on George Street, enjoying the special ambiance of the place and the smell of lilies. We reckoned the building must have been a former bank. It was then on to an Italian Restaurant called Caciopepe on Hanover Street for an enjoyable meal before a night cap in our flat.
Next morning after breakfast we were all going our separate ways to London, Chester and Geneva. This had been a wonderful break and one that is going to be hard to beat. We all loved our few days in this wonderful City. Various suggestions were tabled as to where we would meet next year but no decisions were made. Munich is high on the list. A massive thank you to Pia for organising the Edinburgh get together and the very special accommodation.
2nd September 2011