Edinburgh – 40 Town and Country Walks

Came across this little publication by Kerry Nelson

whilst browsing books about Edinburgh in my local library. It’s easy to put in your pocket, and covers many favourite walks in and around Edinburgh. A good addition to your preparations if you’re thinking about visiting Edinburgh. Many of the walks can be easily started from Craigwell Cottage, and there are directions for public transport to the start of each walk.

Edinburgh International Film Festival – The Illusionist – Premiere

Festival Theatre Edinburgh 16 June 2010

Festival Theatre

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is now firmly established in the calendar as taking place in mid-June each year. Films are screened in many venues throughout the city, with the focus being on The Filmhouse, but this year the Edinburgh Festival Theatre was the venue for the opening event. A red carpet event earlier in the evening set the scene, but for the general public, the first event of the 2010 Festival was a screening of The Illusionist, an animation directed by Sylvain Chomet.

I had read a preview of the movie, and as the centre piece of the movie is the City of Edinburgh itself, I was eager to go along to see how my home city had been depicted.

I shall leave film critics and reviewers to the technical details and simply say that I loved it. I shall want to see it many times over to catch little details I have missed, and I’m sure that the stills from the film will become popular motifs gracing postcards of the city and used to advertise Scotland as a destination. That sounds like I am belittling them, and this is not the case – they are rich in detail and beautifully drawn, but the nature of animation lends itself to use in that way. I shall buy the DVD as soon as it is released and put it in Craigwell Cottage for my guests.

My ticket for The Illusionist

The Illusionist

This evening as I returned home after the event, I was seeing Edinburgh through different eyes, and I thank M. Chomet for opening up new vistas for me. I wonder when the big curly lampposts disappeared from Princes Street? I caught glimpses of them in the movie and was transported to the Edinburgh of my childhood.  It even made me nostalgic for the Jenners of old – in the days when it was an independent Edinburgh institution.

If you’re thinking about attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival in future years, be sure to take a look at Craigwell Cottage to see if we might suit your requirements for accommodation. We’re within walking distance of The Festival Theatre, and at the opposite end of the city centre from The Filmhouse.

A walk round Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park from Craigwell Cottage

A walk round Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park from Craigwell Cottage

One of the popular activities for guests who stay at Craigwell Cottage is to take a walk round Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.

views over St Margaret's loch to the forth

If you head for the Scottish Parliament at the end of the Royal Mile, then you can pick up the route from there no matter where you’re staying!

climbing Arthur's Seat

The route is just under 4 miles, and it is quite steep at the start, but you will want to take frequent stops to allow for taking photographs and maybe making little videos, so allow a couple of hours. There are no restrooms on the route, and no shops, so if it is a hot day it would be advisable to take a bottle of water with you and make sure you put on some sunscreen. A good stout pair of walking shoes or trainers (sneakers) should suffice, and after the first mile or so the route follows a tarmac pavement. The ‘off road’ part of the walk is along a rough track which is wide enough for 3 people to walk side by side, but do take care as the ground falls away very steeply beside the path, so don’t get too close to the edge.

To pick up the path in front of Salisbury Crags, keep the Scottish Parliament building to your right, but stay on that side of the road, crossing Queen’s Drive and turning left along the side of the cycle track on the south side of Queen’s Drive. You should see a short flight of steps leading up to the track – turn right there and start your climb. Follow the track until you descend to Queen’s Drive, then follow it round the south side of Arthur’s Seat, passing Duddingston Loch and Dunsapie Loch and then descending to pass St Margaret’s Loch and returning to your starting point near Holyrood Palace.

There are many opportunities for photography, and if you’ve timed your walk to finish in time for “elevenses” or afternoon tea, then we’d be happy to recommend a visit to Hemma Bar, Sugarhouse Sandwiches, Clarinda’s Tearoom or the Queen’s Gallery Cafe.

Planning for the Edinburgh Fringe

2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Launch day 2010

The folks at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and at Edinburgh Spotlight, have been doing a great job this week raising enthusiasm for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010.

I must confess to having had ‘Fringe Fatigue’ last year (sorry!), and having spent a week of August out of Edinburgh just to escape the hustle and bustle, and because it was a ‘last summer’ for a chapter of our family’s life story (but that’s an entirely different tale).

June 12th saw the launch of the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, and my enthusiasm has returned. In all the rushing about I was doing, I had a moment of quiet reflection about what the Fringe has meant to me over the years, and indeed how I was originally introduced to it by my Dad.

When we were children, Dad worked in a building society and was busy during August with things that building societies did (honest, trustworthy institutions that they were back in the ‘friendly society’ days). But he took time out to take us to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A very exciting experience for young children who were used to being tucked up in bed by 8 o’clock. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was our first experience of outdoor events, spectacle, massed Pipe Bands and usually a scary centrepiece involving gun fire or speeding motor bikes. No matter that we had to be huddled under blankets and even carried back home sleepily afterwards – we’d had great fun, been thrilled and in awe, and even cried when the Lone Piper made us feel what it was to be Scottish.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Later, as we grew up, Dad would be involved in organising some special days out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for us. He loved the challenge of organising a day where we would start at 11.00 am and finish at 11.00 pm and have managed to cram in samples of many different types of entertainment in a day – he’d only have a whole day off every second Saturday, so it was really important to make the most of the day. So we’d start at a children’s show, have lunch with a cabaret or musical event going on round about, take in an exhibition or two if the schedule allowed, see a serious theatre piece in the afternoon, find time for tea somewhere swanky, or unusual, and then off to a Footlights performance or a revue type show and something more risqué in the late evening. We usually managed to cram in around 6 performances in the course of one of these days, and over the years we found our favourites. We’d always have ‘Instant Sunshine‘ (in the Miles Kington days) somewhere on the list, and either the Cambridge Footlights or Oxford Revue, a puppet show and the main exhibitions plus whatever The Scotsman reviews suggested was worth seeing. Was it easier to get tickets in those pre-information-revolution days?

After the rest of the family moved away from Edinburgh for various reasons, I stayed on and by this time was working and living in the city Centre. I’d loved the format of cramming so much into a day so much, that I started working it out for myself. Finding the weekends usually too busy, I’d take a weekday off in each of the three weeks of the Festival – with the bank holiday being a given, so only two more to take out of my annual leave. I continued the pattern of trying to fit around 6 shows in during a day, and of course doing it all ‘on foot’ as the centre of Edinburgh lends itself to that too. Having discovered the power of coloured marker pens and a big piece of paper for planning, I was in stationery heaven. As soon as I got my copy of the Programme, I’d pore over it, marking all the ‘would like to see’s’ and then adding them to a big list and working out how to fit in as many as I could. It seems on reflection that there were more ‘one week runs’ then, rather than shows being on for the duration, so you had to jiggle about sorting through the lists until you had something approaching a plan, and then of course you had to go to the ticket office in person, there being no ‘on-line’ ordering in those heady days.

So here I am in 2010, the Mum now. For the last few years I’ve been taking my own children to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They’ve had that late night excitement, and we’ve had our turn going to the pre-school, pre-reading ‘baby’ entertainments. We’re also past the stage where one of the children is ‘too young’ and the other ‘too old’ for the majority of the children’s entertainments. And we’re also excited by the range of things we might experience – all on our doorstep, all within a short bus ride or walking distance. We’ve got our Edinburgh Festival Fringe enthusiasm back – hurray! And with the advent of the Excel Spreadsheet, and on-line ordering, we did lots of planning, sorting and ticket buying from the comfort of our home. We can’t wait for the magic to begin.

Struggling with history – a personal journey

I am a keen reader.  Have been since I learned to read.  In recent years, I’ve been a member of two book groups as well, so not only do I read, I also meet with others to chat about what we’ve read together.

Increasingly I find myself drawn to read blogs and on-line content too, and have connected with a couple in particular over the past year or so.  Scotland for the Senses is one of them.  A place where you can read about a personal journey experiencing all manner of things Scottish.  Back in April 2010, there was a competition on this blog to win a copy of Magnus Magnusson’s ‘Scotland, The Story of a Nation’.  The trap was, you had to read it along with the giver to encourage her to keep going, and email back and forth to share comments on what was being read.

To win, you had to submit details of your favourite Scottish character, as well as agreeing to the conditions. ‘Ha, I never win anything’ I thought to myself, but I know who my favourite Scottish character has been for a while.  At least, she’s the Scottish character I’d like to understand more about.  This is where it gets personal.

For the Scottish character I speak of is my great-grandmother, one Roseann/Roseanna/Annie McGowan, born in around 1870 and mother of 12 children.  At one time in her life she lived very close to Craigwell Cottage, in a tenement flat at South Back of Canongate, Edinburgh.  A road which is now Holyrood Road, and a place where the Scottish Parliament now stands.

Before the birth of my first child, I devoted a couple of weeks to researching my family history in the Scottish Records Office at New Register House, and the one person I kept coming back to and wanting to know more about was my great-grandmother Annie.  I shall write more of her in future posts, but it was finding out more about her life that sparked that fire within me to start reading more about the past rather than the diet of novels upon which I’d mainly existed until now.  And somewhere in my personal journey there’s a connection to place which made the ownership of Craigwell Cottage more than a simple business decision.

So, tempted by the prospect of adding to my scant knowledge of Scottish History, I posted a quick comment and moved on, only to find out just a few days later that I’d won!  So now, not only was I struggling to finish books for my two ‘real’ book groups, but there I was committed to contributing in a public place too.  A scary prospect indeed.

When the brown paper parcel arrived I noticed from the sender’s address that she lived very close to me in Edinburgh, so it seemed sensible to invite her to meet up and discuss the practical arrangements.  A bit of baking and I was ready for the meet, thinking that if nothing came of it at least we’d both have had cake!

A lovely meeting and the outline of a plan resulted in the decision to post comments on Scotland for the Senses’ Facebook Discussion Board.  In the few short weeks since then, I’ve come to realise that this will be no easy task.  For we agreed to a target of around 60 – 70 pages a week, which by my reckoning means that we should be about half way through by now and I’m only on page 123.  This is truly becoming a struggle.

But like any activity on which you embark, there is learning to be had from it, but maybe not what I expected.  The next steps on the journey are the subject of the post The First 100 Pages.

The First 100 Pages – Magnus Magnusson’s: Scotland The Story of a Nation

Reading about Scottish History

Reading about History


Reading this book is part of a historical reading path I’ve been following since my interest in history was sparked by researching my family tree, and owning a property in the Old Town of Edinburgh.

I won the competition to read this book along with Scotland for the Senses, a fellow tweeter and enthusiast for Scottish experiences, whereas I’ve tended to concentrate my reading for the moment on Edinburgh where my home and business are based.

To put the reading of this book in context, I’d just finished reading Patricia Dennison’s Holyrood and Canongate a Thousand Years of  History and had picked up another couple of historical books in the Audio Books section of my local library – Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, and Phillippa Gregory’s A Constant Princess.  One of my reading groups has also embarked on reading Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, so I’ve got that ‘on the go’ at the moment too.

I thought that reading a history of Scotland would help put a timeline around my reading, providing context for dipping in and out of different periods of history.  But I’m learning a lot about different subjects as I read, and yesterday as I took some time out from reading to be mindful of another task in hand (or rather on foot!) at the moment, I had a revelation about why the first 100 pages of this book have taken so long to read.

I was slogging my way around the base of Arthur’s Seat, with my headphones playing the MP3 version of the aforementioned Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England when I realised what I wasn’t enjoying about Magnusson’s book.  In the introduction to the Time Traveller’s Guide, Ian Mortimer explains why he’s decided to write about history by taking you on a journey through time.   He points out that “understanding the past is a matter of experience as well as knowledge”.  Further that “seeing events as happening is crucial to a proper understanding of the past”.  And I was stopped in my tracks by his point that: “Most of all it needs to be said that the very best evidence for what it was like to be alive in the 14th century is an awareness of what it is like to be alive in any age, and that includes today. Our sole context for understanding all the historical data we might ever gather is our own life experience.”

The culmination of his introduction to the Time Traveller’s Guide is that “the key to learning something about the past might be a ruin or an archive, but the means by whereby we may understand it is and always will be, ourselves.”  Thank you so much, Mr Mortimer, for providing me with that flash of insight.

Mortimer says: “As soon as you start to think of the past happening as opposed to ‘it having happened’, a new way of conceiving history becomes possible.”  He talks of an investigation into the sensations of being alive in a different time.  And while Magnusson’s book has conveyed to me a great sense of place with references to places in Scotland which you can visit today and what they’re like now, I’m struggling with how it feels to have lived in any of these past times.  And that’s what any recounting of a historical nature must have for me, a sense of what it was like to actually have lived in those times.

So, the reading of “Scotland The Story of a Nation” will be more of a journey than I thought, and take me in different directions and to different places.  All of which is a good thing, but won’t make for a speedy finish.

Local Shops for Self-Catering at Craigwell Cottage, Edinburgh

Local Shops for Self-Catering at Craigwell Cottage, Edinburgh

One of the first things that you will want to do on arrival at Craigwell Cottage is to make sure that you have arranged sufficient supplies to cater for your immediate needs. We do leave small supplies of tea, coffee, salt, pepper, sugar for you, but if you have a requirement for us to do some shopping ready for your arrival we’d be happy to provide this service for you. We will charge any groceries purchased at cost, with a small charge of £5 for the service. Please contact us by e-mail if you would like to discuss your requirements.

There are a couple of local convenience stores within walking distance of Craigwell Cottage which are useful for immediate needs such as bread and milk. You’ll find Canongate Stores by crossing Calton Road, going up Campbells Close opposite Nether Craigwell, and turning right when you reach the Royal Mile.  Crossing over the Royal Mile and taking one of the closes opposite will bring you to Holyrood Road where there is a small branch of Tesco Express, open long hours, for most everyday needs.

For wonderful Scottish speciality foods and treats to take home, pop in to see Beth and Fiona at Cranachan and Crowdie (pictured above) at their shop in the Canongate.  They’ll make you very welcome and may have samples to taste too.

For a traditional afternoon tea, pop in to Clarinda’s Tea Room (where Campbell’s Close meets the Royal Mile) – they open early in the morning for cooked breakfasts and you won’t be able to resist going back later in the day for reasonably priced lunches or delicious home baking and pots of tea.

The nearest Marks and Spencer Simply Food store is in Waverley Station, which is a short walk up Calton Road. You’ll find the entrance to Waverley Station on the left side of Calton Road and a footbridge takes you to Platform 2 where the Marks and Spencer Simply Food Store is located.

There is a large branch of Marks and Spencer at 54 Princes Street where you’ll find a food hall in the basement.

There is a Sainsbury’s Central situated on St Andrews Square, which you’ll find immediately behind Jenners the famous Princes Street Store.

The food hall in Jenners is worth a visit too – you’ll find speciality foods and whiskies there. The Edinburgh Evening News Article comparing up-market food shopping in Edinburgh gives a comparison between Jenners, Harvey Nichols, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose. Finding this reminded me that there is a food department in Harvey Nichols but to date I’ve not managed to add this particular store to my list of shopping experiences.

We’ve also explored the area around the top of Easter Road to find more local stores within a short walk from Craigwell Cottage. I’d definitely recommend the bakery and cafe called The Manna House which you can find at No 22-24 Easter Road. A wonderful patisserie and bakery shop with croissants, cakes, scones, speciality breads. Definitely worth a quick early-morning stroll there to find breakfast. If you read the Guardian Review of this local treasure, you will be drooling already! The locals rate it highly too – another rave review to read.

If you’ve come by car to stay at Craigwell Cottage there’s a large Sainsbury’s Store at the Meadowbank Retail Park if you want to do a supermarket shop to stock up.

For our weekend visitors, you’ll be delighted to know that there are several weekend markets around the city.  The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is at Castle Terrace every Saturday from 9 am till around 2 pm – graze on fine local foods or bring delicious flavours of Scotland back to prepare at Craigwell Cottage.  In Stockbridge on a Sunday, the Stockbridge Market is a lovely place to stock up with delights for your evening meal or even souvenirs to take back from your trip.  Wander along there after a trip to the Royal Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, or follow the Water of Leith Walkway from the Gallery of Modern Art One/Two for a Sunday treat.

Susan McNaughton
Updated March 2015