Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Edinburgh - the Dunedin of the North; Innerleithen to Edinburgh

Tuesday 18th of June, 2013

Thank you Mrs Muir - over snaggly hills to Edinburgh - Edinburgh, Din Eidyn - 

Thank you, Mrs Muir

I think you'd love Mrs Muir (our hostess last night) and her exquisite Whitestone House, built with the best materials in 1892 as the Manse for a minister of the Scottish Church and still in show-home condition: two-storied, spacious, stairways of baltic pine, furnished and decorated with exemplary taste.

And Mrs Muir: softly spoken with a light accent (she told us she was Austrian), a gentle smile, a lady of advancing years who ran this big house by herself and with proficient serenity.

David at the door of Whitestone House,
 Mrs Muir's B and B in Peebles.

We left at 8.30 after a breakfast extended by a long conversation with fellow guests, a couple who had just returned from a 'fabulous' trip to New Zealand and who had been waiting for an audience like us. It's never hard to listen to praise, enthusiastically lavished and it would have been rude to rush when you are being told that you live in a little paradise, even though it's far, far away; and a wee bit expensive......

Over snaggly hills to Edinburgh

Back to Innerleithen, riding by 9. Onto the B 207 and only 34 miles to Edinburgh, presumably so that cyclists on this route could 'do' Edinburgh in the afternoon. Not long enough for us. We had already decided to have a full rest day there except that we wouldn't be resting, we'd be walking and taking pictures and drinking coffee and having a single malt, or even learning the difference between a single and double malt.

Riding in Scotland – up a steadily rising valley, green, treeless hills on each hand. Sheep bleat and dogs yelp and the air is ripe with the reek of sileage.

Peaceful enough to put a grin on my face.

The fences, disappointingly, are post and wire. I was hoping for dry stone and to build on my meagre but growing expertise. I did see round stone enclosures for the first time. Swimming pools for the shepherds? Maybe not. Sheep pens, more likely.

Cyclists love closing the summit almost as much as they love riding down the other side.
Typical highland landscape, with post and wire fences, a few miles south of Edinburgh.

At five minutes after midday it is the 19th of June in New Zealand and Ella's 100th birthday. David drives up and we talk about her life and about the coincidence that brought us to her father's birthplace on this milestone. Congratulations, dear Ella.

Near the top of the final hill before the panoramic view towards the Firth and Edinburgh.

We can now also see Edinburgh, misty distant beside the Firth of Forth, all downhill from here but not too steeply. The Scottish hills are (mostly) sensibly graded and, with some exceptions, not hard to ride over. The exceptions came later.

This sheep is looking from the Moorcroft Hills towards Edinburgh
 and the Firth of Forth, barely visible in the misty distance.

You don't need directions when there's only one road, but from here into Edinburgh, the route gets complex as I wanted to keep to the B roads. Several times, stopping to ask the way, I always got helpful, clear directions – from walkers, cyclists, publicans. Lovely people, these Scots.

By one, I was outside Waverley Station in the heart of the city: the crowds filled the footpaths, meandered across the roads; ahead the huge extravagance of the Walter Scott monument spiked high above Princes Street; in between, tourist double-deck buses lined each side of the road. To my left a kiltwearing busker played the pipes. Behind him the castle. I got off and walked.

Edinburgh, with Arthur's Seat looming over the city.

At two, having raced the traffic down the main street to Leith – and I want to say, dear Scottish roadmakers, that it's the roughest surface in a city that I have jolted over on the whole trip so far – I met David at the Hermitage Guest House and he showed me our room with the smallest bathroom in Scotland. I couldn't close the door when using the toilet as my knees stuck out into the room. David sensibly slept under his bed all night to avoid the horrible chance of a nightmare view in the early hours of the morning.

Then we caught a bus into town to savour the delights of this beautiful city.

Edinburgh – Dunedin – Din Eidyn ( Edinburgh's original name)

I was excited to be in this glorious city. Just telling you, in case you hadn't already guessed. Here are some reasons why-
  1. I was brought up in Dunedin, a city near the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. It's often called “Edinburgh of the South' has a statue of Scottish poet Robby Burns in the main street – he's gazing at a pub and has his back to the town hall . Many Dunedinites like this independent approach .

  2. On this first night, we trudged up Calton Hill and sat with the crowds watching the misty dusk soften the profile of the buildings of the city centre. Magic. On the way down, a voice walking up asked us for directions. A kiwi accent. He was from Dunedin, lived 500 metres from our old home, went to the same primary school, told me I looked the same age and he might remember me. Turns out he started school 8 years after me. It was that flattering Edinburgh light that confused him, said David.

    David on Calton Hill at dusk. The spike above his head is
    the 60 m tall monument to Sir Walter Scott.

    The names shared by Dunedin and Edinburgh are startling to Dunedites – even on the way into Edinburgh I found....Musselburgh, Ettrick, Cardrona, Milton, Lauder.... on the map. In the city, every street has a familiar name....Castle Street, Princes Street, Leith Street, Hanover, Dundas and many more. Sometimes, in the evening working out the route on the map, I, filled with childish excitement would read out names common to NZ and Scotland. I never heard David groan out loud, he's much too polite, but his look betrayed a clear feeling of 'I've heard this all so many times before.”

  3. Edinburgh has a greater proportion of university students per capita than any other European country. Scottish people and their descendants are smart.

  4. Scotland invented the bicycle pedal and I bet it was dreamt up in Edinburgh, or at least very close. I and many others owe a lot to the bicycle pedal.

  5. Edinburgh has a suburb, Leith, with a port. My great-great- great grandfather, his second wife and his 8 children sailed here from the Orkneys in 1863, took the train to London then sailed out to Invercargill. Had this not happened, I would not be doing this cycle ride. Or anything else for that matter.

    Part of the port at Leith, the first port of call for James Anderson Brass,
     my ancestor and his family on their way out to New Zealand in 1863.

  6. Everyone we met was friendly, interested in our trip and, to my amazement, I could understand almost everything they said.

  7. Edinburgh is bursting with places to see, things to do. I recommend – the castle, of course, the National Art Gallery, the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, the pub with the sign outside -
The Perfect Martini
1. Pour gin, vermouth and olives into the rubbish bin where they belong.
2. Drink whiskey.

With David in front of the hugely impressive  Edinburgh Castle.

There is no doubt at all that I will come back to this alluring, historic, lovable place.

Weather – fine with light winds for the ride into Edinburgh, perfect the next day.

Distance Today Average Speed Max Speed Riding Time Trip Odometer
54.5 16.3 46 3 h 19 m 1092

Edinburgh Castle, a view from the other side of the hill.

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