In Edinburgh this weekend to take part in the half-marathon, one of about five big races happening as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival (an event which attracted more than twenty thousand runners to the city and led to all sorts of accommodation shenanigans). I had been once before, for Hogmanay a decade ago, but had never seen the city by day. This post will suffer, I suspect, from its lack of photographic accompaniment.*

After a smooth drive up via Leeds to pick up my running-mate – the latter part of which was a gloomy but picturesque ride on the inland route from Newcastle to Edinburgh via Jedburgh – we rolled into the Scottish capital in the mid-afternoon, in time for a leisurely stroll up to Salisbury Crags. It’s such an amazing feature of a city to have spectacular natural heights so close to the centre, with the Crags and Arthur’s Seat just behind. The views were breathtaking, from the far western suburbs, around past the heights of the city centre – castle, churches, all in that characteristic (and rather aggressive) yellow-brown stone – across what seem to be defiantly north-European parodies of Rome’s hilly ruins and down to the sea in the east.

Waverley Station is buried in a cleft between two hills, the castle and high street almost impossibly positioned what seems hundreds of feet above the rail valley. The streets are built on multiple levels, criss-crossing one another storeys apart and creating a fascinating three-dimensional labyrinth with undertones of Escher.

In the evening we met a friend for a delicious Kurdish meal in the shadow of the castle before driving back to our digs in Glenrothes. On Sunday morning the race took us north, downhill fast away from Calton Hill and out towards the sea. The weather changed frequently and instantly, veering between hazy, sticky sun and cold, hard rain. Only in the last mile did the latter win out, but by that stage I was grateful for the cooling effect. We passed through suburbs for which the word charming might have been coined: Portobello’s seafront, Musselburgh’s harbour, Prestonpans’ grassy flats. All the while we were buoyed by the panoramic views across the sea to the ancient kingdom of Fife. Finishing up back in Musselburgh, the consensus was that Edinburgh seemed a unique and spectacular place, and one worthy of future exploration.

*I left my camera in the car on Saturday, and on Sunday I was racing and don’t have, well, a head-cam or whatever…

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Edinburgh is the most spectacular city in the UK, no question. It offers a fascinating architectural mix while maintaining an identifiable character all the way through the centuries. I’d also say that Edinburgh and Glasgow are the most ‘European’ cities in the UK, somehow. Perhaps it is just that England is so doggedly un-European, whereas Scotland has always been more open-minded about looking eastward.

    Next time you go, take a walk around Stockbridge and the Dean Village (good secondhand shops and galleries / nice river walks) and stroll over the Meadows and down to Marchmont, all the while looking up. Lovely.

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