Scottish National Trail: Edinburgh all the way North to Cape Wrath (day 1)

So, the recovery time past the Elbe paddle is up and two big parties are digested. Now it’s time to get back outdoors to hike the Scottish National Trail from Edinburgh all the way North to Cape Wrath, the northernmost point on the british mainland. In total 750km of fascinating countryside, villages and people lie ahead (as well as rain, wind, sore feet…).

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Slateford – Ratho – Broxburn

Today: 20km | Total: 20km

The first day started only about 3pm. First we had to travel back to Edinburgh from Dunkeld, had a publunch before we finally got going in Edinburgh suburb of Slateford. We had no specific destination in mind for today – one of the positives of carrying camping gear.

 

The Scottish National Trail is an 864 kilometre-long long distance walking route running the length of Scotland from Kirk Yetholm to Cape Wrath. Devised by outdoors writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish in 2012, the Trail offers very varied walking, following long-established footpaths for much of the distance but becoming progressively more difficult as it heads north, finishing with a tough stretch of backpacking – with some pathless and demanding terrain – on the final stretch of the Cape Wrath Trail.

All in, we managed 20km along the Union canal who will be literally on our side for at least two days. Our first major stop was at the pretty village of Ratho with its iconic The Bridge pub and nice residential developments around a small marina. From there further to Broxburn.

 

Obviously, it had to rain on the first day. Welcome to Scotland! Laura’s jacket was not quite up to the job. The rest of the gear was ok though (well, the new boots still need a little more breaking in).

Laura’s comment (day 1)

Otra aventura con Rocket ha comenzado. Las espectativas del viaje son muchas, aún conociendo las condiciones de los diferentes lugares y el común clima de Escocia, tengo la certeza que será un GRAN tiempo en este maravilloso país. 👧🏻

 

One highlight for me came late in the day, as we fixed our empty stomachs with dinner at a Broxburn burger place (one of the traditional ones). I tried fried Haggis… And i loved it. Defo gonna get some more of that stuff while up here. Not sure why i waited that long to try it.

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, minced onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. According to the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique: “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour”.

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Edinburgh: Beauty. Tales. Art. Friends.

It was with great excitement that we traveled up to Scotland. Not only was a beauty of a city waiting to be explored at the time of its annual art festival (Fringe), but also Sean & Jen’s wedding and our start of the Scottish National Trail. All in – close to one month in one of my favorite countries lie ahead. I remember only too keenly the time during my Lhotse preparation up here. And I want more 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🏕️🦕⛈️🌲

Previous blogs in Scotland

Cairngorms winter mountaineering ft. Di Gilbert
Mountain biking around Aviemore: Videolog

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 1: Climbing the hidden chimney (Cairngorms)

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 2 : Ben Nevis via Ridge Route

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 3 : Swing lead climbing the Central Gully (Cairngorms)

Socialising with the wedding crew

After sorting some last yet essential hiking kit (such as boots & sleeping bags), we joined Jen & Sean for a social evening at The Devil’s Advocate pub in Edinburghs old town. Many familiar faces from Ibiza and some faces I hadn’t seen in years. A good time also for Laura to meet some new people including several Spanish speakers. Great fun.

Edinburgh sightseeing – story telling time

I don’t know how many times i have been here before. Maybe more than ten times. But often for work and with little time to get to know Edinburgh better.

We headed straight for the High Street where the annual arts festival Fringe (the largest worldwide) was in full swing. Street performances en mass and a flurry of actors marketing their perforamances for the day. Everything goes really. Great athmosphere.

As usual, i got myself on a free tour. This time with city explorers. What a great way to explore town. Starting from its origins centuries ago, the city wall and its limitations, the subsequent construction of the Georgian new town, the famous children of Edinburgh and Scotland and a few entertaining tales. Some of what i learned I share below.

Adam Smith: Certainly the most famous one of the economists though also very active in philosophy and writing. His book ‘The wealth of Nations‘ remains a key pillar of classic economics and his masterpiece. His contributions to free trade thinking have most certainly improved so many livelyhoods.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this – no dog exchanges bones with another.

– Adam Smith

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Walter Scott: This Scottish novelist might be less well known to many though his works like Ivanhoe might already sound more familiar. The monument dedicated to him remains the tallest in the world dedicated to an author. His novels revolutionised and initiated Scottish tourism in particular his popular works ‘Waverly Novels’ (sold 2m times in France alone… In tbe 18th century!).

Success – keeping your mind awake and your desire asleep.
– Walter Scott

Robert Burns: Scotlands national poet that is celebrated each year at Burns night. In 2009 he was voted the greatest Scot of all times by the Scottish people.

There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.
– Robert Burns

GAURDY-LOO and the origins of being “shit faced”

Back in the day when they threw their chamber pot contents into the street they didn’t just do it whenever. There was a special time when the bells from a certain church would ring and then everyone would open up their windows, chamber pots in hand. “Gaurdy-loo” would be yelled out and then SPLASH into the street it would all go. Excuse the terrible spelling of that phrase, but it’s kind of hard to hear the french origin with the Scottish accent, essentially in French, that meant “dirty water.” Over time when toilets began to come into play it shortened itself and this is where “loo” came from. (Another fun fact, here in the UK it’s a port-a-loo rather than a port-a-potty. Sounds much classier, don’t you think?)

Now the times that the bells tolled also happened to coincide with another time regulated event, when the bars closed and the drunks came home. Apparently at this time there were a lot of foreigners in Edinburgh, trying to be protected from the English, so they weren’t entirely accustomed to all of Edinburgh’s culture. When someone yelled “Guardy-loo,” instead of running and hoping to escape the splash zone, drunk and disoriented they would look up, and the phrase “shit-faced” was born.It is 3am in a cafe on the last road to nowhere. There is a waitress with no name, past or future, and only the radio to drown out the silence. She seems stuck in the same place at the same time; if she stops, the world may stop too. Merging physical theatre and dance with aerial circus, held together by performance poetry and an eclectic soundtrack, Rogue Play’s 65-minute, high-energy piece explores loneliness and detachment, the tenderness of unexpected connections and the ultimate peace that comes when we accept the world as it is.

I copied the write up from this blog. Nice read.

The story of Maggie Dickson

While exploring the Grassmarket area of town you will most certainly hear of Maggie Dickson. The place was formerly the lifestock market, but also a place of execution.

A popular story in Edinburgh is that of Margaret Dickson, a fishwife from Musselburgh who was hanged in the Grassmarket in 1724 for murdering her illegitimate baby shortly after birth.

After the hanging, her body was taken back to Musselburgh on a cart. However, on the way there she awoke. Since, under Scots Law, her punishment had been carried out, she could not be executed for a second time for the same crime (only later were the words “until dead” added to the sentence of hanging). A subsequent inquiry found that many others were burried alive as scratch marks in their coffins indicated.

Her “resurrection” was also to some extent seen as divine intervention, and so she was allowed to go free (and avoided paying taxes owing to her death certificate). In later life (and legend) she was referred to as “half-hangit Maggie”. There is now a pub in the Grassmarket named after her.

Greyfriars Bobby – a story of a loving dog

The best-known version of the story is that Bobby belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a nightwatchman.

When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the kirkyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby then became known locally, spending the rest of his life sitting on his master’s grave.

Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

– scripture on Bobby’s grave stone

He is now burried on Greyfriars cementary close to his master and honoured every year. On this cementary you will also find several grave stones with names that inspired A. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter characters such as Thomas Riddel aka Lord Voldemort (she wrote the first two books in a cafe opposite the graveyard and came here to find inspiration).

Let’s got to the theatre… The 3am waitress

I actually never attended a play etc in Edinburgh even though i was at the Fringe before. Laura pick out a dance theatre. Little text from actors, but background voice and lots of expression anfld movement. Liked it as the performance went on. Very different to what I have seen before. Here the promo video.

Description: It is 3am in a cafe on the last road to nowhere. There is a waitress with no name, past or future, and only the radio to drown out the silence. She seems stuck in the same place at the same time; if she stops, the world may stop too. Merging physical theatre and dance with aerial circus, held together by performance poetry and an eclectic soundtrack, Rogue Play’s 65-minute, high-energy piece explores loneliness and detachment, the tenderness of unexpected connections and the ultimate peace that comes when we accept the world as it is.