Another slow start after another late night. Very tasty avocado and fried egg brioche sandwiches.
We planned to take a walk roughly following the Water of Leith along the northern edge of the city centre towards Stockbridge. We started towards the river but soon got distracted by Rosebank Cemetery. The cemetery not surprisingly has many graves of ship owners, harbour pilots and others relating to the maritime history of Leith. One significant memorial is to the servicemen who died in the Quintinshill rail disaster in 1915. Four trains were involved; the busiest of which was taking soldiers to Liverpool to travel onwards to Gallipoli. 215 people were killed making it the worst crash in British railway history.
The Water of Leith flows 22 miles from the Pentland Hills before meeting the Firth of Forth in Leith. It can be followed in part on footpaths and by road. We walked along a muddy path by the Water for about a mile before heading up onto the road. At this point, we passed a coffee shop that I couldn’t resist – flat white time. We were now on the edge of Stockbridge. The architecture became more grand. Tall imposing houses and apartment blocks characterise the New Town.
I’d found an exhibition which had works from Morag Patterson, a photographer that I particularly like. We came across the gallery by accident so we had a quick look. It’s a group show by 12 artists based in the south west of Scotland. Some works were challenging, some beautiful. One of the artists was there, she was unwilling to explain much about her piece. I should just ‘read it as I like’. Next door was another gallery, and we particularly liked the work of Ron Lawson. He paints simple landscapes featuring a single small craft or bothy. The paintings had all sold so I had to be content with a card.
One of our destinations was the Stockbridge Sunday market. This is a small gathering of about 20 stalls – mainly food and drink with a few craft stalls as well. We bought a vegetarian scotch egg, some smoked mozzarella and a small print of some penguins.
Stockbridge has many characterful streets but none more so than Circus Lane. The street is a long semi-circle of pretty cottages that are beautifully kept with flowers and plants outside but without being too twee. A church tower looms over the eastern end to complete the scene.
We continued up towards the city to meet our friend for lunch but were distracted by a photographic gallery on the way. The owner showcased his own work, mainly from Greenland, along with pictures from five other photographers; a few of whom I knew and some that need more exploring.
Lunch was at El Cartel café. We just made it inside ahead of three others who were turned away because they were full. The food is simple Mexican street food – tacos, corn and guacamole. Florence had a Mexican Bloody Veera and I had a Mescal, Salted Pear and Lemon cocktail – both were delicious. The food was all really well prepared with lots of interesting flavours. They don’t however do puddings (apart from ice cream) so we crossed the road to Henderson’s. They have been serving vegan and vegetarian food since 1968 and are completely vegan since 2015.
After lunch, we carried on our exploration, heading back to the river and into Dean Village. In the late 19th century a Stockbridge newspaper magnate got tired of looking at the slums and riverside industries that his house overlooked and built some new housing in the form of a turreted red brick gothic castle (now a World Heritage site).
After criss-crossing the water a few more times we ended up at the modern art museum. This is split between two former stately homes that face each other across large gardens and a road. We only had 40 minutes to try and visit both. Not much grabbed us in the first one so that was done in ten minutes. The highlight of the second museum was ‘Lamp of Sacrifice’ by Nathan Coley. This consists of simplistic cardboard models of the 260 places of worship open in Edinburgh at the beginning of 2004. The models are all thrown together with no regard for their actual locations and the overall effect is one of seeing a city from a strange bird’s eye view. The museum also had a room of works by Ed Ruscha and we only had a couple of minutes to take this in, not really enough. The garden in front of this gallery has a large earthwork sculpture in it. Shapes in the ground are grassed over and two pools sit in front of them.
We’d been lucky with the weather so far but as we walked back towards Princes Street, heavy rain set in.
Our last site was the statue of Wotjek, a brown bear who served in the polish army in WW2. He was adopted as an orphaned cub by the soldiers but they weren’t allowed pets in battle so he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds and given a rank and number. After the war, he ended up in Edinburgh zoo where he lived until 1963.
The rain continued so we took a bus back to our apartment. We’d been in for about 15 minutes before the sun was shiny again. Time for some tea and toast and putting our feet up for a bit before our sleeper back to London.
We’ve done a lot this weekend but it’s shown us there’s so much more to do so we hope to be back soon.