The easiest of Edinburgh’s hills (and therefore the first of my seven walks) is Castle Hill – the volcanic plug sitting at the highest point of the street that runs through the heart of the city’s old town and which is known as the Royal Mile. Our ascent (which, incidentally, covers a Scots not an English mile, and is therefore slightly longer) began at Holyrood – the site of the new parliament and the old palace. On one side of the street are the signs of monarchical privilege:

(the Queen’s golden unicorn rears it’s hooves above Arthur’s Seat / Mead Mountain)

And on the other, those of democracy:

(Hugh Macdiarmid’s poem Edinburgh is one of many set into the walls of the Scottish Parliament Building)

I was accompanied by Tom and our good friend the Mule, who is visiting this weekend. The Royal Mile abounds with much “Traditional” Scottish fayre – you just can’t move for bagpipes, whisky, tam o’ shanters, and tartan of questionable quality and authenticity. . .

This particular bagpipe shop is the real deal, though.

Further up, we passed the memorial statue of Edinburgh poet, Robert Fergusson (who you may remember from this post and whose poem, Braid Claith, provides today’s title). I was pleased to see him striding down the Cannongate as we were striding up, and stopped to say hello. Across the road is the White Horse bar which always puts me in mind of Dr Johnson. While staying here in 1773, he threw a sour glass of lemonade out of the window and almost got into a fight with a waiter. Things seemed a little quieter outside the Cannongate pubs today.

Here we are near the former site of the grim Old Tolbooth prison. . .

And speeding onward and upward as Cannongate turns into the High Street. . .

Walking became more tricky on the Lawnmarket (toward the top of the Royal Mile). Here the level pavement gives way to uneven cobbles which are difficult to pick one’s way over with a wonky leg and stick. The crowds are also dense and unpredictable – tourists struggle with their suitcases and drift in and out of gift shops. . .

Approaching the castle, we resisted the temptation to shake hands with a William Wallace who seemed much more obliging than pugnacious. . .

I was tired by this point, and it was great to reach the castle. By now, it was noon, and had turned into a lovely day . . .

I had a rest while Tom and Mule went to find some “traditional” Scottish ice-cream. Then it was time to head back to Holyrood again. While the gradients on the way up actually weren’t much of a problem, I found those on the way down much harder to manage. Descending is tougher on the knees and hips, and mine don’t have much stability as yet – I felt a little vulnerable and unbalanced negotiating the steep sections of the High Street, and by the time we were back on the Cannongate I was very tired indeed. Having been out and about for a few hours, however, fatigue was only to be expected, and overall I was very pleased with my progress up and down this first hill. I’ve only been walking on the flat with my splint and stick so far, and I was concerned about managing the gradients. But though the Royal Mile was certainly a little tough for my bad leg, I could walk up and down it no problem. Next week, however, I shall attempt Calton Hill – a shorter climb, but,with lots of steps and uneven ground, a steeper and much trickier affair.

Thanks for the photos, Mule!

49 thoughts on “gang trigly

  1. Cobbles, tourists and gradient make that a challenging walk even on two healthy legs. What an achievement! I remember trying to negotiate the festival crowds near St.Giles when I was 8 months pregnant and feeling incredibly vulnerable, so I think you’ve been very gallus. Wishing you well for the next challenges.


  2. Brava!

    Thanks for the post that really gave a sense of place.

    And..that is a great coat and I love your turquoise tights! I’m going to wear mine tomorrow.


  3. Well done you – it looks like it was a lovely day and I hope you enjoyed your “traditional Scottish icecream” as a reward on reaching your summit. I second all the comments about your coat – I especially like the ruffle at the back :-)


  4. “Whoops, I was trying to be too clever there, try this:”
    Great to see you stomping up the Royal Mile, no easy feat through the milling tourists. Hugh Macdiarmid’s poem is inscribed by my stonecarving friend, Gillian Forbes, and she did all the carvings/inscriptions on the Canongate Wall Good Luck with the next hill walk.


  5. Oh ! You and your Tom look so beautiful on walkabout on The Royal Mile. I swear, for lack of imagination isn’t my usual way, that you seem in the photos to have a spring, and are nearer to your own gate, not a person who’s body is confused and inable. Nope, you’re definitely on your way Little Miss, to being in tip top fitness as once before. I can see why you moved to Scotland, with all the pipers and longer miles and hills to climb.

    Your inexplicable knack for portraying your life as a near fairytale existence, in spite of your recent set-back, is what keeps me checking in at least once a day, to see if there is anything new in “Needled” which has been posted by the amazing and resilient Kate. ~Jen


  6. Wonderful to see photos of you looking strong and striding with purpose. Your photos make me want to take a trip with sturdy walking shoes, someday! Lois


  7. Good to see you out and about!

    I said hello to Fergusson on Thursday – spent the day at the NLS and the Elephant Cafe waiting for a lecture at night (which was subsequently cancelled due to Volcano). Good day out though. Also visited Smith’s and Fergusson’s graves. Nice day…


  8. Well! You certainly set a bit of a pace! Tom looks as if he is struggling to keep up with you.
    What is so inspiring and lovely is that you have set your self these challenges and not only do them but really enjoy them. And that is a joy to see.


  9. I’m very glad to see you walking about! That’s encouraging indeed.

    And oh! Edinburgh. I must go one day, if only to see all the “questionably” Scottish things for myself. I have Scottish friends, and they bang on about their pseudo-touristy heritage all the time.


  10. A great achievement! What a nice walk in such interesting surroundings. I think I should be living up there, I really do. We do not have such history around us here in Australia.


  11. Huzzah for a hill conquered! I did that exact route on my one trip to the UK, and I confess to buying a tartan scarf of dubious origins. :) But the “real” shop was out of Anderson plaid, which is my mother’s family. So we’re both happy with our cheapo Anderson scarves. :)


  12. I must visit Edinburgh next time I am in the UK (cannot believe I have never been) . I shall ask you to write me an itinerary!
    Lovely to see you out and about and looking so stylish as usual. It looks like a lovely day for a walk. I hope you had a nice cup of tea and a sit down afterwards.
    Reading this post has made me want to be outdoors so I shall go and finish planting my winter vegetable garden.


  13. Hurrah for the Mule and his formidable documenting skillz for you both look great in these photos and it is marvellous to see all this hillwalking, especially with the full spate of tourists. Your photos remind me of mine and Lara’s Saturday morning in Edinburgh; struggling up the Royal Mile with our cases just as you describe!

    Descending IS harder.

    I hope you had the most beautiful snooze afterwards, to recover your energies.



  14. Well done! You look wonderful. After seeing photos from this and your next 6 walks, I’m sure I’ll crave a trip to Edinburgh. We’d probably be well advised to follow your order of difficulty, too.


  15. It is so great to see you going trigly forth! Your enjoyment comes through so clearly. I had to link back to see that wonderful statue of Fergusson again. Have a good rest now, and bask in the satisfaction of getting stronger every day.


  16. Congratulations on conquering a hill! My husband and I will be visiting Edinburgh next month and are looking forward to doing the same. Thank you for the preview, and we are both wishing you equal success on the rest of the hills!


  17. Thank ye kindly for the walking tour, Kate–I’ve read (and read and read) enough Walter Scott to have this geography all fixed in my mind, but it’s lovely to see it overlaid with the now and with you!


  18. I will be in Edinburgh in June and these pictures are making me very excited. I will definitely have to tackle some of them. I shall wear my Manu and think of you!


  19. I love the Royal Mile. There something quite fun about seeing photographs on someone else’s weblog of places you’ve drunk a pint in and would love to go again. Thanks for the memories!


  20. Well done!

    I often find when hiking steep inclines that, while going up is hard work and tiring, going down is more difficult on the body as well as on the footing.

    Can’t wait to watch you conquer them all!


  21. Lovely! It really looks like Tom has to keep up with your pace! I have also walked that tour. My mother is English, and her cousin is Scottish. My sister and I visited in the autumn 2008, and I am going back in August before going to Stirling for the Knit Something (cant remember the name) I hope to see you there!! Amazing to follow your progress!
    Karen from Denmark


  22. Wonderful photos. And that coat is GORGEOUS! For some reason it’s what reassured me most about this whole post – you are your that same old unbelievably and unmistakeably stylish Kate. : )


  23. Great trek! So glad to see your progress! Thanks for sharing the details of the walk. The walk completed with energy left to write a blog update..yay!

    We are contemplating a trip to Scotland next year and your post is giving me ideas. Thank so much, Kate.


  24. Fantastic! And a lovely travelogue. I’ve only been to Edinburgh twice, once as a student for the festival (so saw very little apart from pubs) and then last year for a few hours while based in Northumbria on holiday (so didn’t have time to see much). I really should try to spend more time there someday.


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