Hill four of the seven is Braid Hill, or in local parlance, The Braids. Rising from a wooded valley floor to an undulating hillside a couple of miles south of Edinburgh, The Braids are part managed parkland, part urban corridor. By day, a place for golf buddies and walkers; by night, the hideout of youths and foxes. With its rosebay willowherb and corners of abandoned furniture, the landscape reminds me of the canal-side walks of my childhood, but it can feel quite remote at times at well. Tom often runs here, and occasionally crosses paths with a startled deer — it is a marginal sort of place where you feel that you are just about to leave the city. Edinburgh’s eighteenth-century poets regarded The Braids as a rural retreat: it was one of Burns’ favourite walking spots, and Robert Fergusson wrote a rather conventional pastoral in which he counseled his readers to forget “the city’s allurements” and “to this spot of enchantment retire.” But my favourite Braids-inspired poem is from the hand of a far less-well-known local writer, Rebekkah Carmichael, who in 1790 chose The Braids as the setting for a curious poetic re-enactment of the Choice of Hercules.

Thankfully I did not have to make a choice between Pleasure and Virtue today – in fact, my walk seemed to involve both. The Hedgerows were glorious. I enjoyed having my macro lens to photograph late blooms . . .

. . . and new fruits

Bruce came too.

The walk was certainly a challenge — the ground was thankfully even underfoot, but with over a mile of steady ascent, things were a bit more tricky than Blackford . . .

We had a wee rest at the top. There’s Castle Hill, in the patch of sunlight behind me.

This was quite a tough walk for me, and I will probably now be bushed for the next couple of days, but I have to say I much prefer a bit of exertion followed by rest, to the interminable purgatory that is pacing oneself. That’s just me, though – and it is so nice to ramble about the landscape again on a lovely late-summer’s day, beneath Edinburgh’s shifting skies, with my man and my dog.

Look! The Pentlands! One day not too far away, perhaps . . .

44 thoughts on “The Braids

  1. Hi, I googled skylark and braid hills and found your blog!

    5 days after you were up the hill my mums memorial seat was installed just to the west of the summit. Her poem about the braid hills in may is inscribed on it, I think you might like it if you can can bothered hiking all that way again! I think you’ll find it’s worth it….:-)

    No sign of any skylarks though….has anyone seen any on the braids this year?



  2. I love your pictures.
    I’m living in Norway, and looking at your pictures makes me realize it’s about time I cross the Northern Sea.
    Have a nice weekend.


  3. It’s all so beautiful, and you are indeed lucky to be walking those hills of Scotland. However, it is your darling and handsome new puppy that is the highlight of your posts!


  4. Dogs are *such* great hiking companions!
    And that area looks gorgeous. :-)

    Speaking of braids, but entirely off-topic; would you mind sharing how you fasten yours to your head?
    I like wearing mine in a similar way sometimes, but no matter what kind of / how many pins etc I use, they always start to pull on my scalp painfully really quickly.
    Perhaps it also has something to do with the place / direction you start braiding?

    I love the way your braids look on you, I’d love to be able to wear my hair similarly more comfortably.


  5. Delurking to say how stricken I am by two things:

    1. Your incredible spirit. I know you probably have many dark moments, but you keep challenging yourself.
    2. The beautiful photography in your post, and how lovely your landscape is.


  6. I thought for sure this post would be about your hair. I’m getting a geography lesson!

    Will Bruce be a helper to you or strictly a companion?


  7. Another hill down!
    And thank you so much for giving me the name of those purple flowers I saw along all the roadsides when I was traveling in the UK this July–not knowing drove me nuts! Rosebay willowherb…it sounds like one of the poets might have named it while out on their walks : )


  8. The photos are beautiful. I want to see these places! Oh and I love your scarf. Congratulations on hitting another milestone!


  9. Your title could easily have read, “The Braids Do the Braids.” Congratulations on a tiring, but clearly wonderful experience…with man and beastie boy Bruce beside you, lucky woman!


  10. The colour, it’s the colour present in your photographs that I find alluring as a painter.
    I must admit that after reading your post on walk-abouts I often dream that I am there in Scotland.


  11. It is so great to see you looking so well and doing the things you love most. I do not comment often but I do read every blog you write. Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart as that is where my mother was born and lived there until she got married. She lived in Hollyrood Square (now demolished) and spent her childhood playing around Authur’s Seat. She too had a dog named Bruce.
    I have just finished Manu Cardigan; previously I knit Owl sweater for one of my daughters and now plan to knit Dollsheid for my other daughter.


  12. Rosebay willowherb and discarded furniture always remind me of childhood walks by canals and on derelict railways, too. These seem to be the universal indicators of ‘yomping’ territory… (Not sure if ‘yomping’ is a word, but that was what my Mum always called our outdoor walks.)

    I also agree that ‘pacing oneself’ is an interminable purgatory. There is a lot to be said for taking pleasure while you can and dealing with the consequences later; I know it’s not so ‘sensible’ but sometimes the heart demands it. I hope you get good sleep and restoration after The Braids, though.

    Hurrah for walking with your man and your dog; Bruce looks especially magnificent with his great puppy paws. Is that a tree he has felled in the top photo?

    And I love the photo of him tending to you during the rest.

    All round: Huzzah!


    1. The OED says “yay” to yomping – viz: “To march with heavy equipment over difficult terrain.”

      Definitely good to have a change from pacing oneself – at least there are peaks involved in peaks and troughs!


  13. What lovely pictures of a happy day, hope you are soon recovered from the fatigue and heading to the Pentlands. They looked beautiful today from IKEA car park but we had other things to do, so no walk on the hills. Head full of childhood memories of walks to the T wood, which I could see from my bedroom window and that was before the ski slope was built.
    Congratulations on completing Hill 4. Tom and Bruce must be so proud of you


  14. Hi Kate:
    I have enjoyed walking with you on your encounters of the 7 hills of Edinburgh.
    They bring back so many fond memories of my childhood; especially the braids and arthur’s seat. Keep up the good work ; you are a wonderful inspiration to all of us.


  15. Dear Kate,
    You may not believe me but I was just brewing a cup of your favorite tea when your RSS feed popped into my email account.
    A late summers day with your dog and your man – sounds just about perfect. Bet Bruce and Tom couldn’t be happier. Well deserved joy for all of you.


  16. Well done Kate! I can hardly wait until my next trip to Scotland to walk on some of those hills. I love the photos of Bruce who will always be ready to walk with you.


  17. Great outing, hope you can recover quickly from the fatigue that it brings along. Yes, that “pacing oneself” thing… perhaps you can take a few tips from your running man, about mixing up training paces to improve, rather than always plodding at the same cautious pace :-) (I’m sure you already have, as it seems to suit you more!)


  18. I had grand intentions of walking early this morning on our flat surfaces here in Central Texas, USA, however, when I opened the door and the steamy heat hit my face I decided knitting in air conditioning was a much better plan!
    Someday, I’d like to walk in Edinburgh. Your photos and writings make it so tempting!


  19. Look at you go! And no brace! I’m proud of you. Thanks for all the lovely photos of the flora. Now go lie down, you’re making me tired.


  20. Having been so unhappy living in Edinburgh I can’t believe that today I actually have some positive feelings about the place. The reason is that we have just been to see the film the Illusionist which makes it all look so appealing – even the bad weather! Highly reccommend it if you haven’t seen it though I know that some people find it a too touristy view of the city. Glad to see your continued progress. Joan


  21. It was a great day for a walk too.
    The Pentlands are not too far off, metaphorically speaking, and you could have an ale at Flotterstone to finish the day off too.


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