Frost lain crystalline in star bladed brittle embrace coats Edinburgh’s dawn face. Clouds blanketing the falling skies of yesterdays eve have dissolved as we slept. Heat has flown from the land by dark of night.
A morning of gold and azure greets my upturned face peering from our little window. We have beaten the rising sun in waking.
Tossing, turning in narrow bedded anticipation. Down two floors turned deep in carpet stairs hot breakfast is by eight awaiting.
Let’s get amongst it, we inject ourselves into the crisp air of another glorious morning.
A lover of swift walking and climbing the most lofty peaks in sight, Pam takes her usual place twenty meters in front of me, pausing at each corner to ask me directions for our way.
I wonder when my knees wear to nubs will she slow?
Beyond the twists and turns of the first few apartment canyons lies the green vista of ‘The Meadows’, a large semi circular park with tree lined footpaths radiating from the centre of the long straight edge cutting it into quarters.
For the first time today we sight our intended destination, the greens and greys of the rising hill and cliff faces of Holyrood Park.
Arthur’s Seat, a dark volcanic plug at it’s centre, the craggy dominate feature.
Pam is streaking ahead of me as I do my best to take photos and match her speed. She is forever walking off with my Pacerpoles and claims to forget that I can’t walk anywhere near as fast as her without them.
I know she is scamming me for her own amusement as almost every time I go to recover the Pacerpoles from her she takes snickering delight in walking onwards whilst pretending to return them just a few inches from my outstretched hands.
Mocking, always mocking, at my chamber gently knocking.
Stopping at a busy street corner to look at maps we are assisted by a friendly local.
Just like in Croatia we are volunteered aid without request every time we have looked even vaguely lost in Scotland. We love the Scots and Croats.
Pam takes the opportunity to duck into the corner supermarket as our friendly guide helps me find an optimal route to Holyrood Park on the tourist map.
A few corners later we enter the gates of the park. Information from yesterdays bus tour floods back from our subconscious, the crowns atop the lampposts indicate this is a Royal Park.
Greens and blues of the land and sky beyond the gates form that most soothing of contrasts.
Arthur’s Seat is the largest of the three parts of the Arthur’s Seat Volcano site that has been deemed ‘of special scientific interest’ to protect its important geology, grassland habitats and uncommon plant and animal species.
Like the castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, it was formed by an extinct volcano system of Carboniferous age (approximately 350 million years old), which was then eroded by a glacier moving from west to east during the Quaternary (approximately the last two million years), exposing rocky crags to the west and leaving a tail of material swept to the east.
This is how the Salisbury Crags formed and became basalt cliffs between Arthur’s Seat and the city centre. From some angles, Arthur’s Seat resembles a lion couchant. Two of the several extinct vents make up the ‘Lion’s Head’ and the ‘Lion’s Haunch’.
We turn right at a roundabout and head towards a sign indicating pathways before making our way over a slight crest within the valley between Arthur’s Seat and the lower grassy bluff of Salisbury Crags.
Today is extraordinarily fine, cool air carries a vibrancy in its flow, Edinburgh locals and tourists alike crawl over the grassy eastern face in front of Lion’s Head.
I decide to use the grassy eastern expanse of the knoll in front of the Lion’s Head as a reference point as we gain altitude.
We turn right and begin our ascent up rough stone stairs.
I am frustrating Pam beyond her good natured thresholds with my insistence on stopping for photo opportunities when she desires to climb onwards unimpeded.
She eventually leaves me in her wake.
While we were still climbing together a lovely young Irish girl had passed us as I paused for one of many photo opportunities.
As I climb around the hillside I see her outlined against the blue sky on the crest of the ridge above as she returns and call out for her to stop.
She obligingly pauses to allow me to take several photos and I introduce myself soon after. I ask her name and permission to post her image online and offer to email her the pictures I have taken however I have no method of recording her details. She takes down Pam’s email address and our blog address on her phone and says she will email Pam.
Unfortunately we are yet to hear from her again.
I climb onwards.
On the final grassy expanse between this crest and Arthur’s Seat Pam has built a little ‘Camino Tower’ from the rocks strewn over the surface.
She is freezing to death in the now strong crisp winds blasting over the hilltop and accuses me of ‘being the slowest man in the world’ for the umpteenth time in our relationship.
Asking me ‘what the hell took you so long’ she is none to happy with my response that ‘I was taking photos of the beautiful Irish girl’.
Leaving Pam to scrabble through my daypack for layers of cold weather gear I take photo after photo of the spectacular views in all directions.
Even my internal fires now need stoking, I put on my beanie and gloves.
Climbing the last rocky meters proves difficult in the narrow trench worn in stone I have chosen as my route to the top.
We have many joyous companions at the top. Maneuvering on the rough surface is best done with care and everyone is humorous and patient with each other as we swap vantage points for photos.
There is a real ‘Camino type’ communal vibe happening atop the beautiful sunlit peak.
Pam seizes her opportunity to stand at the very highest point.
Leaving space on the rocky top for new climbers we descend a little way and sit in the lee of the rocks to eat our sandwiches.
Crows watch our every move with interest but keep their distance.
Unable to sprout wings and join the crows in flight we have but one option in our altitudinal arsenal.
Down, we go down. Down towards the opposite side from whence we came.
Down towards the Palace of Holyrood House and the new Scottish Parliament House beyond.
Near the bottom repairs to the path divert us beyond rocks where fit young tourists clamber to the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel.
Calton Hill and it’s monuments cry out for a photo to be taken between the rocks.
Leaving the ruins behind us we make our way to the lowlands once more.
Ahead a young woman practices Tai Chi atop a raised flat grassed area in front of a rocky cliff.
As I pause to watch her a young man greets me ‘she has a friend’?
I explain to my new companion that my ‘friend’ is the lady dwindling in the distance and that I have just paused to watch the girl’s Yang Style Tai Chi.
He seems surprised that I recognize Yang Style and tells me he has been a Tai Chi practitioner for the last ten years. He must have started very young for under the balaclava he is wearing, early twenty year old eyes return my gaze.
Introducing myself we shake hands and begin an earnest conversation regarding Martial Arts and unarmed combat.
I advise my new friend Thomas of the enormous, incredibly detailed body of work (408 full length DVDs) released by the unfortunately now deceased Australian Tai Chi and Bagua master Erle Montaigue available at Taijiworld.com
Thomas asks me if I have trained in Tai Chi and I tell him of the Chen Style master from Taiwan who taught at the local Buddhist Temple near our home every Saturday. My school used to participate at the temple sessions each Saturday morning after our regular training and Master Wu so liked my instructor that he often came and taught at our school during the week as well.
He seems disappointed to hear I no longer train and I assure him I intend to explore my options when I return to Australia.
Thomas is from Poland and operates a charity for sick children there. He gives me a business card and I offer to email him details of some of the best video martial arts instruction I have come across.
We have both been watching the girl perform her technique above us as we chat and she waves for us to climb up and join her.
I tell Thomas I had best chase after my wife who is by now out of sight, we shake hands once more before he clambers up the rock and synchronizes with the girl’s slow graceful movements.
Rejoining Pam on the outskirts of Holyrood Park we cross the road near the gates of Holyrood Palace and enter the nearby cafe.
Seeking to answer natures imperative call I find a great spot to capture the castle grounds through the gate without being detained by a guard.
Across the road from the nearby church stands the modern blocky architecture of the new Scottish Parliament House. The taxi driver taking us to our B&B from the train station on the day of our arrival in Edinburgh had found plenty of time to disparage this new building during our five minute drive.
The architecture itself also leaves me cold however I do take great delight in the poems embedded in it’s stone walls beside the Canongate end of the Royal Mile.
Clouds gathering in the west as the day passes have Pam jokingly threatening me with dire consequence should we once more find ourselves walking in the rain as a result of my photographic urges.
As we climb the Royal Mile I take shots facing east to maintain the blue sky illusion.
Wedding photographs are being taken in a side street beside the science defying pub in Cowgate. The bride and bridesmaids head for the bar leaving the kilt wearing grooms party standing at attention in the cobblestone street.
Each pause I take for photographs brings threatening clouds closer overhead.
Looks like I am in for a hell of a night, as the sky opens up and finds us still a couple of kilometers from home whilst the sun dives beneath the horizon.
As we scurry heads down in search of a new restaurant in which to dine Pam points out a sign in front of a local bar.
Karoke – Saturday Nights after 8pm. All Welcome
New information offers new opportunities.
Inside the dry warmth of the Nepalese restaurant we expand our plans for the morrow.
Pam and Mick