It’s been eight years since I last headed north of the border and so very early on in 2023 I decided that a visit was long overdue.
In fact the last time I was here was for a fortnight rehabilitation at the PTC following my breakdown. It’s safe to say a lot has happened since then.
The perils of being self employed
For one, the business I set up following my illness moved quickly from being an idea to a fully fledged job. The problem with being self-employed, at least at the outset, is balancing the volume of work; enough to make it worthwhile, but not too much to be all-encompassing.
The reality is that as a 7-day business, the latter eventuality is the biggest challenge. Indeed, in 2022, it was practically a 6 month non-stop period with only 2 weekends where I jumped away from work briefly to get to a race and to my brother’s wedding.
So I resolved to ensure I cut out more time for me, more time for family and more time for friends.
2023 started with good intentions however my February break was thwarted with illness which ultimately cancelled my May long-weekend break. So not the ideal situation, but at least it’s felt a bit more balanced.
North of the Border
The Scotland trip planning was not without it’s challenges. One of the friends I was staying with wasn’t available for either of the weekends I’d be away, plus a mixture of engineering works and strikes made the train booking somewhat more complicated.
But on 17th July, I was finally heading north for a well-overdue break!
It was wonderful to meet up with Paul after an 8 year break in the centre of Edinburgh. We’ve been in touch plenty in the intervening time, but it’s far nicer in person than over a zoom call!
Aside from catching up there wasn’t much in the way of formal planning for the 3 days I’d be in the capital. Running gear had been intentionally left at home, as had my work phone. The intention was to focus on other things, although that first day was spent mostly eating and catching up.
Reorientation and Arthur’s Seat
Tuesday morning I had to myself and hence took a wander into the city. No particular things to go and see; it’s the height of tourist season here at the moment and Edinburgh is rammed and with what appeared to be a global reach of tourism (many many languages being heard) and I really didn’t fancy queuing my way around packed attractions.
Indeed the sea of faces heading up the hill into Edinburgh Castle, a place abuzz with preparation for the Edinburgh Tattoo, meant that I totally avoided that as a destination.
Instead I dodged the many guide-umbrella-led tours that were haphazardly making their way down the Royal Mile, with only a loud religion-bothering voice shouting out “Repent” to anyone who would listen to act as contrast.
It’s been many years since I walked along the Royal Mile; I have very little recollection of it. But safe to say that it was made up mostly of amazing old buildings and gift shops! I photographed the former and avoided the latter!
Having reached the Scottish Parliament building I headed over to Holyrood Park. I said I’d meet Paul for lunch so started to work out when I’d need to start heading back.
oh look, a church on a trail…..
My usual holiday modus operandi of course kicked in when I noticed the ruin of a church near a big hill. It’s like some form of autopilot, although it was tempered by the crowds of hikers in the area. But I realised that whilst I’d gone up the nearest hill with Paul last time I visited, I hadn’t ever ‘done’ Arthur’s Seat. And there was no time like the present, even if the battered old road running shoes I was wearing were not particularly suited to the trails involved to get there.
Of course, me being me, I took the steepest and most direct path I could find. At least it wasn’t a crowded path!
Having reached the top, along with a significant proportion of the rest of the world already there, I took a few photos and then headed down again. Initially on the steep paths which was a really bad idea in that footwear, with a weird (but effective) crab walking technique to avoid face planting into the flowering gorse bushes!
I rejoined the main trail and headed over to the church ruins which looked out over the stunning vista of Edinburgh below.
Having returned to the flatness of the park below I headed back into town for a little more sightseeing before heading back for lunch after my 8 mile wander.
Come the afternoon we headed out again for a walk, this time along the Leith riverside walk. So much less lumpy and, to be fair, much less overcrowded as well. Adding a further 4 miles to my day that should mean I would sleep well!
In the evening I popped out to Dusit, a Thai restaurant in the town centre to meet up with Jerry and Tanya. I was at university with Jerry and only caught up with him once before in the intervening years, so there was plenty to talk about.
After the very busy day before, Wednesday was a lot calmer! After a later start we headed for an afternoon wander about the Botanic Gardens. Plenty of plants to see, plus an interesting art exhibition concerning the spread of invasive plant species around the globe. Fascinating and horrifying in equal measures.
Dinner in a local pub/restaurant concluded another very pleasant day and ultimately the remains of my stay in the city.
It appears by Wednesday I was bored of taking photos!!!
North again to Stirling
After breakfast I headed back to the main railway station in Edinburgh to continue my journey up to Stirling. Again, I was last year in 2015 although to be honest I have no memory of Stirling railway station itself.
Russell met me at the station and we headed off to Dollar where I would be staying for the next couple of days. We stopped off at Morrisons to pick up some food for the next few days and also grabbed lunch whilst we were at it.
The afternoon was spent catching up. Last time I visited Dollar was on a run from Auchterader and I’d actually spent some of the journey trying to work out the route I took as the mapping apps on my phone didn’t appear to know about the trail which cut through the hills in between, rather than the much greater distance of sticking to the roads. Either way, it was nice to not be spending my visit this time wearing running gear and covered in sweat. I’m sure the good people of Dollar were also thankful of this!!
In the evening we met up with Paul and Andrew, two others who were involved in the film shoot we took part in last October in Shrewsbury. We went out for an amazing Indian meal in St Andrews and had a lovely evening catching up on each other’s lives. We took the scenic coastal walk back to Andrew’s house where we had parked and got thoroughly soaked in the only rain that we experienced whilst I was in Scotland!
Having had a not particularly active day on Thursday, Russell took me on a hike through Dollar Glen, a fabulous mixture of trails, woodlands and waterway that runs through the Glen. I took far too many pictures of waterfalls and rivers, but that’s no bad thing!
We came back partly on the road due to the collapse of some of the paths in a heavy storm several years hence. In fact I’d previously run into Dollar this way back in 2015, although aside from passing by the castle, currently shut, I didn’t recognise any of the trail. In fact I am struggling to visualise any of the trail between Glendevon and Dollar, although that may be down to being unwell at the time as there’s plenty of stuff I don’t remember.
(I wrote about it in my diary.)
We were out in the Glen for about 2 hours and covered barely 3 miles. But there was a lot of uphill hiking plus even more stopping and looking and photographing. Getting out into nature doesn’t need to involve rapid moving! What was impressive was the close proximity of the glen to the village with only a very short path taking you from civilisation to paradise. Here’s a selection of photos from the walk.
Another local walk
We started my final full day in Dollar by taking a tour around the village museum which contained a lot of historical information as you might have expected.
In the afternoon we headed out on a (nearly) 6 mile walk which took in a trail which followed the old railway line before heading back up through Dollar itself.
And then home again
I’d had a lovely week away, and heading back to Stirling station to head home again seemed to come around far too soon. Surprisingly all the trains were running on time. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t last long.
Despite having had great weather whilst in Scotland, the north of England was not having it quite as good. Indeed, as we were travelling through the Borders there was an announcement stating that the train, which should have taken me back to Manchester, was being terminated at Carlisle due to flooding on the line between Preston and Lancaster.
The net result was organised chaos. In the end, I got home 1h20m later than I was anticipating, having used 5 rail companies, a tram and finally a taxi to complete the journey. It wasn’t the best, but then I guess it wasn’t a surprise that things would all unravel. So there we go.
We’ve already started planning out a trip next summer, so that’s something special to look forward too!