Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Cherries, champagne & comedy. Mostly comedy

Hello!  I’m alive!  And back home from my trip to Edinburgh.  I’ve spent the past month busily working my way through a slightly mammoth To Do list, trying to make the most of the Fringe and overall having a thoroughly marvellous time, and consequently, as predicted in my last post, blogging took a bit of a hit.

Hey! Hi! Hello!

How splendid are these “HELLO” flags that are fluttering all over Edinburgh by the way?  I’ve never seen them before, so I presume they’re new for this year’s Fringe/Festival.  I thought I’d just recap a few of the highlights of my slightly whirlwind trip:

  • Summer fruit – I scarfed an awful lot of summer berries whilst I was taking a break from the NZ winter.  And cherries – I love cherries!

Cherries!

  • Only having to use a raincoat four times – this might not sound like much to those of you who have proper summers, but in Scotland, this is a major achievement (although lack of rain doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine).  The last few Augusts that I spent in Edinburgh, it rained. Every. Single. Day.  (I wish I was kidding.)
  • St Andrews – Kat and I went up one afternoon.  Some things have changed (why is there a Nando’s?) and some things haven’t (those 500 year-old cathedral ruins aren’t going anywhere any time soon).  My love for that wee town remains unchanged.

St Andrews Cathedral, looking suitably dramatic and moody

  • The St Andrews Wine Company – My friend Pete opened a bottleshop in St Andrews at the beginning of the year and I’ve been dying to see it.  So we obviously stopped by whilst we were in St Andrews.  And it’s amazing.  I wish it had been open when I was there.  Oh and there’s always a bottle open for tasting (maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I don’t live there anymore…).  We also happened to coincidentally visit on a day when there was also a champagne tasting…

Champagne tasting at the St Andrews Wine Company

  • Reunions – Kat, Craig and I were all in the same place for the first time in 18 months.  There was gin, food, wine, some James Bond and much laughter; all the best things in life.

As I mentioned, I tried to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe as well.  The Fringe is always a mixed bag (which is half the fun), but here are a few Fringe-specific highlights.  If you’re in Edinburgh, you still have a week to try and fit these in:

  • Jollyboat – Their set started off with a medley of pirate-themed songs.  And then it got better.  That was a terrible description, but trust me and just go see it (although probably not ideal for anybody who is easily offended).  Oh and it’s free.
  • Shit-faced Shakespeare – Literally what it says on the tin.  One Shakespeare play (Much Ado About Nothing), one shit-faced actor, and all the other actors trying to keep the play together. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.
  • Omid Djalili – Slightly pricey, but worth it in my opinion.  Smart comedy which makes you laugh but also makes a point.  He’s also brilliant at accents and works them in marvellously.  My mum and I were in fits.
  • Inspector Norse – It’s described as a “self-assembly Swedish crime thriller […] featuring a knitted set” and I can’t think of a more apt description for this wonderfully middle class comedic thriller.  And the set is actually knitted and self-assembled.  It’s amazing.
  • The Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed – This isn’t actually a show, but it’s Fringe-related.  We stumbled upon this  formerly empty space on the Cowgate which been transformed into a Kentucky-themed cowshed bar for the duration of the Fringe.  It sells Jeremiah Weed cider (it probably sells other stuff, too, but we went for the yummy cider) and there’s live music.  There are hay bales, plastic cows and wheelbarrow seats.  It’s so hipster it hurts, but it’s also rather brilliant.

So there we have it, a not-so-brief recap of highlights over the past month.  Blogging will resume properly soon, once I’ve settled back in, but in the meantime, here’s some proof of the Edinburgh sunshine:

Sunny Edinburgh (yes, really!)

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!  And if you’ve been enjoying the Fringe, feel free to leave some show recommendations.

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Sunday Smiles: From the edges of the solar system to Eden Park

Not the happiest start to Sunday Smiles but I have to mention it: you guys, Neil Armstrong died.  I totally wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, and although my career dreams and aspirations veered off into the direction of the ocean, a little part of me has always remained fascinated by space, so the news saddened me, in the way that the death of a famous person who did something truly great does.  Neil Armstrong was definitely the person with whom I most associate space exploration.  And the moon.  I still think it’s incredible that humans have walked on the moon.  Fun fact: more humans have been to the moon than to the depths of the Earth’s oceans.

So this week’s Sunday Smiles starts off with something space-related:

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 mission is about to leave our solar system.  After 35 years of service, the Voyager missions appear to still be going strong, which is incredible when you consider that we can still communicate with 1970s technology at the fringes of our solar system.  Voyager 1 is currently 18.2 billion km from the Earth and Voyager 2 is currently 14.8 billion km from the Earth, which is apparently the furthest any man-made object has ever travelled.  Isn’t that just awe-inspiring?
  • This altered Oatmeal comic which jointly covers the (crappy) NZ internet situation and the ridiculous delay in TV series being shown here made me laugh.  I’m not supporting illegal downloading (just to make that clear), but I don’t see any logical reason for there to be such a delay on TV series – it’s the 21st century, so it’s not like the series have to be shipped here by boat or something.  And as for the internet situation here… well it’s pretty frustrating when one streams the radio over the internet and it cuts out every ten minutes or so.  I realise these are first world problems, but this is a first world country, so…
  • I’ve already written a whole blog post about them, but my labmates’ reactions to the chocolate, cherry and hazelnut cookies that I baked the other day were so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help but smile.  Other people enjoying something I’ve baked never fails to make me happy.

  • Time for something cute, check out these adorable koala macarons!  Aren’t they the cutest?
  • Another week, another Tumblr…  The link to Dog Shaming was sent to me by a couple of different people and it also made the rounds in the lab.  If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll probably appreciate it.
  • If you’ve ever lived in a touristy city or town, you’ve probably encountered frustration if you’re actually trying to get somewhere but have to bypass hordes of (oblivious) sauntering tourists.  The effect seems to be so much more intense in Edinburgh, possibly because the population doubles during August thanks to the Festival and the Fringe.  Whilst I’m not there this year, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of Edinburgh’s tourist tactics amused me.  The observations are equally valid for anywhere touristy.
  • And finally, as mentioned last week, a friend from St Andrews was in Auckland this weekend and we went to see the All Blacks vs Wallabies match last night.  The All Blacks beat the Wallabies by 22-0 so it wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever seen, but I’m still not over my enthusiasm of seeing the All Blacks play in real life at Eden Park, and we were both totally excited by the whole thing.  Plus the weather was in our favour.  And the haka was played over the PA system as well, which was so much better than when I saw the All Blacks play Ireland a few months ago.

What made you smile this week?

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Toothy’s Travels – Edinburgh: The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert

Sunday evening saw the spectacular finale of the Edinburgh International Festival, in the form of the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, which is a fantastic 45-minute firework display set to a live concert played by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the Fireworks Concert before, so I definitely wanted to watch it this year, particularly since I’d been on a super interesting behind-the-scenes tour of the preparations for it on Thursday evening (which you can read about here).

Whether I’d be able to watch or not depended on two factors, both entirely out of my control: that the weather stayed dry (I’m not a fan of standing in the rain for 45 minutes…) and that I managed to get back to Edinburgh in time (I went to Oxford the weekend and my train was due to arrive at Edinburgh Waverley about 40 minutes before the start of the fireworks).  Luckily the rain held off until the end of the concert and my train miraculously arrived on time (the station is conveniently right in the centre of Edinburgh so I didn’t have to go very far), so I was able to fully enjoy the concert – hurrah!

This year, the Edinburgh International Festival was celebrating Asia, and six pieces of music were chosen to fit in with this theme (although I feel that adding the Russian and Arab dances to the Chinese dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker may have been slightly tenuous, plus the Nutcracker always makes me think of Christmas).  Although the festival ends with the Fireworks Concert every year, I can’t help but think that it was especially fitting this year, with Asia as the theme, particularly since I found out on the behind-the-scenes tour that the majority of the fireworks for the show were sourced in China (though this is for financial reasons rather than anything else).

The fireworks are launched from Edinburgh Castle and the concert is played down in Princes Street Gardens, so we watched from Princes Street where we had an excellent view of the Castle but could also hear the concert from the speakers (well, mostly – fireworks get a bit loud occasionally).  I think the most impressive thing about the show (aside from the fact that it involves over 100,000 fireworks) is the way it makes use of the different levels of the Castle’s ramparts as well as playing around with lighting up the Castle in different ways, which makes it really quite unique and totally spectacular.

The great thing about the show being 45 minutes long is that they can really play around with and showcase a lot of different types of fireworks in all different colours.  Of course there are the standard huge ones that we’ve all seen before and Roman candles, but there were some really fun ones that I don’t remember having seen before, such as ones where, once the firework burst, the sparks zipped off in every direction like fireflies.  And of course, there’s the firework cascade that comes down the Castle wall – the resounding cheer from the spectators confirmed that it is, indeed, the most popular part of the show – though unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any decent photos of it.

I shall stop rambling on now, and leave you with a few more photos (I know you’re probably bored now, but fireworks are just so pretty…) and my conclusion that watching over 100,000 fireworks explode in the sky in time to a live concert was an excellent way to spend 45 minutes of my life, and if you’re ever in Edinburgh at the end of the Festival, I thoroughly recommend that you do the same (watch the show, not explode in the sky – I wouldn’t recommend that so much).

Well done – you made it through a lot of terrible pictures of fireworks.  You should give yourself a pat on the back! Here’s one last one (of the finale, appropriately enough), just for good measure:

Enjoy the rest of your day!

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Toothy’s Travels – Edinburgh: Behind the scenes at the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert

Every year the Edinburgh International Festival ends with a spectacular fireworks concert, which involves a concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in the Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens, set against the backdrop of a fantastic fireworks display timed to the music and launched from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle.  This year’s Fireworks Concert is this Sunday evening (4th September) at 21:00.  This year, the event has a new sponsor in the form of Virgin Money, and in order to increase awareness of this, yesterday evening they organised a little behind-the-scenes tour of the firework preparations for interested Edinburgh bloggers.

Now, I realise that fireworks are a bit of a departure from the norm on what is primarily a food blog, but… uhm, hello, fireworks are awesome, of course I wanted to see behind the scenes!  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was really rather interesting, particularly since I know absolutely nothing about fireworks, except that they’re pretty and can be dangerous.  The little tour was given by Keith Webb, the Project Director for Pyrovision who are responsible for putting together the display which involves over 100,000 fireworks (uhm, wow!).  Here he is showing us the set-up for a wave of fireworks that will make up a grand total of around 7 seconds of the 45-minute show.

What I found very interesting to learn about was the huge role of technology in the firework display.  Now, my grasp of electronics isn’t exactly fabulous, so here’s the disclaimer: whilst I took notes, I might be using totally the wrong terminology, but hopefully you’ll understand what I’m trying to talk about.  Keith explained that alternating fireworks on the frame above are on different circuits, in case something goes wrong, so that at least half the fireworks will still be able to go off for the show.  I’d never realised how much technology and electronics are involved in modern firework displays.  It totally makes sense, but I guess I’d never really thought about it – I may or may not have had a vague mental image of people running around with hand-lighters to light the fuses on the fireworks, kind of like you see in cartoons.  Like I said, I’d never really thought about it…

Every single firework in the entire display is set off by an electric match (I didn’t even know that such things existed) which is connected to a cable, which is ultimately connected to and controlled by a computer.  It’s totally mind-blowing, particularly when you consider that there are over 100,000 fireworks, plus spares, just in case.  That is one heck of a lot of cabling.  Obviously, there have been lots of technological advances since the Firework Concert first started, and the control of the display has moved from human fingers pressing buttons (or lighting fuses) to the use of computers to programme the display.  Keith explained that one of the huge advantages conferred by the use of computers is that it allows them to time the fireworks much more closely to the tempo of the music, particularly when the music reaches a tempo faster than a human would be able to press all the firework buttons.  Amazing!  Of course, this make it sound really easy – programme the fireworks, sit back and relax as they all go off in time to the music – but of course, the fireworks are timed to a live show and the tempo of the music depends on the conductor down in Princes St Gardens.  Therein lies the challenge – continuously monitoring and altering the tempo of the programmed display to match that of the music that the display is accompanying.

As well as monitoring the live music, the technicians (professional pyromaniacs?  Not really sure what their official job title would be) also keep an eye out on the weather and if the wind speed picks up too much (we’re in Scotland, so obviously that would never happen), they can cut off the really big fireworks from the display programme, in order to keep the display as safe as possible for the public.  As I briefly mentioned, there are plenty of spare fireworks and a lot of redundancy is built into the whole system and display, in case of technical failures and malfunctions, to ensure that the show still happens regardless.

I think Keith had planned to show us the apparatus to set up the firework cascade that comes down the North wall of the Castle, but sadly we ran out of time.  The cascade is by far the most expensive part of the whole display, but also the most popular (it is so impressive to see the sparks fall from the Castle’s ramparts and down the sheer cliff), and the timing of the cascade within the concert is a closely guarded secret.  We’ll have to wait until Sunday evening to find out when it will happen…

Which brings me onto my final note – the concert itself.  This year, the Edinburgh International Festival was celebrating the wealth and diversity of Asian cultures, and the Fireworks Concert pieces have been chosen along this theme (you can find the listing here).  Even though the Fireworks Concert happens every year, I can’t help but feel that the long history of fireworks in Asia (and I think particularly China) makes this event a particularly fitting end to the Festival this year.  Perhaps even more apt that most of the fireworks come from China (apparently it’s more cost-effective, but I’m sure they also produce really good fireworks.  They’ve been making them since the 7th century, so that’s quite a lot of practice!).

Setting up all the fireworks requires about 15 people, with an additional four on the night of the concert, supported by additional staff from the Castle.  I take my hat off to all of them for A) being able to understand all the cables and B) being able to put together such an impressive event, and look forward to an exciting Fireworks Concert on Sunday evening!  If you’re in or near Edinburgh, I strongly recommend that you try to watch the event – whilst access to Princes St Gardens is ticketed, I believe watching from Princes St is completely free, and if you’re watching from elsewhere in Edinburgh, I think that the concert is broadcast on local radio so that you can enjoy the music, too.

Thank you to Virgin Money for this wonderfully eye-opening behind the scenes tour!

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Gin before lunch. AKA The Foodies Festival Edinburgh 2011

To put it mildly, August in Edinburgh is rather jam-packed.  Between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the International Festival, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, there is an astonishing amount going on in the town.  The number of people that descend on the town is also astounding, and I’m pretty sure that the population at least doubles.  To throw one more festival into the mix, the Foodies Festival Edinburgh was held in Holyrood Park last weekend, from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August.

I went to the Foodies Festival two years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, I hadn’t really seen anything about it since then, so I’d assumed that it had stopped or something.  And then, out of the blue, I saw it mentioned on Twitter last week.  Craig was just as eager as I to investigate, so we decided to go along on Saturday (I even managed to come across a voucher for 2-for-1 tickets.  Win!).  Who said Twitter and BBM were just for instigating riots?  (Bad taste?)  Anyway, thanks to a couple of days of monsoon-like rain, Holyrood Park had turned into a bit of a mud bath and they had to delay the opening of the Festival on Friday whilst they put hay down everywhere.  It was still thoroughly muddy on Saturday, but nothing that a good pair of wellies couldn’t handle.

There were rather more drinks exhibitors than I remember there being two years ago, and gin seemed to be particularly well represented.  Which is perfectly fine with me.  Within about ten seconds of our arrival we’d already managed to find ourselves at the Hendrick’s stand, which I think wins the prize for most elaborately decorated stand.  They had a bath-tub of rose petals, cucumber slices and “gin” (I assume it wasn’t actually gin – I feel that would be a bit of a waste), shelves of bottles and other curiosities and a 6 litre bottle of gin (which I’ve since been informed was empty – gutted).  However, whilst Hendrick’s is utterly delicious, it is a well-known brand, so we ambled off with our taster G&Ts to explore the rest of the Festival and in search of some new discoveries.

I was happy to see that Edinburgh Gin had a stand, although I suppose that’s hardly surprising considering that we were at a food festival in Edinburgh.  A relative newcomer to the ranks of gin (I believe it was launched a year ago), I first came across it in June, and have since noticed it in a lot of high-end bottleshops (the fact that I’m in Edinburgh probably also has something to do with that).  I love the gin itself – it’s full of botanical flavours – but I also love the packaging.

Another newcomer to the gin scene is Darnley’s View Gin, which I’d read a review of on The Gin Blog a few weeks previously but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to taste.  The first time we were at the stand they were doing straight gin tasters, which is not my usual way of consuming gin and, I’ll be quite honest was a bit too strong for me to actually taste anything except the fact that it was gin.  The second time we went to the stand, they’d added tonic to the tasters and I was able to ascertain that it had quite a floral taste and that I rather liked it.

I think that’s enough about gin (I should probably add that this post isn’t chronologically accurate – we did start off with Hendrick’s, but didn’t quite do back-to-back gin tastings before lunch.  We had wine in-between.).  There were quite a few wine sellers there as well, including The Vintner who were there in their Citroën van called Hugo.  We tried their prosecco, and two different whites, one from Southwest France and the other from Spain (if I remember correctly – this was towards the end of the afternoon) both of which were surprising in that they weren’t really what we were expecting.  They were both lovely and fresh, and very drinkable…

We also discovered that apparently we look like we can each afford to spend over £200 in one go on a case of wine.  (I can assure you that this most definitely is not the case.)  This became clear when we accidentally managed to end up having a full-on wine tasting from an importer whose name I forgot to write down (I need to be more organised!), tasting whites, reds, prosecco and champagne.  They were all very good, particularly a German red that we tasted (I’d love to give you the name, but I forgot to write it down, too.  Fail.), which was very interesting because although I’d never really tried German wine before I didn’t really have a great impression of it.  The wine that intrigued me the most was a sparkling German red, but unfortunately they didn’t have any with them at the festival.  So that still remains a mystery.

There was also a huge variety of food exhibitors – from cakes to flavoured oils to meats to chocolate, there was a bit of everything!  There were a lot of tasty samples available (and some not so tasty) which kept us going for most of the day, and the only non-taster-sized food we ended up having were crêpes as a semblance of lunch and an absolutely delicious venison burger towards the end of the afternoon.  I feel Simple Simon’s Pies deserve a special mention though, because they are absolutely delicious.  I first discovered them at the Foodies Festival two years ago and I was desperately hoping they’d be there again this year, which they were, hurrah!  I’m very picky about my pies, but these come in a huge range of flavours and are made from the freshest ingredients, always locally-sourced where possible.

There were, of course, a few exhibitors whose offerings weren’t really “my cup of tea.”  A fruit wine producer from Wales, whose wines weren’t exactly fantastic (actually, the one I tried was gross.  But he came all the way from Wales so I feel bad being overly critical).  He also had fruit liqueurs, some of which were palatable.  There was also a fudge producer offering passionfruit fudge – not a good combination, although their other flavours were yummy.  A few cake stands with unappetising cakes were also present, but then everybody has cakes they like and don’t like, so that’s just me being picky.  We only went to one of the “masterclass” events, which was a wine tasting done by the Edinburgh School of Food & Wine, but it was rather disappointing – I wasn’t really a fan of any of the wines chosen and I didn’t feel that it was all that informative either.

Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Festival!  I love that it showcases local producers and food-related businesses of all sorts, and I think that can only really be a good thing.  If I’m ever in Edinburgh again whilst it’s on, I think I’ll definitely be going again…

Oh and in case you didn’t believe me about the mud, this was the state of our wellies by the end of the day (apparently I’m better at getting muddy than Craig):

Enjoy the rest of your day (mud optional, but gin recommended)!

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Toothy’s Travels – Edinburgh: The Pentland Hills Regional Park

My plan for today had been to share the recipe that I tried out for dinner last night.  This plan was thwarted by the dismal failure that came out of the oven.  Thankfully it did actually taste lovely, but that was the only good thing about it – it was an absolute pain to make, more or less fell apart before even going into the oven and wasn’t remotely presentable when it came out.  Clearly some serious recipe tweaking will be required.  So instead of sharing a recipe today, I thought I’d introduce a new feature on my blog, called Toothy’s travels.  This will basically just be a feature where I can share my adventures in and around Edinburgh and other places that I happen to visit and enjoy.  There’s a slightly more detailed explanation if you click on the link or the tab above the header.

When we lived in Norway, I often went hiking with the Guides – we were spoilt for choice when it came to mountains and scenic hikes.  After Norway though, we move to the Netherlands, which isn’t exactly famous for its hilly terrain, and I haven’t really done much hiking since.  I could have done plenty of hiking around Scotland whilst at university, but I never really quite got round to it.  Shame on me, I know.  So anyway, about two weeks ago (I’m obviously really on the ball with getting my posts up) my mum and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful sunny weather and go explore the Pentland Hills Regional Park.  Well, we only really went for a little 5km hike in a small area of the park, but it still counts as exploring because, despite the Pentlands being on our doorstep, we’d never actually been walking there.  I wouldn’t exactly describe my Scottish family as avid hill-walkers, so whenever we came to Edinburgh on leave, unfortunately we never really took the time to go for hikes.

If you’ve ever been to Edinburgh and looked southwards, you’ve probably noticed the artificial ski slopes, and in fact, that’s the area of the Pentlands that we explored.  As you can see from the little map (which I spent far longer putting together than I should have – I discovered that you can draw routes on OS maps online.  I’m easily amused…), we basically went up Caerketton Hill and back down again.  It took us about 2 ½ hours (I kept stopping to take photos and we faffed around at the cairn for quite a while) and we were treated to some fantastic views of Edinburgh, though the Firth of Forth was a bit hazy.  The heather was also in bloom, so we were treated to beautiful purple expanses at several points.

We parked on the main road near the turn-off for the Hillend snowsports, so we started off by walking towards the ski slopes.  It’s not particularly difficult to orient oneself in this part of the Pentlands since the ski slope and Edinburgh are pretty distinctive landmarks, so we were fine with just the map provided by the Regional Park, but if you’re going to venture further into the Pentlands, I would definitely suggest investing in an Ordnance Survey map, especially since there is a military rifle range within the park.

We knew we were aiming for the top of the hill, so as the ski slope came into sight (complete with people actually skiing.  In full ski gear.  In July.  I dread to think how disgustingly hot that would have been.), we just sort of struck upwards.  There are a lot of small paths that go upwards so this isn’t exactly difficult, and you can pretty much make your own path anyway.  As we were making our way up, several paragliders were taking off from the top, so it was good fun to watch them glide around on the air currents.

Once level with the top of the ski slope, you have to follow a fence for a little while to get to a crossing point, which is a good reminder that a large proportion of the park is actually used for pasture, so if you’re taking a dog with you, make sure that it doesn’t worry any livestock, particularly during the lambing season.  Whilst we’re on warnings, you should also be aware that it’s currently the grouse shooting season, and will soon be the partridge shooting season, but apparently (according to the website – I can’t actually vouch for this) areas to keep away from are signposted and marked out by the rangers every day.

According to the OS map, just before crossing over the fence, we were really close to the remains of an old fort, but I don’t think it’s particularly obvious, because we certainly didn’t notice it.  To be investigated next time…  We then continued upwards, up a very steep slope on which we discovered wild blueberries.  I love wild blueberries, but these ones were tiny and very tart, so rather on the disappointing side (I’m obsessed with food, of course I stopped and tasted them!).  Oh well, never mind.

Reaching the top of the slope, and thus Caerketton Hill, affords absolutely stunning panoramic views.  Not only are you treated to the sight of Edinburgh sprawled out beneath you with the remarkably pronounced mass that is Arthur’s Seat, with the Forth beyond, but there are also beautiful views of the rest of the Pentlands, stretching southwards.

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A little further along the path, there is a cairn.  Well, actually, I would describe it more as a haphazard pile of rocks and stones, but perhaps that’s what cairns are in Scotland.  I’m not sure – I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a Scottish cairn before – but if so, I have to admit, it’s a little disappointing.  My previous experience of cairns consists of Norwegian ones, which are stacked up properly like a tower and usually well-maintained.

Continuing past the pile of rubble cairn, the path continues along a sort of ridge, with the Caerketton Craigs below, although they’re more obvious and impressive from below rather than looking down.  You can continue along the path and climb to the top of Allermuir Hill and its viewpoint, but we were a bit short on time, so we decided to follow a vague path down the side of the hill towards Swanston instead.  It’s pretty steep, so good shoes (and knees) are recommended before going down that way.

Once at the bottom of the hill, directions to Swanston are well signposted, so off we went along the path, only to find our way blocked by a herd of hairy Highland cows with very pointy horns.  So we beat a hasty retreat (you can never be too careful around cows, especially ones with pointy horns), and took a little diversion.  As I said before, it’s easy to orient yourself in this part of the park, and we found our way to Swanston without any difficulty.

I’m not a huge fan of the word “quaint,” but I’m not really sure how else to describe Swanston, a small village where Robert Louis Stevenson spent several summers as a young man, on account of his health.  We emerged into a a group of white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, and they were just adorable.

As we made our way back towards the main road, we followed a path that was bordered by the Lothianburn Golf Course on one side, and fields on the other.  It turns out there’s a free-range chicken farm in Swanston, and they have some really nice-looking chickens.  (And how fancy are their coops?)  I don’t know if you can buy eggs and whatnot from the farm, but I feel it’s worth investigating next time…

So there you have it, a thoroughly enjoyable short walk in the Pentlands, and a long ramble of a blog post which is really just an excuse for me to show you some photos that, for once, have nothing to do with food (except that last chicken one.  Oh and the blueberries).  If you’re ever in Edinburgh and enjoy walking though, I would thoroughly recommend going for a little trip in the Pentlands!

Enjoy the rest of your day!

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