- An Edinburgh Skyline -
Saturday 29th July: It's strange to think I'd never been to Scotland before, and with most of my memories of Wales confined to childhood caravans breaks, my exploration activities have been limited almost exclusively to England. The journey up to Edinburgh is a long but trouble-free one, arriving just after lunchtime to get our bearings in the Scottish capital. A walk along the Royal Mile is an excellent starting point, the mighty Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other. The city is very busy in the build-up to its annual festival and associated fringe performances.
- Easter Road, Hibernian FC -
Sunday 30th July: a morning of dedicated Edinburgh exploration is notable for a visit to Easter Road, home of Hibernian Football Club. The green-tinged stands seem to rise up out of the terraces with the floodlights of the Meadowbank Sports Stadium also clear on the horizon. Leith Walk has its own fascinations in being the main route between the city centre and the historic port on the Firth of Forth - Pilrig Church, McDonald Road Library and the Central Bar are all waiting to be discovered.
- The Oxford Bar -
Edinburgh Pubs: being a pub enthusiast, I am determined to visit some of Edinburgh's finest watering holes during the course of the week. I particularly love heritage interiors of which there are plenty to seek out, ranging from the elaborate splendour of the Cafe Royal (with tiled murals depicting famous inventors) to the spartan setting of the Oxford Bar (a place enshrined in literary folklore thanks to Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels). Decorative ceilings and magnificent mahogany can also be detected (the Abbotsford Bar) along with little gems of exquisite tiling (the Barony Bar) while the beer isn't bad either, Caledonian's Edinburgh Castle brew becoming a WME favourite as an example of an eighty shilling ale.
- Portobello Promenade -
Monday 31st July: a leisurely Monday morning at our apartment is followed by an afternoon at the seaside. Portobello isn't perhaps the most attractive of coastal resorts - a walk along the prom in a bracing breeze feels like a feat of endurance - but there is a sense of revival here after a period of decline. It's still nice to gaze along the beach and feel like you are actually on holiday, an antidote to the hustle and bustle of the big city.
- The Water of Leith -
Tuesday 1st August: a closer look at Leith now, an area of contrasts when you consider the scars of heavy industry and deprivation juxtaposed with the optimism of regeneration as represented by the Ocean Terminal shopping centre. The Royal Yacht Britannia is a major attraction, permanently berthed in Leith since being decommissioned, but our treat is a culinary one courtesy of The Kitchin where we savour a Michelin-starred lunch that will live long in the memory. The food was simply divine!
- Dunfermline Abbey -
Wednesday 2nd August: having stuck very close to Edinburgh thus far, on Wednesday we decide to have a ride out to Fife. I must admit it's quite a thrill to see the Forth Bridge for myself, an iconic piece of railway engineering that has come to symbolise the whole nation. The Forth Road Bridge is a marvel in its own right and the new Queensferry Crossing (due to be officially opened in September) will make it a trio of impressive structures. Significant architecture is also to be found in Dunfermline whereby the noble Abbey is revered for being the burial place of King Robert the Bruce.
- The 18th Hole, St Andrews -
Another Dunfermline claim to fame is that the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was born in the town in 1835; he used his wealth to support many causes including public libraries, something very close to my own heart. Wednesday afternoon sees us continue to St Andrews, otherwise known as the Home of Golf. The Old Course is a legendary location we simply must see while the ruined cathedral and a sleepy harbour add to the town's rugged charm.
- Musselburgh Racecourse -
Thursday 3rd August: following on from St Andrews, Thursday summons another sporting setting for me to investigate during a mooch around Musselburgh. The racecourse hosts flat racing along with some National Hunt fixtures and feels rather exposed when a blustery squall sets in. We seek shelter in Staggs (a.k.a. the Volunteer Arms), a classic alehouse that has been owned by the same family since 1858. Some Silkie Stout (Loch Lomond Brewery) is just the job when escaping out of the rain.
- Mercat Cross, Prestonpans -
Friday 4th August: alas our final day in Scotland but one that provided some magical closing memories thanks to a coastal walk encompassing Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton. Prestonpans has some really interesting old buildings including Preston Tower, the Mercat Cross and the Northfield Doocot, a beehive-shaped dovecote dating from the 16th century. Add to that the Prestoungrange Gothenburg - the Goth - which operates under the principles of the Gothenburg Public House System so that surpluses are granted to the Prestonpans Arts Festival for the betterment of the community.
- 'Braw Lass' at Cockenzie Harbour -
From Prestonpans Shore I follow a short East Lothian section of the John Muir Way, a coast-to-coast trail that stretches from Helensburgh to Dunbar. The nearby combination of Cockenzie and Port Seton is my destination as I pass the site of a former power station to reach two small harbours, a Royal British Legion club and the Wemyss Hotel. The walk is an invigorating one - just me, the scenery and a few anglers for company, a world away from the West Midlands. A ride on the 26 bus (via Joppa, Portobello and Meadowbank) returns me to Edinburgh and the holiday ends by watching Mo Farah's moment of glory in the 10,000 metres at the World Atheltics Championships. A golden finale to a superb Scottish stay!