The Edinburgh Trip 2021

Introduction

Hard on the heels of our Whitby trip, in celebration of my birthday, came the Edinburgh trip, in celebration of Margaret’s birthday! It was another four-day visit: Friday late morning / early afternoon was taken up travelling by train to Edinburgh Waverley Station; Friday afternoon / early evening walking around Edinburgh old town and dining out; Saturday was dedicated to a day-trip in Falkirk, KFC at Waverley on our return, followed by a TV evening in our hotel room; Sunday afternoon / early evening was taken up with a visit to Stockbridge, the market and dining out; Monday was check-out day and travel back home.

Our first trip to Edinburgh was in 2012 when, aged 65, I completed my first marathon since last running one in 1990. We enjoyed it so much that we came back each year for the next five years! in 2018 and 2019 we visited Glasgow then Covid-19 took 2020. A lot has changed since that first visit:

June 2013 my Lumbar Vertebrae – L3 had become loose and, being the keystone, it left the remaining vertebrae in this curved section weak. At the same time, my pelvis – in particular, the left iliac was slightly tilted.  These two problems resulted in Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, with the imbalance of compensating muscles producing lower back pain and defensive locking of the hip flexors and hamstrings. Physiotherapy, the take-up of parkrun, then the purchase of an ElliptiGO stand-up bike, brought continuing improvement until . . .
October 2014 and a heart attack leading to the need for a stent. A cautious recovery and long build-up led to me completing my first ever century ride in May 2017, powering the 22kg ElliptiGO up over Waddington Fell, as part of that 100-mile undulating ride! That was the point where, having become a septuagenarian, I decided that I needn’t push myself any harder, not feeling a need to prove my prowess further, but needing instead to hold back a little to preserve my health in view of my age. I trained sensibly, keeping the volume and intensity down and all was well, until . . .

May 2018 when, during a rest on a training ride, I went into VT, with my HR signal reading 258 bpm on my Garmin. It remained elevated for over an hour until it came to an abrupt stop while I was in A&E Resuscitation, triggering my second heart attack and the insertion of two more stents. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was also fitted, to manage possible further VT attacks. It was adjusted to bring my low, athletic resting HR up to 60 bpm, enabling the safe usage of beta-blockers. This time, during my recovery I became de-trained as the gradual increase in beta-blocker dosage slowed me and took away my mojo! I was in a vicious circle – feeling less motivated to exercise as I put on weight. I did make an effort once pandemic arrived and regained some defencivefitness but . . .
February 2021 and I caught the virus! Although it was only mild, it still prevented training for eight weeks Then, four days before this visit I had my third (booster) vaccination. Unlike the Astra Zenica jabs, this Moderna one floored me and I was probably still a little weakened from it during our trip!

Time seems to speed up, as does aging when you grower older!

For those who are unaware, central Edinburgh comprises the Old Town and the New Town, formed around seven volcanic hills, and deep glacial scoops cut through the landscape. Wherever you go you will be ascending and descending flights of steps or steep paving. It is certainly an advantage to be young and fit or, at least, ‘on good form’ and prepared for the toll that moving across the terrain can take on you. I was clearly not on form and this probably explains why, unusually for me, I took no photos as we travelled around Edinburgh!!

Friday

Carrying our suitcases, we laboured up the steps out of the bowels of Waverley Train Station to Princess Street (there were signs on the escalators saying ‘No Baggage’). If we had known how many steps there were, we would have taken the lift! Passing through the door into the corridor leading to the hotel reception, we were hit with a blast of fanned hot air. The reception and landing were quite warm. The room was hot so we opened the window, turned the AC down and set off for the Old Town while the room cooled. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to rest after lugging the cases from the station to our room, but it was so hot we just wanted to get out.

Wearing a particularly warm coat and a backpack, whilst dodging the throng of visitors on Princess St, followed by a strength-sapping climb up to the Old Town added to the fatigue. A drink in Greyfriars Bobby provided a rest break before we dropped down into Grassmarket and the Mussel and Steak Bar. We had eaten there on a previous visit to Edinburgh and were hoping for a similar fine-dining experience. Once seated and viewing the menus, we were offered an oyster each. Margaret squirmed at the thought, whereas I decided it was time to try my first oyster! Despite Margaret telling me to swallow it straight down, I decided to chew it a bit first to become more acquainted with it! Yes, I enjoyed it, finding it not unlike a giant mussel. Speaking of mussels, I chose a 1-kilo pot of rope-grown mussels in a whisky, smoked bacon, and cream sauce, while Margaret chose Beer Battered Scottish Haddock, Beef Dripping Chips and Garden Peas. We were both highly satisfied with our food, which was as well prepared and presented as anticipated.

Saturday

The distance by train from Edinburgh Waverley to Falkirk Grahamston is 23 miles. Bus connectivity with The Kelpies Visitor Centre is not possible at present, so I suggest the following: Walking from Grahamston to the canal is 0.6 miles, then along the canal to the Kelpies Visitor Centre is 1.4 miles. A taxi ride from the Visitor Centre to The Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre is 4.7 miles and, finally, a bus ride from the Visitor Centre back to Grahamston Station is 3.1 miles, ready for the return train journey,

Tom Hilton, November 2021

Freed from having to battle more undulations and having to fight for breath, I was able to take photos of the subject matter that was presented today. All the pictures are included at the bottom of this post for closer inspection. I have also put them in this slideshow.

As it had been a long day out, we decided not to return to our room only to have to turn out again later to eat. We elected to head instead, straight from the train to KFC at Waverley Station and eat inside. The evening was concluded with wine in our room – and Strictly Come Dancing!

Sunday

Sunday’s highlight was our walk into Stockbridge. As previously mentioned, the topography around Edinburgh City Centre can be quite aggressive. Princess Street lies in a dip between the Old Town and the New Town and, although level along its length, it is thronged with unpredictable tourists – either grouping together in the most inappropriate places, blocking the free flow of others, ambling aimlessly or moving with purpose and, sometimes, suddenly stopping in their tracks! North or south means heading uphill. In the southerly direction, tourist footfall is also heavy but thins as you approach the Old Town.

Despite our destination being in one of the deep glacial scoops, through which the Water of Leith now passes, we had to climb north out of Princess Street, up to cross George Street before cresting over into a relentless, progressively steepening descent into Stockbridge. There is a Sunday market in Stockbridge that displays homemade produce, artisan jewellery and street food. Some traders can also be seen, on a Saturday, at the Grassmarket street market in the Old Town. Come out of the market, follow Deanhaugh Street across the bridge over the Water of Leith and you will enter, now thankfully on flat terrain, into a busy little road; both sides boasting a good variety of outlets, nestled between the many charity shops! It is here also where you will begin to find many of Stockbridge’s eateries. Continuing through Raeburn Place, to the start of Comely Bank Road, expands upon this theme, including the fine-dining ‘The Scran & Scallie’, founded by Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack. Out of curiosity, we glanced through the windows and looked at the framed menu outside but we had already decided where we were going to dine.

Crossing the road and retracing our steps, we passed the shop of George Armstrong, a smoked salmon specialist. The shop boasts its own smoker and provides all kinds of hot or cold-smoked, fresh or frozen sea produce. Unfortunately, the shop is closed Sundays and Mondays! When, almost back at the bridge over the Water of Leith, we arrived at Hectors, where we had booked a table for dinner. The busy and cosy pub is welcoming with well-spaced tables and has a good selection of craft beers and cask ales in residency served on tap, as well as wines, spirits and an extensive gin selection. Margaret chose a pint of cider while I selected a porter from the small Welsh brewer, Tiny Rebel. Mains – for Margaret, was Award Winning Pale Ale & Steak Pie in shortcrust pastry with a puff pastry lid, buttered greens, red wine jus and triple-cooked chips, while for me it was a prime steak cheeseburger plus smoked streaky bacon with seasoned fries and house burger sauce. Once more, we had chosen well and I even managed another pint of porter during the meal.

In contrast to the mostly, knee-punishing descent on our outward journey, there was much climbing to do on our way back from Stockbridge, ending in a final drop into Princess Street. Although we were made to ‘work hard for our supper’, it was worth every step!

Photo Collection

Click on the first image to activate the lightbox view – which provides left to right photo viewing. Or, scroll down for a rolling, full-screen viewing!

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