Leith to South Queensferry
Friday 17 December 2021
22.10km • 5h (including breaks)
lowest: -2m • highest: 48m • total ascent 517m
This was the only walk that would have no public transport to the start point, because the start point was where I live. Perhaps a notch less satisfying than ending up at home, but a minuscule one. It was also my first day off for the long holiday break I’d given myself, so I was very excited to be out walking and far away from staring intently at a screen.
The weather was incredible. Cold but super clear, no wind at all, with that very low-on-the-horizon winter sun that made even the tram roadworks and industrial area behind Ocean Terminal look attractive. Said tram works did make it a bit of a palaver getting out of town. They’ve been changing the traffic patterns around a lot lately and there are various pedestrian diversions. I thought I knew what they all were but sometime in the past month or so they must have changed again, because I kept going one way only to see there was no way through and looping back. Even at the rainbow bridge, which I was briefly pleased to have to detour over, I could not cross.
Once I got out of the knot of diversions though, things were pretty straightforward. The first hour of this walk is one I do regularly when heading to Newhaven or to Wardie for a swim. The water was looking very tempting, but I’d decided ahead of time that this was not a day I’d have a dip. I stopped for a minute to look at one of the resident seals hanging out in Granton harbour before the long walk along the road to the point where the path along the water to Cramond picks up.
I hadn’t been out to Cramond for a year or so, and last time it was on a bike, so it was nice to actually walk it, especially in such stunning weather. When the tree line was low enough to the left, the sun peeked over. I was starting to think that maybe I’d just walk all the way over the bridge once I got to South Queensferry given the complete absence of wind and the incredible visibility. But things change fast, of course.
I had a mini celebration in Cramond when I found that the public toilets were open. This is always total happiness in built-up areas. I stopped to have my coffee with the stollen I’d bought in the morning from Twelve Triangles before heading inland to the river crossing. It was starting to get a wee bit misty which made for some good sunlight-through-the-fog views. At this point I was also directly under the landing flight path for Edinburgh Airport. It was such a quiet, still day, but then every 10 minutes or so, jet engines directly overhead.
I entered the Dalmeny Estate and walked through the fields back down to the sea. When I popped out on the beach, I could no longer see the bridges. There was also pretty frequent fog horns, presumably from ships in the forth, so it was clear the haar was about to steal my views.
I was able to stick pretty close to the beach for the first bit of the walk through Dalmeny, but the further I got, the thicker the haar got. The light through the trees and the mist now was really cool looking, and at a certain point, the far end of the beach appeared to be a white wall. Or, you know, the end of the world. I scrambled up to the bench at Hound Point where you would normally get a brilliant view of the bridges and looked into the whiteout as I ate my sandwich. Then I picked through the path in the woods for the rest of the way through the estate.
All through the estate, the storm damage from Arwen, which blew through a few weeks previous and wreaked havoc all over the country, was clear. There were so many trees blown down, including some really, really big ones. This enormous one that came down right over the path made me so sad. I stood there with my hand on it for ages and honestly nearly hugged it. This tree must be hundreds of years old and it looked like someone just swiped it over as though it were a twig. It was obvious they were starting to clean things up, but I really hope for big old ones like this, they leave them to decompose where they are and feed the woods around them rather than cutting them up and removing them completely.
Coming out of the estate and towards South Queensferry, I could hear the rail bridge, but I couldn’t see it until I was almost directly under it. It was so bizarre to know something so huge is right in front of you but the weather is so extreme as to make the air opaque. I decided not to continue over the road bridge based on the fact that it was also currently invisible – there may be some interest in walking through a cloud, but I’d rather see the view in this case. Instead I climbed the steps up towards the station and went to visit Cat, Bob, Margot, and brand-new-human Louisa. There was tea and mince pies and much talk of Lego. A very good way to close off my walking for the year, and what feels like the first section of this whole thing. The border to the bridge, 172.6km (107.2mi) over 8 days. On to Fife and hopefully as far as Inverness in 2022!