Walk #567: Muirhouse to Edinburgh Castle
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
I woke up this morning to the strange and almost terrifying knowledge that in a few hours it would all be over, and a chapter on my life would be closing. I was slightly dehydrated from the evening out the previous night, and so I quickly rehydrated myself with lots of liquid and started preparing myself for the day ahead. I had been expecting to get a little depressed on the last morning, but fortunately there were so many people about and things to do that I really did not get the time. Sam cooked Jacqui and myself a meal, and we packed bags with clean clothes ready for the function this evening.
The walk was not going to be a very long one, and so I decided to set off at about eleven to give myself plenty of time to get to the end at the Castle for four in the afternoon. When I finally set off I felt fine, and I soon made my way down to the little path that runs alongside the sea front in Muirhouse. I walked eastward along this until I got to Granton Harbour and I had to turn right to head inland. At this moment when the sea left my view tears started to roll down my cheeks - although I was still going to see the sea later on in the day, it felt strange to detach myself from it.
I soon reached Leith, and the point where I had to turn right and head inland to the castle and the end of the trip. I stood by the Burns statue at the road junction and looked on eastwards down the A199, wishing that I could continue on walking eastwards around the coast. It was a powerful temptation and one that I could easily have succumbed to, but there was little point and so with a heavy heart I turned right and started walking south down Constitution Street, knowing that I had just completed the loop - I had walked around the entire coast. The rest of the day's walk just got me back to my start point, inland and away from the sea.
It started to pour with rain as I walked up the Leith Walk, and I sheltered for a few minutes in, firstly a pub doorway, and latterly a phone box, before reaching the junction with London Road. There was still a couple of hours before the end time for the walk, so I climbed up Calton Hill, past the steps where I twisted my left ankle two days before the walk started, to the monuments at the summit. The rain had stopped, although I could see it falling from the clouds in the distance. The views from the top of Calton Hill are expansive, and it is a great place to look over the city.
When I started the trip all those months ago I had the idea that at the end I would climb Arthur's Seat, the large hill in the centre of the city that I love. I decided that I would only do this if the weather was nice, but as I came down from Calton Hill it was lightly raining. I still had a great deal of time left (nearly two hours) to waste, and so I decided to do the hill anyway. I went up it by my usual route, Radical Road, which heads under the spectacular escarpment of Salisbury Crags, before heading up towards the trig point on the summit. The top part of the climb was up some steep steps made of jumbled blocks of stone, and they were exceedingly slippy. As I carefully made my way up the steps I saw a couple of people making their way down a steep gully; I asked them if they were okay, as it seemed to be a rather dangerous place to be, especially in the wet. Eventually I reached the top, which I found to be a bit of an anti-climax. The rain was still falling, and after taking a few photographs I started to make my way down one again. I decided not to go down the way that I came up due to the slippy steps, and so I took the far easier grassy route to Dunsapie Loch. This was the wrong side of the hill, and so I had to walk around to the Palace and the start of the Royal Mile, the last mile of my walk.
I was strangely lacking emotion as I walked up the road, and my own thought was why I had chosen to end the walk at the top of a hill! I walked up the road looking at some of the wonderful architecture, and eventually I reached Deacon Brodie's, where the crowd were waiting for me. Richard and Ben were holing a banner, and I knew that the last few hundred yards were upon me. Sam had organised a couple of RDA ponies and riders to walk up the last section with me, and when they arrived I walked off in front of them.
This was a totally surreal feeling, and it felt strange to be the centre of so much attention after walking on my own for nearly twelve months. Fairly soon we reached the Esplanade outside the castle and the end of the walk. I was surprised to see someone dressed up as Rob Roy at the entrance, and I then made my way up the castle drawbridge, the place that I started the walk. I made my ay across and knelt down to kiss the wet cobbles; a strange feeling. I then got sprayed with champagne by Colin whilst standing on the drawbridge, before swigging down the rest of the champagne out of the bottle.
The next half hour or so was a whirling and spectacular vortex, with photographs being taken in various positions with the ponies. Someone shoved a whisky glass into my hand, purloined from a local shop, and I soon swigged this down. It was great to see everyone again, and I met Ralf from the RDA for the first time, despite having chatted to him frequently during the walk. The time flew by, and I found a constant stream of varying emotions streaming through me. It was an indescribable feeling, and I found it hard to believe that I was actually at the centre of everything. It was a joyous moment, but I was glad when the photos stopped and I could start chatting to all the people who had made their way here for the finish.
In so many ways the trip has been a solitary experience, and despite the fact that I spent mornings and nights with Sam, I have still spent countless hours on my own whilst I was walking, and being in such a large crowd was slightly off-putting. I said thanks to the RDA people and patted the horses, but I was glad when we all descended to Deacon Brodies for my first post-walk pint.
A couple of pints later Sam and I went to the hotel room of a good friend of mine called Neil, who was kindly allowing me to have a shower so that I could at least be respectable. When in the room he surprised me with a bottle of cask-strength Glenmorangie he had bought me - a kind and most applicable gift! The rest of the evening was spent in a bar called Milne's in the city centre when I got outrageously drunk, and Jacqui, Sam and myself finally got back to the campsite at three in the morning. Months before I had decided that the best way to celebrate the walk was to get drunk afterwards, and this proved to be an important decision as throughout the walk I had been bottling up a range of thoughts, feelings and emotions for 'the end of the walk'. Getting drunk allowed me to release all these, and this, finally, marked the end of the trip. All the tensions, strains and hardships of the last year were released, and by the next morning I felt that a closure had been reached.
From the safety of the next morning, and with a hangover raging through my skull, I must admit that the enormity of what I have done has not yet sunk in. My overwhelming sensation is one of gentle satisfaction, which is the last thing I actually expected after the walk! Perhaps in a few weeks I will feel different, but now I cannot wait for my next project to start, whatever that may be! I know with certainty that my life will never be the same again, but also that it will always be better for having done this trip.
Finally I must thank everyone who has helped me on the walk, everyone who has given me encouragement and kindness in all forms. There are far too many people to mention here, and there are many people whom I met on the trip who gave me encouragement who I do not even know the names of - thanks to you all. But most of all I must give thanks to Sam, who has been pure gold throughout the trip. She has been there fore me when I needed her, and she had never let me down. It is amazing that in a year living together in a motorhome through all the stresses and strains of a trip such as this we only had one argument. She is truly an exceptional lady.
This walk starts off at the Muirhouse Caravan Park in Muirhouse, just off the Marine Drive to the west of Edinburgh. Leave the campsite and turn right and almost immediately to the left that leads down the slope to a path beside the shore. Turn right and follow this path northeastwards past Birnie Rocks to Granton Point, and then on eastwards to Shore Road.
Join Shore Road and follow it eastwards to Granton Harbour, where it becomes West Harbour Road. When this ends at Granton Square continue straight on down Lower Granton Road, following the path of McKelvie Parade between it and the sea. When McKelvie Parade ends follow roads along the shore to the start of Leith Docks, and then follow New Haven Place, Lindsay Road, Commercial Street and finally Bernard Street. At the end of Bernard Street by a statue of Robert Burns turn right down Constitution Street, and when this ends continue straight on down the Leith Walk.
At the junction between Leith Walk and London Road, turn left up London Road for a few yards and then turn right up Royal Terrace. Pass a church and hen turn right up a track and then immediately turn left, to head up some steps to the monuments at the top of Calton Hill. At the top of the hill join the road and follow this as it heads down the hill, eventually leading out onto Regent Road.
Turn left down Regent Road and follow it for a couple of hundred yards until Calton Hill Stairs lead off to the right; these steps lead downhill to Calton Road. Turn left and follow Calton Hill Road eastwards until it ends at a T-junction with Abbeyhill; then turn right for a few yards to the roundabout at the end of the Royal Mile.
At the roundabout turn left up Abbey Strand for a few yards before turning to the right down Horse Wynd, which passes the Palace of Holyroodhouse before ending at a T-junction with Holyrood Road. Turn left along Holyrood Road for a short distance until it curves to the right and then the left past a car park. At the end of the car park turn right along the Radical Road, a footpath that heads uphill under Salisbury Crags until it meets Queen's Drive near The Hawse.
Here turn left along another footpath and then turn right up some steep rough stone steps to the top of Arthur's Seat. From the trig point at the top head downhill to the east, initially down some rough step and then a grassy slope to reach Queen's Drive at a car park by the southern tip of Dunsapie Loch. Turn left and follow Queen's Drive as it heads around Whinny Hill; near St Margaret's Loch it meets Duke's Walk and heads on westwards back towards the beginning of Radical Road.
At the car park turn right up Queen's Drive, and then left and right to reach the eastern end of the Royal Mile by the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Turn left and walk westwards up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, where this walk ends. The castle is a dramatic enough place to finish a walk, but I was greeted with ponies, supporters and champagne, making it one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
This makes a total distance of 11.6 miles, with 1689 feet of ascent and 1437 feet of descent.
We spent the night at the Edinburgh Caravan Club site, Marine Drive, Edinburgh EH5 5EN, telephone (0131) 312 6874. This site was, as usual for a caravan club site, absolutely immaculate, although it was rather expensive at eighteen pounds per night (this was mainly because our membership for the caravan club had run out, and thus we did not get a five pound reduction). Busses to the centre of Edinburgh run regularly, even on a Sunday, and the site is a stone's throw from the seafront.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!
This walk was mentioned in the following routes: