Wednesday was one of those glorious February days we get from time to time in Edinburgh so off I set on one of my favourite walks to the beach at Portobello.
After last weekend and the dismal performance against Wales in the Six Nations, I wasn't holding out much hope for the second game against France at Murrayfield. I was so confident after years of trying, we could eventually win in Cardiff - alas these hopes were dashed within 5 minutes.
I was meeting friends in The Stockbridge Tap before going for something to eat in Hector's and watch the game. The Water of Leith Walkway is one of my favourite walks in Edinburgh so I decided to leave a bit early and walk to Stockbridge. It was a wee bit damp and muddy along parts of it and it was incredibly busy with others having the same idea as me for a nice Sunday morning walk.
After a couple of drinks in The Stockbridge Tap we crossed the pavement to our table in Hector's.
It was a great match and Scotland looked incredibly good - pity they hadn't performed like that the week before. Still...
I was in Glenfarg, Perthshire last week helping my sister to celebrate her birthday.
We went for a great walk in the grounds of Falkland House just outside the village of Falkland in Fife. It's an early 19th century Jacobean style country house with extensive wooded grounds. The Pillars of Hercules organic farm and shop are also within the estate. The house was converted into a school in 1984 for boys experiencing social, emotional and behavioural problems including Autism and Tourette's Syndrome.
I've met many wonderful people over the years both whilst sailing and on my numerous ukulele or guitar breaks. I met Sue and Chris on a Guitar Retreat a few years ago and earlier this year when we were all on a Retreat on Tresco, I had arranged to take them sailing at the end of September. However, after a pretty decent summer's sailing, the weather around the middle of September became a bit more unpredictable. Neither of them has ever been sailing before so it was decided that whilst I might enjoy bobbing along in a force 5 in the rain, they might not. Instead I invited them to stay with me in Edinburgh and we spent a wonderful time walking around the city playing guitar and generally having a great time.
They knew that I would be in Ross-on-Wye at the beginning of November and they kindly invited me to stay with them at Sue's house in Cobham. I've been to London a number of times but this was my first visit to this part of Surrey.
A number of things struck me, it's a beautiful part of the country with some wonderful countryside, trees, parks and villages. It's also very busy. I drove from Ross-on-Wye and arrived in Cobham in beautiful sunshine. Cobham is a village in the Borough of Elmbridge and is a bustling wee place with many fine houses and a busy High Street. The Chelsea training ground is also close by, next to the railway station.
We spent Monday walking around the magnificent Wisley Gardens and then a short time at Brooklands and the Bus Museum.
Tuesday was a colder overcast day so we took the train to Hampton Court Palace.
In a break from my usual walking around Edinburgh, I decided to travel a wee bit further.
I took a bus to Roslin a small village to the south of Edinburgh famous for the ancient Rosslyn Chapel. I was teaching at Roslin primary School when Tom Hanks turned up for filming of The Da Vinci Code. Of course, no one was allowed anywhere near the chapel or the set. However, he did manage a wave out the window of his chauffeur driven car as he passed.
I spent a couple of hours wandering around Rosslyn Chapel before going down to Rosslyn Castle which is now a private dwelling and let out. I then walked back up to the village and set off along the path to Loanhead and Polton.
The weather was beautiful in Edinburgh last Monday and I decided to take one of my favourite walks along the Water of Leith and then a wander around the botanic gardens.
Such a wonderful sunny Spring day, I took a walk down to Portobello Beach.
Portobello Beach is towards the NE of the city and I have vivid memories of going there as a child, particularly to Portobello Open Air Pool which was a magnificent art-deco building. A salt water swimming pool, complete with diving boards, a raft and a wave machine. It was always bitterly cold but such great fun. Sadly now demolished and replaced with housing.
Portobello was once a popular destination with the folks of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and after years of decline is now making a revival.
A walk through Bruntsfield, The Meadows, Holyrood Park, Figgate Park and on to Portobello Promenade and Beach.
The world famous sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Gardens lie to the South West of the island.
In 1834, Augustus Smith left Hertfordshire and took up residence on the Isles of Scilly as Lord Proprietor and leaseholder of all the islands. He chose to live on Tresco and selected a site adjacent to St Nicholas Priory - which had fallen into disrepair in the sixteenth century - to build his home.
On a rocky outcrop above these ruins Augustus Smith built his house, which he named Tresco Abbey. In addition to constructing the house, he started almost immediately creating a garden based around the priory ruins.
The gardens are are often described as a perennial Kew without the glass, it shrugs off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host myriad exotic plants, many of which would stand no chance of survival even on the Cornish mainland less than 30 miles away. Even at the winter solstice, there are more than 300 plants in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa
The Gardens also house the Valhalla Museum which features the Valhalla Collection containing some 30 figureheads, as well as name-boards and other decorative carvings from the days of sail.
In the winter months, when I am not sailing, I like to take a few weekends away on either a Ukulele Weekend or a Guitar Retreat. I have been using a company called Guitar Retreats for some time and in recent years they have started using more exclusive and unusual hotels and venues.
When I saw that a week long retreat was being held on Tresco Island I booked.
I researched various ways of getting there but both flying and train turned out to be either too expensive, long waits for connections or just inconvenient times. So I drove to Gloucester, stayed the night there and then onto Bude in Cornwall to stay with Stuart and Sharon, who run Guitar Retreats and then finally on to Lands End.
However, this wasn't the end of the journey as I still had to get a plane, a taxi, a boat and finally a short walk to The New Inn on Tresco.
It was a long journey, but well worth it. Tresco is a beautiful island with a sub-tropical garden at Tresco Abbey, long sandy beaches and some great walks around the island despite it only being 2 miles long and just over a mile wide.
One of my favourite walks at any time of year is along the Union Canal Towpath and on to Colinton Village via the Water of Leith Walkway. At this time of year it can be a bit muddy in places particularly after a couple of damp days like those we've had recently. However, today was a glorious day so I set off along the canal.
The Canal towpath joins the Water of Leith Walkway at the Lanark road and that takes you along an old railway track, which ended up in Balerno, toward the village of Colinton. There's been a village her since the 13th Century and in more recent times it was a thriving mill town, mostly paper and snuff. Now it's a sought after suburb of Edinburgh.
The path follows the river until it gets to a tunnel (always some interesting graffiti), which leads to where Colinton Railway Station once stood. There is still evidence of the station if you look closely enough. The path continues under bridge, constructed in 1873, before this time the only way to cross the river was over an older bridge near next to the parish church. A gap in the wall takes you into Spylaw Park.
Spylaw Park brings back a number of memories for me. I remember coming here on Sunday School picnics. I lived in Oxgangs, barely a couple of miles away, but it seemed as though we had travelled miles into the countryside. There was always the great smell of freshly mown grass and I remember the hive of industry around the Scott's Porridge Oats Mill at the end of the park.
A path continues through the park passing Spylaw House, once owned by James Gillespie an Edinburgh mill owner and philanthropist. The house was a Youth Hostel and is now a private dwelling. Under the Gillespie Road bridge again and out onto Spylaw Street and down towards Colinton Parish Church.
The church was founded in 1095 but most of it dates to from 1908 when it was rebuilt for the final time. It has a lych gate, which is unusual for a church in Scotland, and a mortsafe. As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson frequently visited the manse in Colinton, where his maternal grandfather, Dr Lewis Balfour, lived while he was the Minister of the Parish Church. It is thought that some of his poems were inspired by these visits including The Swing. Remnants of an old swing can be seen in a tree next to the manse.