21 Feb 2010

Off the map: South Queensferry to "the wild wood."

I am not, nor have I ever been, a proficient map reader. It’s not that I am incapable of following directions, it is more that I am easily distracted and a lover of simply seeing where a new path might take me. Because of this, my relationship with Kerry Nelson’s small and charming guidebook, Edinburgh: 40 Town and Country Walks, is suffering.

Twice my friend Craig and I have used this guidebook and twice we have gone the wrong way after failing to pay close attention to the directions. The first excursion was meant to take us from Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve to Gullane, however we turned too soon and ended up having to traverse "the second biggest golf course" Craig had ever seen. At the time I was certain one of us would be brained by a wayward ball.

During his most recent visit to Scotland‘s fair capital, we gave the guidebook another try. This time we were meant to walk from South Queensferry to Cramond Brig.

Things started off well. We took the train to Dalmeny and found our way down to South Queensferry, whose long harbour is dominated by that beautiful red mammoth of engineering, the Forth Rail Bridge. The path took us along the water and then inland where the bare trees and faded colours made me forget about the promise of spring and think instead of Halloween and the heavy cloak of autumn.

We checked the book several times to assure ourselves that the dotted line on the map at least vaguely resembled the path we were following. Eventually we made it past Barnbougle Castle where we spent a few moments gazing at the tower house, which loomed through the trees at the end of a private drive. All the while we lamented the fact that neither of us are likely to ever live in a castle, and we tried desperately not to feel bitter about this whole sorted deal called life.

Seeing Dalmeny House immediately distracted me from my woes, as any 19th century gothic revival mansion set on wide green lawns and overlooking an expanse of water is likely to do. The house is only open to the public on set days between May and July, and only then as part of guided tours, so I had to be content to wander around while trying to dodge the plays of nearby golfers (who sets a golf course next to such a valuable (and many windowed) property?). Next to the house is the life-sized bronze statue of King Tom, a thoroughbred racehorse and super stud (“leading sire” if you prefer the more genteel term), who died in 1878.
This was where we went wrong. Had we read the directions beneath the dotted line, we would have noticed the express instructions to “turn left here,” which would have led us back to the water for the remainder of our coastal walk. Unfortunately the guidebook map only shows one trail, as if no other trails or roads have or will ever exist in the real world. For creatives who measure things in relation to other things (ie "how big is your frying pan? Could a cat curl up in it?"), this presents a problem.
We trudged along on the muddy track, past trees whose sap seemed to have turned to ink, and Craig joked that he no longer needed to watch the film of The Road, because he “had lived it.” We took the sight of houses in the distance as a promise that if we kept walking, we would eventually reach a main road and a bus stop. We followed the power lines, past wide fields containing isolated trees, until finally we arrived. Exactly where we arrived I cannot tell you, except a sign post of local trails described where we had just come from as the “wild wood.”
Overall it was a fantastic day out, and I am far from giving up on Edinburgh: 40 Town and Country Walks. I just resolve that from now on, I will read the directions and not just try to follow the lonely dotted red line through the landscape.

  © Blogger template 'Isolation' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP