EDINBURGH/GLASGOW

I’m a massive Scotiaphile. How could you not be? You could argue it’s the greatest country on earth.

Sir Alex, Shortbread, Two Doors Down, Simple Minds, Greatest accent in the world. What’s not to love?

Regular readers will know I head to it’s capital every August. Or at least, I did in Pre Covid Times.

Throughout the Lockdowns, i’d been wanting to head back, even if it was a scaled back trip. I decided to give the Fringe a miss in 2021 as it is a Covidfest. I’ll probably do the same in 2022. I thought I might as well take the opportunity to visit outside of the Fringe, to see what Edinburgh is really like.

I was planning on a Sail And Rail (booking a cabin to escape to) but it wasn’t available on the early morning sailing, so flying it was.

On the flight over, there was an empty row so I moved over to have a row to myself. Although I slept for most of the journey.

Curiously, when the Captain spoke on the tannoy, he sounded like Ronnie Corbett. I don’t know if this is an Easyjet policy of having Pilots who sound like famous people from the city they’re flying to.

When Linfield exited the Irish Cup, I decided to head away on the weekend of the final as i’d anticipated Glentoran winning it, and it doesn’t count if you’re not in the country. Edinburgh was on a shortlist of three.

Also in contention was Brighton, where I visited in November 2021.

The reason for my proposed quick return, apart from Brighton being brilliant, was to turn up at The Amex and try to blag a ticket for Brighton v United. Think I had a lucky escape with that plan.

I also considered Tallinn (decent price flights from Dublin at reasonable times) but as I was booking it in February, uncertainty in Eastern Europe made me decide to give that a swerve. I might look at it again for May/June 2023. Now, if they drew Northern Ireland in Euro 2024 Qualifying …….

So Edinburgh it was, a chance to explore a different city to the Edinburgh I usually visit in August for The Fringe, but this would give me a chance to properly explore Edinburgh.

When you’re at The Fringe, all the venues are compressed into one area. You could spend the whole month of August there and not go anywhere near Princes Street.

The problem with August is, if you take time out to explore somewhere else in Edinburgh or Central Scotland, you’re losing out on Fringe time and performances. It’s a difficult balancing act.

Even when I go to see Edinburgh City, Hearts or Hibs, I feel a bit guilty that i’ve lost out on seeing two shows in the time travelling to and watching football.

It felt strange heading to my accommodation to see Pleasance so quiet.

That accommodation was in Newington, a ground floor apartment.

Newington was an area I was familiar with, having stayed there on my last visit to Edinburgh in 2019.

It is an area with a lot of charity shops, so that helped me kill time before I could check-in to my accommodation.

When I was in one charity shop, I got offered some Es.

Relax though, they were bath bombs in the shape of a letter E that they were giving away.

My flight was early morning, I like to grab every second while i’m away.

It’s the same complaints as the last time I flew from Belfast, that the first bus of the day to International Airport means you won’t get there in time for a 7am flight, and you’d be pushing it if you were flying at 7.30am.

Thankfully, my flight was 8.30am.

At least they have a Boots there now, for those who wish to make some toiletries purchases before they fly.

I don’t care how much of a Tory but this makes me sound, but I have found the recent travel chaos hilarious.

Don’t sit there and say we have to live with Covid and shouldn’t be afraid of Covid and then complain about not being able to travel anywhere because Airline and Airport staff can’t come in to work because they’re riddled with Covid.

It’s what this country deserves for it’s half assed attitude to Covid.

Obviously, you can tell that my journey to and from Edinburgh were unaffected.

One of the first things I do when I arrive in England, Scotland or Wales is pick up a copy of Metro. I just love it, especially Rush Hour Crush.

The rest of Friday was spent checking out a new shopping centre, St James Square.

I say checking it out, I was basically using it as a shortcut to Leith Walk.

Leith Walk is a walk I enjoy, all downhill (not so much fun coming back) with lots of charity shops and independent stores.

Unfortunately, it also has a tram link being built, meaning it had lots of road and footpath out of bounds, which was a pain in the arse. It was like 2009-2012 all over again.

Hopefully, it will all be worth it when it is completed. I might use it to further explore Leith beyond the end of Leith Walk.

Apart from going from Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh City Centre, I never really use trams when I visit Edinburgh. It doesn’t go anywhere that interests me.

I then when for a stroll along George Street and Rose Street.

This was supposed to be my taking it easy day but somehow I ended up doing 46,000 steps.

Saturday was supposed to begin with a relaxing stroll through Colinton.

However, I slept in and the weather was crap, so I decided to scrap that until later.

Instead, I headed to Grassmarket Market and had a stroll along Royal Mile.

I usually avoid the Royal Mile in August but it wasn’t too bad on a Saturday morning in early May.

After a bit of lunch, it was time for football. It would have been rude not to take in a game while I was away.

When I booked this trip, there was no games scheduled as it was going to be post split, so there might not have been any games on in Central Scotland.

My options were: Celtic v Hearts (Don’t laugh), Hibs v Aberdeen, Livingston v St Johnstone, Dunfermline v Queen’s Park or Rangers v Dundee United.

That was just Football. There was also a Rugby match between Edinburgh and Wasps on the Saturday lunchtime.

I ended up deciding on Livingston v St Johnstone as i’d never been to Almondvale before and I like visiting new grounds.

It was an hour long bus journey along a very scenic route which eventually left me at a Shopping Centre right beside the ground. Just turn to the left and stare out the window through the Lothian countryside.

Before that point though, we were on a motorway that was sandwiched inbetween Tynecastle and Murrayfield.

I discovered (through some tourism literature I picked up) a place called Almond Valley that looks interesting. It seems to be a bit like Colin Glen Forest Park. I might bookmark that for future reference if I go to Edinburgh outside August again.

After the match, it was back to Edinburgh City Centre and straight onto another bus, to Portobello, a seaside town just outside Edinburgh.

The plan was that the weather would be lovely, to walk along Portobello Beach and get some sunset photos.

I did the first part, the walk was lovely, but the photos were crap though. The nice walk made up for it though.

Keeping with the theme of seeing stadiums from buses, I saw Easter Road and Meadowbank Stadium when going to Portobello.

It was intended that one of the days during my stay in Scotland would be a day trip to Glasgow. That day would be Sunday.

Sunday didn’t get off to the best of starts, with my 9.30am train cancelled meaning I had to wait until the 10am train to head to Glasgow.

I was especially keen to visit Glasgow as I hadn’t been since 2015.

Eventually I arrived in Glasgow and walked around, before stumbling into Barras Market.

What a place. So much retro and vintage stuff there just asking to be bought. If only I had the budget to do so.

I cannot comment on rumours that I may or may not have bought some football programmes.

Then I went for a walk through Glasgow City Centre, snapping any Street Art that I saw.

Glasgow had upped it’s weather game, it was roasting all day, getting one over on Edinburgh in that regard.

I didn’t bother heading to Ibrox to try and blag a ticket for Rangers v Dundee United. I did, however, visit a football ground during my visit to Glasgow.

It was one that hadn’t hosted a game since the 1960s though.

Cathkin Park, formerly home ground of two time Scottish Cup winners Third Lanark.

The ground is now a public park, but the terracing is still in place, including crush barriers.

This was a ground I always wanted to visit, and it was worth it.

As I entered the park, I asked someone for directions to the terracing, and he told me he used to play football there.

I jokingly asked him if it was for Third Lanark, and he put me in my place pointing out that he was only 58.

Most of the Rangers fans I saw walking around Glasgow going to and from their match were wearing sombreros. Do they have a big match in Spain coming up?

While I was in Glasgow, the Glasgow Book Festival was on. Unfortunately, none of the events on the day I was there interested me. Annoyingly, Bobby Gillespie was appearing the day before. I definitely would have went if it was on the Sunday instead.

As 7pm passed, and well fed and sore feet, it was time to return to Edinburgh.

The fact there was a Street Performer in Buchanan Street dressed as a Jedi doing moves with a lightsabre suggested it was time to head back.

I say Street Performer, it is Glasgow, that might have been just a normal night out for him.

Monday was the day I had set aside to walk up Arthur’s Seat.

It was a nice walk but the weather was a bit crap which made the photos underwhelming.

The crap weather continued, non stop rain. Well, it is Scotland. As a result, I decided to hold off visiting Colinton until the Tuesday.

My change of plan resulted in me wandering around Haymarket and West End, before heading home around 7pm and putting my feet up. Feet, that were absolutely aching from so much walking.

Tuesday was to be my last day, which meant having to do that most awful part of any trip away, packing up.

Packed up and checked out, I had quite a bit of spare time on my hands, as my flight home wasn’t until 8.40pm.

With the weather now better, I decided to venture up Arthur’s Seat again, to get better photos now that I had daylight to work with.

I might have had daylight to work with, but I was having to deal with wind. Not that sort of wind, how dare you even suggest such a thing.

To give you an idea of how windy it was, my hat blew off.

It was worth it going up, such a great experience. I’m annoyed at myself for going to Edinburgh so many times and not walking up it.

On the way down, I took a bit of a detour, and ended up closer to Easter Road than Waverley Station.

Eventually, I made it back to Princes Street, and finally boarded a bus bound for Colinton.

I was going to joke that Joelinton should sign for Hearts or Hibs and be so good they name the area after him, but it turns out it is pronounced Colin-ton rather than Co-linton.

This was worth it. I had read that it was a place worth visiting, and I was not to be disappointed.

It was easy enough to find when getting off the bus, just follow the signs.

I reached Colinton Tunnel and Colinton Dell, a beautiful walking path and woodland.

Unfortunately, my visit was timebound, so I didn’t get a chance to full appreciate it, going twenty minutes in and then twenty minutes back.

An absolute pity, as I definitely wanted to explore more and more of it.

My next scheduled visit to Edinburgh will be August 2023 for the Fringe. I fully intend to take more time to explore Colinton. I might make a day of it on my last day which is usually wrapping up and not taking in any shows.

There are cafes and pubs there so I can refuel if I need to after going for my walk.

If I had been able to get to Colinton earlier, I would have considered using the free time on Tuesday to go to Stirling.

I’ve never been before so it would have been nice to see what it it is like. Maybe another time.

My visit being timebound worked out well as it started raining as I was getting the bus back to Edinburgh City Centre.

Back to Edinburgh, grab my bags and now for a bus to Edinburgh Airport, and home.

On the bus, there was an information screen with the latest departure information so you can check up on your flight while heading to the airport.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that makes Belfast seen so backward.

It turned out that I was too eager to leave, as I couldn’t get through check-in as the 6.20pm flight to Belfast was still boarding.

My rationale, if you care, was to arrive around 5.30pm-ish, get through security and find somewhere just after 6pm to have something to eat for dinner.

I don’t get bored at airports, I always find something to amuse me. Especially at airports that have lots of free literature available such as newspapers or magazines.

Something that Belfast International Airport could maybe introduce (They definitiely did have free newspapers in the past) to improve the passenger experience. It’s the little things.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable trip.

I’d always wanted to visit Edinburgh outside of August, to see what it’s like.

I love visiting Edinburgh in August, but it is a different city that month compared with the other eleven months of the year.

It felt strange. Nobody offered me a flyer and I didn’t hear a single bagpipe.

When you’re at the Fringe, all the venues are compressed into a relatively small area.

Usually, I would stay in Cowgate, meaning that i’m right beside Pleasance and Underbelly, and I have Edinburgh University only ten minutes walk away.

As a result, I don’t usually stray far from there as that’s where the main venues are.

You are experiencing Edinburgh Fringe, but not really experiencing Edinburgh.

As I said earlier, if you take time out to explore Edinburgh, you are losing time to take in shows.

I have a bit of unfinished business, i’m definitely going to take time in my next visit to Edinburgh to fully explore Colinton.

When will that trip be?

Probably not in August 2022. Edinburgh Fringe will be a Covidfest. I’ll leave it a year to 2023 to see if we can drag the numbers down.

Remember, Covid hasn’t gone away, it’s just that the Government has stopped pretending to give a shit.

I’ll try again in 2023.

I’ll definitely be back at some point.

Hopefully see some celebrities as well. Didn’t see a single one. I usually see someone I recognise while i’m in Edinburgh.

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