Stockbridge on a Sunday

There was a time in Edinburgh, not so many years ago, that Sunday was a day of rest. You had no choice because nothing really happened. Places of entertainment, shops, cafes and restaurants did not open. Neither did the pubs!

Thankfully this has all changed.

Last month I walked through Stockbridge on a Sunday. A vibrant village with a very bohemian feel just to the North of the city centre, it was thronging with people out with family and friends dining, drinking, chatting, shopping and having a good time. New (and newish) eateries on the scene, The Raeburn, Rollo and Scran & Scallie were full to overflowing, with The Raeburn making good use of their “sit ootery”. Stalwarts like The Stockbridge Tap and Hector’s were also doing very good business too.

However, the main purpose for my visit to Stockbridge that day was to steal a glimpse within St. Bernard’s Well. This is the larger of two Georgian Wells on the South side of the Water of Leith on the path leading from the quiet Dean Village into Stockbridge (see www.edinburghwalks.com for further details of guided walks in the area).  It is named after the troglodyte St. Bernard of Clairvaux who it is said lived here in the 12th Century and is very rarely open to the public.

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In 1788 Lord Gardenstone commissioned Alexander Nasmyth to design a grand well on the site, replacing a smaller well house that had been there since 1760. It consists of a circular domed temple with ten Doric columns, within which stands a statue of the Greek goddess Hygeia. Below the statue and columns is the wellhouse. It was thought that drinking the waters of the well did you some good. When the Well first opened the public could call between 6am and 9am each morning and drink to the benefit of their health. They were charged a penny to drink on site or subscribe for five shillings for a season. Drinking offsite was half a penny. Thankfully washing of sores and bathing of limbs was prohibited.

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When I called at the Well it was looking magnificent. Having recently had some renovation, Hygiea and the exterior stone work was clean and glistening. However, it was only when I entered the Well room that I was taken aback. The only way I can describe the interior is that it was like being inside a Faberge Egg! From the little light that shone through the windows and from the few candles that had been lit to brighten the

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gloom, the roof and walls were illuminated with gold, marble and blue tiles vying for attention. The well pump itself stood in the middle of the room and the latin phrase Bibendo Valebis – By Drinking You Will Be Well – was boldly displayed above the lionhead waterspout, with the marble basin below. The tiled floor was also intricate, colourful and beatiful.Such a contrast from the greyness of the exterior stone.

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The pump is no longer in working order, but maybe that is a good thing as, by all reports the water were sulpherous and very unpleasant. Better to call into one of the pubs or eateries mentioned earlier for a decent drink!

Leaving St. Bernard’s Well, I headed back into Stockbridge, but could not pass by Stockbridge Market without having a wander round. This fantastic addition to the vibe of Stockbridge takes place every Sunday (they have a Saturday market in The Grassmarket too). Fresh bread, fish, meats, cheese, olives, cakes, chocolate, organic veg, pies, wines and beers make up the majority of stalls, with exotic cooked foods from around the world also available. Also there are clothes, cards, pictures and all sorts of chic bric-a-brac on sale. For me it was a French loaf that caught my eye. Lunch sorted.

Loaf of fresh bread on a Sunday, now that hasn’t always happened in Edinburgh.

When Summer arrives………get Ice Cream

Here in Edinburgh, we have to take the opportunity to get out into the sunshine when it appears…..it may not be here for long. Four seasons in one day is a popular phrase, but you can be sure that here in Scotland we have been known to have four seasons in one hour!

Yesterday, as the month of May was on it’s way out and with sunglasses on, I walked in glorious sunshine from Edinburgh city centre on the Old Town, New Town walk.

From the West End, where the residents of this city have been getting used to the “ding-ding” of the trams from our new transport system I made my way to the base of the main volcanic vent that has our famous castle ontop. 340 million (or so) years after it was active whilst Scotland was then in the Tropics, it is a very impressive sight indeed. You can imagine how attackers must have felt when trying to work out how to attack this citadel.

 

Walking round the castle rock to the rear I entered The Grassmarket from above it’s Western end. An open and bright area, previously a place of trade just within the city walls and the site of the city gallows, it has been turned into a very European style boulevard with bars and restaurants vying for custom from locals and visitors alike. Tables and chairs line the pavement and in the middle section of the street, under lovely shady trees. It was very busy but the question has to be asked – where would so many people be if the sun was not shining?

I was on a mission though. A mission to visit somewhere I had heard great things about. And in particular, on a mission to buy some quality ice cream. I went looking for Mary’s Milk Bar to find it. This small cafe on the Southside of the Grassmarket has a great retro feel of the 1950’s. My walking partners choice was a dark chocolate filled cone, while I went for the salted caramel. Bliss. These home made concoctions are two of many that they produce, with some wierd and wonderful ingredients – for ice cream anyway – like vinegar or black olive. The ice cream went down a treat.

Back on the walk through the Grassmarket, I visited the site of the old scaffold where some of Edinburgh’s condemned from centuries past came to a grizzly end. Nearby I had a wander round the street market that has been part of the scenery here for only about a year. Lots of choice and very good quality foods on display. This is a great addition to the markets in the city centre, as Edinburgh’s Farmers Market in Castle Terrace nearby and the smaller market at the top of Leith Walk are also very popular.

I carried on with Old Town, New Town up the Vennel in line with the old City Walls. Where next for Ice Cream?

 

 

A Sunny day in Sunny Leith

What started as a cloudy and blustery day in Edinburgh turned into a Sunny day in Edinburgh’s port, Leith last week.

I followed Walk D from my website (www.Edinburghwalks.com) and got a marvellous view of the North of Edinburgh, the Kingdom of Fife and the Forth Bridges from Calton Hill. However because of the height and our position to the West of the hill, it was blowy so it was good to get down onto Leith Walk for a bit of shelter.

Venturing North, I made it to the boundary between the City and it’s Port at Pilrig. It brought back stories of the Boundary Bar with it’s two doors (one in Leith and one in Edinburgh) and two liquor licenses, so the patrons could drink up in Edinburgh at the end of the day but drink later on the Leith side as it was still open. All prior to 1920 of course when Leith became part of the city, to the displeasure of the majority of Leithers.

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I took in sites of interest to those with a love of literature, the former family homes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Harry Potter’s J.K.Rowling and a train station from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

For much needed refreshment and to dodge a quick shower of rain, I headed to the Lioness of Leith pub in Duke Street, Leith where I had a great pint of Summerhall Ale. The menu looked great too, but I decided to venture out as the sun had come out from behind the clouds and the sky was clearing.

I took in much of the South/Eastside of The Shore and the streets here are full of life. It has been about 30 years now since the first business ventured in here to open a restaurant and try to entice people from The City into their Port. Well now there are Michelin starred restaurants and great bars here to visit. I had lunch in The Vintage on Henderson Street, sharing a tapas style platter and the beers came in 2/3 pint glasses. Staff were very keen and knowledgeable and I would highly recommend it.

After lunch I made it along the old bondside in Commercial Street, past the remains of Cromwell’s Citadel and ended up at the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Ocean Terminal shopping mall. By now the sun was splitting the sky. It was Sunny Leith afterall.

A brilliant walk and such a relaxing day.

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