Sunday, February 15, 2009

Walking home

On Wednesdays I usually walk home from work. It’s about three miles. We’ve had a bit of snow and last Wednesday, while crossing the car park of the wholesale supermarket next to the college, I skidded on the ice. Though I managed not to hit the ground, I did pull a muscle in my leg. To take my mind off this, I took some photos as I limped on my way. Would you care to limp along with me?

The college isn’t built in an architecturally distinguished part of Edinburgh – in fact it’s in an industrial estate, with some council housing nearby. So I didn’t photograph any of this. However, after a bit, my walk takes me through St Margaret’s Park (above) in the old part of Corstorphine.
This is now part of Edinburgh but was once a separate village and still has an old-world, villagey appearance. I took a picture of this house in the park – the Dower House - and wondered what its history was. It looks like Scottish traditional architecture but is it genuinely old? And here the answer, from - mid-seventeenth century.

The Manor of Corstorphine was acquired in 1347 by Sir Adam Forrester from William
More of Abercorn. The Forrester family built a castle on this land and were owners of
the estate until 1689.

In the 18th century, the village became popular as a fashionable summer spa resort for
visitors attracted by the beneficial medicinal qualities of the Physic Well. Its reputation
was such that in 1749 a regular stagecoach ran between Edinburgh and Corstorphine
eight or nine times a day. However, the Well lost its medicinal properties and fell into
disrepute around 1790.

The Forrester family were also responsible for the construction of the mid-17th century
Dower House, also known as Gibsone's Lodge from its late 18th century occupants,
which is set within the north east corner of St Margaret's Park. The entrance gateway to
the house is reputed to have been constructed from stone from Corstorphine Castle,
which was demolished in the 18th century. It was badly damaged by fire in 1991 but has
since been restored and is now occupied by the Corstorphine Trust, an organisation
dedicated to the stimulation of public interest in the character, history and preservation
of Corstorphine.

(I'm sorry about the poetic-looking layout of this. It didn't look like this at the draft stage.)

Then I walked through the grounds of Corstorphine Old Parish Church. Again, Google gives me information about it: a chapel was founded here in 1128 but the present building has been there only since 1429, though there have been various later additions. The sun, low in the sky, was shining on its tower as I passed.

Some of the gravestones are pretty old, the lettering worn away.

Limping on up to the main road, I admired Williamson’s flower shop, which always raises my spirits. At this point I decided to take a bus, but examining the contents of my purse I found that I had no change. A bus ticket costs £1.20 and I only had a £10 note (buses don’t give change). My leg didn’t hurt enough to warrant such extravagance so I plodded on.

The sun was beginning to set now, casting its rosy glow on these silver birches outside the Zoo.

On top of the pillars by the Zoo gateway stands this eagle

and also this - what is it? - a succulent plant of some sort. Why are they there, I wonder?

Walking eastwards, I saw Edinburgh’s city hill, Arthur’s Seat, supposedly like a crouching lion. Look at all the cars with people going out of the city, home for the evening.

Here are the Pentland Hills, snow-covered, to the south.

This is a milestone that always intrigues me: on this side it says “Glasgow 40 miles” and on the other, “Edinburgh 2 miles”. It looks pretty old – archivist Daughter 1 thinks the style of lettering is eighteenth century. It must date from when Corstorphine was a separate village because it’s definitely in Edinburgh now.

By the time I got home it was nearly dark and in our absence there had been lots of activity in the garden.
(PS - how kind of various people to wish my leg well. It's fine now, thanks - or as fine as one could expect a 58-year-old leg to be.)


  1. A nice walk and an even nicer post. I don't know Corstorphine that well but a friend of mine has recently moved there (near the Dovecot) and I certainly like the parts I have seen. Hope your leg is okay, though!

  2. Thank you for the walk. The history is wonderful and wow - some of that sure goes back a long way. Hope your leg feels better!

  3. Beautiful pictures. Thank you for inviting me along on your walk home. I had to chuckle at your comment: "a chapel was founded here in 1128 but the present building has been there only since 1429" - ONLY since 1429? I live in western Canada and our house was built in 1909. It's considered old at one hundred years!
    Hope you didn't hurt yourself badly. I guess if there's an upside to the injury it's that you were able to take and share such gorgeous pictures!

  4. Anonymous12:09 am

    I was going to say the same as RachelJane...
    There are no buildings that old in Australia!
    (You've made me more impatient to get over there and have a look.... only 6 more years to wait until the boys will be finished secondary school....

  5. Loved the walk - thanks for sharing:-)

    We are lacking in historic buildings of that age in NZ!

  6. Anonymous4:18 am

    Wow! That walk made me so homesick.As a student in Edinburgh in the early 60's I used to visit a Great Aunt and Uncle who lived in Corstorphine in a house opposite the Zoo gates. My Great uncle was retired and spent his time researching local history and so he had wonderful and interesting things to tell me.
    I so love Edinburgh!!

  7. I hope your leg heals soon. That was such a lovely walk, and great to have all the information. You have a great gift for making your environment come to life upon the page.
    And I want to come and smooch with your gorgeous cats.

  8. That's a great idea. Hope your leg feels better soon.

    Lesley x

  9. Thank you for a fascinating tour. Get better soon.

  10. Oh dear! I hope your leg is feeling better this week. But, lucky us -- I love it when you have pictures of your area -- even if you do make me homesick (funny term -- although it's not my "home", you know what I mean!)

    You're so lucky to have such beautiful old buildings with a history to tell. I was going to comment that around here we have an old fort from around, maybe the early 1800's -- so I decided to go look it up and get the exact age, only to find out it's a replica! Oh, the shame!!!

  11. The snow was lovely wasn't it (though hope your leg has healed now), we had the boys out sledging on the Links opposite us.
    Used to work in the hotel right beside the zoo many years ago and you could hear the animals from some of the rooms.

  12. I really enjoyed the walk with you and the history was a nice touch. I hope your weekend is going great.

  13. I am glad your leg is feeling better. I used to love to walk, before the knee wore out!

  14. For someone with a sore 58 year old leg, you did pretty well! Lovely photos and interesting descriptions to match - your blog really is a joy to read, Isabelle.

  15. That settles it - I'm definitely visiting Edunburgh this year. I've put it off for far too long. You picked a lovely day for photo's. Speedy muscle-healing vibes to you!

  16. I answered Question 4:-) A bit slow at this little exercise, but I'm getting there!

  17. Sorry about the leg. I did enjoy the walk and was very careful not to slip! Loved the milestone!

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed that walk: I love silver birches. Such pretty and civilised trees. There seems such purpose to everything, if that makes any sense. It's lovely.

    You have just solved a silly mystery for me: i am constantly hunting on google for a second hand Orla Kiely bag, since they neither sell them here and I can't afford one anyway, and I keep coming up with "Corstophine" which I had assumed was some type of semi precious stone.....

    I so hope I make it over there this year...

  19. Poor Isabelle! I do hope your 58-year-old leg is better now.
    I enjoyed your walk, especially the flower shop :) There's such history in your corner of the world. You're much older than us ;)
    It's just a year since I slipped on ice in our driveway and fractured my right shoulder. Not a good idea at all. We missed our grandson's 4th birthday party, but made it to his 5th this past weekend. I'm walking extra carefully this winter.

  20. I loved the photos and hope your leg is feeling better, now. You are such a good photographer! The photos made me think I need to add to my "where to take a trip" list! :)

  21. With a beautiful town like that I'd walk home from work too :) Hope your leg feels better soon!

  22. Lovely photos but I kept worrying about your poor leg getting all cold and you not having chenge for the bus...

    You are a very noble soul!

  23. just google "second hand orla kiely" and there you will see...

  24. Anonymous1:37 pm

    Ouch poor you. HOpe it is feeling better now.

    It is so weird to see photos of cold. But Scotland is very beautiful. Seeing photos of snow and old buildings made me feel a bit wistful for the UK - well, just for a second. As I sit outside in shorts and a t-shirt at 10.35pm!