The sun hugs us warmly as we leave the flat – but we’re prepared, as always, for any change in the weather. On the bus shards of sunlight are focused into intense beams of heat. We remove our jackets, and then our jumpers. We are driven through Leith, then along the straight roads heading towards the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. We depart at a small crossing where a Tesco meets an upmarket charity shop meets a local pub. The air is softly scented with pub lunch – chicken, chips and pork. We grab lunch from the supermarket, and note the air of locality here despite still being in the city – no automatic self checkouts, and staff who know the faces of their customers. Lauriston Castle awaits.
We walk to the grounds and admire the still bare trees in the car park. A bleach-white holly bush grabs our attention as we wind our way down the road towards the castle. We miss the building completely, finding ourselves near the public convenience, and we wander from there into decorated Victorian gardens – still bare in early spring. Behind a couple of wrought iron gates is a pathway, and beyond that a large field full of drowsy sleep. They baaa longingly, gaze at us with empty expressions, and munch munch munch. A murmuring of bees catches our attention, and we are guided by our ears to a fenced off area swarming with the busy insects. Two hives for honey, and a small board telling folk to keep some distance.
We sit opposite with doughnuts, the sun finds us through the bare canopy of the trees. Over the fields we can see Cramond island, and beyond this the land on the other side of the Forth. The land eases down to the coast, and rises just as neatly out of the water on the opposing bank, both sides appear rural – grass trimmed by cattle, trees only present to line the ditches. Behind us is the castle itself – more of a country house than a defensible fortress. Large windows look out onto the gardens, stacks of chimneys appear like interlaced combs. A man plays solitary croquet on the lawn, swinging the mallet between his legs.
There’s a Japanese garden on the grounds, which, though unusual, blends rather well with its surroundings. Water, stone and low trees populate the small circle of land, and we vow to come back when spring has finally hit Scotland – to see those trees in blossom would be an event worth remembering! Children clamber over the ornate wooden bridge where a short artificial waterfall has been created, and other children fish at the edge of the lower banks, digging their fingers into the mud and chasing one another around and around and around… though it sounds frantic, it is the complete opposite – their activity is a kind of peace, a playfulness in a landscape that in early spring feels still too bare.
The route from the castle to Cramond entails walking along the edge of an often busy road. There are views off to the right, over fields of sheep, and then out to sea. The sheep distracted us from the traffic, and soon we were sharing cups of tea in the gardens of a local pub – overlooking Cramond Island and the beach. There was a mesmeric quality to watching the children play below, chasing after footballs or scooting around on bicycles. We wandered down and walked along the river Almond, enjoying the pure sunshine that now blessed us with its presence. It felt wonderful to be under a canopy of leaves. We walked and walked, following the turns of the river, meeting the rapids, and then discovering unidentified ruins of the Cammo Estate. Beyond this was the powerful roar of water.