It's been raining but has stopped when I leave the house in West Edinburgh. There is a fair bit of cloud but blue patches too. More worrying is the wind. The tree tops are shaking away. If things go well I may be trying to cross the Forth Road Bridge today, and for that I need it fairly calm.

I was really quite knackered last night but seem to have recovered well. I get the right bus into town (having got the wrong one out last night). These Edinburgh buses are like the Glasgow ones, they don't give change. So I nip into a shop and buy an Edinburgh street map and then get a £3.00 all day ticket confident that it is a bargain. The bus driver is a bit off-hand. Last night when I did not know where to take the ticket from someone behind me told me but in a gruff, impatient way (with the subtext, look, it's here you dim Englishman/Tourist).

This driver, like the two last night is brusque to abrupt. I find it strange because I am used to Glasgow where people are usually friendly and helpful if not positively garrulous. I am beginning to think that the stereotypes may be accurate.

I change buses just out of the centre. I have only had a quick breakfast bar and am still hungry so a pie shop proves irresistible. Tragically their Scotch pies are not ready. So I trudge off sadly to catch my bus back to the Park and Ride. The bus is a different sort to the one I got the all day ticket from and I have to buy another ticket.    Oh well at least the Park and Ride waiting room is gleaming new with clean toilets. Very handy.

And so I set off back into Edinburgh.  Very soon I see a sign announcing that I am in the city. I go up a hill and down it past the Royal Infirmary. Then it is a gentle hill up to a very confusingly signposted roundabout and Cameron Toll shopping centre, where I stop for a cappucino.

I get turned around on my way out, the entrances to the precinct look alike and I think I take a different one out. But fortunately I have the street map and soon work out where I am and that I might as well continue on this road, though it is a different one from the bus route.  So instead of the A7 I continue on in on the A77 or Craigmiller Park which is a long straight road of substantial stone houses, most of which now seem to be hotels.  This becomes Minto Street and at the top of a long hill it changes quite suddenly, becoming studenty with lots of cafes and young people bustling about.

And then it is downhill in to the centre, past familiar sights like Surgeon's Hall and the Royal Mile. And past that pie shop which has its Scotch pies ready at last .

I cross the Royal Mile and continue down to Princes Street.  Now I know that it is a commonplace that Edinburgh is a beautiful and impressive city. But the truth is the place really is amazing.  I have formulated a theory as to why it looks so fantastic, which is that the Victorian Gothic splendour of things like the Scott Monument just look right because of the precipitous tenements of the Old Town.  It is as three dimensional a city as New York (OK I have never been to New York) much more so than London is. Partly because of topography, the Castle and Arthur's Seat etc, but also because their are so many buildings and monuments which are taller than they are broad.

Plus the fact that St Giles Cathedral (like the Wallace Monument at Stirling) was designed by Sauron before he went completely to the bad.

All in all it is a fantastic looking place. And if the natives are a wee bit snooty and snotty, well who can blame them?

I don't go down Princes Street though but Rose Street because I want to go to Tiso. I had nipped in here in the rain yesterday, to check the waterproofs and they have some on sale. I also need more maps.

The sale jackets are North Face, a brand I have never bought but am prejudiced against on the grounds that they are so fashionable that they are taking over the world. Still, I suppose that might be good sign. No I don't. The fact that trendy twenty somethings in Islington like to wear it is absolutely no guarantee that it will be any good if you are in a blizzard in the Cairngorms.

On the other hand, serious brands like Helly Hansen and Berghause have had their moments of demented clubber fashionability, so it doesn't preclude them from being decent.  What I really want, to replace the waterproof I left on the train at Carlisle last time out, is a Lowe Alpine one, but no one seems to be selling them any more. Strange.

Anyway, there is a blue North Face waterproof that is on offer. £120 rather than £180 or so. It is a "packlite" lightweight one but the hood is solid. So seems ideal for the walk. The colour a darkish blue, is dull but not objectionable. So I buy it. But they don't have the map I need.

So I have to check out a couple more gear shops which all seem to be in and around Rose Street. Nevisport does have the map but predictably it is up about seven floors.

I walk on down to the end of Princes Street.  I am looking for somewhere appealing to eat. One pie not being sufficient, but don't see anywhere. Take a few pics of the Castle and then take a road called Queensferry Road, which seems like a good sign.

After a little while the road dips down and crosses a bridge over a gorge and looking back Edinburgh shows another face, or rather a behind. The serrried rows of buildings overlooking the gorge, the back of the centre of town, look almost Italian to me.

It really is a fabulous city. But I have to get on so turn and walk on along the busy road, taking a detour up an elegant row of houses set back slightly from the main road.  And so I nearly miss an amazing looking building down the hill to the North East. I take a pick and look it up on the map. Fettes College.

So that is Tony Blair's old school. Yes, just the place you would imagine a Labour leader going to. New Labour anyway.

It all seems to be posh schools round here. I pass another one. The road becomes dull. Straight, wide and busy. Every now and then I reach a junction and it gets busier until I get to the A90.

Now it is grim. Roaring, constant, speeding traffic. This goes straight to my destination but I am wondering if I should have found a more entertaining route, especially after yesterday.  Still, I am stuck with it now really. Worse, I seem to have run out of shops and cafes. I did go past one appealing looking place but it was so busy that I decided not to bother.

So on I plod and a plod it truly is. At last the road bends and starts to go down a long, gradual hill. The road is now a roaring duel carriageway but at the bottom of the hill there is a pub. And it looks quite modern, gastro-pubby or at least a chain version.

With some difficulty I cross the road. They are still serving food and I order the usual pint of soda water and lime to rehydrate and liver and bacon.

This comes with mash and is quite good but there is not a trace of any vegetables other than the potato. You are in Scotland now, Spencer.

The sit down is great though and I have a pot of tea before I leave.

Now the road improves. There is a road that detours slightly from the main one, and then footpath up the side of it which would be very pleasant without the traffic noise.

The footpath takes me up to the B924 which takes me quickly away from all the traffic. Past various gatehouses to the Dalmeny House Estate. Up a hill and at the crest I get a glimpse of the Forth Road Bridge.

A family is cycling down the hill. They come off a cycle way on to the busy road for this steep descent. Mum with a slightly older boy, dad with a younger boy on one of those bikes that is attached to his own. They carry on down the hill while the mum and older boy cross to walk down the same pavement as me. I offer to let them pass but she says the boy wants to walk.

Sensible boy. The traffic is not heavy but it is fast and the hill here is enclosed with trees making it very dark. I realise with horror that the father and wee boy have no lights and that I can barely make them out against the foliage. Madness. The camera automatically makes it look a lot lighter than it is in reality.

I pass a sign announcing that I am in South Queensferry and soon am walking under the red lead meccano structure of the rail bridge. The Road bridge looks perilously high and delicate, not much further on.

The road delivers me to a sort of promenande. Suddenly I am in a different world.  Tourists take photos and well they might. The view is spectacular and it has turned into a lovely evening. Between the two bridges the Firth of Forth looks splendid with the wooded hill of North Queensferry awaiting across the water, boats plying between the two vast structures, seagulls flying.

It is a sort of seaside scene but not like any I have seen before. Or rather I have seen it because I have been over both rail and road bridges but I have never had the leisure to appreciate what a unique place this is before.

But I cannot afford to linger too long and walk on and into the town of South Queensferry, which proves to be much more pretty and quaint than I expected.

There is a bit of a problem on the map. Or rather on the maps because I am using both the OS 25,000 and the Edinburgh street map. There is no direct route up to the road bridge shown on either. There does look to be a way but it involves climbing the hillside and then going back along a residential street through a housing estate, and then hopefully wiggling through to the main road before it reaches the bridge. It is not clear that there is a way but it looks likely.

Under the bridge on the other side is a road winding straight up with a cycle track marking. Briefly I consider taking it as it does look a if it might lead straight up to the bridge. But I can see no sign of it on either map and cannot see where it actually goes. And I am tired now. If I take that up and, as is likely, it is some sort of service road that does not actually lead to the bridge road but is seperated from it by yawning gaps, a wall or three land duel carriage ways I will have to come all the way back and still wind through the housing estate.

So relcutantly I stick to the original plan. The hill is steep and it is warm now in the sun so I grind up it with clenched teeth. The walk along the street is pleasant though as there are views across to the bridges and firth. I fnd my way through to the point that is not clear on the map to a little park and see a woman walking a dog go through a gap in the fence to a less kempt area. Beyond that I can see the traffic queueing for the toll booths. And then I come across a funky sign. A relative of the sign posts I first saw leaving Northamptonshire on the cycle path to Market Harborough. Someone has been busy, Sustrans perhaps?

There is a way through! So long as there is a footpath. No, there must be. It is marked on the OS map. But as I get onto the bridge and start walking down there is a barrier across the foot and cycle way. The footpath is closed for repair.

But before I can panic I see it says there is another one. There is an underpass I have to go through. This feels strange, going under an underpass on a bridge but it gets me to the other side and, just as I come out, I see the top of bit of metalled track that looks like it must be the top of the cycle way that I considered trying and rejected.

Bloody Sod's law!

So now it is the bridge. Fortunately the wind has eased considerably. Less comfortably the walkway is at the very edge with the cycle way to the right and then the vehicle carriageways, and the railing is quite low. I would not mind at all if it was a foot or two higher.

I have to do it though, any alternative now would involve lots of hassle. So I set off determined to just look at my feet if the vertigo gets too bad.

I have not gone far when a car horn right behind me makes me jump. A white van is driving up the cycle/walkway, very slowly, presumably to check it. The two men smile at me and drive on.

It is not until the bridge gets over the water that it becomes really nerve racking, though. There is a very pronounced rise, almost as if the bridge was a low hill, which seems strange but is obviously a function of the fact it is so big and a suspension bridge.

The views to the west are spectacular now. I can see mountains in the distance. I think Ben Lomond and some pointy peaks that must, I think, be the Arrochar Alps. They seem further south than I would expect, due west of me.  But there is nothing that big or pointed to the south of them apart from Goat Fell on Arran and they are clearly not that.

Every now and then I stop to take a photo but it is uncomfortable. Big lorries make the bridge wobble beneath my feet. When I am walking this is not very noticable but as soon as I stop it feels like earthquake tremors.

So I press on. Glad to reach the first of the suspension pylons. I think there must be about a kilometer between them, looking at the map so time myself to check and take my mind of the height and wobbling. Worse, the wind gets up now I am well over the water. It is not too bad but a good deal stronger than it was. I just hope it is not going to get any worse.

A few cyclists pass me. Mostly serious sorts in lycra, heads down and whizzing over the bridge.

Walk on. Wow that view is good. Must take a photo. Stop. wobble, wobble. Shit, I don't like that. Snap. Walk on. Shit, fantastic, if that is the Arrochar Alps where is The Cobbler? Stop. Wobble, wobble. Shit, I really don't like that. Walk on. Is that wind getting stronger? That is a fucking long way down. No, don't look you idiot! Just walk on. But that view really is fantastic. Stop, wobble, wobble, wobble, snap, snap... Shit, I don't like that...

At last I reach the summit and then, after a bit more walking on, stopping and wobbling, begin to descend. North Queensferry looks inviting, a steep promontory clothed in green trees.  I must admit I will be glad to be on that solid land.

Up ahead I see a figure. The first walker I have met on this bridge crossing. It is a woman on her own. She gives me a terse nod and plods on. She doesn't look as if she likes this any more than I do.

I reach the second pylon at last and my timings suggest that a kilometer between them is right. On the last stretch now I see more figures on the footpath. A family of three: man woman and teenage girl. When we meet I say hello and they completely ignore me, trudging on across the bridge in the sunset. Strange.

And then at last I am on dry land again. The wind has dropped away to nothing and I am in sunshine. And have walked my way, as a sign helpfully confirms, from London to Fife.

The walk to the station involves going down hill, under the bridge which gives a good view of the railway bridge, and then down to the sea level.

I see a curlew looking for food on the shore and try taking a few photos. The light has faded greatly and I can hardly see it but I try a few shots to check out the capabilities of the new camera.

Then I have to grind up a horribly steep little hill. A train goes over as I do so and I wonder if that means I will be stuck, as North Queensferry is a tiny place, for a long time waiting for the next one.

But when I get to the station it turns out that the next train is in about five minutes. Strange but I am not complaining.

Soon I am whizzing back across the Firth trying to take photos of the road bridge through the dirty train window as a friendly guard waits patiently to sell me a ticket. And in no time I am getting off at Haymarket and finding the bus stop.

Back at Susan and Nick's, Susan is cooking chicken. I have a gorgeous bath, eat very good chicken and drink a bit too much red wine, still a bit knocked out by the experience of walking over the bridge.

OK, it had its boring bits, I might have found a more interesting route out of Edinburgh, but that was a truly spectacular day.



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