All posts by yodamo



Its Daisy’s 3rd birthday (in dog years) & I thought it a good time for her to do her first semi-urban walk. Thus so, it was time for the legendary swagger that is the potter around Inveresk village. To get the lungs pumping, its best to start this walk from a wee side-road just off the A1. Coming off at the Wallyford junction, one heads north along Salter’s Road (the A6094), when just beyond the motorway there is an immediate left-turn. This road drops your down past a monument & into a cul-de-sac of sorts. You can park up anywhere along the road really, at the bottom of which the walk to Inveresk is sign-posted, whose houses you can see in the distance, over the fields.



The path skirts the motorway to its left for a while, before veering off towards the houses & crossing a great sweep of fielderie. Soon enough one rises & drops over the railway where Virgin Trains hurtle to and from London in a mad dash to beat the times of the budget airlines. At the bridge, if one turns around for a moment, there is a board to read which gives details of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, fought on the 10th September 1547 as part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing meant to convince Mary Queen of Scots to marry Henry VIII’s only son, Edward.



A Virgin Train heading south


Fought upon the untouched fields before us, the field has been excellently preserved for the battle-imagination from unscrupulous property developers. Not far away the Prestonpans battlefield is not so lucky & is under serious threat from greedy money-thugs who simply ignore our universal historical inheritance in pursuit of a quick buck. But by Pinkie Clough there is enough of an open expanse to imagine the massed phalanxes of pikemen advancing to the thudding tune of cannonshot & battleshout.



The last pitched battle to be fought between English and Scottish armies, Pinkie was a bit of a bloodbath really, where 10,000 of 30,000 Scots were slaughtered, & the day’s events long remembered as ‘Black Saturday.’ Not wanting to linger too long in such an eerie place of death I continued north from the railway bridge, reaching the pretty outskirts of Inveresk. The final fields before the village were filled either side with cohorts of marching brussels sprouts, as if these were in fact the two armies at Pinkie, just about to close in battle. An excellent description of Scots-in-Arms was made by William Patten, an officer on the English side.

They cum to the felde well furnished all with jak and skull, dagger, buckler, and swoordes, all notably brode and thin, of excedinge good temper, and universally good to slice. hereto everie man hi spyke, their array towrads joining with the enemy they cling & thrust so nere in the front rank shoulder to shoulder together, with their pykes over their foregoers’ shouldersthat no force can well withstand them



As the path turned into the tarmac’d Crookston Road, we reached Inveresk, Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement. Two hundred years ago, while writing his book on Edinburgh, William Maitland breathed out thro’ his pen; ‘the beautiful village of Inveresk, which from its Situation, Houses, & Salubrity of Air, is justly reckoned the finest Village & most healthy place in Scotland.’ Stuffed full of lovely old buildings of the 17th/18th centuries, the Portmeirioin of the north is a secret to most of the Lothians, but belove us this wee enclave of serenity is well worth a visit. Me & Daisy really dug the vibes; a quiet convalescenty place that sat well with my lack-of-lead-use. I only had to carry Daisy a couple of times on the entire walk, & we were there a while.




We had arrived at the the Shepherd House, just one of the numerous buildings bubbling with character. My blog is too short to rattle on about them all, so I’ll just highlight this one & leave the others to future walkers of East Lothian. Built in the old Scottish style, with high pitched rooves & crowdstepped gable, the house looks sincerely superb. Its gardens are also open to the public, but the most curious part of the house is a padded room used for lunatics, with the house possibly being used as a private asylum. Indeed the equally pretty White House nearby kept a long & elaborate list of the lunatics & their symptoms who stayed in the residence.


With the Shepherd House & its garden on our left, we turned right up Double Dykes. Allotments soon appeared on our right as we traversed a tarmac’d path to the widely-swathed Lewisvale Park & its Musselburgh Cricket Club. Daisy loves such open spaces & began to pirouette madly about me in some kind of psychedelic orbit as I strode across the flat field.



A smallish hut-thing caught my eye & I went to investigate. It turned out to be a lovely old gentleman called Tony Saunders, fixing a bike or three. He was from Barking originally, but after a 25 year stint in the airforce, & marrying a Clydebank nurse, a job came up in Musselburgh in the 70s & he has been here since. Becoming a person of a certain age, he revels in a local scheme which gets similar-aged people out & about riding bikes donated, in the main, by local university students after their three year tenure in the nearby campus.



At the top of the cricket field, we reach an eroding monument to the time that the Duke of Somerset used the cricket field (before cricket was invented, mind) just before the Battle of Pinkie. It was situated overlooked a chicaning path that led us down into the rest of Lewisvale Park, a most splendid place indeed. Turning left, the path took us into a series of sites – like the stations of the cross – including a bandstand around which babymothers were jogging their figures back, & a Heritage Lottery funded aviary of all things, full of colourful chirping birds.



The aviary



Interesting iron…


At the end of the park, we reached the main road by Musselburgh Grammar School. Heading left uphill, we were soon at a junction. here we turned right along Inveresk Village Road, soon coming to Saint Michael’s Parish Kirk. There has been a Christian centre here since St Modwenna, & by the Middle Ages had become quite an important ecclesiastical. Of its founder & foundation, John S Stuart-Glennie, in his ‘Arthurian localities,’ writes;

On Dunpeledur also, as likewise on the three fortified rocks of Edinburgh, Stirling, and Dumbarton, at Dundonald, in Ayrshire, and Chilnacase, in Galloway, Saint Monenna (Modwenna) or Darerca of Kilslleibeculean, in Ulster, founded a church, and nunnery. These foundations appear to synchronise with the re-establishment of the Christian Church in these districts by Arthur, who was pre-eminently a Christian hero fighting against pagan Saxons and apostate Picts.


Turn right here…



We found the kirk to be deep in stonework, so we simply strolled around the fascinating graveyards, with some of the best views of the Lothians I’ve seen. Observing such excellent vistas inspired the Romans to build a substantial castra (fort) upon the lands which the graveyard stands. Appearing as ‘Evidensca‘ in the Ravenna Cosmography, the fort & its cavalry garrison formed the easternmost outpost of the Antonine Wall in 142 AD.  A flourishing vicus civilian settlement of timber strip buildings grew around the present village area, where arial photography & archeology has reveled corncupias of Roman sites & artefacts.


The site of the Roman fort


Sir_Archibald_Hope_of_Pinkie,_Baronet,_Knight_of_The_Turf.gifOf the graves checked out by me & Daisy, a few stood out, including quite a number of Napoleonic victims, such as William Norman Ramsay whose body was reinterred in the graveyard from the very fields of Waterloo. A rather interesting grave was that of the anonymous Mary; perhaps the illegitimate sister of a wealthy nobleman. Another was the impressive family tomb of Sir Archilbald Hope, who appears as a portly portrait in John Kay’s ‘Knight of the Turf.’ This classic Scottish Enightenment figure drained and cultivated a marshy piece of land south of Edinburgh – known today as The Meadows, but historically often referred to as Hope Park.




Leaving the graveyard we returned the way we came, but at the War monument, take the path down to the right, which leads to The Grove, a wide green area beside the River Esk. We followed the riverpath to our left, keeping the river on our right, with Musselburgh golf course just over the rushing  waterflow.





The path skirts a small estate of sorts, one of many of the noble gardens still intact after the centuries. When the wall on your left finally peters out into nothingness, a house-topped field appears, marking the direction-shift of our walk. One must here turn left & follow the charcoal-coloured path up the field’s steep left.




At the top of the field d, go through the gate & continue left along the road – this was the second timne I picked Daisy up, but there was no traffic to worry about. Crossing the main road, we soon came to the Shepherd House again, where turning right led us along Crookston Road again, back towards the car. As we walk’d across the Pinkie fields, I was on my phone googling details of the battle, one segment of which I could imagine being played out on the Fa’side slopes far before me.

IMG_20180319_115632793.jpgJust before the carnage began, a strange burst of chivalry burst out between the two armies; the death spasm, perhaps, of an age before gunpowder. The Earl of Home led 1,500 Scottish horsemen – mostly Borderes – close to the English encampment and challenged an equal number of English cavalry to fight. With Somerset’s reluctant approval, Lord Grey accepted the challenge and engaged the Scots, who were badly cut up and were pursued west for 3 miles. After this the Scottish cavalry was basically KO’d from the main fighting. William Patten, described the slaughter inflicted on the Scots;

Soon after this notable strewing of their footmen’s weapons, began a pitiful sight of the dead corpses lying dispersed abroad, some their legs off, some but houghed, and left lying half-dead, some thrust quite through the body, others the arms cut off, diverse their necks half asunder, many their heads cloven, of sundry the brains pasht out, some others again their heads quite off, with other many kinds of killing. After that and further in chase, all for the most part killed either in the head or in the neck, for our horsemen could not well reach the lower with their swords. And thus with blood and slaughter of the enemy, this chase was continued five miles in length westward from the place of their standing, which was in the fallow fields of Inveresk until Edinburgh Park and well nigh to the gates of the town itself and unto Leith, and in breadth nigh 4 miles, from the Firth sands up toward Dalkeith southward. In all which space, the dead bodies lay as thick as a man may note cattle grazing in a full replenished pasture. The river ran all red with blood, so that in the same chase were counted, as well by some of our men that somewhat diligently did mark it as by some of them taken prisoners, that very much did lament it, to have been slain about 14 thousand. In all this compass of ground what with weapons, arms, hands, legs, heads, blood and dead bodies, their flight might have been easily tracked to every of their three refuges. And for the smallness of our number and the shortness of the time (which was scant five hours, from one to well nigh six) the mortality was so great, as it was thought, the like aforetime not to have been seen


As for the wooing, the infant Queen Mary was smuggled out of Scotland to France, where she would later marry Francis, Dauphin of France, in 1558. Pinkie was a futile exercise really, & within fifty years, at the Union of the Crowns, the English & Scots put down their weapons & began to hug each other like long-lost, but happily renuited cousins!



Over Kidlaw / The Castles


As an aesthetic artist, I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with snowmelt. The variety it brings to photographs is immensely satisfying, especially up in the hills with all those lovely rolling contours. For this week’s walk it had to be the Lammermuirs, & I found myself going up two times to the same area because of the sheer quality of air, scenery & solitude. Firstly, & just after the up-county roads had opened following the Beast from the East, me & Daisy headed to Kidlaw for a wide circumnavigation of the Lammerloch Reservoir. A few days later we went to check out an intriguing Iron Age hillfort known as The Castles, at the heart of the Longyester Quarry system.



To reach Kidlaw from most parts of the county, get yourselves to Gifford first, then going up towards the golf club, turn left in the direction of Longnewton. This is a wee hamlet of tall, fine, pastel-painted houses standing in a neat row. It is also something of a T-junction, & half-way between our two walks.

Daisy admiring the fine houses at Longnewton

Turning right, the car ribbon’d along the last road before the Lammermuirs, the edge of civilisation, so to speak, & beautiful place to be. Above us buzzards, sparrowhawks and kestrels spiral’d thro the air like a dogfight over London. Behind us the vista spread magnificently along a smooth swathe of green fields & then the Forth, & beyond that the paps of Fife. We were driving  through a part of Yester parish; based around the kirk at Gifford, I’ll leave Reverand Innes, in the Statistical Account of Scotland to introduce matters (1791-99).




There’s plenty of parking at Kidlaw farm, & also some very interesting folklore. Adjoining the farmhouse are the ruins of The Ward, said to have been a keep or baronial prison. In former times, long before the Access Code Scotland (2003), the local lairds of Newtonhall would imprison inside its redoubtable, 5′ thick walls; ‘sturdy beggars, landloupers, tinkers, idle vagabonds & ragamuffins who were trespassing on the lands of Newtonhall.’ These scruffy guys & gals had come up over the Lammermuirs from the direction of Lauderdale, when, ‘arose the necessity of having a secure lock-up to confine them, & prevent them from prowling about the countryside.’ The Ward also used to give a night’s shelter to wayworn travelers, a group of whom, described as gypsies, were on one occasion surprised by James V.

I’m from Burnley myself, Pendle Witch Country, & in the very same year – 1612 – that the old crones Demdike & Annie Chattox were being tried & executed for witchcraft in Lancaster, at Kidlaw a certain Bessie Henderson was also getting into bother. She even confessed to having been “tane away with fyve hellis houndis” which never helps your case, & alongside ‘Katherine Conynghame‘ from Samuelston, went the way as the North Berwick witches & all those other poor ladies who happened to be a bit different under an extremely superstitious king (James VI).



Looking back towards Kidlaw

It was time to hit the walk. There was lots of snow, but not impassible, & there was glorious hill country stretching all before us. We first went through a gate at the same time as a bevvy of ladies off to ride their horses in the fields. Me & Daisy instead stuck to the track-path, keeping a small dam & a stream to our left.





After passing some containers on our right, the track led upwards towards a gate, beyond which lay the frozen emerald of Lammerloch reservoir (opened 1905). Keeping this to our right, we found ourselves winding through a muddy, steep-sided narrow valley.


Looking left down the stream-valley towards Kidlaw


The track then passes a smaller waterbody called Latch Loch. After this comes a gate where one should turn right, but before doing so its only a little diversion to check out the ‘Minsters House’ as I like to call it, standing by another pond. With no power to speak of, it is used by a couple of ministers every now & again for ascetic meditation. Its always nice to just be there a few moments, sharing soul-energy in a religious haven.


Approaching The Ministers
The view of the road from The Ministers
Back at the gate, one should turn left

Returning the way we came, & reaching the gate, me & Daisy turn’d left & headed uphill. It felt marvelous on the tundra & the snow, Daisy was loving it, & the views were simply delicious. Keeping a stream below us to our right, we followed the track for quite a way.  At the top of the field we then veered right up to a cairn of stones, & enjoyed the Olympian loftiness of it all.




Looking back the way we came…
Veer right here



It was time to head home, & the hill sloped kindly back in the direction of the Lammerloch. At the bottom of the field we followed the track into a field next door-but-one to the reservoir. This led us at a slow, happy pace back to the eastern edge of Lammerloch, where I noticed animal prints on the frozen ice.





After climbing over the gate, the view back along the track




It was time to return the way we came. On the descent to Kidlaw to our front right rose the snowy summit of a prehistoric hillfort on Highside Hill. One of a number of such elevated defence-works in East Lothian, I’m looking forward to making a study of them in the nearish future. My instinct is that the one’s against the Lammermuirs form some kind of Maginot Line for the Votadini, one of which we shall be looking at the now…

Kidlaw hillfort
Annotated draft inked plans of The Castles (left) and Kidlaw (right)




Driving through Longnewton from Kidlaw, one soon comes to the entrance-way at Longyester Quarry, where there’s lots of space to park either before or beyond the gate. Once inside the massive field, turn immediately right & skirt its edges. There’s sheep about & this time of the year there lambs as well, frolicking away in mild confusion.



It had been about five days since we did the Kidlaw walk, but there was still snowy patches here & there, finishing like glaciers on the rims of slopes. Daisy was thrill’d to be back among the white stuff as we kept the stream to our right as it gently curved to the left. At one point on this stretch we came across the detritus of sheep, where wool-shed & droppings made interesting patterns on the floor.


Sheep art

As one follows the stream, to the front rises The Castles hillfort. You also notice a wall/fence dropping towards the stream. Treat this as an arrow pointing to where you should cross.


Cross here – fence is broken so quite easy to hop over

Over the stream & climbing up the slopes, we found ourselves wandering in a windblast an intimidating multivallate, semi-promontory fort. Major lines of defences can still be made out, & it really is one of the hidden gems of the county. This is probably on account of the noisy mechanicals of nearby Longyester quarry putting off the feng-shui-feeling, serenity-seeking walker since 1976.


Longyester Quarry


Now here’s the interesting part. The stream that we followed and crossed to reach The Castles is known as the Dambadam Burn, which easily changes phonetically into Dun Badon, ie the hillfort of Badon. A famous Arthurian battle was fought at such a named place, & of course East Lothian has Arthurian connections via King Loth. At first it seems that the Badam element could relate to Saint Bathan/Bothon, to whom Yester Kirk was dedicated. Yet in the Transactions of the Antiquarian & Field Naturalists’ Society (1963/v.IX), James Bulloch wrote;

In the course of the centuries this church acquired a spurious dedication because of the similarity of its name to St. Bathans on the southern slope of the Lammermuirs. Even in the late middle ages the name Bothans became transform’d into St Bothans but there is clear evidence that the original dedication was to Saint Cuthbert. It is told in the Lanercost Chronicle that in 1282 the woodwork of the choir ‘of the church of Bothans in Lothian‘ was being carved at the expense of the rector ‘in honour of Saint Cuthbert, whose church it is.’

We also have the fact that the Roman Geographer, Ptolemy, recorded the Firth of Forth as Boderia, giving us a significant Boder-Badon correlation. Assuming that Dumbadam deriviated from Dum Badon, here is a wee chronicle I’ve assembl’d which shows how an East Lothian location makes sense, chronologically & geographically.

516, Annales Cambraie: The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors. 

The Anglo-Saxons had occupied the Forth area since about 450 AD. Arthur at first kicked them out of Edinburgh, known as the Battle of Mount Agnet, before winning his final battle at Badon, after which the Anglo-Saxons were driven out of the Lothians.

 623, Annals of Ulster: The storming of  Rath Guali by Fiachna son of Baetan.

Rath Guali was the Anglo-Saxon stronghold of Bamborough, in Berwickshire. Fiachna son of Baetan was a Gaelic Scot, whose father ruled Ireland & Alba. There is an old Irish poem which reads; Many score of miles From Dun Baetan in Lethead, And much of land as of sea Between it and Imlech Ibhair.’ Imlech Ibhair is in Tipperary, Ireland, & if one were to head towards Lethead, ie Lothian, from there, & sail from Dublin to the Solway, there would indeed be equal amounts of land & sea.

Edin’s Hall Broch

 640, Annals of Tigernach: The siege of Etan.

A lot of scholars presume this to be Edinburgh, but it could also be  Edin’s Hall Broch, near Duns. If I am right, this shows how the Angles are beginning their push north again.

664, Annals of Ulster: The battle of Luith Feirn i.e. in Fortrenn. 
665, Annales Cambraie: The second battle of Badon. 

Allowing for the slight discrepancies in Irish annal-keeping, it is possible that these two battles are one & the same. Luith is clearly Lothian (feirn means land) while Fortenn (sometimes Fortriu) is essentially the Pictish world south of the Great Glen. The Roman writer, Ammianus Marcellinus, describes, ‘the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones,’ from which passage we see the foundation of Fortrui in Verturiones. Fortriu naturally is the etymylogical root of Forth. Intetrstingly, at Doon Hill an Angle hall was erected c.650, which could be of significance.

After these events, in 681 Bishop Trumwine had established a Bishopric at Abercorn, near Falkirk, showing how the Angles had conquered the rest of East Lothian & beyond. The highwater mark of the invasion would come at Nechtansmere in 685, after which these fledgling sassanachs were slowly pushed back towards Berwickshire.

The road back to the car…

Was The Castles once called Mount Badon? Probably, but only a proper archeological dig would prove the matter. If it does, the site would take on elements of national dignity, for it was the place which first held the ‘English’ from conquering Northern Britain. Our island’s first historian, Gildas, in his ‘De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae,’ after declaring the Anglo-Saxons had ‘dipped their red and savage tongue in the western ocean’ & assaulted Britain, & after a resistance had sprung up in response;

From that time, the citizens were sometimes victorious, sometimes the enemy, in order that the Lord, according to His wont, might try in this nation the Israel of to-day, whether it loves Him or not. This continued up to the year of the siege of Badon Hill (obsessionis Badonici montis), and of almost the last great slaughter inflicted upon the rascally crew. 

Washing the Lammermuirs off Daisy

Beside the Snowy Tyne


‘Apres nous, le deluge,’ & this morning the roads of East Lothian are flowing with snowmelt. Last Wednesday, the Zombie Apocalypse flew in from Siberia, & county-wide the streets were full of slowly shuffling pedestrians desperately hunting for bread & milk. A lot of the remoter settlements were cut off completely, out of which situations the spirit of Dunkerque bloom’d & blossom’d in the souls of all. One Garvald resident, Liz Leckie, put up a facebook post reading;

The Garvald road

So after 4 days of being unable to leave Garvald, me and Luke just made it out to get supplies. I have to confess I have loved the whole experience. Being stuck at home and realising that outside help wasn’t coming to the village meant everyone had no choice but to rely on each other and the community spirit was something to behold. Stay safe friends and remember if u can’t get milk there’s always coffeemate lol

As for me & Daisy, she really does love the snow, & thoroughly enjoyed testing her burgeoning scent-detectors by digging out balls in the garden. As for a walk, I thought it better to stick to the main arteries, & so settl’d upon an amble beside the Tyne in Haddington I’d scouted out a few weeks earlier. On that occasion I was out composing poetry, which resulted in a facebook post of my own.

My notebook on the path

So me & Daisy are out wandering Lennoxlove & Coulston while I was writing some poetry. Gets back home, & I’m like, wheres my book. Retracing my steps in a panic just before dusk, mind racing about recomposing the lost stanzas, & 3 miles later the book, my pen & the spare pencil all turn up. Result !!!



The walk begins by parking at Tyne House in Haddington, next to the historically ornate Poldrate Arts & Crafts Cente in the wonderful Elizabeth Hamilton Buildings. It was nice to be in the county capital. Once the fourth largest town in Scotland, & clearly the most picturesque town centre in the land, Haddington is in the middle of celebrating its 700th birthday as a burgh. The town’s relatively small population of 9000 is just about to get an impressive swelling of numbers from extensive new developments all around the outskirts – perhaps enough new customers to finally convince Sainsburys to build their bloody supermarket!


Like many other fine old mansions of yore, Tyne House has been divided up into separate tenements like some Post-Berlin-Wall-Fall communist country. Of its previous owners, Captain William Wilkie  was an interesting fellow. I cannot find a picture of him, but he would have looked something like the fellow in the painting below, which you can actually see in Haddington library at the moment as part of an exhibition by Scottish painter James Howe (1780-1836).

Wilkie was in charge of one of the two companies of Haddington Volunteers, form’d to fend off the invasion of Napoleon after the collapse of the Peace of Amiens in 1803. That Napoleon had his army ready to invade via Bolougne suggest the invasion was probably meant for the South East, but the Spanish Armada did circumnavigate the entire island, so it probably made sense. The Haddington Volunteers trained twice a week & were barracked in timber on a site where the Artillery Park housing was built. The presence of the army did the town the world of good, by the way, with soldier’s pay packets & cultural diversity enriching the inhabitants in a most positive fashion, & probably mixing up the gene-pool along the way.


Starting the walk, while at the house, spend a moment to appreciate the graceful single segmental arch, with dressed-stone arch ring, coursed-rubble spandrels and wing walls of the Waterloo Bridge. Of its history, John Martine in his Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington (1883) writes;

There was no stone bridge across the Tyne at this point until 1817, when the Waterloo Bridge was built. There was a ford, and stepping-stones, and a wooden bridge for foot-passengers a little way above it. The mound from which this first foot-bridge started is yet well marked a little below the Sting-dam sluice. The foundation of the Waterloo Bridge was laid with high masonic honours by the Marquis of Tweeddale on the 18th June 1817, being the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. 


With the river on your left, head along the path & its avenue of trees. There are two interesting plaques celebrating regally inspired plantings; the first for King George V’s coronation in 1910, & the second stretching all the way back to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838!

The two trees – one for King George & the other for his bride, Mary of Teck


Victoria’s tree

The path continues on, where a steady steam of happy dog-walkers-in-the snow passed me & Daisy. She’s still quiet scared of bigger, older dogs, but she’s getting there. With humans she’s absolutely fine, bordering a tad on the overfriendly, & acts like she’s had a few sweet sherrys at Christmas whenever she meets someone new, often following them off into the distance.



Three years ago, this stretch of the Tyne river walk was fitted with green bars & suggestions on how to use them aerobically. Cara Blair, Community Health and Activity Officer with East Lothian Council, explained how the idea had come about. She said: ‘We’ve been looking at how we can support people who are prone to falls and keep them as active and independent as possible.’ These ‘exercise stations’ are not quite rowing machines, but offer gentle universal routines, including ‘Knee Bends,’ ‘Side Hip Strengthener‘ & ‘Heel Walking.’








After a wee while one reaches a white box girder footbridge, which should be crossed. We are now on the national cycleway 196, but on the day no cycles could be seen on account of the thigh-deep snow. Keeping a large hedge to its left, the path then thrusts towards the main road where, through a gate & turning right, it forms a parallel pathway to the road,. This part of the cycleway is shielded from the pedestrian (& dog) by another large hedge.



The gap in the hedge-fence
The 16th Duke

A couple of hundred meters along this path a gap in the hedge-fence is reached, which faces onto the entrance way to the North Port of Lennoxlove Estate. I’m waiting for a little more foliage to congregate before we walk Lennoxlove, but architecturally North Port is always worth a wee diversion. The estate was bought by the Dukes of Hamilton-  the Hereditary Keepers of the Palace of Holyroodhouse – in 1946, & after he inherited the title & lands, the 16th Duke, Alexander, took up residence in the  North Port while the main house was being catered to his tastes. North Port had been built by his grandmother through the classy architect, Philip Vincent Belloc (1927-95), the noted restorer for National Trust.

What you see from the gap


North Port – built in 1978, the year the 16th Duke was born

After our brief excursion across the road, me & Daisy returned to our walk. The path continued to skirt the snowy immensity of a massive field, before disgorging into a wee woodland world. Here the main path continues by the road, but my earlier scouting knew of a feint but very definitive path to the right that would lead me back to the iron bridge over the Tyne.



Turn right here
Daisy refusing to cross freezing waters (again !)

After descending sharply to a stream, followed by a wee ninja leap & of course Daisy’s stout refusal to cross an icy stream once more, & me having to go back & her here & carry her across – I found myself on the aforementioned path. With great joy I realised that the way was marked out by the prints of a family of deer, & duly followed them. To our right a sharp drop leads to the Tyne, but the path more or less sticks to a ridge.




Eventually one comes to a segment of ruined wall, to the right of which there is gap in the fence which needs to be crawled or stooped through I’m afraid, but its well worth the physicality. Once through,  one becomes surrounded by perfect, peaceful forest; although the path must be traversed at something of an angle.



The gap is at the center of the picture




Daisy studying the wide variety of prints – these, she told me, were from a crow

The sloping path eventually straightens out into something neat & tree-lined, which then descends to an impressively large field. To one’s left the rushing Tyne was making the only sounds to be heard, & we found a couple of human print-trails to follow.




Daisy impersonating a rabbit

There was one last field to cross before reaching the iron walkway across the Tyne. Keeping the river to the left, we reached a wall, top the left of which was the gap into the field. The last time I was here I kept to the margin, of course, but today I had no need as the snow was both deep & hard-packed & we skimmed the surface in the field like Eskimos on tennis-racket shoes – with the occasional plunge into softer snow being quite fun actually.



We emerge’d here


At the end of the field, the Tyne was rushing over a well-crafted weir, & we were soon back on the proper walkway – a bit damp, like, but somewhat spiritually cleansed by our soiree through the snow.




Daisy on our return

Humbie Church Wood


This morning I woke up to the smattery scattering of snowflakes that are the field scouts to the Xerxes-like ‘beast from the east’ thats about to blanket Britain, & especially East Lothian, in snow.  Throughout yesterday daytime, however, there was hardly a flurry, into which I went walking with my mate, John Wood of Haddington. For almost fifty years this delightfully kind, honest & chatty fellow was a vital member of the East lothian Courier team, at first as a compositor & in later years as a proof reader.

A drawing of pilot Archie McKellar who was killed hours after the end of the Battle of Britain

We set off in the car with a freshy groomed Daisy – courtesy of a nice lassie in Aberdlady caravan park -, out towards the SW corner of the county & the parish of Humbie. The original name was Hundeley, as in Keith Hundeley, which joined with the lands of Keith Symmars to create the modern parish. In this instance, Keith is not a man’s name, but ‘large wood’ or ‘forest.’ The area is most famous nationally for being the place where the first German plane of WW2 was shot down by ‘Forgotten Ace’ Archie McKellar from his supermarine spitfire, a Heinkel on the 28th October 1939.





Parking up at the Upper Car Park, we followed the road downhill, during which potter Humbie Kirk came into view – a splendid sight indeed, nestled unegregious in a beautiful sheltered glen. Built in 1800, one enters the kirkyard via a free standing aisle near the gate erected by the Broun family. Once inside, old graves mingle with the new & I must admit that just as Shelley mused, ‘it might make one in love with death, to be buried in so sweet a place’, after seeing the Protestant Cemetery in Rome – where his ashes would one day be interred – I rather like the idea of spending my eternity in Humbie Kirkyard, so pleasant & so sweet a spot it is.




The Kirk’s incumbent minister is a German lady, the Rev. Aniko Schuetz Bradwell. Apparently she is pregnant, so stand-ins are taking her services at the moment, information I found out in a flash from my companion on the scene. Very much a religious man, Mr Wood is a member of the 35,000 strong Episcopalian church in Scotland. Back in 1977 – the year after I was born – he became a part-time non-stipendiary minister, which basically means he didn’t get paid. Still, he did bring faith to the nooks & crannies of East Lothian’s Episcopalia, conducting bus stop services at Dirleton, Yester, Bolton, Garvald & Gifford.

Older graves…
Newer graves

The yearly sacrament at Humbie in the end of July was a great event. Being a widely scattered parish, members had to come long distances from the hills., etc, for the occaison. The church being a pretty long distance from the villages of Upper & Nether Keith, provisions of bread & cheese, ale, etc., had to be priovided in the minister’s barn & offices during the inetervals of service. William Langlands, the innkeeper at Upper Keith, was long the provider of the refreshments, & a good quantity used tt be consumed.John Martine (c.1900)

There have been many notable persons who have worshipped at the kirk, but there is also an unusuality mentioned in the 1845 Statistical Account. There is just something ‘unevolved’ about the chat which I found both fascinating & disturbing, reading; ‘it is a melancholy fact, that there are 8 insane persons in one family, & one in each of two others; but all of them are harmless & inoffensive. The parents of these individuals are correct in their conduct & industrious, though they discover such a degree of mental imbecility as might indicate that the malady is hereditary.’ 

The inhabitants are industrious, & satisfied with their conditiuon. – It is not in the recollection of the oldest person among them, that an inhabitant of this parish has been punished for any crime. Dram-drinking, so prevalent in other parts of Scotland, is a vice utterly unknown, as might be expected from a people, among whom no manufacture has ever been established, & whose sole employment, that of a very few indiviuals, is agriculture. Stat. Acct. Scot. (1799)



Leaving the kirkyard, we passed under an arch at the old stables, beyond which a renovated Doo-Cot came into view on our left. Once home to 500 nesting pigeons, its now a private residence. From here, the road forges forward to one of the oldest bottleheads in the area. Crossing over the Humbie Water since 1645, the ‘Kirk Bridge’ linked the drovers roads of Haddington to the Borders & beyond. It was originally built at his own expense by Adam Hepburn, a senator for justice & large landholder around Humbie. The bridge was only just remade last year, tho’ retaining much of its original shape & structure


Crossing the bridge, & passing an idyllic cottage to our left, we finally entered Humbie Church Wood. Looking at the map we had three choices of route:  the 0.5 kilometre ‘Sycamore’ (green), the 2K ‘Scots Pine’ (blue) & the 2.5K Beech (red). Choosing the moderate nature of the blue route we were soon off, climbing a steep rocky path up onto a plateaux of sorts, out of which grew a great deal of forestry. In such a wood, at this time of year, the large & lovely trees appear like twisted gargoyles caught in their last moments of stycharine agony before being ossified by some errant Medusa.





In his excellent time-capsule of a book, Reminiscences & notices of the Parishes of the County of Haddington (1894), the venerable John Martine records possible spookiness in the area;

An old tradition has been handed down about a mysterious lady dressed in white garments who usesd to appear at night walking in the lady wood (no doubt called after her) which is on the banks of the Humbie Water, opposite the church. Old people long ago firmly believed in the existence of the lady. The tradition is still current in the parish that she was a member of the old family of the Hepburns of Humbie


Humbie Church Wood is famous for harbouring the only colony of the North African herb, Cochlearis Megalosperma in Scotland. How it get to the county no-one knows, but I am of Arabic descent myself (on my father’s side), & was also blown to East Lothian by random &  contravening winds. What are native to Scotland, however, are Humbie Church Wood’s magnificent oaks, which even gain a mention Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion

The green sward way was smooth & good,
Through Humbie & through Salton’s wood,
a forest glade, which, varying still,
Here gave a view of hill & dale,
There narrow, closed, till overhead,
A vaulted screen the branches made.


It was in the presence of Mr Wood that I realised age is just a number. For an eighty year old man, John was nimble on his feet, tho’ he did say he finds it hard to watch a full TV programme to the end, with the inevitable head-droop cutting short the fun. John tries to go for a walk every day, proving that activity & healthy longevity are happily intertwined. The one thing about his age & generation, lets say, is that by not using the internet, his neighbour knows more about what his daughter is doing on the other side of Scotland than he does.


Following the blue woodland route, below us, through the huge depth of a terrific valley, the Humbie water maintained its torturous course, at one point cascading down a small waterfall. Above it all & inside the trees, brushing forwards through the quantaties of spindling naked branches felt very much like being in a cave full of cobwebs. It was also extremely quiet; ears straining to hear through a complete lack of breeze the individual chirps of birds & the gentlest gurgles of stream-water. At this point our chat lay also becalm’d & we happily enjoy’d the moment.

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After a wee while the path began to drop to the Humbie Water, with the path becoming more & more mud-churned as we did so. The crossing was made via rocks in the stream – Daisy point blank refused & scampered back the way we came, resulting in a minute-long dash to fetch her back across the stream in my arms. From here the walk continued, a little disorientating, but always kept in check by well-placed sign-posts & the sacred blue arrows of our walk.




Almost back at the car

Eventually we came to a big pile of logs on our left & ahead the woods took on a familiar look from earlier. A few minutes later we were back at the kirk & climbing the road back to the car. At this point Mr Wood began singing ‘Daisy, Daisy,’ with the most dulcet tones, a most salubrious conclusion to our mid-day walk.

My red pepper & courgette soup – Mr Wood chose ‘cream of mushroom’

Not far away in the village lies the Humbie Hub, & we decided to get some coffee & soup there. A great wee spot – a shop & eaterie combined – Daisy was wooing all the ladies there with her cuteness  while we skimm’d through a book of old Humbie photos assemble by John Bolton. Among them was one of a certain local landowner, Miss Christian Nisbet. Apparently, way back in the day, John had to ask her permission for his Sunday School outings to have a picnic on her land at Stobshiel, where the Wanside Reservoir is. I wonder what Miss Nisbet would make of the Access Code of Scotland (2003).


John still gets this magazine in 2018

Balgone Estate

Half-term means entertaining the kids, & after a neat collection of bribes, blags & threats, me & the wife finally managed to get them out of their lazydayness & out into the beautiful fresh air. I’d chosen the Balgone Estate on account of an interesting valley I’d espied on the road between East Linton & North Berwick. This proved to be a mudpit, but exploring a little further took us to the large, modern farm buildings at a place called Balgone Barns.


Parking up by a massive warehouse thingy, we returned back along the farm road a little, before turning left into a field. Following the farm track with a hedge to our left, we were all pretty icy in the freeze-blast that seemed like it was whipping in from Siberia.


At the end of the field, the track veered right into some woods, passing a few pheasant feeders. Its off season at the moment, but within a few months the county will be full of barbarians paying up to a grand at a time to shoot a few innocent pheasants who are like, ‘this isn’t India, its bloody freezing & why is that weird-looking guy in a green trench coat shooting at me.’ 

The young pheasants are all kept in large enough pens, which at this time of year are empty. Keeping the pen to our right, the path drooped down to a large bank of rhododendron which marked the arrival at a straight forest path. Beyond, we glimps’d water through the branches, like an emerald uncovered from the brown earth.

Turning left the path was flanked by tall evergreens, & my youngest became completely enfatuated, Daisy-style, with carrying a long stick. At these moments, I noticed the first wee buds in the hearts of rhododendron leaves, which will soon enough be exploding into rainbow life.

After a long walk reach’d a very muddy junction, at which point a lovely expanse of visual space opened up. We were now entering the Balgone Park, a perfectly picturesque example of the 18th century formal park layout, to which was added lakes & cliff walks the following century. We turned right here, crossing a wide ‘land-bridge’ between a lake on our left & a beige marshland to our right.

Across the ‘bridge’ the road winds left, & straightens out into a lovely bit of dry tarmac. To our right rose items of great geological interest, namely the Balgone Heughs, a crag-climbers delight. Seeing such cool, rocky upwardly mobile potential always reminds me of ST Coleridge inventing recreational rock-climbing in 1802 as he wandered about the English Lakes.

As we slowly climbed, the lake became more & more impressive thro’ the branches to our left. Then, just after a metropolis of snowdrops & a sign that says NO HORSES, the road turn’d sharply to the right. Keeping going, we soon emerg’d from the woods. To our right were fine fields & stables, while to the left, Balgone House appeared in all its impressive pink antiquity.

Arriving in front of the big house

These days Balgone house is looking good & well occupied, but this is a state of affairs that has changed only in recent years. As long ago as 1845 the house & estate was in decline, with the Statistical Account for Scotland of that year describing the state of North Berwick parish’s stately houses;

Balgone – the property of Sir George Grant Suttie, Bart., – & Rockville, the property of Sir Edward Thomas Troubridge, Bart., with their ample woods & picturesque rocks, are beautiful seats; but bot, as Leuchie, are deserted by their respected baronets. This universal absenteeism is universally felt as a sever bereavement.

Balgone estate began life in the bloodline of the Suttie Baronets, a title created on 5 May 1702 for George Suttie, while the third and fourth Baronets both sat as Members of Parliament for Haddingtonshire. On succeeding to the estates of his aunt, Janet, Countess of Hyndford, daughter of William Grant, Lord Prestongrange, the fourth Baronet added Grant to his name, becoming a Grant-Suttie. A couple of centuries later,  the eighth baronet was Sir (George) Philip Grant-Suttie, 8th Baronet (1938–1997) who in 1962 married Elspeth Urquhart, who became ‘The Lady Grand-Suttie.’
This fascinating lady  was born in New Delhi, India, one of four children of Major-General Roy Urquhart (of Operation Market Garden fame) and his wife Pamela. They had one son, and were divorced in 1969. It was during this divorce that she was introduced to Menzies Campbell by her barrister, future Conservative Member of Parliament Sir Nicholas Fairbairn. She married Campbell in June 1970,  & persuaded her husband to stand in the 2006 Liberal Democrat leadership election, in which he was eventually victorious.
Since 1700, Balgone has been in the Grant-Suttie family, a wonderfully scenic agricultural estate run on an environmentally friendly basis. The generations have experienced many years of history. Our ancestors were mainly businessmen or military, sadly all that remains is the recently restored mansion house sold to the present owners as a ruin in the eighties… All the farmland historically has been tenanted out but in 1959 when my father inherited the estate times had changed, he arrived from Canada to find it badly run down and decided to take the farm back in hand. Gone were the days of the wealthy landowners and we have worked hard to build the estate into a thriving agricultural business. THE BALGONE ESTATE WEBSITE

Following the way we came for a few metres, we then turned right along the path into more woodland. After meandering like a river for a few paces, the path hit the clifftop, affording wonderful views of the lake. Across the waters, by a heavy tractor, a fire was burning beside a wooden summer house, where a man sat reading a book, chillin’ in the sun. Behind, the conical eruption of Berwick Law loomed large & beautiful, & I’m like, ‘this is a great walk.’

A little while later we reached a pleasant pet-dog-cemetery. A large number of the family’s dogs were sequestered into the canine aether here. Names included Tiger, Punch, Judy, Kelpie & the unfortunate Carlo, whose early demise came at the mechanical hands of a ‘rearing machine.‘ The wife was particularly touched by the memorial stone of a puppy who died at 6 months which said, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all.’

Continuing with our lovely walk, the path kind petered out into a big sea of leaves, so we headed right-front until we reached the fence of a field of mole hills, where the path was taking its proper shape. This we followed to our left. We soon came to a sharp drop to the left which would take us to the lakeside.

The road dropping sharply to the left
Turn left at the bottom…

As we dropped, Daisy went completely viral, scampering between our spaced out human train with ENORMOUS enthusiasm, a lopping tongue & just completely mental eyes. It was great to see her gallop between the members of our spaced out party, splashing thro leaves & generally loving the moment. This is why you get a dog.

The path became rooved with rhododendron, with the monolithical Heughs emerging on the left, the bottoms of which the girls began to explore with delightful goofiness – clearly Daisy’s joie de vivre was infectious. Only a few minutes ago, the youngest was lagging a little; it is a long walk & she’s only 8, but I always find it amazing how quickly tiredness evaporates in kids.

I really enjoyed the aesthetic of lakewater meeting ice, where the wind-whipped waves hit the frozen surface like the Atlantic Ocean hurling itself at the Irish shore. In this very place the Victorians used to holding curling bonspiels on the big lake, which had been purpose built in the 19th century.

The path began to rise up towards the farm road, passing the detritus of tree surgery, with leafy-limbs scattered everywhere as if we had come across a field hospital after some Napoleonic battle. Just after we met the road we’d followed earlier, we  traced our steps back to the muddy junction. Instead of turning left, we kept going, climbing up to the farm buildings, to the extreme left of which lay our car. Happy & hungry, it was only two miles to North Berwick & the dog-friendly, blazing-fired serenity of Whynot? Where we ate our massive butties & quaffed our coffees & pop!



The county of East Lothian is very much a microcosm of the British Isles. We have heathy wastes, highland terrain, evergreen forests, flat plains & of course miles of myriadic coastline. One of the truest jewels in the county’s wave-lapped coast-crown is the stretch of sands & rocks between Seacliff Beach & Tantallon castle.


Before departing on this particular walk, I would at first consult the tidal situation, for it cannot be done at high tide, & as me & Daisy found its best to leave it a few hours to dry, as the rocks were quite slippy in places. To get to the launchpad, hit the A198 & head along a wee tarmac road where you see the weird stone fireplace in the wall.



At the end of the long straight road you reach a barrier, where payment of three pounds allows you to continue, through woodland & down to beachside, where a carpark makes the megasteep £3 tax a wee bit justified.



It was time to get going; there were gulls, there was a a glorious morning, there was a lady on a horse on the beach.  To the right a line of rocks extended into the sea to form the cross-mounted, jagged rockiness of St Baldred’s Boat. Named after an 8th century holy man, Baldred was known as ‘the Apostle of the Lothians.’ The historian, Symeon of Durham, described, ‘the boundaries of his pastorate embraced the whole land which belongs to the monastery of Saint Balther, which is called Tyninghame – from Lammermuir to Inveresk, or, as it was called, Eskmouthe.’  His cult was certainly centred on the four churches of Auldhame, Whitekirk, Tyninghame and Prestonkirk. Of these, Auldhame once sat on the wooded headland above the beach, the ruin of whose stately castle can still be seen peeping through the trees.



On reaching the sands – lovely soft & smooth – Daisy began doing her whirly-bird revolutions around me, she is becoming quite the accomplished scamperer! As for myself, I was enjoying the seaweed & rocks & of course the Wordsworthian ribbed sand.




Hitting the rocks, we came to one of Scotland’s smallest harbours – that has been carved out of the rocks of a feature known as the Gegan. It was constructed in 1890 by Andrew Laidley, who utilsed a steam engine and compressed air to cut the stone in a wonderment of Victorian engineering.



Beyond there we found a photography class in the middle of, well, a class. It turned out to be Dunbar’s Maclean Photographics, whose theme was Beaches & Castles.  Not wanting to disturb them with my ‘loving life on a winter’s Sunday morning’ vibe, I whistled Daisy to my feet & heading north along the slippery rocks. Above us the gulls were nesting in the cliffs, blasting out 4-seconds worth of staccato warnings as we got close.



At this point, at the northern end of the beach, most folk would – & should- potter back to the car. But its a bit soul-passive is that, & its better to keep going, skirting coves & cliffs & really enjoying the scramble.


Barnacle covered rocks have better foot-grip


The ruins of Tantallon castle were slowly growing in scope. In the 1720s, Daniel Defoe wrote a series of letters describing his wanders about Britian. In letter XI he writes of Tantallon that it was, ‘mostly buried in its own ruins; it was famous, in the Scots history, for being the seat of rebellion, in the reign of King James V. And hence came the old, and odd fancy among the soldiers, that the drums beating the Scots March, say, “Ding down tan-tallon.” That beat or march being invented by King James the Vth’s soldiers (or, perhaps, drummers) when they marched against the Earl of Angus, who held out Tantallon Castle, against the king. But this by the way: Tantallon is now no more a fortress, or able to shelter a rebel army.’


Tintallon – called DENTALOUNE on a map before 1300 – derives from the din or dun = fortress, of Taloune. In 1374, William, first Earl of Douglas wrote from, ‘our castle of temptaloun.’ He had built on one of the last great fortresses in Scotland. It was to be besieged three times; by James IV in 1491, James V in 1528, then finally & ruinously by Oliver Cromwell in 1651. Its defender, Sir James Balfour, wrote at the time (his spelling);

Fryday 21 Febrij, 1651. About 4 in the eiuning Tantallon Castle, in Louthean, was randred to Cromwell, after he had battred at the for wall 12 dayyes continually with grate cannon. Capitaine Alexander Setton defendit the same gallantly; bot afyter that the enemeyes canon had oppind a werey large breache, & filled the dray ditche with the wall, he entred it by storm. The Capitaine and thesse few men (which) wer with him, betooke themselves to (the) tower, & resolued to sell ther lives at als good a rait as they could, if that quarter should (be) denayed them; bot the enimey seinng them stand gallantly to it, preferrid them quarters, which they excepted the defenders wanted to defend, but on discovering quarter would be given, relented

After Cromwell dismantled most of the fortifications, the castle soon fell into disrepair & was abandoned to the skyline where is stands alongside its scenic sibling; the white, seagull-poo coated Bass Rock. Once the the hermitage of Saint Baldred, the ruins of an old chapel still cling to the stone, which leads us to one of East Lothian’s finest – but forgotten – lyrical poets. In 1824, James Miller published his, ‘St. Baldred Of The Bass: A Pictish Legend: The Siege Of Berwick, A Tragedy, With Other Poems And Ballads, Founded On The Local Traditions Of East Lothian and Berwickshire,’ out of which we may read;

At morning’s dawn the Bass appear’d,
Half hid in ocean’s mantle fold,
Shining as magic wand had rear’d
A mountain pearl in bed of gold.
Afar, impervious to the sun,
The woad-dyed groups, in shadows dun,
Along the summits steal;
While glad the Bishops’s barge they hail,
Seen swan-like, urged by favoring gale
Westward the port of Bele.
Where high Tantallon’s castle stands,
Like vet’ran set to watch the deep,
Gleam’d nodding heads & waving hands,
wherever human foot might creep;

Almost half a millennium ago, the great 16th century Scottish historian, Hector Boece described Bass Rock – sometimes known as ‘The Scottish Alcatraz,’ –  as;

Ane wounderful crag, risand within the sea, with so narrow & strait hals (passage) that na schip nor boit may arrive bot allanerlie at ane part of it. This crag is callet the Bass; unwinnabill by ingine of man. In it are coves, als profitable for defece of men, as (if) thay were biggit be crafty industry. Every thing that is in that crag is full of admiration & wounder.

A century & a half later, Boece’s words still rang true, for Bass Rock was the scene of Britain’s longest siege. Defoe writes;

Neither is the Bass worth naming any more, which being a mere rock, standing high out of the sea, and in its situation inaccessible, was formerly made a small fortification, rather to prevent its being made a retreat for pyrates and thieves, than for any use it could be of to command the sea; for the entrance of the Forth, or Firth, is so wide, that ships would go in and out, and laugh at any thing that could be offered from the Bass. The most of its modern fame is contained in two articles, and neither of them recommend it to posterity.

That in the times of tyranny and cruelty, under the late King Charles II. and King James II. it was made a state-prison, where the poor persecuted western people, called, in those times, Cameronians, were made close prisoners, and lived miserably enough, without hope or expectation of deliverance, but by death.

That after the Revolution a little desperate crew of people got possession of it; and, having a large boat, which they hoisted up into the rock, or let down at pleasure, committed several pyracies, took a great many vessels, and held out the last of any place in Great Britain, for King James;


The siege of Bass Rock lasted 3 years, with a handful of Jacobites being the defenders & the increasingly embarrassed & exasperated government men of King William daring not to go anywhere near the deadly cannons. Over the three years, however, lost of armaments & fine French wine & food managed to reach the rock, including boatloads of women! As for the denoument, in his excellent book, Blood-Stained Fields, Arran Paul Johnston writes;

The last laugh belonged to the garrison. When the councilors had entered the castle to discuss the terms of surrender, they had been given fine biscuits & excellent French wine & treated with cordiality & confidence. When they departed they had observed substantial numbers of Jacobites lining the ramparts, sufficient to man the castle’s cannon if they were pushed to it once again. Accordingly they recommended that the Williamites accept the garrison’s ambitious demands. In truth, the remaining rations would not have lasted the week & the rampart garrison was composed of jackets hanging from many spare muskets. It was the oldest trick in the manual, but it worked.

The final beach – the footpath up the cliff is at the end of the sand…

Back in my world, the rocks were beginning to peter out into a sliver of a beach. At the far end, a path rose back up the way an – ancient track grown over with a weird green weed.


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Hop over the gate & go straight ahead to the wee road.

At the top of the path one comes to a gate. Hopping over this we headed straight along the hedge-side, & reach’d a wee road. Here we turned left for a while, before reaching another gate just before the woodlands of Auldhame. Through this we headed in the direction of the sea, keeping the woods on our right util we reached a gap in the ruined walls, which we eagerly stepped through. A few meters away rose the splendid gothic ruins of Auldhame Castle.



The castle was built in the 16th century, by Adam Otterburn of Reidhall, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. It consists of a three-storey main block with a projecting stair-tower. Part of a vaulted basement remains, but the upper floors are mostly gone. After the death of St Baldred, to ease the squabbling parish kirks, his corpse supernaturally triplicated, one of whom was buried in this very spot.


We were almost back at the car. A wee stroll through woods, interrupted only by a veritable cavalry charge of kids on horses from nearby stables. It was then back to the beachside & our car, from where we followed the one-way system, passing the site of Seacliff House, partly hidden from the road by trees. Originally built in 1750, before being rebuilt in 1841 and extended in the 1850s, it burned down in 1907 and has stood as a ruin ever since. One of the coolest roofless ruins in the country, this ivy-mantled, three-storey baronial mansion of Squared and stugged stone and ashlar dressings is a true joy to pace round the outside & wander within into the less dangerous portions. Daisy simply loved it!


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Around Broadwoodside


Yesterday morning I was all set to get stuck into writing the Seacliff walk, which I’d done over the weekend, only to be childishly surprised by a succulent fall of snow. All was white, white, white, & knowing just how fast the thaw kicks in round these parts, I thought it best to rush out & take some photos while I had the chance. Choosing the lengthy potter around the newly renovated steading at Broadwoodside, part of this route takes in the  lovingly nurtured woodland brilliantly purchased by the Gifford Community, & with lots of aesthetic trinkets to see along the way it was a fine choice to snatch those all important wintry photographs.



Just off the B6355 between Gifford & Pencaitland is the house of Inglisfield, beside whose gate-lodge one finds ample space to park the car. Thus doing, off trotted me & Daisy to the crawing of the rooks & crows, over a wee stone bridge & through a fine gate. This brought us to a long stretch of woodland, with a river bubbling icily to our left. I soon discovered that Daisy loves snow, diving head first into the stuff & fluffing it off her face with eager enthusiasm.

IMG_20180206_084953973-EFFECTS.jpgI love the timelessness of a snowy woodland scene – the collective human brain has been experiencing pretty much the same thing for hundreds of thousands of years (especially in the Ice Ages) a shared memory that returns us all to our elk-eating, primordial roots. I also love the freshness of the air-chill in my lungs, a right dust-clearer. So off I was happily stomping along a wide & gently rising path which scythed between two epic fields, & flanked by a procession of trees, the branches of which were bowing like courtiers at a ball. Monty Pythonesque, at one point on our right appeared an empty picture-frame hanging in mid-air.


IMG_20180206_085600002.jpgNext up was something of a four-way junction. On our left & right gates opened up into large fields, while ahead the track continued through the woods, with a sub-path leading slightly to the right. Following the latter, we came to a curious neo-Greacian portico, rather like the unfinished one on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

IMG_20180206_085642067.jpgIt had been added in the 1860s to Strathleven House, Dunbarton, then dismantled & re-erected on this spot in 2000. In an interesting visual effect, Broadwoodside came into view between the columns like the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge. Once part of the Yester Estate, Broadwoodside is older than Gifford itself, appearing as ‘Broadwoodsyid’ in Blau’s 1654 map of Scotland – the first complete map of the country.


IMG_20180206_085729481.jpgThe potico had been moved here by the latest owners of Broadwoodside – Anna and Robert Dalrymple – whose home peeped out from the fieldtop’s periphary across the open field. They’re a good sort are the Dalrymples – whose fabulous gardens have won admiratioon across the board. Starting very much witjh a blank canvas, they’ve kinda been making it up as they go along; when blending their modernist instinct with intelligent planting have ruffled the featheros of the ancien regime no end, as these superlative-laden praises make out;

I was spellbound by the wit and elegance at Broadwoodside – a garden created in less than two decades by Robert and Anna Dalrymple from derelict yards surrounding an ancient agricultural steading in East Lothian. David Wheeler


A garden that employs all the classical devices of symmetry, perspective and precise alignment but does so in such a witty fashion that the familiar becomes fresh and exciting. Agnes Stevenson

This is one of Scotland’s finest contemporary private gardens, with excellent structure, imaginative use of objects, and some of the most eye-catching planting in Scotland … Cutting-edge garden design combined with imaginative planting; who could ask for more? Kenneth Cox

Fast becoming one of the most influential new gardens in Scotland
Caroline Donald

Lady Anne-Louise Hamilton-Dalrymple with her husband Sir Hew
Hew Dalrymple & Lady Anne-Louise Hamilton-Dalrymple

Robert Dalrymple is the son of Major Sir Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple, one of East Lothian’s greatest 20th century figures. Leading a prestigious life in pubic service to the county, he held the office of Deputy Lieutenant between 1964 and 1973, the office of Vice-Lord-Lieutenant between 1973 and 1987 & the office of Lord-Lieutenant between 1987 and 2001. Hew was married to Lady Anne-Louise Hamilton-Dalrymple, who passed away at Leuchie in berwickshire only last month. She was president of the East Lothian Girl Guide Association for many years and  maintained connections with many organisations and charities in North Berwick, annually crowning the lifeboat queen and presenting the horticultural society show prizes for more than 40 years.

Broadwoodside in the summer, from the air

After Robert & his wife Anna rescued the farm steading from dereliction, they began to direct gardener Guy Donaldson in fashioning an elegant and inventive garden. Higlights include maple trees trimmed to lollipops & an avenue of hornbeams on one side of the house, skillfully planted to make the distance appear longer than it is (mirrored by the straight lines of white fireweed on the other). It will be open to the public in conjunction with the village gardens of Gifford on Sunday 8 July, while parties of 10 or more can be arranged by appointment.

Broadwoodside before renovation


Back in mine & Daisy’s world, we left the portico & returned to the long path. After a wee while I noticed a couple of anti-dog posters. Now, £25 for a new chicken is a bit steep I’d say, but I’m not getting involved…

IMG_20180206_090144697.jpgPassing the entrance to Broadwoodside on our right, with horses in the snow, & the going a bit slutchy underfoot, we came to the gated entrance to Fawn Wood. At this point four ladies in sports gear running with dogs burst out behind me, one of whom asked if me & Daisy would like to join them. I kindly declined & watched them bolt off through the woods while following behind at a softer pace.

Through the gate & turn right




From here the path meanders like a river, where a little further on my odyssey I met a kind gentleman who showed me the best way to get back to my car, mentioning something about following the route of the old Gifford light railway. Now, I’d never heard of this before, but after a little research on the matter in the National Libray (where I am now, actually) I discovered that the line was opened in 1901 at the behest of local landowners who had spent £100,000 in extending the line from the main branch hoping to shift the farm and mineral produce of their estates towards Edinburgh at greater speed and profit. Alas, it was all, ‘conceived too late, poorly planned and badly run,’ & was closed to passengers on 3 April 1933 & to freight on 25 April 1965.The line to Garvald, although proposed, never actually happened btw.

Daisy checking out a trinket

After passing some more of the amusing aesthetic trinkets, me & Daisy came to a gap in the fence, through which we turned right into another section of woodland… Speedy Wood. It felt great to be in the bosom of the Gifford Community Land Company, who got their heads together & down & came up with the cash to by the woods only last April – helped by a grant of £291,520 from the Scottish Land Fund. A little while later we reached the farm road, with cottages hard on our left & Broadwoodside a wee way off to the right – plus another bauble of an O.K. hand at the heart of a circlet of birch saplings.





Ahead we saw a gap in the hedge, which we passed through & entered a big field. Keeping the trees close to our left, in the field behind them we saw a couple of pigs who were friendly enough & left their wee home to say hi.


Turn left here…


Turning left to skirt the pig-field, the path bends right again into a long straight, with a hedge to one’s left. At the end of this we came across a lovely pond & its well-built boat house. I loved the beige rushes & brown waters all skiffled with snowdust – a lovely sensation of colours.




IMG_20180206_092424548.jpgContinuing onwards. the path curved right at the end of the pond, & led us through some vernal woodland back into the epic field. Turning left, Daisy dashed ahead for quite some way until a phalanx of woods marching from the right almost touches the path. Here we turned right, keeping the woods to our right, & eventually returned to the  4-way junction I mentioned earlier in the walk, just before the portico.



Turn right at the woods


IMG_20180206_093438680.jpgHere we turned left & were soon nestled snugly back at the car. Daisy had had a ball, but I noticed loads of mini icicles on her belly & had to crank the heating up to 4 for a bit, but she was oblivious really.


Yes, a wonderful walk was this, not only did I get lots of jolly snow pictures, but also found out about East Lothian’s lost railway system, most of whose routes I should be able to walk at some point in the future. Talking of which, on the drive home I just had to see where the Gifford terminus was. Heading into the village I followed Station Road (of course) until a kind lady pointed it out to me. Apparently folk & cyclists still trip over a sleeper.


How the end of the railway looks today