A work trip to Edinburgh

Tuesday 04 February 2020 – Edinburgh.

There is something magical about train journeys. I am not talking about those short and crowded bursts to or from the daily grind. Or, perish the thought, those that are primarily underground, like most everyone else, I hate those. I am talking about the out journey to ‘away’, or maybe even those back from ‘away’. Though those returns are sometimes less than magical, especially with the threat of having to get up the following morning for work.

Yesterday I made one of those magical out journeys, and while today’s back was not as good as most of it was in the darkness of evening, it was still better than being on the tube. This morning I had a meeting in Edinburgh with some open data people from the Scottish Government, and the train trip from London to Edinburgh is one of my favourite UK train journeys. I am the pedants can list dozens of far better UK rail routes; but I haven’t been on them, and I have done this one at least half a dozen times and loved every one.

I travelled up with one of my work colleagues, leaving London in the early afternoon. We tried to work on the way, but the wifi was not too reliable. This was my expectation (and to be honest, my hope) so I was less worried than my colleague. I had music and a book and was content to slump and stare out the window between chapters for most of the four half hour trip. It is a lovely journey, especially the coastal section north of Newcastle.

I had a few attempts to take photos out the window for my current, experimental ‘out the train window’ project. All were consigned to the virtual rubbish bin on my computer. I much prefer my photo taking to be made when I am not sitting next to anyone, particularly someone I work with. I need to relax, a glass of wine helps, but I was on water all the way to Edinburgh. I was not in any creative zone.

It was dark when we arrived in Edinburgh, and quite cold as we got off the train. I was surprised at the temperature drop. I know I shouldn’t have been, Edinburgh is much closer to the arctic than London and it is winter, but it did catch me by surprise. Our hotel was very close to the station, so we checked straight in and arranged to meet to go out for something to eat. I had a lie down, sitting down on the train is tiring.

I like Edinburgh, it is my sort of place, at least the part of it I am familiar with is; the nice and clean tourist bit. I have been here a few times, but I think this was my first Monday night. It was pretty quiet. We had pizza in a place just off Princes St and it was doing good trade, the pizza was really good, tasty and hot and a good sourdough base. We stayed and chatted over a drink for an hour after dinner, heading back to the hotel about 9. It was cold and damp, but not anything like cold and damp Newport, thankfully. I wasn’t ready for bed, so decided to go for a walk.

The hotel was sort of halfway between the station and the place we were going tomorrow; St Andrews House, opposite Calton Hill. I walked that way first, thinking I would go up the hill if it looked liked things were lit at that top. Though this did not seem to be the case.

The back of the hotel.

St Andrews House, where we meet tomorrow. In this civil service job I do get to visit some amazing buildings, and this a lovely looking building, though the photo does not show it.

The Balmoral Hotel.

I decided to walk up to the castle, with the thought that there maybe some life up at the castle end of the Royal Mile, it is a very touristy part of town. I was wrong, it was pretty dead everywhere, even the pubs were closing, and it was only just after 9. There were a few people about, it was cold but not freezing, there was a light drizzle falling at times, but nothing that suggested snow. I was a little surprised at how quiet it was, though glad as I was happy to not get lured into a happening bar.

The Witchery, one of El and my favourite restaurants is in Edinburgh, and one of the few places that was open, I imagine it is full most nights of the week. It is the sort of place that should never be empty, the food is very good.

I was pleased to see the castle was well lit, I wished I had brought up the lightweight tripod with me, the camera is good in low light, but not that good!

Walking back down to the Royal Mile towards the North Bridge I stopped to take photos down some of the ‘closes’, the small alley ways from the main road to the houses, squares and back alleys behind. I can imagine these were dark and dangerous places a hundred years back. Fleshmarket Close and St Marys Close both feature in the crime novels by Ian Rankin, an author I quite like.

I took the stairs down Fleshmarket Close, unfortunately just missing the opportunity to finally sample one of Scotland’s finest offerings to the culinary world as the cafe had just closed as I walked past.

I walked back to the hotel and had a pretty good night’s sleep, considering how close my room was to a main road. Looking out of the window of my room in the morning, I discovered I had one of Edinburgh’s least finest views.

The meeting that we went to Edinburgh for went well, using up all of the four hours we had allocated. I had an hour to kill before my train so stopped for a pint with a colleague who was up from Manchester, before heading off to the station and settling into my book and music for the five hours back to London.

I took some photos out of the window for my train window project, and was pretty happy with the result. It may not be the type of image that most people like, but the top one is approaching the type of thing I am trying to achieve.

I also drank a lot of red wine. Something I regretted the following morning…