An Edinburgh View…

It was the annual Doors Open Day at the weekend and as I usually do I went out exploring. Walked from the lower east end of the New Town back up through the Old Town and to Tollcross before going for a break, several hours of walking, exploring and of course taking photos as I went. I shot a gig of pics, still culling out the duff ones, but one set I processed quickly and uploaded to my Flickr, a set shot from a vantage point I didn’t even know existed. One of the places taking part in Doors Open was the old India Buildings, which used to be offices, including the civic registry office (so there was often a lot of confetti outside the doors). At the moment it is mostly empty, plans in hand to redevelop it into something cultural hopefully, so there wasn’t a huge amount to see inside (apart from a lovely central atrium). However once through a suite of empty, dilapidated rooms on the topmost floor there was a narrow spiral staircase in a corner, only wide enough (just) for one person), which lead up to a small attic room. And as I was thinking, is that it?

I noticed outside the open window a very, very small stone balcony, invisible from the streets way below, so narrow it was only wide enough for one person, so I clambered out the window and along it, and oh, what a hidden and wonderful surprise… Views across half the Old Town of Edinburgh… Including this view of Edinburgh Castle:

An Edinburgh View 01And down into the old Grassmarket area, which contains inns that were old even when Robert Burns came to stay in them, and beyond to the large bulk of the Edinburgh College of Art An Edinburgh View 04

And historic Greyfrairs church and kirkyard, witness to some pivotal moments in Scottish and British history

An Edinburgh View 05An Edinburgh View 010

Nearby across the roofs was the lantern top of the enormous Central Library – I’ve been to several literary events in that space (multiple level library room with all those windows so high up flooding it with natural light), but I’ve never seen it from this perspective before

An Edinburgh View 07Herriot’s School, looking very much like what you would expect to see if Hogwart’s had an Edinburgh branch An Edinburgh View 012

North over curving Victoria Street to the Royal Mile and the distinctively coloured historic structure of Riddles Court, which I’ve visited on previous Doors Open (amazing interiors)

An Edinburgh View 015And a view down into Victoria Street, which curves downwards from George IV Bridge down into the Grassmarket, and which is a splendid spot for observing the multiple levels Edinburgh’s Old Town architecture exists on as it straddles the steep slopes of the great volcanic ridge which runs down from Castle Rock to the palace. Normally I am looking up at this scene of multiple levels curving around and above me, but this time I got to look down into it all – quite wonderful experience to see it all from the perspective of the eagle’s eyrie An Edinburgh View 016

An Edinburgh View 018Ah, Edinburgh, you can still surprise me after all these years living here and give me such lovely presents to point my camera at (coincidentally I noticed I just passed the 12,000 images mark on my Flickr photo stream over the weekend). There’s history and geology and literature and more embedded into this hilly, volcanic terrain and towering, ancient structures which rise from the rocks (and often cut deeps into them too, to a world below…), such a remarkable city, no wonder I love living here. Edinburgh Old Town panorama vid

Moonrise Kingdom

I was out taking some night shots in Edinburgh this evening – I say night, but actually I started around half past four in the afternoon as the sun has set by then at this time of year! Looking over from Princes Street Gardens to the Old Town on its volcanic ridge I could see a half moon rising in the winter night over the Bank of Scotland headquarters on top of the Mound, where the road snakes up from the New Town to the Old Town. Magical scenes like this are one of the reasons why I love living in Edinburgh, it has the most beautiful cityscape in the world (click to see larger version on my Flickr).

winter moon rising over Old Town

Edinburgh, city of hills and spires…

A view from the Queen’s Drive as it curls around Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano which dominates Edinburgh and which millions of years ago defined it’s geology, making it a city of many levels, hills, valleys. And wherever you look down on the city from the a high vantage point, many stone spires, grounded in the native bedrock but reaching to the heavens above…

Edinburgh, city of hills and spires
(pic from my Flickr, click to see larger version on there)

Spring skyline

Walking home from work, for once the sun had come out, end of the day in very early spring, sun already low in the sky now dipping towards the western horizon, casting copper light and long shadows over Edinburgh’s spectacular skyline:

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 02

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 07

A zoom in on some details of the crowded roofs of the tall buildings of the Old Town, with the spire of the Tron Kirk visible on the Royal Mile, rising above them, the peak of Arthur’s Seat prominent in the background:

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 09

I thought this one worked as a sort of cross-section of the Old Town, showing off the old structures which descend the steep sides of the volcanic ridge which the Old Town lies on – it’s a city of many levels, Edinburgh, and that’s before you consider what’s below ground too…

The beautiful, almost wedding cake architecture of Ramsay Gardens, surely one of the most unique set of dwelling places in the British Isles, sat literally right by the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Old town’s volcanic ridge, commanding views out across the 18th century New Town towards the mighty Firth of Forth, seen here catching the last rays of a spring day sun…

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 04

Scott Monument, spring evening

Walking home from work a few evenings ago, chilly and yet such gorgeous light quality – a pale blue dome of sky above and the stretched out, amber light of the sinking sun splashed over the city creating a soft glow on the old buildings of Edinburgh. I love the changing quality of light we experience in our northern kingdom, especially spring and autumn. As the warm light touches the ancient stone it produces a beautiful colour, and the low sun creates both light and long, contrasting shadows, which against the blue of the sky makes it irresistible to my camera…

Scott Monument, spring sunset 01

I’ve taken many photos of the great Gothic rocket of the Scott Monument over the years, but walking past it on an evening like this I find myself compelled to pause and get the camera out again, shooting yet another version of it, but each time it is a little different, so I can’t resist…

Scott Monument, spring sunset 04

One of the grotesques projecting from the first floor balcony of the two hundred feet of literary monument (and yes, it is a grotesque, not a gargoyle – it’s only technically a gargoyle if it also functions as a water spout)

Scott Monument, spring sunset 010

And Sir Walter still looks upon the city, reclining in marble splendour between the massive stone ‘legs’ of his towering monument. I always think that the fact in a city full of remarkable buildings and monuments one of the largest (indeed the largest literary monument in the world) in the city is not to a king, queen, duke or conquering general of imperial grandeur, but to a writer, well, I think that’s very, very civilised.

Isn’t she pretty in pink?

Jenners department store, the grand old dame of Edinburgh shopping, lit up pink at night to highlight the breast cancer awareness, something they’ve done for the last few years – quite a nice touch.

Isn't she pretty in pink 01

Close up of some of the handsomely sculpted caryatids on the richly decorated facade of Jenners

Isn't she pretty in pink 03

More nocturnal Edinburgh

A few more shots from my recent nocturnal camera stroll around Edinburgh – shooting from the Mound, looking east toward the very posh Balmoral Hotel (originally the North British railway hotel from the golden days of rail travel), with Calton Hill behind, the telescope shaped tower of the Nelson Monument visible on the right background and the National Monument, meant to be a replica of the Parthenon but they ran out of money; over the last couple of centuries or so various groups have tried to find the money to finish it but I doubt they ever will and most of us would rather they didn’t, it is part of the city as it is (also a nice reminder about hubris and that overweening desire to build grand, triumphant memorial architecture just to impress):

Balmoral Hotel and Calton Hill from Mound

If you are visiting, Calton Hill is one of the best central location from which to take in views of Edinburgh, along Princes Street past the Balmoral, over to the Castle, Old Town, down to the Palace of Holyrood, or down the coast to North Berwick. The great Edinburgh author Robert Louis Stevenson, in his Picturesque notes described the views from Calton Hill:

Of all places for a view, this Calton Hill is perhaps the best; since you can see the Castle, which you lose from the Castle, and Arthur’s Seat, which you cannot see from Arthur’s Seat. It is the place to stroll on one of those days of sunshine and east wind which are so common in our more than temperate summer. The breeze comes off the sea, with a little of the freshness, and that touch of chill, peculiar to the quarter, which is delightful to certain very ruddy organizations and greatly the reverse to the majority of mankind. It brings with it a faint, floating haze, a cunning decolourizer, although not thick enough to obscure outlines near at hand. But the haze lies more decolourizer, although not thick enough to obscure outlines near at hand. But the haze lies more thickly to windward at the far end of Musselburgh Bay; and over the Links of Aberlady and Berwick Law and the hump of the Bass Rock it assumes the aspect of a bank of thin sea fog.

And a close up of the clock tower on the Balmoral; by tradition the clock is always set two or three minutes fast to encourage people not to tarry on the way to their train at the station below:

Balmoral Hotel clock tower

Looking west this time from the same vantage point on the Mound, a little up slope from the Church of Scotland Assmbly building, zoomed in here on the bulk of the Caledonian Hotel (another very grand posh, former railway hotel, at the opposite end of Princes Street from the Balmoral. In the foreground the spire with the clock on it belongs to Saint Cuthberts, a very unusual (for Scotland) kirk which is more Eastern Orthodox than traditional Scottish in design. Above and behind the flank of the Caledonian you can see the multiple spires of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, shot just half an hour after the sun had set below the horizon, but there was still some colour in the western skies:

spire silhouettes

Down on Princes Street, by the West Princes Street Gardens, looking up past the statue of 18th century poet Allan Ramsay towards the illuminated, ancient stone walls of Edinburgh Castle, with the first star of evening visible over his shoulder:

statue, star, castle

From the Mound again, looking down on the National Gallery of Scotland. I elevated the tripod as high as I could but couldn’t clear the tall railings in front of my vantage point, but now I actually find I like them in there, act like a border for the bottom of the image and slope down nicely right to left leading the eye into the photo:

nocturnal National Gallery of Scotland 01

And at the front of the the National Gallery, with banners hanging between the pillars before the front entrance:

Nocturnal National Gallery of Scotland 03

Another one from the Mound, looking up where the road curves up above the National Gallery past the Bank of Scotland’s headquarters before turning up and over the Royal Mile:

Bank of Scotland building at night 02


Riddles Court, sunny day 02

Bright, sunny, warm autumn day, really bringing out the colours in the historic Riddles Court, even in the small confines of the wee square of the court between the towering tenements of the Old Town, right off the Royal Mile, the sun still managed to creep in to light up the wonderful colour on this building and nature even kindly provided me with a lovely blue sky to contrast it against it and a few shadows from a neighbouring tenement.

Riddles Court, sunny day 01

I wonder if this house’s number is 6?

Going up the Fife side of the Firth of Forth the other weekend, passing through Limekilns, saw this old house with a tower. My eyes were drawn upwards to the “witch’s hat” roof on the tower:

Prisoner house 01

And look what the weather vane on the top was – perhaps this is where Patrick McGoohan’s Number 6 went to after he left the Village in The Prisoner?

Prisoner house 02

Be seeing you


It was the annual Doors Open Day in Edinburgh last weekend, where you get the chance to explore buildings you normally don’t get a chance to. Of course the new camera came along with me – I’m still sorting pics from it, but here are the first few, all from the mid 19th century New Register House at the start of Princes Street, where all the centralised records of births, marriages, deaths and various other records (such as the National Archives and the Lord Lyons Office in Scotland are). This domed rotunda from the 1860s has metalled shelves to reduce fire risk – its curving shelves on the floors apparently run to miles of storage, rising up 90 feet to the dome above. There was an interesting talk during which the chap showed some of the records held there, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth record and Rob Roy’s will. Between the various buildings there are three lovely domed rotunda buildings lined with bookshelves. I do like domes – both aesthetically and from a practical engineering point of view they are wonderful creations.

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 01

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 02

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 04

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 06

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 07

Doors Open Day 2010 - Register House 010


I’m enjoying some time off and lo and behold the grim, gray weather of the weekend vanished to be replaced by gloriously sunny, spring-like weather (although still pretty cool, if not actually frosty in the shade). Good lord, good weather on a week off? Gasp. And it’s that beautiful, golden quality of sunlight at this time of year, not the brighter, bleaching sunlight of summer (well, when we get sun in summer in Scotland…) while the air still has that clear quality from winter, a combination which is especially good for taking photos, I find, especially of some buildings. Yesterday the sunlight was complimented by a wonderfully clear sky, like a blue crystal dome, utterly cloudless, as I decided to head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Despite the fact I have lived in the city since the start of the 90s I’ve rarely been down to the Botanics, mostly because it’s never really been near where I lived or worked, nor is it close to any friend’s home I might be going to or any other place I might be visiting.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 02

I ended up spending hours walking through the greenhouses, from the lovely original Palm House (above), which dates from 1834 and is a splendid example of the glass, iron and steel construction the Victorian period pioneered so spectacularly. Still gorgeous today – especially on a bright day – but imagine how much more impressive this structure must have appeared to the Edinburgh citizens of the 1830s, who lived in a city of tall, impressive stone buildings.In the Old Town towering stone tenements used the limited space effectively but also make for shadowed canyons; even the New Town with its Georgian splendour and much larger windows and wider streets still would not have this quality, a space flooded with huge amounts of natural light sparkling through glass suspended from a seemingly frail – but actually very strong – slim latticework of iron. Being midweek it was fairly quiet and I often had entire glasshouses to myself and it was delightfully peaceful.
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 07
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 09
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 10
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 16
I shot far too many photos as I toured through the various public glasshouses (there are others which are for research) from the Palm House through tropics and arid biospheres; I’ve only uploaded a few so far and will do the rest later, although I also shot a brief video in each of the glasshouses as I went through them and I’ve edited them together into a ‘virtual tour’:


Walking along the Union Canal near the old brewery, some new buildings I’ve seen being constructed over the last year. Wasn’t sure if they were small offices or going to be homes, but I’ve been told they are a modern version of town houses, although it looks like they have completed them just in time for them to lie mostly empty as no-one can get the mortgage to buy them. I walk this way quite a lot and I’ve shot this in colour and not really cared much for the resulting pics, but shooting in black and white (and my B&W shots are shot properly in B&W, not colour then greyscaled afterwards on Photoshop, it makes a difference – any of my Flickr pics you see in B&W were shot in B&W) I was much more satisfied with the result.

Union Canal new construction 1

(click for the bigger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr)