Corstorphine Hill


Autumn seems to have arrived while we were away. The plums on Jesus’s tree have been turned into jam, the brambles in the local hedgerows are all but gone, and the rosebay willowherb has blown spectacularly to seed. It seemed the right sort of time to ascend Corstorphine, which has, perhaps, the most woodland character of all of Edinburgh’s hills. Corstorphine is really more of a ridge than a hill proper – a glacial fold to the West of the city. The lower slopes of the ridge house the zoo, and the sprawl of housing created as the city expanded over the last century. The upper slopes are home to the remains of a neolithic settlement, and a stone tower of much more recent construction, dedicated, as so many things about these parts, to Sir Walter Scott.

Scott is an appropriate figure to think of on Corstorphine Hill which, with shady nooks of beech and fir, giant slabs of bare dolerite, and brief, tantalising views, is just the sort of place that the folk of his generation might contrive for a picturesque ramble. And like many picturesque spots, Corstorphine can also seem to invite a certain mis-reading. While the woodland looks relatively wild, it is a managed landscape, and until relatively recently, a working one as well. What you see to the right might seem to be the ivy-covered ruins of ancient structures, but are actually stones rejected from the quarry which used to operate on the hillside.

There is an orienteering course set up around the hill, and you can see one of the controls to the left of this obligatory Bruce obedience photo. The last time I came walking on Corstorphine was several years ago after Tom insisted that I do something to improve my navigation skills. I have no sense of direction — that is to say, I suffer from the mistaken and often unshakeable belief that I am going the right way, without doing what one should when there is any doubt at all, viz, consult the map. Tom has become exasperated with this on more than one occasion — I think the final straw was when, in poor visibility on the top of a munro, I absolutely insisted that we follow some footprints I could see in front of me in the snow. After this, he was (understandably) concerned at the prospect of my getting lost on an independent expedition, and I recall that I, grudgingly, and not with a very good grace, managed to find my way about Corstorphine’s woods with a compass and controls.

Today the challenges of Corstorphine were of a rather different kind. I was very grateful for the walking poles — there are lots of steep inclines, and several places in the woods where one has to pick one’s way over slippery rocks and tree roots.
I doubt I’d have been able to manage such manoeuvres even a couple of weeks ago. I think that the swimming has improved stroke-leg’s strength and control considerably. At some point, I shall video myself walking — I’ve not had the gumption to do this so far, as I feel so damn wonky and ungainly — but, as with the swimming, I imagine it may help if I can actually see any small improvements in my gait.

In the dark of the woods, the turning beech leaves seemed almost luminous. . .

. . . and you emerge from the shade to bright glimpses of the city beyond.


The interesting cone that you can see on the horizon to the right of this photo is North Berwick Law — the first hill I intend to ascend after completing Edinburgh’s seven. Anyway, we all had a fine ramble about Corstorphine on a lovely early-Autumn day, and Bruce, as you can imagine, absolutely loves the woods.

Five down, two to go . . .

43 responses

  1. I realised that autumn had come to scotland when I went looking for warm jumper and socks yesterday evening in my little flat. I think this is my favourite season here, Scotland does autumn better than any other country I’ve seen.

  2. I love Bruce’s shiny little nose and his grip on the leaf. It conjures all the mischievous fun of puppydom that they allow us to be part of. It’s so good to see you back in your usual excellent form Kate. Three cheers for holidays and their healing properties- wish I could swim!

  3. Hooray for more hills! It’s so great to see that you’ve made it up 5 of them already.

    Autumn is my favorite time of the year. That almost luminous look of the turning leaves (which I can never capture on a camera in a way that’s true to what my eyes see) makes me so happy.

  4. Absolutely beautiful. Your determination is exemplary!
    So good to see Bruce growing up so handsomely and with such good manners. When I did obedience training with my dogs, it ended up that I would do anything they wanted me to do.

  5. Everything looks so beautiful. Bruce looks like a natural hiker. Life has been doing what life does and I have not been here in a while to see how you are doing. Looks like you are fearless as always with wonderful pictures and lovely writing. You often cross my mind. ~Kelly

  6. Congratulations on your progress! When we are in the midst of improving it is often impossible to see how far we have come, but let me assure you that you have come a long way from what I can see.

    I love your shots of Bruce particularly. I am thinking very seriously about getting a puppy, and your photos feed my soul. He is so glossy! I love how you can see the puppy in him but also the dog he is becoming. And that picture with the leaf is just priceless.

  7. I just love the last picture of Bruce. He is a most adorable puppy! What an innocent face. I suspect he never, never does anything wrong. How could he, the dear angel!

  8. How beautiful autumn is over there. Bruce looks so like Woody – who has now returned home to his number one family. I have filled in all the holes dug during his visit and repaired some of the irrigation which he was always trying to mend for me! Sounds as though you had a great day out – over here the orchard is in full blossom.

  9. *Five*–I had no idea you’d done so many! Corstorphine looks like a lovely place to go in the fall–I particularly love the picture of Bruce with his bright orange leaf.
    Do you know why North Berwick Law is such a tidy cone? It looks to me quite like one of the cinder cone volcanoes we have in northern Arizona, but I can’t imagine one of those holding up in Scotland’s weather.

  10. I can totally relate to a lack of direction sense. I’m terrible. Now, at least I have two different mountain ranges and a river so I can tell East from West but still can not tell which way is North or South. Once, several years ago, I was in the car with my then boyfriend. We were driving from the town where we lived to the town where our folks live. It’s a drive we made many times. I fell asleep and when I woke up I was completely discombobulated. With all seriousness I looked at him and asked whether or not we were in Wisconson (the next state over from where we were at). He looked at me like I had started to grow another head out of my shoulders said: We are in Iowa. We never left Iowa. We never leave Iowa on this trip. Then he started laughing. I felt quite embarrassed by the whole thing. We were as smack dab in the middle of Iowa as we could get. We’re not together any more but are close friends. To this day he has not let me live that down and still teases me about it.

  11. The scenery is lovely, Bruce is adorable, and you look happy! Actually, Bruce and my parents’ cat Lucy have a little something in common…I caught her eating a red Maple leaf the other day as if it were a piece of lettuce!
    Hill walking in Scotland (and of course some knitting and sampling of local pub fare and ale) are most definitely on my list of Things To Do At Some Point.

  12. HI KATE -have been busy moving house – all that selling and resettling take time , not to mention dealing with the stress

    – always think about you and your challenges – we sure can’t always plan what they will be—-you do tackle them so well really — always putting your best foot forward as the saying goes — LOL—-though it may be a wobbly one

    – fall is sure great – love to see the scotland version- here in southern ont , the leaves are also turning – its my fav time of the year- will plan a little trip up further north in ontario to see the changing leaves too

    – always makes me want to bring out the oranges and rusts and green wools and knit a’ fall something’

    – your pup is growing — good to see him learning his manners—lol – he is too cute

    —–talk soon —pat j

  13. Gosh I can’t quite believe how long it’s been since I read your blog. Although my SAH didn’t leave me with any limb problems, every other thing you talk about in your recovery is the same for me. The fatigue is getting beyond a joke. I can’t pace myself, I don’t know how to pace myself, so I go for broke and crash and burn. But 7 months on, just thinking about going for a walk around a park (let alone up HILLS) still makes me tired. And just what is pacing anyway? The less you do, the less your muscles want to do, so you just get more out of shape, don’t you? That’s how I feel anyway. I love Bruce, and I love your pictures of gorgeous Scottish landscapes. Please keep ‘em coming!

  14. Much to comment on but I’m so fixated on that absolutely gorgeous picture of Bruce with the leaf in his mouth I can’t think of anything else. Would it be strange if Bruce became my computer back drop instead of my own dog or kids?? :)

  15. Hurrah! I just caught up on your posts and am glad you had a good vacation, and it is great to see what a help the swimming has been (does that make sense?) Thank you for the lovely fall photos of Bruce and Edinburgh.

  16. You are a delightful writer, Ms. Davies. I read you on Fridasy and that means that today I was treated to 2 entries PLUS Bruce eating a leaf and a short video of you swimming. It’s a banner day! Thanks for posting. As always, I am charmed.

  17. I only moved to Murrayfield this summer (a garden, at last!), and still haven’t made it up my local hill, but your gorgeous photos are inspiring. Must stomp up – sadly without the cute pup!

  18. I have just returned from my first trip to incredible Scotland where I kept my eyes open for you as we walked / toured Edinburgh! I was hoping to be able to say in person how much I admire your strength and courage. Yours is the only blog I follow and although it was not the impetus for the trip to Scotland, it added immeasurably to the experience. I loved that everyone seemed to have a dog. The best thing about coming home was to be with mine – a distant cousin of Bruce’s!

  19. I really enjoy the tour of Edinburgh’s hills you have been giving us. I came to Edinburgh this time last year but was forced to cut my visit short when I injured my back while cycling. Seeing your wonderful photos and reading your blog makes your love and pride in your home very infectious and I can’t wait to come back to Edinburgh myself and visit more of its hills and all it has to offer. Only two more hills to go!

  20. I just found your blog and have been engrossed reading your older posts. I love the area where you live, in your pictures anyway, everything is gorgeous. I true heaven of sorts. We have a lot of beech trees on our property and when I walk the back three acres of woods in the fall the glowing of the beech leaves are awesome. It brightens up even the greyest of fall days.

    Hugs!!!!

  21. Found you via tumblr and your sweet puppy made we want to know more. My Gracie is now 8 but looked just like this when she was young. I love your photography and look forward to having a look at your beautiful textiles.
    I also wanted to introduce you to a fantastic blog and friend who is packing up her home in Houston texas and moving to Scottland. I think this is where you are…am I right? Anyway, her name is Deb Milne and she writes the blog http://www.dumbwittellher.com/. We’ve never met in person but bloggers know that it’s not always necessary to do so in order to become friends. My best to you for a great weekend. Lisa

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