Hill number 6 is Craiglockhart, which lies in the South of Edinburgh, behind Morningside. More of a rolling, rising piece of land than a hill proper, much of the walking to be had around Craiglockart is in the grounds of a “giant Italian villa” – which began life in 1880 as a hydropathic institute, capitalising on the late-Victorian fashion for health cures. According to a brochure advertising the institution:

“The establishment affords to its residents all the amenities and retirement of quiet country life. . . and the further privilege of wandering over the picturesquely wooded hill adjoining which was laid out some years ago at considerable expense with winding paths and pleasant resting spots.”

You can still wander around said “picturesquely wooded hill”, as long, of course, if you avoid the fenced-off, carefully manicured areas which have been set aside for yet another golf course.

From the portions of Craiglockhart upon which one is allowed to ramble freely, there are fine views of many of Edinburgh’s other hills, including Corstorphine:


(note the Forth Bridges to the left on the horizon)

Castle Hill:

And Arthur’s Seat, (assuming, from this angle, a most elephantine aspect):

The “giant Italian villa” is now part of Napier University, but it is perhaps best known for being the place where poets Wilfrid Owen and Siegfried Sassoon met. During the First World War, Craiglockhart was used as a place of respite for the many hundreds of seriously traumatised soldiers who had survived the Somme. Records show that the hospital administrators were unwilling to recognise shell-shock as a legitimate and prevalent disorder, and instead classified their patients with trivial diagnoses which ranged from piles to a broken toe. At Craiglockhart, Wilfrid Owen edited the hospital’s magazine, The Hydra, to which Sassoon contributed this famous poem. Napier’s library (housed in the former hospital) includes a special collection of war poetry, and an accompanying exhibition.

Rather than the prospect view, on Craiglockhart, I found my camera most attracted by the undergrowth: by dried-out husks of willowherb, and black, blasted gorse




Bruce also enjoyed the undergrowth . . .

. . . and did his best to steal the show

. . . but this is my favourite of the photographs I took on Craiglockhart.

There’s something about the light today that I find very particular to this time of year: a season I generally associate with introducing nineteen year-olds to Addison and Steele, to Pope and Thomson. Indeed, this is the first time in 34 years that Autumn has not signalled, in one way or another, the moment to go back to school. I still find it surprising and curious that at the moment my main business is my recovery, accompanied by a bit of knitting. . . but there we go. I have been working on the Tortoise and the Hare, and should have a new cardigan to show you next week – I was hoping to finish it sooner, but rather underestimated how long it would take the new, slow me to produce sleeves on 3mm needles. . . and as well as completing a garment, next weekend I also hope to haul my wonky ass up hill number 7 – celebrations all round, I reckon.

ETA: I mustn’t forget to mention that I’ve been updating the correspondence archive – I’ve not quite finished, and there are still quite a few cards, letters and objects to add and catalogue, but I’m getting there. Also, I still intend to write with thanks to all of those who sent me an address – this may take some time, but I shall get round to it. Thankyou again, everyone.

34 thoughts on “Craiglockhart

  1. Aw.. thanks for this post. My Gran used to work as the receptionist there and used to let us swim in the pool in the basement. Not sure what it was then (the 70s) – maybe a school? Anyway, well done in conquering the seven hills and looking forward to the Tortoise and the Hare.

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  2. Oh! Such beautiful autumnal photos. And Bruce is eminently photogenic (and a fervent fan of sticks, I see :)
    Hope you find the perfect buttons for your cardigan (it’s a delicious shade of green!)

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  3. How adorable. That first picture of Bruce… Am I the only one to think it really looks like he has his own walking stick?

    Thanks for the tour. That gorse is fascinating.

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  4. You have accomplished so much in really, a short period of time, though I am sure it feels like an eternity. And Bruce! He is soooo cute I could just eat him up!

    Off to take my pup for a walk, though not in quite so majestic a setting. I do hear the bears are out, and that adds to the sense of adventure.

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  5. Again a lovely and moving post at the same time.
    And the undergrowth can be so full of mystery indeed, it is like a world on its own. Looking forward to your rendering of the Seventh Hill!

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  6. ah! Addison & Steele…that takes me back (Mod.Eng.Studies, UWIST, 83-86) – am loving your photos at the moment and can’t wait to see your latest knitting, are you managing to get round the fatigue?

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  7. I always love your post and the photos are a treat!! Bruce, well the first one of him with his stick , you can see he is very happy with his family and world :-) (Just his body language) He is the perfect addition to your family!!
    Mary
    Camden, Maine

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  8. Thank you Kate for these pics of Craiglockhart – I would love to visit there sometime. Do you know Pat Barker’s ‘Regeneration’ trilogy? The novels are a fictionalised account of Sassoon and Owen’s meeting at Craiglockhart, and we adapted the story into a play during my time at the University of the Drama Barn…I mean, University of York, of course – although the degree was not my priority at the time as you probably remember :-) So, Craiglockhart holds a lot of fond memories for me, even though I’ve never actually been.
    It’s definitely back to school time in Plymouth; there’s a giant hall of residence block right next to my office – very annoying when they set the smoke alarms off and all congregate noisily outside in their dressing gowns! Best wishes, hope the beautiful Autumn light stays around for a while so we can enjoy more photos of Edinburgh

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  9. for all the british novels i’ve read in which gorse was like the major decoration, i have never seen any up close.
    your man has the sweetest face, but for that smile on bruce. sometimes i think animals are angels.
    happy trails.
    xxx

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  10. Lovely photos. And it must be hard, the change of season not carrying its usual meaning. So many new things to adjust to that we don’t think of or couldn’t imagine in advance. I learn so much from you. :)

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  11. HEY KATE — could not be said better, and in what a setting wow — hope to be there next year , will see— the hills are like life , always one more to climb—–good that you are doing this , one by one —–love your too fav fellows— BRUCE is getting bigger weekly –can’t wait to see this sweater

    talk soon —pat j

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  12. I love your photos – it seems you had a great day out and Bruce seems bigger too! Perhaps on our next trip over there we will check out the war poets… Looking forward to your new cardigan very much…

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  13. Hi Kate, I love the photo of your dear Tom. i took a looka bit back when you were caring for him after his hand was hurt. I feel lucky to be invited into your lives via blog. I am lucky to have a guy and family and friends who are lovely in my time of need too. KPH

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  14. One of my favorite but most emotionally harrowing teaching days in my C19-Contemporary survey is Owen/Sassoon Day. Now I will think of Bruce gamboling about Craiglockhart whenever I’m getting teary at the end of Dulce et Decorum Est and cheer up immediately :)

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  15. I’ve followed your blog for a while–eagerly at first, and in the past year with concern and growing admiration. Thank you for what you write and how well you do it. Are you familiar with Pat Barker’s “Regeneration,” a fictional account of Owen and Sassoon meeting at Craiglockhart?

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  16. Thank you for continuing to post your walks. Being an academic as well, I wonder if I will ever stop thinking in school years rather than calendar years. Hurrah for time to recover!

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  17. As always it’s a pleasure to read about your walks. Such a lovely area for a walk/hike. I agree about the undergrowth. The colors are just beautiful. The scenery is spectacular and Bruce did a good job of stealing the show. I once had a collie that loved to pose for me. I have drawings, paintings, and lots of photos of her. You’re right about the light this time of year. This happens to be my favorite time of year.

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  18. Great progress and great photos. It’s been 4 years since I moved away from Edinburgh, and now that I’m on the other side of the world, I love seeing pics of my old home town even more. Your puppy looks like he’s enjoying the walks too!

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  19. Bravo! Another real hill conquered, and next week the seventh! Hooray! Your photographs are lovely, splendid pieces! In the midst of a majestic sight, I often seek the nearer, intimate bits as well as the panoply, thank you for sharing them!

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  20. Another hill, well done you! I’m glad somebody else takes photographs of undergrowth, I thought that was just me… (And now I know that what the weed in my garden is: willowherb!)

    I look forwards to a knitting-related post, particularly if it’s about the sleeves on 3mm needles – I’m trying to finish a cardigan done on 2.75mm and 3.25mm. Last night I had to rip back about four hours of work, everything I done during the day. Why I couldn’t knit straight in broad daylight but after a large cocktail noticed the glaring error (and rip back, and then pick up) I don’t know! I’m sure you don’t suffer from the same kind of idiocy, so your progress must be faster…But there is something nice about patterns with little stitches, it’s worthwhile in the end.

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  21. Well done, Kate! Another one under your belt! Your vivid depiction of your walk makes me feel I’ve walked there myself today. What a place! Gorgeous views, by the way, and on the subject of being gorgeous, isn’t Bruce a handsome chap?

    Have a good week!

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  22. I know what you mean about the ‘light’ and the ‘time of year’ ie ‘back to school’. My children have children of their own, so in a way it is perpetuated for me. Beautiful photos, especially of your special people. x

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  23. Lovely photos, brilliant use of light. Thank you for sharing; I haven’t been back to Edinburgh for ages, and find myself wishing I could manage it. Bruce is just adorable!

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