Day 20. Edinburgh to West Linton. 21 miles.
Updated: Feb 5
I took a rather lonely rest day in Edinburgh which was mainly spent hunting around the city for a guidebook on the Pennine Way - I would be walking the vast majority of the 268 mile path quite soon and wanted to do my homework, but sadly I spent about 10 miles walking from hiking shop to hiking shop to find them all out of stock, which was both frustrating and not a particularly relaxing way to spend a day off the path. Eventually I found one and barely read it as I looked forward to today's march to West Linton. See, after following well defined long distance trails, canals, and the horribly under-prepared John O'Groats trail, I would finally be striking out on my own, relying solely upon my wit, navigation skills, considerable charm, and the GPS & map applications on my Chinese smartphone. I was looking forward to the different kind of challenge this would entail, as well as the novelty of largely making it up as I went along.
As noted in previous blog entries, I will be moving the shift away from cooked breakfasts and onto pubs as soon as I can, however the meal served up by the Broughton B&B (as a lovely present from my sister) is well worth a mention as it is the only one to rival my day 4 breakfast at the Navidale, which scored an impressive 9.5. The Broughton had it all, a proper, tubular sausage, a separate ramekin for the beans, double egg, all the regular characters, and a new player to the breakfast game not yet seen in Scotland, a slice of fried bread. It quite literally had everything I could ask for, and whilst it could have truly pushed the boat out with the Scottish classic (double sausage), I think it's a worthy winner. 10 on 10.
So the walk; once I got out of Edinburgh proper, I hopped on the wonderful Water of Leith, a lovely waterside path which rolls due south west out of the city, lined with Edwardian huts covered in seashells and discarded fag packets. I enjoyed the peculiar dichotomy they made. The walk was a surprisingly busy one, dog walkers, joggers and pram pushers bustled along the path which slowed my progress, having already spent an entire day within the trappings of civilisation I itched for a return to the solitude and tranquillity of the rural trails.
I soon made the small town of Balerno, where absolutely nothing was happening, so I had a hasty break and aimed for the Pentland Hills - a large area of, you guessed it, hills, due just south of Scotland's capital. Truth be told they were rather dull, made worse by the wind and rain that seemed determined to chase me south. I almost fell hilariously into the muck, saved only by my walking poles, took a brief rest of an ancient and crumbling stone wall, and got a bit lost when searching for decent pub, but aside from that nothing of any real notice occured.
I had a snack at the excellent Allan Ramsey in Carlops (named after an apparently famous poet who lived there), and climbed out of the town towards West Linton. Now here's where it gets interesting (to me at least). You see Leyton Orient were on telly at 12.30 the following day in a game that would secure the championship, the next town (Peebles) was 12.88 miles away, I therefore had to camp 2 or 3 miles on from West Linton in order to make Peebles in time for the game without resorting to getting up at 6am, or pushing myself too hard too early in the day. So I nipped into the West Linton Coop, got a small bottle of whiskey and a bar of chocolate to help me wild camp and was on my merry way. Oh, West Linton was lovely too, all independent shops and dressed stone.
A nice man in a blue hatchback pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift (I was walking in the rain with a large pack, looking somewhat 'Hoboesque'), I politely declined and explained what I was doing, and he wished me luck and drove off into the drizzle. About a mile outside of town the rain was beginning to increase and I had yet to find even a half decent spot to pitch my tent - spirits were low. As the same blue hatchback pulled up next to me on the curb I began to get flashbacks to the red Audi incident near Alness, however something was different this time, the fellow in the car (Mark) seemed on the level, and practically insisted I stay in the warm and dry with him and his wife, after a quick drink in the pub (no doubt to determine whether or not I was an axe murderer or worse, someone who votes Tory...). Given my rather sorry state of affairs I tried to quietly shift my bottle of good night whiskey out of sight in my pocket and ignoring every parental and primary school warning since the dawn of time, happily jumped into a car with a complete stranger to go to the pub.
Mark and Veronika were those rarest of people: genuinely altruistic. More than happy to welcome a bedraggled stranger into their lovely West Linton home and ply me with wine, home cooking and interesting conversation well into the wee hours, seeking nothing in return other than seeing me warm, dry and content. As I settled down to sleep I felt honestly humbled by the completely unexpected good deed I had just received, and I resolved to one day pay this forward. Mark and Veronika, if you are reading this (and I presume you have done nothing since I departed other than sit and madly refresh this page until you have seen this entry), I thank you, warmly and sincerely.
On the downside, I now had to cover 13 miles by 12.30 tomorrow to catch the Orient on TV, but this was a small price to pay to meet such excellent and happy people.