November 14, 2012 in inspiring places
Over the half term school holiday recently we took a family trip to visit my old stomping ground of Edinburgh. I lived there for three years while studying printed textiles at the art college and we decided to take a city break up in Scotland and visit some friends. The train journey from London to Edinburgh Waverley whizzed by in a flash, as the countryside did through the mud-splattered glass of the windows. I took a little time taking experimental shots out of the window playing with blur and focus, and as the views changed so did my abstracted countryside. It began to rain towards the end of the journey and turned grey and dark, but the rain on the window added another layer to my images and made us really quite pleased to be in a cosy carriage.
Edinburgh is made up of the most beautiful architecture. The old town is Medieval and the new town is Georgian. Everywhere you look the architecture of the buildings is either fairytale or grand and sophisticated and even the new builds are contemporary and architecturally interesting and seem to fit in. For such a large, old city the countryside and sea are so close. Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, juts upwards from almost the centre of the city, the Scottish Parliament at its feet and giving you the most amazing 360 degree views from its peak.
The first morning we walked up Calton Hill where, as a student, I used to visit the Beltane Fire Festival which marks the beginning of summer. At night fire would be carried in procession, drums banged to a rhythm, dancers writhing between columns wearing next to nothing. A pagan celebration that was really quite ‘other worldly’ and magical. In the daytime, it is still an impressive place to visit with large monuments, an observatory and a great view over Edinburgh. When we reached the top, my children pointed straight across to Arthur’s Seat and said “come on Mum, let’s go!”, so this was the morning of two hills. The view from the volcano’s peak was even more staggering, you had a wonderful view of the sea and other surrounding hills and countryside. Wandering around the rest of the city we saw the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and I told my children the sweet tale of this Terrier who sat and guarded his master’s grave for 14 years. The masonry in this graveyard was rather gruesome though, but perfect as it was Halloween.
Another day we wandered through the New Town to Stockbridge, popping in to to see my friend Michelle at the Open Eye Gallery where there was a show of prints by Victor Pasmore, an artist I love. We then walked along the beautiful river of Leith through ancient villages to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where it was the first day of the new S J Peploe exhibition, one of the Scottish Colourists who are a favourite of mine! It was a perfectly crisp sunny, autumn day and a perfect expedition to end a wonderful trip to Edinburgh.
Above is the view across the old town, with the Castle in the distance at the end of The Royal Mile. The Georgian grandeur of the adjacent New Town streets is gorgeous and virtually all of them retain their original windows and doors. Many still have the family name on a plaque on the front door which really gives the houses personality.
Below are the views from Calton Hill, across to Arthur’s Seat that we climbed, the countryside and out over the Firth of Forth estuary to the North Sea.
We also visited a jewellery designer friend at her home and some more friends who had opened a new shop a few days before we arrived, both of which are wonderful. I have those posts to finish and am looking forward to sharing them with you.
If you’ve never been to Edinburgh it’s a great place to visit, full of history and creativity, and you can walk almost everywhere. Just remember to wrap up warm or before you know it you’ll be popping in to one of the many pubs for a wee dram of whisky to warm you up.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and best-selling author based in London. She is a contributing stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for 14 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, as well as for leading retailers and well-known brands. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
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