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Uphill All The Way – The Last Royal Mile (to Waverley Station)

Published on: 22 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 23 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the final report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

When it comes to catching trains I am not normally one to leave lots of time. For me the perfect situation is to arrive at the railway platform at the same time as the train and climb aboard.

The trouble with this approach is that there is no contingency. If you are held up for only a few seconds you risk missing it and today I could not afford to.

My train tickets - £43 for the whole journey from Edinburgh to Guildford seemed a good deal.

My train tickets – £43 for the whole journey from Edinburgh to Guildford seemed a good deal.

My ticket allowed for no flexibility. It had been a good deal. By purchasing it well in advance, I had paid only £43 for a journey from Edinburgh to Guildford. Not bad when you can pay £12.40 for a standard single from Waterloo to Guildford alone.

The trouble was if I missed the thing it would be £43 down the tubes and I would have to shell out for another at full price, at £136, three times more. Plus who knows if there would be a seat for me and a place for my bike?

I found myself changing my attitude towards punctuality. I was feeling more akin to the silver brigade that like to turn up half an hour early or more “just in case”. Why not? After all, a good percentage of the little hair I have left has turned grey. I was no spring chicken who could sprint down the platform and leap aboard with seconds to spare.

In any case, I had to get going. Check out time in Milton Street was 11am. It was fast approaching and I still had not published my final daily report. I knew I could not get all the photos I had selected edited, uploaded, captioned and inserted in time, so I decided to do about half of them and write a message asking readers to check back later.

I went through the pannier packing ritual for the last time, placing all my travelling possessions into three plastic bags and then packing them in the panniers. I realised that there was zero chance of them getting wet – it was just a mile to the station entrance and the sun was out in a blue sky – but it was the way I had got used to doing it, a routine.

Eva helped me down the stairs with my bike and pannier. I thanked her and said goodbye. I went to the end of the street carried the bike up the few steps to a park at the back of Holyrood, and opposite the base of Arthur’s Seat.

A gate at the bottom of Milton Street opens to the park opposite the base of Artur's Seat.

A gate at the bottom of Milton Street opens to the park opposite the base of Arthur’s Seat.

It seemed strange that my ride today would be so short. At least I would not have to worry about navigation.

I decided to go through the front yard of Holyrood. I didn’t think the Queen would mind, especially as she wasn’t there.

The Queen was not in residence to object to my short-cut through her front yard.

The Queen was not in residence to object to my short-cut through her front yard.

Then it was out through the main gate, a quick sidestep past the strange, unattractive architecture of the Scottish Parliament, and into Canongate, more familiar as the bottom of the Royal Mile.

The life sized statue of poet Robert Fergusson, who inspired for Robert Burns, outside the Kirk of the Canongate.

The life sized statue of poet Robert Fergusson, who inspired for Robert Burns, outside the Kirk of the Canongate.

I had actually worried about this hill. I shouldn’t have done. It is no big deal, probably less of a challenge than Guildford High Street.

The final climb up the Royal Mile had worried me - it shouldn't have done.

The final climb up the Royal Mile had worried me – it shouldn’t have done.

The traffic was backed up by some of the traffic lights. There were a lot of tourist coaches in town, but I could afford to be patient, I had lots of time.

I pedalled on up in a low gear. I was looking for something. I sought one particular spot.

My Raleigh casts it shadow over the Heart of Midlothian, the very end of my uphill journey.

My Raleigh casts it shadow over the Heart of Midlothian, the very end of my uphill journey…

It was just a pattern in the granite setts, in the shape of a heart. It marks the spot where a 15th century tollbooth stood. It was the administrative centre of Edinburgh as well as a prison and a site for public executions. The building features in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Heart of Midlothian, published in 1818 and the heart is now the badge of one of Edinburgh’s main football clubs.

...and just to prove it was me, here I am.

…and just to prove it was me, here I am.

There is a rather unsavoury custom of spitting on the heart, indeed there was evidence that someone had done so recently. Some, today, do this in the belief it is good luck but it is thought that originally it was a gesture of disdain for the former prison.

This was truly the very end of my journey, fittingly at the symbolic heart of my goal, Edinburgh, and right by my namesake cathedral or St Giles High Kirk, as it is also called.

Waverley Bridge

Waverley Bridge.

I did not linger. Although there was still almost an hour before my train left there was no time to do anything meaningful. I retraced my route back down the Royal Mile a short way, turned left into Cockburn Street, on down to Waverley Bridge, took one photo towards the castle and then, noting the warning signs prohibiting cycling, pushed my faithful bike down the ramp to platform level.

... it was time for the final dismount.

… it was time for the final dismount.

With a sad, reflective feeling one often gets at the end of something enjoyable I waited for the train that would take me homewards, south, at a speed that would cover the 600 miles I had cycled in just six hours.

One last glance back a Edinburgh, looking bonnie in the sunshine...

One last glance back a Edinburgh, looking bonnie in the sunshine.

I don’t know if I will ever cycle uphill all the way to Scotland again but I do hope there will be other bike journeys for me; they are a great way of really seeing and appreciating the country. Whatever happens, I will have the memories and the satisfaction to recall and reflect on, part of the enjoyment of any adventure especially those that are uphill.

The platform sign for my train sharing stops I had made on the way up.

The platform sign for my train sharing stops I had made on the way up.

Soon Martin Giles will reflect on his long distance bike ride making observations about the different regions he saw, the people he met and their views, the practicalities of cycling and a comparison of some of the B&B accommodation he used. Look out for: “Reflections On an Uphill Journey”.

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test 2 Responses to Uphill All The Way – The Last Royal Mile (to Waverley Station)

  1. Ray Springer Reply

    June 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Well done Martin – quite an achievement.
    I followed your progress daily from your reports and found them very interesting.
    Look forward to hearing of your next adventure.

    • Martin Giles Reply

      June 23, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you Ray and to all of you who followed me through my reports. I am sorry the comments service broke down in the period but if you would like to post any comments now they can be published.

      It was a great trip that lived up to expectations. I am not sure when the next one will be but it won’t be for a while. Maybe some Dragon readers would like to have a go for themselves?

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