Circumnavigation of Edinburgh - Sat 12th March map
or – Snow, shore, soup, slog, Steading!
Carnethies have done the run around Embra the last five years or so. This year it was hard to find a date because of other fixtures, but prompted by the comment from erstwhile co-organiser Michael O’Connor – just do it – we fixed the date and turned up at the Steading at 10 am. Unsurprisingly this was the only day so far in 2011 with heavy snow (empirical proof of the ‘Rose Effect’; i.e. plan a long trip and the weather gods are guaranteed to intervene).
Ten showed despite the weather – runners Andy Millard, Rod Dalitz, Richard Lathe, Digby Maass, Joanne Thin, Hilary Spenceley, Matteo Tesser, Ben Bate – bikers Keith Burns and Nick MacDonald.
We encounter Jamie setting off ski touring      
All headed off West for the first ever clockwise run of the route, in thick snow and on/off swirling flakes, in the direction of White Hill.
The highest point...   ...with a slippery descent  

This was interesting; with deep fresh snow bikers struggled both with the up and the descent – runners too. Some impromptu tobogganing on the drop down to Bonaly where we built a snowman, quickly christened ‘The Newest Carnethy Member’

      Carnethy's newest member - no, not Matteo!
Then the serious work began. Down through Juniper Green, onto the Donkey Brae trail, over the railway, and headed for the Watt. Still no sign of the bikers at this point. A little bit of route re-jigging and pulled into the Royal Bank a bit late. Couldn’t they at least put a bench by the bus stop for weary runners?
After a brief stop headed around the calamity at the roundabout (trams anyone?) and finally into Cammo Park and down to the Almond River in spate, where the burn we have to cross was flooded and we all got wet feet [not me; SealSkinz! – ed].
But Cramond Inn was in sight and we collapsed with a pint of mild and some soup. Thanks to the Inn for warm hospitality. Finally the bikers arrived. Usually the bikers wait for the runners, not so today…
Ocean Terminal bleakness   Brilliant bacon rolls  
At this point some headed to get a bus; the rest headed on down the seafront into a chilly east wind. No trace of snow here, just grim damp. Rejoined by the bikers we did a trip around Ocean Terminal and a failed attempt to penetrate the Scottish Executive – seems the gate at the far end is locked on a Saturday and we had to retrace our steps. Null points to the Executive re access law in Scotland. From the Water of Leith bridge we took a new route through to Leith Links and thence onto the old railway line towards the old Eastern General, joining the promenade and heading into Portobello looking for a caff. The place we always used to call at is now an Indian restaurant, and the other cafes were closed, so we headed a bit further down to find a brilliant wee place run by a couple of Bavarians, hence the presence of bratwurst & chips on the menu. Apparently it is called ‘The Scranary’. Wow, we needed a bacon roll and a cuppa, and they pulled out the stops. Great. KB says definitely worth an accolade, especially for the bacon rolls and friendly welcome to such a bunch of soggy scruffs. So thanks Portobello café, hope you are there next time we do the run.

At this point further runners peeled off after a long day, and the final three – Andy, Digby, Richard, with our two good bikers Nick and Keith, struggled to get moving again. The bikers headed off at speed on a good surface (for a few km only) while the foot-shod, feeling the distance, followed gamely.

Railway yards at Millerhill Disused railway to Straiton, tracks now up    

So to Joppa and through Newhailes; under the bypass and over to pick up the old railway line. Big changes here, but it looks like the Council (perhaps at SusTrans prompting, and a wee bit from us) are converting the rail line into a proper running/cycling track. Most encouraging – we will enquire. Then into The Wasteland; no gypsies this year (though plenty of evidence), but emerging safely and crossing the sanctuary of Drum Estate we got onto the old railway line again near the Lasswade Road – where we were once again above the snowline.

But what a change! Instead of an Amazonian Forest of brambles, weeds, fallen branches, shoulder-high vegetation, with the old railway sleepers making for an interesting up-down binary-wave run, the whole thing has been cleared and hardcore put down, this must be going to be a trailway. Great. If the Director of Long-Distance Trails should read this, this development is brilliant – though please don’t tarmac the whole thing – we need wide grassy verges, knee damage on tarmac is horrid. Then we followed the track of a bike in the snow all the way up to Straiton. Holmes & Watson (aka Digby & Andy) whiling away the painful miles deducing it to be Keith's, which indeed it was. A pioneer of the nascent cycle path.But where had Nick gone?

Digby and Andy shot off (in a slow sort of way) following the usual route up to Fairmilehead over rugged & snowy ploughed fields, while Richard elected for the ‘Bad Route’ – the straight line from Straiton to the Steading (the name comes from some reccying with Michael O’C – this is a ‘bad route’ he said). The name has stuck. And it is, knee-deep mud at points, but found a sheep caught irretrievably in brambles and couldn’t shift it (reported to the locals later on so hopefully freed in good time). Meanwhile, the bikers had taken a few tarmac options to get back by dark (Nick peeling off for Gilmerton – but then he’d cycled to the Steading, so gets the all-way-round trophy).

andy & digby arrive    
Exhausted but triumphant Ditto    
And finally the Steading for a pint and a roaring fire. Legs are cramped, so tired! GPS this year says 33 miles. Lovely hostelry, warm, shoes off, relax (creak… )

Finishers confess: Andy ‘the old railway change really helped and the small bit still with sleepers was just right for my by-then short stride length!” Digby ‘really sore this morning!’ Richard ‘I'm pretty sore this morning too!’

A special day! Running the wrong way round made it a very different experience from previous years. In some ways easier, because tackling the fiendish ascent of White Hill at the end, with legs having run 30 miles already, is a challenge. It was good to get this over with on fresh legs at the beginning. But overall no change - wave goodbye to the Pentlands, no sign of them all day, and many miles later they pop up again – and shortly we are back! Creaking.

Thanks to all those who chipped in for long segments, your company was much appreciated, and to the folks who did almost the whole trail (RD/HS); five hardies made it the whole way round.
Report by Richard, Andy, Keith
Editing Digby
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