Return to the great city

Letter 92

London has a strange pull on me. Though I’ve never had the pleasure to live here, it’s where both of my parents grew up and is still home to the majority of my large family. Coming here is coming home.

It contrasts my beautiful Edinburgh spectacularly and the sudden buzz and masses of people when I disembark the train still excites me after 20 years of visiting. I have just spent a lovely weekend here catching up with my nan, aunties and cousin which has made me feel relaxed and very happy. I love my family and it’s hard not to see them more often, but when I do see them, it’s special.

Edinburgh Waverley

I jumped on the train at Waverley in Edinburgh on Friday morning. I was lucky enough to have a window and table seat and enjoyed a pleasant 4 hour journey through the British countryside. I read for the first time in a long time, I had a guilt-free nap and I caught up on some letters. All things I haven’t been able to do whilst finishing off my studies – something I am still revelling in.

Stepping off the train into the Kings Cross iron train shed is akin to stepping into another world. I see people rushing around me to get to the underground or grab a taxi, but no one stops to admire it. The sheer volume and complexity of the structure is quite frankly mind boggling and I could stop and stare all day. It’s safe to say my course may have influenced the way I look at things.

Kings Cross Train shed

In quick succession from the train shed is the shopping centre style station behind it where busy locals and travellers eagerly await their platform announcement, business people stop for a drink and shoppers explore all Kings Cross has to offer. It’s a stunning place and perfect for people watching – a key quality I look for in public places.

Kings cross station

Stepping outside into the streets of the city you’ll find the grand King’s Cross St Pancras frontage designed by the great Scott. The red stone Gothic hotel marks the symbolic entrance to this departure point and it really is wonderful to behold. My phone photos on this cloudy day do it no justice, but it is a fantastic piece of architecture. Ironically it was first built to hide the highly engineered train shed behind, whereas now it is celebrated.

Midland Grand Hotel Kings cross

The next step of the journey, and one of the most iconic in London, is the underground. I normally despise this mode of transport in the city due to the business, sardine crowds and lack of views, but in this instance, I was happy to be on it. That might have something to do with the empty carriage I was left with for about 6 stops before my exit. It also might be because I actually missed it. I miss being in a city so big that you need an underground transport system to accommodate the incredible population. I miss that somehow even when the trains arrive every 3 minutes, each one is still jam packed in rush hour. I miss the diverse array of people you see sitting and standing on the trains and wondering where they’ve come from and where they’re going. It’s quite amazing really.

London Underground

That’s it for my short stay in London. I’ll be back in a few months and I’m looking forward to it. This is my home, whether I’ve lived here or not. Bye bye for now.

From Lou

About Me

Cardiff: theatre, shopping, food and parks

Letter 89

Cardiff is the bustling capital of Wales and home to my best friend. To celebrate entering my 20th year of life I took the 7 hour train down from Edinburgh to visit her and have a fun-filled 24 hours in Cardiff. We ate lots of lovely food, went to see a fantastic show, did a spot of shopping and explored some of the parks in this pretty city.

THE COMMITMENTS

This musical is about an Irish band in 60s Dublin and their rise to fame. It’s funny, enjoyable and contains countless big hits which all of the audience enjoyed singing along to. My friend and I significantly bought the average age down and we were surrounded by a crowd consisting mainly of over 50s. Not that that’s a problem, but it was entertaining. The Millenium Theatre in Cardiff is a really beautiful building and I found it fascinating to walk around.

cardiff millenium theatre

Roath Park

This park is huge. It contains a massive lake where you can do kayaking, paddle boating and fishing in some places and it’s surrounded by greenery , wildlife and botanical gardens. The walk around is about 5km and is very pleasant. The park was teaming with families and dog walkers. It’s such a nice park of Cardiff, not to be missed on a visit there.

cardiff roath park lakecardiff roath park reflectionscardiff roath park watercardiff roath park flowers

ALEXANDRA GARDENS

Centered between the grand building’s of Cardiff University is this little gem covered in colourful flowers and people exploring the capital.

cardiff alexandra gardenscardiff alexandra gardens rustcardiff alexandra gardens blossom

SHOPPING

The shopping in Cardiff is stellar. You couldn’t wish for more shops or a nicer area to spend your time. And your money of course. I did quite well and came away with only a top from the Hollister sale and 3 very fetching nail polishes. Everything is very central and the main shopping centre, St David’s contains a whole area full of restaurants. We stopped in Pizza Express for a bite to eat and it was as tasty as ever.

Cardiff is a lovely little city.

From Lou

About Me

A trip to Fife: flowers, beaches and castles

Letter 87

I turned 20 this week. I hit the next decade of my life, and to celebrate, I spent the weekend exploring a new part of Scotland. Every time I visit a different part of Scotland I realise how wonderful and diverse the country really is. So today, in letter 87, I would like to introduce to to the little seaside town of Kirkcaldy.

KIRKCALDY

fife coastal path

I’m using this map of the Fife Coastal Path which I will tell you about later. The highlighted area points out Kirkcaldy, where we spent the day. It was on impulse that we decided to stop off here because the weather was so beautiful. From Edinburgh it’s an easy trip across the striking red iron Forth Bridge to get to Fife’s coast.

Forth Bridge

The first stop we made in Kirkcaldy was Beveridge Park, a large area of green, water and flowers. There were some areas covered in families, dogs and ice cream and others that were left covered only in daffodils, peace and few footprints. We took a walk around the whole park and stopped to enjoy it and the sun basking down on us.

Kirkcaldy Beveridge ParkKirkcaldy Beveridge Park 2Kirkcaldy Beveridge Park 3Kirkcaldy Beveridge Park 4

The beach was calling us, so we headed over to the sea and the golden sands of this beautiful part of Scotland. It took us a while to make it to the beach, but the walk was beautiful. I was surprised at how lovely and almost foreign the beach felt. It was also lovely to have the whole stretch almost to ourselves. A spot of sunbathing, a walk and a paddle later and we felt fully relaxed and very summery.

Kirkcaldy beachKirkcaldy beach 3Kirkcaldy beach 2

Finally we headed up above the beach to Ravenscraig Castle, or what remains of it. These ruins are left largely untouched, with only a few boards to describe them. Unparalleled views span out from this tiny hill all the way out towards Edinburgh. It’s a lovely spot and finished off our day in Kirkcaldy beautifully.

Ravenscraig Castle 2Ravenscraig Castle beachRavenscraig Castle view towards edinburghRavenscraig CastleRavenscraig Castle view

FIFE COASTAL PATH

At most of the stops on the train I kept seeing ‘Alight for the Fife Coastal Path’ which I had never heard of. Of course, I was curious so I did some searching. I found out it was a walking route around the coast of Fife (kind of self-explanatory). Then on the beach in Kirkcaldy I picked up a leaflet about it which showed the map that I placed at the top of this letter. It’s a 117 mile route from the Firth of Forth in the south up to the Firth of Tay in the north. It allows walkers to discover the towns, beaches and countryside of the area whilst walking the path. It really captured my imagination and it’s something I would love to do! I think it’s a wonderful was of seeing a pocket of Scotland which I plan to do sometime in the near future.

You can learn more about it on the website:

FIFE COASTAL PATH

1 year

I had a wonderful birthday and a much needed break from work. I also quietly celebrated 1 year of ‘A Letter From Lou’! I had wanted to have 100 letters for this occasion, but alas this wasn’t possible. Instead I give you 87 – close enough right? Thank you for reading and I hope you are enjoying my letters – I certainly enjoy writing them. Here’s to many more in the future!

Much love,

From Lou

About Me

 

Exploring Edinburgh: botanics, views and sunsets

Letter 85

On a sunny day, Edinburgh is the place to be. It completely comes alive and everyone comes out in force to soak up the rare vitamin D. I took a well deserved day off on Saturday to enjoy the sunshine and take a walk around some of my favourite areas of Edinburgh. Allow me to show you around…

The Meadows is the location of everyone’s sunny Saturday, and we joined the masses to relax on the lawns in in the beautiful weather. Being surrounded by groups of friends, couples and families is perfect for people watching. The addition of mouth watering aromas drifting over from barbeques and frisbees and footballs flying around makes you feel like it might actually be summer. Only 46 days and it actually will be summer for me! Not that I’m counting…

Edinburgh Meadows DaffodilsEdinburgh Meadows

We headed on from the Meadows through Prince’s Street and towards Stockbridge. On the way we passed beautiful classic Edinburgh Streets and Dean Village. This is an upmarket area of the city with many gems to discover if you have the time to wander. Dean Gardens runs along the river with stunning views.

Edinburgh buildingsEdinburgh Dean GardensEdinburgh flowers

We made it Stockbridge and stopped for food. This area feels like a village within the city. It’s wonderful. It’s best to visit on a Sunday when the weekly market takes over the area. It’s a mix of cheese, cakes, bakery, music and paella. Must visit when you’re in the Burgh!

Edinburgh Stockbridge River

Just a few minutes from Stockbridge are the Botanic Gardens which are amazing to explore – especially on a sunny day! Even though the flowers weren’t in full bloom yet, it was still stunning, and the views over Edinburgh to the castle are wonderful. There’s so much to explore here including galleries, ponds and glasshouses. The gardens are completely free to walk around, but the glasshouses cost £5 or £4.50 for students.

Edinburgh Botanic GardensEdinburgh Botanic Gardens castle viewEdinburgh Botanic Gardens pondEdinburgh Botanic Gardens glasshouseEdinburgh Botanic Gardens Glasshouse 2Edinburgh Botanic Gardens FlowerEdinburgh Botanic Gardens silhouette

We headed back up to Prince’s Street for some food and took the weight off our feet for a while. It’s easy to walk for miles in this sunny city without realizing it. On arriving back home we caught the beautiful sunset which was the perfect end to the day. I’ve mentioned it before – but Edinburgh really does have stunning sunsets.

Edinburgh Sunset

So that’s my Saturday – a much needed rest and sun. Now for another week of work culminating in an important review. Hopefully everything will go to plan. So potentially no posts for another few days whilst I’m busy getting all of my work finished. They will be more regular again soon!

Thanks for reading,

From Lou

PS.Here’s the route we took today for those of you that may be interested.

Edinburgh Walk

About Me

Edinburgh’s resident volcano

Letter 84

One of the best and most popular things to do in Edinburgh is to take a walk up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur sits within Holyrood Park and watches over the medieval city. The views are breathtaking and stretch out towards the city, the hills and the coast. I feel pretty lucky to live a mere 10 minutes away from it. I’ve had such a great time relaxing and enjoying some of my favourite parts of the city this weekend, so I thought I’d share some of Edinburgh’s highlights with you all today!

 Starting in Newington we first made our way up to the main event, Arthur. It actually felt like spring with beautiful blue skies and the sun shining down on the bright yellow gorse that’s beginning to coat the area. It was even pretty warm and the coats came off as soon as we started to ascend.

Edinburgh Arthurs Seat 1Edinburgh Arthurs seat 2Edinburgh Arthurs seat 3

We then made our way down the back of the seat towards the east of the city and the beach. It wasn’t quite warm enough to grace the sand with our presence and instead stopped off to have some lunch. On the way we passed one of my favourite lochs in the area, Dunsapie. It’s nestled into a hill attracts both wildlife and walkers.

Edinburgh Dunsapie LochEdinburgh Dunsapie Loch 2Edinburgh swan

Edinburgh tree reflections

Reflections in the puddles

On the way back we circled around Dunsapie Loch and then continued on Queen’s Drive, the road that runs around Holyrood Park, instead of detouring up the seat. The views from this road are also magnificent as you can see over Holyrood Park, across the countryside towards the Pentland Hills and down to the pretty village of Duddingston and the big loch. Despite the sun and deceptively warm spring temperatures, the wind was in full force and cooled us down before going home. A lovely walk nonetheless.

Edinburgh Duddingston

Duddingston Village

Edinburgh Queens Drive

Edinburgh Pentland Hills

The Pentland Hills

Edinburghy city in the distance

Road towards the city

Edinburgh Crags

Salisbury Crags standing proud

To finish the day off, we arrived back home to a stunning smokey sunset over Edinburgh’s rooftops. It was a wonderful day getting out into the fresh air and spending time in Holyrood. Visitors to the city will all head up Arthur’s Seat but neglect the rest of the vast park which is well worth spending a day exploring. I got a taste of spring and now can’t wait for warmer sunnier days in the near future.

Edinburgh Sunset

Smokey sunset

From Lou

PS. Here’s a map of where we went today…

map

PPS. Work has really caught up with me this week and it’s going to be very busy until we break up for Easter so I’m not sure how often the letters will come. I’m starting to think that my goal of ‘100 for 1 year’ was a little too optimistic. I’ll still try but it’s looking unlikely! Thanks for reading everyone!

Yellow Hills and Purple Flowers

Letter 82

Springtime in Edinburgh is beautiful. There are so many parks and hills to explore and today I enjoyed venturing to an area I had never been to before.

After an incredibly hectic couple of weeks with numerous deadlines and my stress levels going through the roof and into outer space, I took a day off today. One whole guilt free day enjoying my favourite city in the world with one of my favourite people in the world. We ventured south of Edinburgh to the beautiful area of Blackford where we walked around the hills, sat by the pond and explored the streets of the villages surrounding the nature reserve. Even if the weather wasn’t quite as beautiful as it had been during the week, it was positively balmy and perfect for a wee walk.

On the way back we stopped in a cafe overlooking Edinburgh’s meadows and had a relaxing pot of tea. The meadows in springtime is THE most stunning place you can imagine and I can’t wait till it truly starts to blossom. Right now it’s gracing us with bright yellow daffodils and tiny purple flowers. I managed to forget my camera today but I hope you enjoy my photos from my phone of some lovely parts of Edinburgh.

Ediburgh Blackford Hill Arthurs seat

View towards Arthur’s Seat and the sea

Edinburgh Blackford Hill Bench

Peaceful Places

Edinburgh Blackford Hill

Yellow hills and villages beyond

Edinburgh Frog

Our friend Mr Frog

Edinburgh Meadows Flowers

Beautiful flowers in the Meadows

map

A map so that you can see where we’ve been – Blackford, with it’s nature reserve, and the Meadows closer to the centre. Both with views towards Arthur’s Seat in the east.

Just a quick post today to show you another side to my home. Have a lovely Sunday everybody!

From Lou

About Me

The best places have no wifi

Letter 20

As we walked up to the wooden door of the tiny Highland bothy I remember thinking how wonderful it was that it was completely disconnected. Surrounded by nothing but mountains, water and wildlife. People (including myself) actively look for hostels with free wifi, but how rare is it to find somewhere which is solely for shelter, completely basic and beautifully tranquil. I thought it was very special.

The Scottish Highlands blew me away. I was ignorant to the fact that I share a country with some of the most awe-inspiring beautiful landscapes in the world. On Friday afternoon we drove from Edinburgh to Lochcarron, which would be my home for only two nights. In hindsight Friday afternoon was not the best time to choose and we had to battle through a lot of traffic to get over the famous Fourth bridge to enter the north of Scotland. But it was worth it. As we neared Inverness the landscapes stretched further and the mountains rose higher. The highlands give a very warm welcome to their visitors.

The first thing I really noticed was the amount of water there is, whether it be lochs, rivers or the main one – rain. Mixed in with the bare banded rock faces and gorse covered fields it makes for quite a view. Lochcarron is 60 miles from Inverness. That is 60 miles from civilisation. Passing Inverness felt like I really had entered the middle of nowhere. There are only 210,000 people in the whole of the Highlands and you can really feel it! Quite strange for a city girl like myself.

Lochcarron is a small but long village which sits beside Loch Carron (believe it or not). The loch is huge and very deep in places. It’s also rich with wildlife. Unfortunately I didn’t get a swim in, but maybe I will next time! The village contains few houses and some ammenities: a couple of guesthouses, cafe, restaurant, some shops and even a gallery. I believe it’s quite popular with tourists and it’s also very near to the Isle of Skye. (When I go for longer next time, Skye is on my list.)

Although I was there for 2 nights, I was very ill the first night and following day with a sickness bug. I never get ill and it just had to happen in the Highlands! Even so, I made the most of my last day there when I had the strength to get up and walk. So this is the story of that day with the help of the beautiful photos the Highlands afforded me.

We took a couple of bikes and cycled to Coulags, where we would begin our walk, only about 15 minutes away. Cycling along the loch and between the mountains was absolutely stunning. En route we came across an old rusting war bunker which went underground via a ladder. It was slightly soggy inside so we stayed above ground. As we arrived in Coulags we ditched the bikes and headed off following the path of the river which flows between the mountains. It’s well worn out by walkers so was not treacherous, and I enjoyed the elegant stepping stones across the many streams along the way.

We were heading for the bothy, which if you don’t know is a basic shelter which is left open for free use of anyone who needs it. The one we visited was a beautiful little stone cottage equipped with a stove, table, chairs, books, candles and even some fairy lights (which worked). Quite the romantic scene – I would love to spend a night there at some point. I bet the sunrise would be immense being right in the thick of the Highlands on a clear morning. The best thing? No Wifi.

 

As we turned back upon ourselves to head back to Lochcarron the weather improved. Although it had been warm all day we did get caught in some muggy showers. At this point the sun was shining down and we were walking comfortably in t-shirts, occasionally taking a drink from the crystal clear streams. We came across a drop in the main river which caused a large pool perfect for a swim. I’m a wimp and decided that I’m still not mentally prepared to be soaking wet outside in Scotland, but my boyfriend jumped straight in. To be honest, the water looked wonderful.

Regrettably we were nearly back to the bikes and I took my last picture on our small walk in the Highlands. I really didn’t want to leave but I had a train to Inverness looming and you do not want to miss your train on a Sunday in the Highlands when it really is the only train. Before heading off we grabbed a spot of lunch in the cafe in Lochcarron which I would highly recommend. It’s really lovely inside and covered in paintings of the area and handmade crafts which you can buy.. The food is also really tasty and surprisingly good value considering its one of the only places to eat for quite a few miles. It’s called Waterside Cafe and (as the name suggests) it has a wonderful view across the loch.

P1010332

To get back to Edinburgh I had to take a train to Inverness and then a bus from there onwards. I was dreading the altogether 6 hour journey but actually really enjoyed it. I couldn’t even sleep because I didn’t want to miss anything. Which ever way I looked there were mountains or rivers or lochs or quaint Highland villages I mentally noted down to visit.

I now have a long list of weekends away for the next few years in Edinburgh!

If you can, pay this beautiful part of the coutry a visit.

From Lou

About Me