Dreghorn Woods, Edinburgh

Dreghorn Woods is situated in the suburban area of Dreghorn, near The City of Edinburgh. It is accessible on foot from the nearby residential areas of Colinton, Craiglochart, Fairmilehead, Oxgangs and Dreghorn. The bus route goes past the entrance and this makes it very easy to get there from other areas via the number 27 Bus for Hunters Tryst. The woods are situated next to Dreghorn Barracks, home of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment Scotland and sometimes, they can be seen exercising in the woods.

The stream is so clear, you can see every stone.

When you enter the woods from Redford Road you immediately go from the chaotic feeling of the main road, with its traffic speeding by as people come from the city bypass, to the peaceful haven of the woodlands. Its abundant nature wraps its arms around you, you breathe in and feel instantly relaxed and at peace.  The stream running through the woods, the birds, the wind and the insulation from feelings of stress helps you to unload your mental burdens and just enjoy being part of the world and nature. And, the best thing about it is that it’s accessible, even if you don’t drive. From Edinburgh City centre it takes approximately 30 minutes to ride there on a bike.

Families can be seen enjoying the beauty of Dreghorn Woods

Residents local to this area are so lucky to have such a green area that is open to them with no restrictions on entry. Many cities have no such spaces. The trees there include rowan, cherry, birch and Scots pine and as far as the eye can see there is so much wild garlic that you could forage and keep stocked up for the whole year. If you’re there in Spring the woodland flowers will delight your senses with their array of colours and smells. Daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells and many other wonderful sights await you. Then there’s the animals. This woodland is home to so many species of insects, birds and bats. At night, the nearby householders are often treated to the sight and sounds of an earth of foxes as they venture closer to humankind in search of food or just being inquisitive. Deer can also be seen here if you are lucky.

The sunlight pushes through the branches of the majestic pine tree in Dreghorn Woods.

It’s not just the flora and fauna that enjoy these woods. Each day, at any time, you will be met by the happy sight of dog walkers, families with children, runners and cyclists all taking advantage of what nature has to offer here. On a winter day, the canopy of trees serves as a little bit of shelter from the Scottish wind and in the summer, the stream is the focus of fun, with children paddling as families enjoy sitting at the edge of the water, listening to the bird song.

The woods are are a natural playground for people of all ages

If you haven’t been, it certainly is a place to that should be on your to do list.

Braidburn Valley Park, Edinburgh.

In Scotland, during this Covid 19 lockdown time, we’re very fortunate that we have been permitted to continue to take daily exercise. Many countries have been on full lockdown where the citizens can’t even go outside at all and although this may be necessary in badly affected or highly populated areas it must be very difficult to keep this up, especially if you have children who love to run their energy off.

The Braid Burn. A perfect place to use your little fishing net and sit beside for a picnic

Unlike many cities, Edinburgh is blessed with super green spaces dotted throughout the city and they are generally pleasant and accessible. One of these areas is Braidburn Valley Park, located in the Morningside and Oxgangs area of the city. It occupies a beautiful valley with the Braid Burn (stream) running through it from the Pentland hills to the Firth of Forth. At 11 hectares it is the fourth biggest community park in Edinburgh and, proudly, in 2007 it achieved the award of Scotland’s first Green Flag for Excellence in Parks.

A map of the park and various flora and fauna to be seen there

The beautiful trees and plants together with the burn provide a perfect home for the local wildlife and the children of the area have created a wildflower meadow in an effort to attract more birds and insects. However, as well as the wildlife, the park is well visited by local families riding bikes, walking dogs and generally just enjoying nature. With the avenues of stunning blossom trees, various walkways that are accessible to wheelchair users and the variegated leaves of the shrubs and bushes, this is the perfect place for a picnic or a game of hide and seek.

Beautiful tree-lined walks to enjoy, winter or summer.

As well as being ideally placed to serve the local community, the park has a lot of history to discover. For example, the park’s Fly Walk was the route that Robert Louis Stevenson took when travelling between his home in Swanston and the city centre and the cherry trees there were planted by 5000 girl guides in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

accessible paths that can be used by used by wheelchair users, for baby buggies, etc.

The park is an important community hub to the point that a local committee has formed to look after the park’s interests and ensure that it is well managed and used appropriately. The Friends of Braidburn Valley Park was formed in 2002 to give local people the opportunity to have their say in how the Park would be managed and developed. The Friends work in partnership with Edinburgh Council and others to increase people’s use of the Park, as well as its amenity and importance for wildlife.

The Pentland hills in the near distance

Braidburn Valley Park is open all the time, it does not close at night and the stunning sunset as a backdrop to the silhouette of the surrounding houses really brings an air of calm that can be felt when walking there at twilight.

gazing over the valley to the sunset.

At the moment, the park is a bit quieter than usual because people are following the guidelines under the Covid 19 prevention plan and either staying home all the time, limiting their outside activity or when they do venture out, people are practicing social distancing and keeping at least 2 metres away from those who are not part of their household. However, we can all still enjoy this lovely green space for our daily exercise, soak up the smells and sounds of nature and look forward to the time, hopefully soon, when we can sit there and enjoy a picnic again.

stargazing app that showed us we were looking at Venus in the sky.

The Helix, Falkirk

Relax at The Helix

The Helix, Falkirk.

Beautiful greenery in The Helix

The Helix Park in Falkirk is a fairly new park for the area. For many years the land on which it is now situated was a bit of a no-go area for humans unless you had good wellies on. The idea was born in 2003 to develop an eco park, link communities that had nothing but road networks  between them and this site, with its 350 hectares of land was the perfect place. Sitting on the border between Falkirk and Grangemouth with close proximity to both town centres, with easy access from the nearby motorway, it has proven to be a very popular place to spend the day with both locals and visitors flocking to it, especially on the nice sunny days in the summer.

Wetlands have been preserved and maintained for the wildlife to enjoy and build their habitats in.

Many organisations were involved in the planning and development of The Helix and in 2007, the project was  awarded twenty five million pounds in grant funding from The Big Lottery. Fast forward to 14th September 2013 and The Helix celebrated its opening day with many people in attendance. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and on any given day, you can see walkers, families at play, cyclists, skaters and all kinds of people enjoying the great outdoors there.

There are many beautiful walkways at The Helix and all are wheelchair user friendly.

The area has two car parks. A free car park near the play park area and a car park that takes a small fee nearer the back where The Kelpies are. There is also sometimes a chance to park your car at Falkirk stadium, from which you can then walk in a few minutes to one of the many entrances to the park.

Free car parking at The Helix

The Helix is essentially in two parts seamlessly lying together. The Helix North and The Helix South. The Helix North is the greener part with long path networks meandering through woodlands and along The River Carron and these paths give access to the area from surrounding communities such as Carron, Grangemouth and Langlees, Bainsford.

The Lake at The Helix. In summer you can enjoy pedalos and kayaking or just sit at the cafe and enjoy the peace and beauty

The Helix South has Over 12km (7.5 miles) of new and upgraded paths. These paths provide connections between Grangemouth, Beancross, Polmont, Lower Braes, Laurieston and Westquarter. They also improve links to the Falkirk Stadium and link to Helix Park, The Kelpies Hub and Helix North.

Some of the wonderful apparatus available to children at The Helix

If you have children The Helix is like a dream destination for them. A fantastic park and boating pond takes centre stage and the apparatus is all constructed with natural materials which encourage young adventurers to explore safely. They can run, climb, balance, spin, jump and all in a very natural environment. While they’re having the time of their life, there is a cafe where you can enjoy some simple foods and get a coffee. At the side of the cafe, there are free toilet facilities so you don’t need to worry about accidents. In the summer months there are also water activities such as kayaking and padalos. There really is something for everyone. Keep up to date with activities at The Helix by pressing the link.

One of the many visitors to The Helix

The Helix park is very accessible, if you’re coming from out-with the area, here’s how to get here. We Falkirk people hope to see you at The Helix soon.

The Meadows Festival, Edinburgh.

The Meadows Festival

The Meadows Festival is free to enter for everyone. (money is required if you wish to purchase from one of the many stalls or ride on the funfair.

The Meadows in Edinburgh is a popular, large green space in the City of Edinburgh that has parkland, children’s play parks, a running track and a cycling track, tennis courts and more. It is always brimming with life and all year round you can see locals and tourists alike enjoying all that it has to offer. However, once a year there is a very special occasion; The Meadows Festival, a free annual event run entirely by volunteers. To name but a few, the event hosts live music bands, dog shows, charity awareness stands, sports events, local food and service providers, bric-a-brac stalls and, not forgetting the fairground; a selection of fairground rides and attractions to suit young, old and everyone in between.

The Meadows Festival Fairground has rides and attractions for all ages.

The Meadows Festival, 2019

This year’s festival has been tremendous. The Scottish weather has been kind and the volunteers, stall holders and musicians have all provided Edinburgh with a wonderful, positive atmosphere in which to enjoy the best of what this area has to offer. This year is the 45th year of this festival and the programme has been so varied and interesting that you can’t help but notice the diversity of Edinburgh, from those campaigning and raising awareness for a free Palestine to those campaigning for an independent Scotland.

The ever important campaign for freedom and human rights for the Palestinian people comes to The Meadows Festival.

There were also food vendors representing the various regions of the globe, such as Slumdog, the Indian Street Food restaurant and those promoting a healthy, plant based lifestyle, such as The Sly Fox and their vegan menu. Then there was the more traditional burgers and other Scottish fare.

The Sly Fox serving their vegan menu.
Some of the vegan goodies in offer from The Sly Fox

We had a chance to chat with some of the people there who were campaigning or selling their products. A very friendly lady called Jean who was campaigning on behalf of Pensioners for Independence, wearing her Scottish Viking hat and giving information to those who wanted it about the great benefits of being an independent country. We had a very informative chat and we hope that her dream comes true.

Jean feels passionately that Scotland should be independent of the UK and campaigns at The Meadows Festival , meeting people with a friendly face, a nice chat and some facts about the campaign for Scottish Independence and her organisation, Pensioners for Independence.

We also spoke with Tony who was selling traditional sweets, such as soor plooms and cola cubes. We happily bought two packets at 2 pounds each and they sent me back to my childhood when we used to go to Peter Pender’s corner shop in Rumford and get a quarter of whatever he had available for a few pence. Of course, the cost is a bit different these days but well worth it. Tony has a shop in Portobello called Cake and Candy Tea Room and these lovely sweets and many like them can be purchased there.

Tony from Cake and Candy Tea Room in Portobello serves us with a happy face and a friendly chat

The ethos seemed to be very much on eco awareness raising. Stall holders have to sign a promise that they will endeavour to use eco friendly, bio degradable containers when selling food items, etc and we did notice that there were many stalls selling plants native to the local countryside and also giving information about horticulture and advising how to get the best out of your garden.

Some of the plants on offer from Solar Ripe, who also do Scottish Medicinal Herbs workshops. Contact on herbs@solarripe.eu

There were various charity stalls there too; Save Palestine, Sands, Cancer charities, etc. All raising awareness and collecting for a good cause. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin who was promoting his charity for single dads and dads with contact. Kevin’s charity was raising funds to help single and separated dads on a budget to take their kids on days out. He was telling me that he also volunteers at Bridgend Farmhouse and has even been nominated to receive an award for his voluntary work there. We wish him the best of luck and hope that he wins the award.

Kevin running his tombola stand to raise funds for Edinburgh Lone Fathers. A very worthy cause that seeks to fund great days out for kids and their dads.

There is so much more to the festival than can be written here, so please visit next year and experience this wonderful event for yourself.

Last but not least, please respect The Meadows. Pick up your rubbish and treat this lovely space with the respect it deserves.

The Meadows Festival Association was founded in 1974 and the members, who are all volunteers, meet fortnightly throughout the year and work towards organising this wonderful event that is there for all the community. Everyone is free to attend their AGM and if you wish to be involved as a volunteer, either on the day or to help with the organisation, you can make an enquiry via their website.

Arthur’s Seat, the view that can’t be beat.

Arthur’s Seat.

Climb to the very top of Arthur's Seat and this will tell you everything you're looking at.
Climb to the very top of Arthur’s Seat and this will tell you everything you’re looking at.

If you visit Edinburgh, you will surely have heard the name Arthur’s Seat. A famous landmark, visited by tourists and locals alike and a great view point to see all around Edinburgh, if you manage it all the way to the top. It lies East of the city centre, approximately 1 mile from Edinburgh Castle and is 250.5 metres in height.

Arthur's Seat showing the famous skyline of the extinct volcano.
Arthur’s Seat – The famous skyline showing off the extinct volcano.

As well as being a popular site to visit for walking and hiking, Arthur’s Seat is also a site of special scientific interest, being important for its geology, various species of plants and animals and also their habitats. Indeed, if you have an interest in volcanoes and how they change the landscape, you should definitely visit and do a bit of research on Arthur’s Seat and the surrounding areas.

History on Arthur’s Seat

In history, Arthur’s Seat was used as a hill fort. Indeed, Hill fort defences are visible round the main massif of Arthur’s Seat at Dunsapie Hill and above Samson’s Rib.

You’re never alone on Arthur’s Seat. The view towards Calton Hill and the City from the foot of the hill behind Holyrood Park.

As you walk up the hill, the first thing that strikes you is how many people are visiting this area. Very easy to get to, with Holyrood Park just below, the Scottish Parliament building, Dynamic earth and The Palace of Holyrood House are also very near, public transport regularly passes this area. As well as this, there are car parking spaces at the Holyrood Park side. You are never alone while walking up Arthur’s Seat, there’s always someone to nod hello to as you pass.

A view of the loch and part of the city from a mid-point view.

The climb from the Holyrood Palace side is fairly easy up until the higher points, where it becomes rocky and not for those who aren’t sure footed, however, even if you only manage to go partway up, you can still be stunned by the lovely views of Edinburgh.

Looking over to Portobello.

If you’re a budding writer or film maker, Arthur’s Seat is inspiring, being the focal point of many famous book and films such as The Underground City by Jules Verne and One Day by David Nicholls.

As we said, you’re never alone on Arthur’s Seat.

Whoever you are, if you are coming to Scotland and you have the ability to use your legs, Arthur’s Seat should be on your go to list. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be able to take photographs to impress your friends.