This morning dawned — amazingly bright and sunny. Blue sky, sunshine …? It was supposed to begin raining during the night and not stop for the next year. I woke up David and told him we were off to climb a mountain.
We packed up a lunch and took a bus to the Parliament building, and the nearby hill containing Holyrood Park, The summit of the hill is known as Arthur’s Seat.
At the bottom of the hill, there were two choices, one looked boring, and one looked exciting. We did not take the road less travelled by, as the exciting path was getting far more traffic, however, being more exciting, we joined in at a fast clip. It only took about thirty steps for my legs to realise what my brain had gotten them into and they immediately went on strike. “No, you don’t!” they said. “We are NOT climbing up that thing!” The path was very steep here at the beginning, but I knew once we got to the top it would level out. So brain convinced legs to keep going with the promise of frequent rest breaks to take photographs.
Up and up, steeper, and steeper. It was not very long before the path did, indeed, level out, and I could see a road ahead of us (I say not very long, but it felt like three days). I was sorely disappointed; there was plenty of rock above us yet. All that steep grade, yet this is the end? It couldn’t be!
Then, like a detective in a movie looking for clues, a glint of sunlight caught on someone’s camera high up on the next hill above us. Ah hah! There is a path! Veering off — this time onto the road less travelled — at first down, and then up, we hiked over rocks. Up, down. Gently climbing upward. I could have done this all day. If the weather had decided to stay warm, that is. The clouds started rolling in, the wind picked up, and suddenly we were freezing.
We sat and ate our sandwiches on a rock in a gully. After reading about how seriously the English are about their hill walking — eating their picnic lunches on a hill in the freezing wind and taking sips of tea to keep their fingers from falling off with frostbite, I thought we might just make it in this country after all!
Then the climbing got rough. Nearly twisting ankles on loose rocks and clambering over boulders wasn’t the “rough country” mentioned in the guidebook. Apparently, the path just gets washed out and over the side of the cliff. For a few yards the “path” is a patch of loose gravel with a tell-tale sign of a landslide leading off into the unknown.
When the path returns, it returns with a vengeance. Straight up (who thought that grade at the bottom of the hill was a steep climb??), grabbing rocks and handholds in front of me to keep going and not fall backwards.
At one point, I was convinced that even if by some miracle I made it to the top of the hill, there was absolutely no way I was coming back down — sliding down a pebbled descent right off the edge? I don’t think so. I figured I could just sit up at the top of the hill forever, becoming part of the attractions, accepting chocolate bars from tourists. They could call me the American on the Hill.
Finally, gasping and terrified, I peered over the edge of a rock into the eyes of a three year old. What? How? The top of the mountain was crowded with teenagers, families, small children, dogs.
The view was fantastic: out across Holyrood Park, the firth, all of Edinburgh. It was certainly worth the climb — especially after I found the nice easy path the three-year-old took.