Because Edinburgh is built over hilly terrain and up against and on the crest of volcanic cliffs, it is often hard to navigate for those who do not know it well. Points of visual reference, such as the castle, prove useless when suddenly you find yourself at a lower level than the street you wanted to be on. Now you’re under a high spanning stone bridge. Now you’re curving round, looping back on yourself. You just saw that infernal castle a moment ago, but now the compass is spinning and wherever you are, it’s oddly dark for a Spring afternoon.
Pro tip- that’s not actually the castle. It’s the governor’s house of the old Calton Jail, on Calton Hill.
At other points, the landscape of the city provides an chaotic but visually appealing collision of stone and texture. Over the years a sequence of building and rebuilding and adjuncts and buttressing has lead to brick and stone insets in the natural cliffsides (ruins of old churches, or stopgaps to prevent rockfall) and to the picture at the top of the page, where an alley smashes into itself as two buildings come to a head.
It confounds the eye – one building heaving into another. Lights rim the floor so that in the dark there are some simpler definitions for the foot passenger to use as guide. But not all of Edinburgh is like this, of course. There are the grand parades among the frenzy of knots and neuks.
And then there’s the final image I will leave you with here. One of my favourite parts of the city, where the vistas open and the cliffs rise in their changing colours over the rough and short cropped grass. Holyrood Park, by the Scottish Parliament: