Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Running in Scotland #1: Edinburgh and John Muir Way

After landing in Edinburgh on Friday morning I had a few hours in the afternoon before a few friends from France joined Agnès and I for a weekend in Scotland's capital. Too busy with work recently, I didn't prepare at all for this trip. Before leaving our apartment, I looked at a few running routes on the web and was particularly attracted by the Seven Hills Edinburgh which is actually a race at the end of June. 14 miles to go to the top of all the big hills around Edinburgh, that looked perfect. Except that looked more like orienteering per these two web sites: a race report from a runner of the nearby Portobello Running Club and the official race website which is itself not much helpful with course details (I found this additional training run report afterwards but that's quite a few pictures to print out!).

Anyway, rather that getting lost in a city that I didn't know yet, I figured out it would be safer to follow the coast. Our apartment was less than 2 miles away from Portobello and that's where I headed to after creating an 11-mile course on MapMyRun.com.

At the airport, while waiting for our luggage, I had grabbed a brochure called East Lothian Outdoor Guide advertising very appealing trails for hikers, runners or mountain bikers. But Edinburgh wasn't even on the map so I figured out it was out of reach during a 2-day stay in Edinburgh, without a car. To my great surprise, less than 3 miles in my run, I passed by a sign saying "Welcome to East Lothian, origin of the Scottish flag" and, sure enough, here was the... John Muir Way! Indeed, John Muir was born in this area, Dunbar, and emigrated to the United States and California in particular with his family when he was 10. What a unique opportunity to link our Californian history and heritage to the birth place of this amazing visionary outdoor enthusiast!
I only covered 8 of the 134 miles (215 km) of that trail but it was quite an amazing experience to find such a great place to run long (ended up logging 22 miles, a perfect way to handle the jet lag!).
 And the bigger picture in case you don't have Scotland's map in mind... ;-)
I passed a few small harbors, and 2 historical places showing the importance of the coal industry in the region, one from the 19th century, Morrison Haven, and the other from the late 20th century, the Cokenzie power plant (see pictures at the end of this post).

Another remarkable piece of civil engineering is a 1.7-mile-long (2.75 km) sea wall protecting the shore between Musselburgh and Prestonpans.

There is a bird preserve in this area so you can see quite a few birds too.

Overall, quite an outdoor experience, so easily accessible from Edinburgh! I went for 20 more miles on this course on Sunday morning before climbing to the top of Arthur's Seat, the highest of the 7 Edinburgh hills, culminating at 250 meters. And quite a popular and touristic place on a sunny Sunday in June! I must say I'm impressed as all the easily-accessible hiking and running trails around Edinburgh. Indeed, at 57%, walking/hiking is the most popular activity among Scottish adults, far beyond swimming and soccer for instance. I think I'm going to enjoy this aspect of Scotland a lot! :-)

PS: more pictures of this out and back.

Getting on the shore (promenade) at Portobello

The first harbor on the way, Fisherrow Harbour

The post at the bridge crossing the River Esk in Musselburgh. The green sign points to the East, the blue one to the West (Edinburgh):
 Crossing the River Esk in Musselburgh
The bridge over the River Esk: not as many padlocks as it used to be on Pont des Arts in Paris, or the Charles bridge in Prague...

 Morrison's haven, showcasing artifacts of the 19th coal industry in the area:

 Entering Prestonpans

 View of the coast toward Edinburgh:
 The Arthur's Seat hill from far away:
 Cockenzie harbor:
 An old grinding ring and balls which processed about 500,000 tons of coal

 Port Seton

 The long sea wall between Cockenzie and Musselburgh

 Running back toward Edinburgh
The end of the River Esk

 The beach of Portobello

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