On the seaside edge of the city I live in, Edinburgh, is the Pentland Hills Regional Park, what you might call a State Park in America. Designated in 1984 it covers an area of roughly 90 square kilometres.
On a glorious blue sky day, with hardly a breath of wind, I set off from my home on this seaside edge of the city, toward the hills. The first 13 miles I had to share the road with busy traffic, up and down many hills as I picked my way out of the city to the turn off into the hills at the Flotterstone Inn. An old staging post, there has been an Inn on this spot since the seventeenth century, it is now a popular spot with walkers and cyclists. This was the point where finally I could leave the traffic behind.
The road continues as tarmac for a further three miles into the hills, past two reservoirs, Glencorse and Loganlea. Fishermen were out on their little wooden boats drifting across the mirror-like surface as they hoped to lure a catch. All around lambs, now a few months old, were bouncing about chasing each other. As I cycled along my nostrils were filled with the strong coconut smell of the gorse, bright yellow and lining the sides of the road. Crows seemed to be everywhere, cawing and scrapping with each other. From the start of the first reservoir I could see the route up ahead through the valley, lined with trees in ten shades of green.
After the road ended I was on to narrow dirt path that led up and through a small narrow gorge and I stopped at this, the highest point, for an early lunch.
Just four miles further on, cycling out of the hills, I was awe struck at the beauty of vast meadows of bog cotton and buttercups as I flew downhill to the western edge of the city to an area called Balerno. At this point I joined the Water of Leith path. This is a river that starts in the hills I had just left and flows for a total of 24 miles right through the heart of the city all the way to the Firth of Forth and emerges not far from where I live.
All along the path the air was sweet with the smell of wild garlic. Surprisingly the path was quiet despite the glorious weather, but I put this down to people having gone away for the day because of the glorious weather. This part of the city is made up of what were once isolated villages, but as the city grew they were absorbed, but each still retains it's own character and community. As the track wound it's way along it passed many little houses nestled among the trees on the edge of the river.
As I rounded one bend I spotted a heron, completely motionless in the river as it stared into one spot waiting for a fish. It seemed to be having as much luck as the fishermen on the reservoirs. A little further on another heron was guarding a nest.
Approaching the centre of the city I had to divert briefly and join a portion of the Union Canal, busy with families in Canadian canoes and more serious paddlers in sleek skiffs. On the other side of a viaduct a set of stairs took me back to the Water of Leith. Due to the never-ending tram works in Edinburgh there is a short diversion near the Scottish Rugby's national stadium called Murrayfield.
On the well-manicured grassy field beside the stadium two teams were playing cricket, and the thwack of leather against willow was unmistakable as a summer sound. From here I was on the final few miles out of the city, passing under the Dean Bridge and back to the coast.
Just over three miles from where the Water of Leith flowed into the Forth I was back at my front door. The mile-long beach was covered in sun worshipers, most having turned the colour of a well-cooked lobster since I had left in the morning.
A great run, 35 miles miles from city edge to city edge and back again.