Edinburgh is a peach of a city, is it not? Last week, I walked up to the castle on a crisp and sunny morning. Crossing high above the railway line, I watched the trains slink out of Waverley station and snake along the valley floor, a giant Hornby set beneath my feet. The path to the castle is tarmacked and rough, but still slippery with morning frost, so I tread carefully as I follow the zigzag to stand under the castle walls at the top. A young man next to me breathes: ‘Awesome, man.’ Absolutely. And the more so when you think the volcanic plug on which the castle stands is riddled with passages dug to hold Napoleonic POWs.
The view is awesome too. It always surprises me how frequently you glimpse the Firth of Forth from the city. The buildings, the firth and the land are often grey, but today the water is blue and beyond it the Kingdom of Fife and Burntisland (Burnt Island to the Scots) is bright green. The middle ground is festive: on Princes Street there’s a Christmas ferris wheel sharing space with the gothic Scott memorial, and a terrifying merry-go-round that swings couples strapped into chairs round on the ends of cables. As they whirl, the bit that attaches them to a central pole rises until they are eight floors up. ‘What if they throw up?’ I think.
This is an extract from Prue Leith’s Winter Notebook, in the Christmas issue of the Spectator