Sunday 1 March 2015

Scotland by Rail (and bus) - Rosslyn Chapel & Roslin Glen

sketch spot above the River North Esk

Scotland by Rail (and bus), thanks to ScotRail.
Rosslyn Chapel & Roslin Glen, Roslin

The village of Roslin lies a couple of miles south of Edinburgh and a couple east of the Pentland Hills. Roslin Glen skirts around its edge, a beautiful tree-filled valley, cut deeply into the land by the River North Esk. World-famous Rosslyn Chapel (The Da Vinci Code, as if you didn't know) nestles above the glen, only a minute from the village.

Lothian Buses no.15 service (Prestonpans to Penicuik) runs half hourly from city centre to village - along Princes Street passing Waverley Station, up Lothian Road, through Tollcross, Morningside, past Craiglockhart Hill, crosses the Edinburgh City Bypass, into the shadow of the Pentlands passing the entrance to Hillend Ski Centre, calling at University of Edinburgh's Easter Bush Campus, eventually reaching Roslin. A really interesting journey. Beyond Roslin, Penicuik is where the bus turns to run its journey in reverse.

I caught the no.15 from Home Street, just beyond Tollcross - a fifteen minute walk from Haymarket station. Half an hour later I was in Roslin village.

First, to the chapel for a meeting and tour in prior to a sketching course I'm soon to run there. The whole place is great - the chapel obviously, intricate and ornate carvings adorning every surface available. The visitor centre too, with information panels, activities, touch-screens and a nice shop. And the cafe (!) with beautiful views across the valley.

Roslin village and Pentlands

A short walk downhill from the chapel is Rosslyn Castle (originally 14th Century, now ruined apart from a 17th century section open as rather special holiday accommodation). My path followed the tight curve of the River North Esk as it wove a meander around the castle. I chose a spot over the river and settled to paint. While I sat I had coal tits, great tits, blue tits foraging the trees around me. Nuthatches too, but heard rather than seen other than once or twice a brief silhouette. Their call - variations on a slightly metallic 'chriping' whistle - Dippers were back and fore on the water often.

Rosslyn Castle

below Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle

River North Esk, watercolour, 29x24cm

spotted a blue tit

thinking of becoming a wildlife photographer

dipper. spot its white eyelids

3 to 4pm I was back at the chapel taking part in a photoshoot for the Glasgow Herald. It's a treat to sit and sketch in a place like that. Here's the result:

pencil in sketchbook
pencil in sketchbook

pencil in sketchbook

Then two more hours of exploring before the 6pm bus home. I walked back into the valley, past castle, upriver for a mile or so. The Friends of Roslin Glen do a great deal to manage and care for these woods. I saw tens of bird boxes; bat boxes; recently laid native hedging.

below the castle, pencil in sketchbook, 30x21cm

The path continues much further but time and lowering light meant my turnaround had to be around the ruins of the Roslin Gunpowder Mills. These mills provided powder and explosives for mining and quarrying for over 150 years, as well as for the Napoleonic, Crimean and First and Second World Wars.

The return to the bus avoids a nasty stretch of road by climbing the 129 steps of Jacob's Ladder, built by Boy Scouts in 1913. You're then on a lovely footpath, lined high by old beeches, looking across the treetops of Roslin Glen below. A lovely place for a picnic, or to sketch, or to read, or to just look. A green woodpecker laughed down in the valley. At the end of the path is a set of small cemeteries, then Rosslyn Chapel, then you're back in the village.

If you've time before your bus The Original Rosslyn Hotel is a place to wait. It's the little one-storey bit on the right that you want to sit in - cosy and relaxing, real ales, coffee and cakes, hot food.

There are lots of footpaths in the area. I'd recommend you start at the Chapel by buying the Roslin Heritage Society's 'Roslin Rambles' leaflet. It's really good, has a nicely presented and useful map and lots of historical snippets. It's only a pound. Or you might be able to be order a copy in advance by contacting the Society here


How to get there:
ScotRail runs regular trains to Edinburgh from all over the place. Timetables here.

Lothian Buses no.15 (15A on Sundays) runs from the city centre. Timetables here. Route maps here.
N.B. From 29th March 2015 the no.15 service will be replaced by no.37.

Lothian Buses currently cost £1.50 per single journey, £3.50 for a DAYticket, info here.
Or you can ask to add PlusBus to your ScotRail train ticket at time of purchase, info here.