Walking from Portobello to Fort Kinnaird, there are two alternative routes, both requiring crossing bridges over the main East Coast railway line. To the west, you can stroll along a lengthy bridge that traverses the Harry Lauder Road and the railway in the direction of Portobello golf course; eastwards, you can head up Brunstane Road (closed to vehicles since 2019). Taking the latter option, as you cross the former road bridge over the line, to your left you'll see the former Joppa Station building still stands, although this hasn't welcomed passengers since the station closed in 1964. Turning into Milton Road, another bridge crosses the Border Line, the longest new domestic railway built in Scotland in over a century, running from Waverley to Tweedbank, southeast of Galashiels.
Following the path past The Range and through a subway towards ASDA, you pass the Niddrie Burn, one of several burns forming in the Pentlands, their names changing as they meander through Edinburgh. The Niddrie becomes the Brunstane Burn, eventually entering the Firth of Forth at Joppa to form the boundary between Edinburgh and East Lothian. Climbing the walkway past ASDA, you cross another railway bridge, this time traversing the Suburban Line, once a passenger network connecting the city's south and west suburbs, now used for freight traffic, and diverted/excursion passenger trains. In the photo, this line heads towards Peffermill before passing through long disused stations at Newington, Blackford Hill, Morningside, and Craiglockhart. Weed-clogged stairwells, crumbling platforms, and piles of rusting sleepers lurk by the tracks where trains would once have regularly chugged by leafy housing.
After the derelict Craiglockhart Station, the line snakes northwards past Shandon. As kids, this section of the railway was our playground. A tin pipe crosses the embankment beyond Shaftesbury Park which we used to 'tightrope walk' across, the thought of which now makes my blood run cold! We used to scamper around diesel-caked shunters parked on marshalling yards behind Appin Street, and when British Rail maintenance workers reproached us and demanded our names and addresses for their notebooks, we'd get creative about our pseudonyms.
Fort Kinnaird was built in the late 1980s on the site of Newcraighall Colliery. Once known as the Klondyke, this colliery contained two surface mines and a 250-metre shaft, at peak production employing over 700 miners before the pit closed in 1968. 'The Fort' (not to be confused with the former Leith flats) was home to Edinburgh's first multiplex cinema, the 12-screen UCI. When Back to the Future III was released in 1990, US actress Mary Steenburgen (then married to star of A Clockwork Orange, English actor, Malcolm McDowell) made a personal appearance here, along with the Delorean MC12 used by her co-star and love interest, Doc (Christopher Lloyd) for his time-travelling escapades. I saw various films here, including Bridget Fonda in The Assassin (1993), and One Fine Day (1996). There's now an Odeon at this location.
Playlist: Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder (Arts & Crafts, 2017)
Less an indie band, more a Toronto musical collective, Broken Social Scene were formed in 1999, and have so far released five studio albums (this, their most recent, came after a 7-year hiatus). The musicians involved ranging from six to 19 members drifting in and out, there are actually 22 musicians credited on this album, including founder member/vocalist/guitarist Kevin Frame and co-vocalist Leslie Feist, along with sundry players of keytars, clarinets, a vocoder, and much more. Feist came up with Hug of Thunder for the album title because it represented, "exactly who we are. That is our show. We're trying to create that hug of thunder. That sound. That embrace amongst the chaos."
If you're partial to spiralling, multi-textured baroque alt-rock, heavy on showgazing pedlary, and overflowing with deft melodic twists (as opposed to the predictable verse/chorus/middle-8 template utilised by less-memorable indie fodder), you'll love this gorgeously expansive album. The layered melodies tap into a rich vein of anthemic delights, reminiscent of everything from early Verve to Sea Power from this side of the pond, and Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, The Secret Machines, Arcade Fire, and The War on Drugs on their own side.
Every track is the perfect accompaniment for a scenic walk aimed at recharging the mental batteries, and there are so many highlights. Driven by an insistent bassline and ringing guitars underpinning Emily Paine's strident voice, 'Protest Song' is infectious, the choruses rising to the climactic: "We're just the latest in the longest rank and file that's ever to exist in the history of the protest song". Emily also moonlights in Metro, a prolific band with crunching riffs closer to art-punk that alt-rock! 'Skyline' brings the groove down a notch, but the dream pop melodies are just as catchy, swirling below multi-layered instrumentation. 'Stay Happy' starts more wistful and folky, quickly developing into a slice of jaunty pop, culminating in blasts of horn and fabulous vocal harmonies.
There are so many joyous, uplifting tracks here, from 'Halfway Home,' 'Towers and Masons,' and 'Gonna Get Better' (with co-vocalist, Ariel Engle intoning "Things will get better, 'Cuz they can't get worse") to more atmospheric pieces, like the mellower 'Victim Lover.' The climactic offering, 'Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse' propels the baroque pop momentum in finest grand finale style, with full-on multi-instrumentation.