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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Scotland day 9 - East Calder to Linlithgow

Today was always going to have a difficult start. Farewells are hard, and seeing David drive away, knowing I won't see him for a month was emotional. So I had plenty to deal with, but at least I knew that the route was going to be clear and easy. But sadly it was not so. Walking with confidence from the huge new Calderwood housing estate, much still under construction, I passed an unusual collection of what looked like discarded artificial grass on the way to the river path leading to the Union Canal.

But sadly that path had been closed, meaning a long detour, and negating the benefit of having done a bit extra yesterday to reduce the mileage today. Watching my OS app add mileage as opposed to it reducing with every step is not encouraging.

But after this frankly bad tempered start, the day improved enormously. I asked Ronnie for directions, and we ended up walking together for an hour or so. He has lived in the area for 40 years, and knows a thing or two about this stretch of the canal, which he walks every day with his little Yorkie, Tina. Things got off to a rocky start when I misheard and called the dog Peanut. Both dog and owner were unimpressed. But we got over that, and Ronnie showed me the graffito carved by the master builder who constructed the Union Canal viaduct, and explained how some of the other marks were for establishing levels in the construction. Later as we walked he told me about Broxburn and its shale mining history, creating the huge heaps of orange spoil that dominate the town.

I was sorry to say goodbye to Ronnie, and he made my morning by telling me that it had been one of the nicest walks he'd ever had. What a gent.

I then settled into the rhythm of canal walking, easy, level, peaceful. This is a quiet thoroughfare, in the whole day I only saw one boat on the move. The Union canal runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh, and was built to bring minerals, particularly coal, to the capital. There's no mineral transportation now. The peace meant that I could spot a sedge warbler thanks to my bird identifying app - thanks to my lovely friend Debrah for that excellent recommendation!

The forecast for today had been unrelentingly dire, but after the first hour or so I had been dry. I thought I'd celebrate by diverting off the canal into Broxburn in search of a coffee. A lovely teenage girl and her mum kindly showed me the way to their favourite cafe, and I enjoyed an excellent flat white. Once I'd finished, the expected rain was hammering at the windows. As I was ruefully togging up, a fellow customer was asking me about the journey, and helpfully giving advice on the pronounciation of today's destination. It's Linlithgoe, not Linlithgow it seems. As I left she said 'you're a wee trooper!'

I walked out of the town on the road, thus claiming back half a mile or so of the extra distance imposed on me this morning. It meant I got much closer to the shale pile with its Grand Canyon hue.

Then happily back on to the canal towpath, temporarily dry, where I would stay for the rest of the day. There was more construction work being done, with a new bridge in the sight of the old one, serving another extensive housing estate. The trees were high and shading the path, almost tunnel like.

I followed Anne pushing a buggy with her granddaughter Ruby for a mile or so. She had also earlier given me directions past the building work, and then had overtaken me when I was having my lunch on a bench that had movingly been erected at the place that a loved one had died. I appreciated the seat, and wondered about George W Barnes.

Eventually the sound of my poles and the creak of my rucksack alerted Anne to my presence behind her, and she stopped and waited for me. We then had a lovely interlude, chatting as we walked. She is often is out for 10 miles with the buggy on the days she's looking after Ruby, she could probably have done my trek with ease.

After Anne returned homeward the canal opened up. The trees had gone, and the views were wider and more open. It meant I could see the weather front lowering ominously, which eventually split into a torrent of rain.

No shelter, so the only thing to do was to continue. Towards Linlithgow I had more company with Chris and Monica with their lovely dog Oscar. They were kind enough to walk me to the turn off to the town and point out where my accommodation was. And even more to sponsor me and give me a couple of albums as song suggestions. Thanks so much.

My hotel tonight is the conversion of the old courthouse. It's a great old building in the heart of the town, and brilliantly has both a bath and facilities for making food. They've even equipped it with enough ingredients for me to have for dinner and breakfast. What a find.

After drying off a bit though, I wanted to have a look at the town, and most particularly the Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots was born and what she and other monarchs regarded as their 'pleasure palace'. It's breathtaking in its size, and I don't think I've ever been to a place like this where visitors feel like they have free rein to explore, to the extent that at one point I thought I'd got lost. I was delighted to have been, even with tired legs and in the wet.

A final outing to pick up a few additions to tonight's meal, and then I saw a local ice cream shop. By this point I was so wet and cold that possibly ice cream wasn't the best choice, but I've never had Scottish tablet flavour, and it called me in. By the time I got back I then had my two sets of clothes soaked, so that meant an enforced rest for the evening. Probably not a bad thing, it's a long day tomorrow.


Distance travelled: 13.9 miles

Total ascent: 287 feet - that's a canal day for you!

Calories burned: 1641

Local tipple - tin of G and T from the corner shop

Dinner at home from the food kindly supplied by the hotel

Scrambled eggs on toast with tomatoes

Banana and a protein bar

No new sponsored music before I set off today, so another of Mel's excellent Richard Ashcroft list - A Man in Motion

Video of the day

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