The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Northern England and Southern Scotland in 1841

Edinburgh Scenery

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The road from Dalkeith to Edinburgh is broad, kept in excellent repair, and passes through a country so much altered from what it was in 1806, when we last saw it, that we should never have recognised it to be the same territory. Every farmyard has now a high, and often handsome, chimney for its steam-engine, which reminds us much more of Birmingham than of any part of Scotland, except Glasgow. The low round towers, often with the walls ragged at top, so as to give the idea of the remains of high towers, built over the orifices of the old coal pits, are also to us a new feature; to which we must add, that the direction of the road has been changed, in some places so much so that we could not recognise Libberton Kirk (where we went to school in 1796), and that plantations newly made when we left the country are now grown up, furnishing by their thinnings useful timber. We were much gratified with the prevalence of the balsam poplar in the plantations at St. Catherine's near Edinburgh, because that is the first tree that comes into leaf in the spring in every part of the northern hemisphere, and nothing can be more beautiful than the delicate gamboge yellow of its foliage when it first expands. This tree does not attain so large a size as the other poplars, nor does it produce much timber; but it is, as we think, by far the most ornamental species of the genus. The largest trees we saw were at Valleyfield, where they are as high as those which we have figured in the Arboretum from Syon; but, having been drawn up by other trees, they are much less handsome in their shapes. We stopped at present only one night in Edinburgh, and, after dining at an advertising hotel in Princes Street, and being imposed on both by the master and servants, we took an incognito stroll in the old town, and visited some of the closes and wynds that were formerly familiar to us. Nothing struck us more forcibly than the appearance of the Norloch, covered with trees that were not even planted when we left Edinburgh.