Seaside Sojourn

It’s a trip back to childhood for Kausalya Santhanam who takes in the sights and sounds of this beachside treat


Seaside bliss Ice-cream by the beach (left) and the Cramond Tower

“Why don’t you visit Cramond?” asks our sweet, snowy-haired landlady, a spry 70 who reminds us of Miss Marple.

A couple of days later, we are on a double-decker bus on our way to this quiet little village, located at the mouth of the River Almond where it flows into the sea. Cramond — now a suburb of Edinburgh — is said to be the “earliest known human settlement in Scotland.” It was an industrial centre in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Picturesque cottages and gardens with neat flower beds and riotous blooms line the route.

The bus sets us down a little away from an ancient church and we walk to it on a lovely autumn morning under trees aglow with the brilliant colours of the fall. Cramond Kirk, with its weathered granite walls, stands majestic and mellow. It dates back to the mid-17th Century though the chapel here was built centuries earlier. Rich history
The Kirk is located on the site of a Roman fort which was constructed in 142 AD. The fort “provided supplies to the Roman army”. Abandoned for some time, it saw use again during the time of Emperus Septimus Severus around 210 AD. A plaque commemorates the fact.

The elderly lady tending the garden carries on her work unfazed by the presence of strangers. There are elaborate tombstones and the grounds are quite extensive. We wander off to come upon the renovation being undertaken of an old Roman wall and foundations. As we round a curve, we chance upon a solitary, bearded sculptor gazing in frowning concentration on a block. From a distance, the figures look like Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The sculptor obviously does not like this interruption and his back grows more disapproving.

We think it is time to explore further. We take the tree flanked path hoping it will take us to the sea and come upon Cramond Tower, an impressive medieval structure. We stop in delight at the beautiful sight that greets us — the sea stretches in a wide expanse of the most beautiful blue while gulls wheel ahead. An elderly man comes out smiling from the tower, and despite our trespass, guides us to the inviting blue.

Enchanting world
We seem to have entered the enchanted realm of childhood and an Enid Blytonian experience engulfs us. The winding path leads to a sudden, stunning view. An ice cream van is drawn up on the tarred road in front of the quay and the tinkle of the bell brings young and old alike to it. The scene is idyllic.

Dogs dash in and out of the waters or gambol on the beach while babes in prams and their older siblings, hair flying in the breeze, squeal in delight. Owners throw balls for the dogs to fetch. Tails wagging, the pets plunge straight into the water and emerge with their trophies.

We buy ourselves ice creams and sit on the colourful benches fringing the beach and open our sandwich packets. Not egg and lettuce as in Blyton’s books, but pungent green chilli pickle. Mixed with the tang of the salty sea air, it makes for a delicious snack. The place seems so much like Kirrin Island that, at any moment, one expects the Famous Five and Timmy to materialise to buy their ices.

The stone causeway that goes to Cramond Island is a must-explore option. “Not to be attempted when the tide comes in,” warns a board that sets out the timings of the tide.

One can spend hours at Cramond, but it is tea time and we decide to treat ourselves at one of the small tea houses on the lane leading away from the sea. The younger ones in our group are fascinated by the perfectly knitted cakes, pastries and doughnuts in gaily coloured wool on the window display. We enter this doll’s house and a pretty teenager takes our order, soon reappearing with hot scones, a huge brown pot of tea and wafer thin sandwiches.

A wonderfully soothing walk along the high compound wall of the Church takes us back to the bus stop. “Cramond, we will come again,” we promise and make our way to Edinburgh. “I’m glad this was one outing when one did not have to only think of history, dates and castles,” says the daughter.

Back home in Chennai, we only have to say “Cramond”, for images of the blue sea, bluer sky, wheeling white gulls and joyful dogs to come rushing back to refresh us.

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

This article was from THE HINDU dated January 12, 2009



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