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The North British Railway


Here is an account of the North British Railway written some time ago which shows the part the railway played in Scotland.

The Hotel (The Barmoral) impends over the Waverley Station - the centre and tap-root of the North British Railway. Its guests are placed at the very source and fountainhead of a system that, through its main trunk and many branches and connections of rail, coach and steamer, can transport them, at will, to any corner of broad Scotland, or "o'er the Border and awa'."  Is it the wish to visit classic Hawthornden or romantic Abbotsford; to wander by ballad-haunted Yarrow and Ettrick, or on the banks of Loch Lomond; to be landed at the root of Ben Ledi or Lochnagar; to tread the coasts of Fife or the shores of Skye; to set eyes on Neidpath or Branxholm, St.Andrews or Stirling, the Carse of Gowrie or the Moor of Rannoch, Rob Roy's Cave or the Brigs o' Ayr, Thrums or Drumtochtie? - the magic word has but to be spoken at the Waverley Station.

From the Waverley, the rails ray out to all points of the compass, like the threads of a spider's web, and invade and traverse alike the busiest and the most picturesque and solitary places of Scotland. The East Coast route and the Waverely route offer alternative roads into England, each, in its own way, of transcendent interest; the Forth Bridge and the Tay Bridge are steel links in a wonderful chain of communication that stretches across sea and land towards Dundee and Aberdeen; by Stirling and Dunblane, rapid and easy access is had to the Trossachs and Scotland's most celebrated "Lake District"; through Glenfarg and Perth goes the direct way across the Grampians to the capital of the Highlands, and beyond it to the neighbourhood of John o' Groats; Glasgow and the busy industrial towns and watering-places of the Clyde may be reached by way either of Falkirk or of Bathgate; and by the shores of the Gareloch and Loch Lomond, and on by the Black Mount and the base of Ben Nevis to "Prince Charlie's country" in Glenfinnan and Morar, runs the new West Highland Railway, through mountain scenery of unsurpassable loveliness, till it reaches the coast opposite Skye.

These main streams of tourist travel we shall glance along by and by. But the Waverely Station is fed also by a host of minor tributaries, branch lines, long and short, some of which open up scenes of beauty and note in the immediate neighbourhood of Edinburgh, and may be easily visited by residents to the Station Hotel "between meals". Then the Suburban line sweeps round the whole southern outskirts of the city, bringing the traveller into touch with the Water of Leith and Craiglockhart, with the Braid and Blackford Hills, and with Duddungston and Craigmillar Castle; and it forms one of the many means of access from the Waverley to the pier and sands and golf links of Portobello, Edinburgh's newly annexed suburb and sea-bathing resort, which is wont to call itself "the Brighton of the North". A neighbour of another type is reached in a few minutes by the line to Leith, once the vassal port and the hereditary enemy of the Capital, now a large and stirring place of commerce, with magnificent docks filled with shipping and merchandise from the Continent and all parts of the world, yet still possessing in the vicinity of the Kirkgate, the Sandgate and the Shore, many relics of its past. From the "Pier of Leith" there are excursions by steamer to the ancient sanctuary of the May, around the rock-prison of the Bass, the modern fortress of Inchkeith, and the ruined priory of Inchcolm, under the giant limbs of the Forth Bridge, and to may other spots of old romance and of scenic beauty scattered over the shores and islands of the "gallant Firth". By Granton also, the Railway Company's steamer service on the Burntisland ferry, transports those who would to Fife by water.

There are other short lines that conduct those who are on pleasure or business bent, to Corstorphine, a pleasant village with a venerable church, nestling under its hill, or to Musselburgh, an "honest toun" at the mouth of the Esk, that boasts of its antiquity, of its literary memories, and of a golf links of renown. Nor does anybody visit Edinburgh, and has time to spare, who does not find his way to Roslin, with its ruined Castle, once the seat of "the lordly line of high St Clair", nodding over a reach of the North Esk, and behind it the Chapel, most exquisitely chased of the gems of the Gothic art of its period. Not far off, and overlooking the romantic dell of the same historic stream, is Hawthornden, where Wallace was found hiding in the cave, and where Drummond and rare Ben Jonson walked and talked of things said and done "at the Mermaid".

Roslin and its environs may be reached by no fewer than four railway routes - by the direct line that ends at Glencorse, under the shadow of the Pentland Hills; by the branch to Polton at the foot of the Dell; and by the Penicuik or Peebles line, the former of which brings one into the close vicinity of the scenes in the "Gentle Shepherd", while the other send out an offshoot that passes behind the green screen of the Pentlands to West Linton, seated where the Lyne Water rushes down from the "Cauldstaneslap".

Nearer at hand, where these branched join the main line, and where the two Esks meet, is Dalkeith, planted at the Duke of Buccleuch's Palace gates, and having Newbattle Abbey, Lord Lothian's fine seat, as an equally close neighbour. In another direction, to the westward, other two lordly mansions, with spacious grounds accessible to the visitor, are within easy reach of Dalmeny, where above the picturesquely huddled houses of South Queensferry, the Forth Bridge "takes off" for its spring to the opposite bank. They are Dalmeny House, the Scottish home of the Earl of Roseberry, and Hopetoun House, the stately seat of the Marquis of Linlithgow; each is placed amidst noble trees, lawns and deer parks, in proximity to the Forth; each has its older castle, restored or in ruin, still closer to the sea marge, and each has near it a venerable Norman church.

Linlithgow Palace, too, the birthplace of unfortunate Mary Stuart, the favourite resort of old-time Scottish monarchy, stands above the loch and beside the ancient Church of St Michael's, within "thirty minutes of the Waverly"; so do a score of other places of old renown, whose charm has been increased, not impaired, by years. Are their names and their chronicles not written in the guide books?


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