Edinburgh Waverley Station Station
There's plenty of space to stand and take in everything that's going on, and if you're into people watching, Waverley ticks a lot of boxes.
This week we're visiting Edinburgh Waverley Station's Station, in Episode 4 of my journey Exploring Edinburgh by city hire bike. It's a bit meta. To keep us on track and to save me typing 'Station Station' throughout this post I'll be using Waverley to mean Edinburgh Waverley Station, and Station to mean the Just Eat Hire Station at Edinburgh Waverley. Still with me? Great! Let's get this bike train rolling.
Waverley is Edinburgh’s central train station. It has a large forecourt next to platform 2 and the steps leading to the Calton Road exit - FYI this exit dodges the crowds and car favouring signals of Princes St if heading to Leith - that has on occasion hosted a market. Most of the time it's an empty expanse of smooth flooring that you must under no circumstances cycle on no matter how inviting a surface it looks. It's here, in the 'no bike games' square, that you can find the Just Eat Cycles Station within Waverley.
On the wall above the Station is a mural that depicts pages of books and abstract images related to travel. On one of the pages, an incorrect quote from J.R.R. Tolkien's poem All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter reads 'Not all those who wonder are lost'. While it should read ‘wander’, it's still a fitting group of words to display within a transport hub like Waverley, and as a writer who has been known to wander, it resonates deeply with me, too.
An Urban Migration
Waverley is big, and it's busy. In 2017/18 it facilitated the travel of nearly 24 million people. The main square where the shops and train schedule boards are situated is always teeming with people. Commuters heading to work or school, football fans starting early in the bar, tourists travelling with heavy suitcases, someone running late for a train, charity groups raising awareness for good causes, Waverley staff doing all sorts of work; the people just keep on appearing all with the common goal to get somewhere.
I like it here. There's plenty of space to stand and take in everything that's going on, and if you're into people watching, Waverley ticks a lot of boxes. The sound of Waverley is brilliant, too. As a result of the high glass ceiling, there is an echo to all of it as it reverberates around. It's a symphony of voices, whistles, footsteps, wheelie suitcases, train engines, and grainy tannoy announcements. It's the music of travel. When in a rush it can be overwhelming, but if you take the time to pause and listen, it's quite lovely. It's the urban equivalent to being deep in a forest, but the birdsong is that of people on the move.
Juxtaposition of Space
Due to the architecture of Waverley, it's not possible to have trains entering all the time and as a result parts of it are devoid of life except for maybe a pigeon (if you read the previous episode in the series, you'll know I am fond of pigeons). Away from the thrum of the central area, it's possible to find yourself in complete isolation and even escape the noise.
Areas of Waverley, and indeed the broader City of Edinburgh, which are usually innately busy are eery when empty. Like something out of an apocalyptic movie, abandoned urban environments don't feel right. If you can move past the unsettling feeling of it though, it can be incredibly calming to wander a place devoid of the usual footfall. When I was in my late teens, I was quite partial to wandering the main streets of Edinburgh in summer during the wee hours. Enjoying sunrise over an empty city is something worth getting up for (or in some cases, staying up for).
Bikes for Wandering
I used to frequent Waverley a lot when I was younger. I lived out of the city for a time so commuted by train to get to school every day. Over those years of daily train use, I grew quite a liking for Waverley, the smells, the sounds, the people, the pigeons. I now live in Edinburgh and rarely travel by train, so I've missed the grubby machine that is Waverley. It's changed a lot over the years, but it has retained the qualities that I remember fondly. It was fun going back there by bike. I'm glad the Just Eat Cycles Station is there now. It enables me to wander, not necessarily going anywhere, but not lost either.
Next week I'll be discussing how active travel has enabled me to chain errands together with ease. In a fortnight I'll be writing about the Just Eat Cycles Station at Pollock Halls.
Thanks for reading.
*post edited to correct a typo.