Intercity: Dundee II (Commercial Street)

The second walk of the day and Dundee again. The first instalment of Intercity in the City of Discovery was past Tannadice and Dens Park. I also associate Dundee with Commercial Street, which runs from the McManus to the Tay, so it was natural to pick it for Dundee’s second Intercity walk. I had circled the McManus twice, fine building that it is, and sat on a bench before I took to Commercial Street. A 22 bus had passed me each time and my warped brain brought up a Taylor Swift song. Forever after, I may know the 22 in Dundee as the ‘I don’t know about you’ bus. I looked up at the Northern Assurance building, crowned by a turret and a basket, then turned down Commercial Street, which was slightly more run down than I remembered. Busy, though, with folk waiting for buses at various points. That made it a little difficult to take photos with some kind soul even ducking out my road as I took a photo. Some handsome buildings stand on Commercial Street with some fine doorways and Victorian buildings throughout, some even with towers as on the corner with Seagate.

By St. Paul’s Cathedral (not that one) stood two statues, one naval admiral Adam Duncan and the other Dundee icon Oor Wullie, one of the trail liberally scattered across Scotland this summer. This one featured a brown coloured Oor Wullie with his hair and dungarees golden. I’m not the hugest fan of the Oor Wullie figures, the Toy Story, seabird and star ones in Dundee, North Berwick and Glasgow excepted, though it was there. Even weirder was a hair mannequin in a hairdressers’ window. It bore a very luxurious mane of hair with a generous, though styled beard. It looked like Noel Edmonds if he suddenly invested in Just For Men. It might have been the work of a hair artiste whose services were offered across the road. I can only imagine what a hair artiste does. Probably something worthy of the Turner Prize.

The walk finished and I’m not sure if I know more about Dundee than when I began but it was fine all the same. I wrote the notes for this one in the nearby V and A museum, sat on a bench on the stairs. As I scribbled, I people-watched and listened, another walk done, just ready to be written down.

Thanks for reading. Another Intercity walk follows next week. The first Dundee Intercity walk can be found here, with the other instalments in the series on the Intercity page.

By popular demand, a post about my favourite places in Edinburgh will appear here a week on Wednesday.

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Saturday Saunter: Earplugs, role models and books

Good Saturday,

Unusually this is being started on Sunday night as I’m busy on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week, when normally I might think to write this post. It’s just about 10pm and I’ve had a busy day, walking in the rain on Bute. It was much better than it sounds. We had driven the long way to get to Bute, taking the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ferry from Colintraive to Rhobodach and then down to Rothesay and Kilchattan Bay from there. Anyway, home now and in the background I have a Skipinnish playlist from YouTube.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ferry

This post appears on a Saturday morning when I’ll be off to Edinburgh to watch Hibs. It’s going to be a ‘go to the game and straight home’ sort of occasion as I can’t be doing with Edinburgh during the Festival circus. Last year I bought a packet of earplugs and I’ve put a set in my jacket pocket and my backpack. They worked a treat last year and they’ll probably work today especially as leafleters were gathered beyond the Playhouse when I was in Edinburgh two weeks ago, a zone I would normally consider safe.

The schools have just gone back here in Glasgow. I should explain for non-Scottish readers that school holidays in Scotland go from the end of June to mid-August. Our education system is generally different from England, as is our legal system, of course. It’s traditional that the weather gets nicer when the schools go back and it was sunny and warm on Thursday when the schools went back in Renfrewshire (where I work) though wet and windy on Friday as I write these words. The best part of the schools going back for me, a contentedly childless person, is the fact the museums and shops are quieter if I’m off on a weekday. Happy days. Another bonus is that I’m long past school age and I don’t have to brave school again myself.

Greta Thunberg is a remarkable person. As a society we need to do a lot more to deal with the effects of climate change and Greta Thunberg is spreading a valuable and essential message. Unfortunately she gets it tight on social media on account of her age, what she’s saying and because she’s autistic. I read a thread on Twitter the other day that mentioned that she’s a rare autistic role model since a lot of media portrayals of our condition tend to be negative and driven by stereotypes. They don’t reflect the diversity of neurodiverse folk, how many of us have empathy, how we can communicate and how we are not serial killing loners. Changing that will take time and any positive contributions that people can make must be embraced and cherished, especially if they might actually help move our society forward.

I haven’t been reading terribly much this weather. A fortnight ago, I took my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, when I was heading to the football. Today I have a book I got for my birthday, The Pebbles On The Beach by Clarence Ellis, which from the blurb and the cover looks like my kind of book. Also on my pile just now is a Marsali Taylor crime novel that’s been there for ages, the new Stuart MacBride and a book by Diego Maradona about the 1986 World Cup. A book I got recently was the rather cool Spirits of Glasgow featuring illustrations by Jo Whitby and a story by Chris McQueer. I got it as a pre-order (it’s not out properly until September). Don’t panic, I’ve not turned into a blagging, bragging book blogger – I heard about the pre-sale on Twitter and promptly bought a copy. The illustrations are beautiful, quite like Neil Slorance in style, and I’m looking forward to reading it properly.

I often like to catchup with American late night comedy shows and my favourite is the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert was interviewed the other day by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and amidst the discussions about Donald Trump, they talked very movingly about grief. I sat and watched it this morning and it was profound. We do not talk enough as a society about serious matters of life and death. We get too preoccupied by trivial nonsense.

On a brighter note, and not at all trivial, this very Saturday morning Natalie from Wednesday’s Child has published an ex-pat’s guide to Glasgow so have a read at that.

Anyway, that’s us for today. Intercity is back tomorrow and it’s Dundee for the second time. It features one of my favourite bizarre photographs I’ve ever taken. Wednesday will be a bonus walk from my recent trip to Aberdeen. Another Saturday Saunter will appear a week today. In the meantime, have a great weekend. Cheers for now.

 

 

 

 

London Road sculptures

When I’m heading to the football at Easter Road, I tend to walk along London Road on the way. London Road is a tree-lined boulevard for much of the route with suitably imposing 19th century buildings on one side too. In the curve is a sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi, The Manuscript Of Monte Cassino, in three parts across the grass. They normally sit outside St. Mary’s RC Cathedral up the road in Picardy Place but have been moved due to building works. I actually like them better in London Road. The sculpture is bronze with stones from the old Leith Central Station. Paolozzi’s father and grandfather were arrested during World War II and sent to Canada, their ship sunk by a torpedo off the Irish coast. The sculpture deals not only with religion (Monte Cassino is an abbey in Italy) but also the traveller (as shown by the foot) and acting as a memorial to those lost on the Arandora Star. I didn’t know the story until I re-read the information board just now. I looked at the sculpture and snapped photos on a warm night recently without being aware of its context. I like Paolozzi’s work anyway. It is modern and unlike anything else. By a busy city road it is easy to miss it. I was glad I stopped to look.

Intercity: Dunfermline

A day of Intercity walks began in Dunfermline. Dunf is blessed/cursed with a very good bus service to Glasgow, with four or five buses an hour. Of course the day I was there saw the bus timetables in Fife change which flummoxed me a bit fitting in the later destinations. But it was possible. The timetable booklets at Dunfermline bus station were going like nobody’s business. An hour later, the Glasgow booklets were gone. Anyway, logistics worked out and fortified by the inevitable, incredible steak bridies, the Dunfermline Intercity walk began by Dunfermline City Chambers, known by the rather prosaic handle Dunfermline Customer Contact Centre, a prosaic name for a beautiful town house building quite like a Disney castle. The only municipal building I’ve seen like it is Renfrew Town Hall. This walk covered a few streets, beginning at the top of the hill and ending near the bottom by Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace. It was either that or the walk along Halbeath Road to East End Park but I get in trouble if I write too much about football here.

I soon passed Dunfermline Abbey with its spire bearing the words ‘King Robert The Bruce’. Bruce’s remains are buried within the Abbey, all except the heart which is in Melrose. Sadly I had no time for the Abbey Nave, a particular favourite place of pillars and stained glass put together by the masons who brought us Durham Cathedral. There was a decent, meaty food smell nearby, possibly coming from a pub just up the way. Nearby was a nightclub called Life. I always think life is better without being in nightclubs, to be honest. A sign by the Palace directed people to the various extremities of the Fife Coastal Path, North Queensferry and Culross closer, St. Andrews further away. I was to be there a few hours later in the day. By the sign was a plaque about Charles I, the last monarch born in Scotland, born indeed in Dunfermline in 1600. The plaque was sympathetic, maybe even obsequious, declaring that Charles met ‘his death with dignity and courage’.

Moving swiftly on I walked under the Palace, Royal place and Abbey guesthouse. I let a family pass and the girl walked by stomping, as little girls often do. I could hear kids running about the Palace – that’s fine with me as long as some history goes in along the way. I was now on Monastery Street, pedestrianised as far as the Cenotaph. I had never seen the Cenotaph before. It was present but almost an afterthought, hidden in the corner. There was a Garden for Heroes across the way too. As I walked with the Palace beside, the Abbey above and the river water in my ears, I was reminded very much of Stirling, history all around me which is never a bad thing.

Before I came to the Carnegie birthplace, I passed a ghost sign above a shop. The next door building clearly housed a nationalist with Yes flags hanging out the windows. They were bang up-to-date since the Yes campaign for independence has recently changed its branding. That’s the type of details I notice. I try not to, honest. I don’t have a scooby how Andrew Carnegie felt about Scottish independence but his birthplace had some rather cool details on the outside, panels on the wall depicting discovery (with a ship) and industry with a miller’s wheel and some tools. It seemed a good place to end this walk and it was decent, a walk through one of my favourite towns in Scotland, history as ever with every step.

Thanks for reading. Another Intercity walk follows next week. Dunfermline has also featured in Loose Ends.

Saturday Saunter: Zen on Arran

Good morning,

Another Saturday Saunter and it’s being started on Monday night on a Citylink bus somewhere south of Perth. I’ve been up in Aberdeen for the day, partly on family business and partly for the blog. I’ve just finished writing the two blog posts which have resulted from my wanders. It’s been a beautiful, sunny day, at least from about Laurencekirk going north and still in deepest Perthshire going home.

The blog has been on hiatus and that’s been quite relaxing. I have been keeping up with other blogs and gathering material for my own. Hopefully it’ll be up to standard.

I don’t really do relaxing. There are days I just vegetate and don’t go over the door but they often come with notions to go places that soon fizzle out. I relax by doing stuff. I write hundreds if not thousands of words a week because it helps focus my mind. I spent a few days last week bopping around the country on buses or doing a whole lot of walking. I’m not a lying on the beach kind of person or a mad partier. The week or so being off reset things a bit, giving me time to read, reflect, sleep and saunter. If I can pick one moment of Zen, it would be last Friday, changing buses at Blackwaterfoot on Arran. The place was fairly busy but I just looked out to sea. Over yonder was Kintyre and in the middle of the calm water was a yacht. Zen, right enough.

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A yacht with Kintyre in the background

This Saturday sees me working hence this is being posted earlier than usual. It’s so I can pin Tweets too. Tomorrow I’m away to Bute for the day on another CalMac ferry. Going on a CalMac ferry always feels like going on your holidays, even for a short trip. It might be the safety announcements in Gaelic.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 10th August 2019. Intercity follows tomorrow and it’s Dunfermline, fuelled by steak bridies. Wednesday is about some sculptures on London Road in Edinburgh. Whatever you do this weekend, have a good one. Cheers.

Digest: July 2019

Welcome back and welcome to the July digest. This month had a fair bit of rain and sunshine, the two essential ingredients of the Scottish summer with a whole lot of cloud thrown in. I like clouds. I also saw a fair bit of football, some of it utterly dismal, and went to three new grounds in July. I also reached the finishing line and ended July on annual leave which stretched into early August.

On Wednesday 3rd July, I left work early and got a train to Arbroath to see the Hibs play a pre-season friendly. The football was secondary to the beautiful night it was played on, the light over the sea behind the ground worth the trip alone.

Saturday 6th July saw a trip to Dunfermline, again to watch Hibs. Steak bridies ahoy.

Tuesday 9th July was another sojourn for the football, this time international. I was in Carlisle, which counts. The game wasn’t wonderful but it was a bit of a hotchpotch ground architecturally, which was diverting in its way. The trip on the Pendolino there and back was great.

On Friday 12th July I escaped the city and went to Aberlady Bay where I sunbathed and relished the solitude of that amazing place. It started to rain soon after and continued through my visit to Prestongrange and doing a couple of walks back in Edinburgh. The sun was splitting the sky back in Glasgow.

Saturday 13th July was another Hibs day, this time in Stirling. I did an Intercity walk then had a few minutes in the brilliant Engine Shed, Scotland’s centre for building conservation. I need to go back and explore it more.

On Sunday 14th July, I spent the day with my auntie, exploring the Oor Wullie trail, or at least those around Glasgow. It was a beautiful day. My favourite was the one by the Finnieston Crane.

Saturday 20th July saw Hibs play Alloa. I sat before the game reading my book in Lochend Park.

The following Tuesday saw me back in Edinburgh to see Hibs. On the way to Easter Road, I stopped at London Road to look at the Eduardo Paolozzi sculptures currently placed there due to nearby roadworks. There’s a post about them next Wednesday.

On Monday 29th July I went on an odyssey by bus, visiting Dunfermline, Dundee and St. Andrews. I was partly on Intercity business and partly just out in the world. In Dundee I went to the V and A and the biggest benefit was sitting on the stairs writing notes and peoplewatching. St. Andrews had an incredibly braw (but dear) fish supper and Dunfermline an unexpectedly nice Intercity walk furth of the Palace.

Tuesday 30th July saw a lie-in then heading to the capital to see Hibs get beat by Newcastle in a pre-season friendly. The rain pre-match was wild, with incredible reverberations on the East Stand roof.

On Wednesday 31st July, I went to Dunbar, where I grew up. While there I walked out to the John Muir Country Park then back around the Prom and around the harbours. It did me a lot of good, washing my spirit clean in the process.

One post I particularly liked writing this month was the Saturday Saunter from 6th July, entitled Steps, love and good journalism. It covered a lot of topics which interest and inspire me and was probably the best thing I’ve written in a while.

That’s the July digest. An Intercity post appears on Sunday and the Saturday Saunter on Saturday, naturally enough. I’m going back to three posts a week, which is enough to keep this fun. August marks the fourth anniversary of the Walking Talking blog so I will have to mark it in some way. Hope this finds you all well, thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a good month.

Posts this month –

Digest: June 2019

New Lanark

Saturday Saunter: Steps, love and good journalism

Intercity: Paisley

Streets of Glasgow: Buccleuch Street

My favourite place in Glasgow

Saturday Saunter: All the best things, books and football

Intercity: Edinburgh II (Leith Walk)

Why history?

Bonus walk on Easter Road

Saturday Saunter: The Engine Shed, Stirling and not writing about adventures

Intercity: Stirling II (St. John Street/Spittal Street)

My to-read pile

Intercity by iPhone

Saturday Saunter: Warmth, light and overload

Saturday Saunter: Warmth, light and overload

Welcome to this Saturday Saunter. This is being posted as I am on my way to work. Today is my last day before an incredibly welcome period of time off. I’m going to be off for about ten days which is the longest I have had off since Christmas. I don’t have all that much planned save a couple of football matches and a day trip or two. I plan to have a few lie-ins, read and take it as easy as I possibly can. One of those day trips will be next Friday, which is my 30th birthday. Not sure where we’ll be going yet but rest assured it will be a good one.

I am writing this on Wednesday night. It has been exceedingly warm today and even at twenty to ten at night it is still warm. The sky is a pale blue as the sun sets and white puffy clouds breathe on the tree line. It is to be even warmer tomorrow (Thursday) and maybe a bit cooler by the weekend. Even with the heat here, we are getting it better than down south. It was ever thus.

I did plan to write a post about turning thirty and my hopes for the world in ten years time but the draft got very ranty. We don’t do politics here and avoiding the news has been very cathartic this particular day with the confirmation of our new Prime Minister. The comedian Richard Osman put it best on Twitter the other day: ‘It’s so hot outside, it’s almost as if the yawning gates of Hell have chosen to open up on this particular day from some reason’. Even if Hell is really only a place in Norway, that’s probably about right.

High Street, Edinburgh, in December when it was relatively quiet

Another particular bad place is Edinburgh during the month of August. I tend to visit the capital only when necessary in August when the Festival circus is on. I’ll be there for the football and a couple of things at the Book Festival and that’s it. I read an interesting thread on Twitter the other day which asked autistic folk in Edinburgh what their top tips were for avoiding the Fringe. Noise cancelling headphones, disappearing into your mobile and wearing an official lanyard were good suggestions, as well as the Don’t Take A Flyer game, which I’m down for, involving pretending leaflets just don’t exist. Knowing alternative routes which avoid the Old Town is also useful. Last year I employed earplugs as well as my usual fast speed and looking down, plus of course heading as far away from the city centre as humanly possible. It is just a massive overload. The people, noise, posters, folk shoving leaflets in your hand, the whole drill. Unfortunately Edinburgh has gotten busier during the other 11 months of the year so what August used to be like 10 years ago is what it’s like all the time. Avoidance is the key.

Before I move off the subject, Wednesday’s Child published a post satirising the Fringe the other day so have a read at that.

Talking of reading, I wrote the other night about my to-read pile. The book I was reading earlier was Fitzy: The Story of My Life by Tony Fitzpatrick, player, manager and now Chief Executive of St. Mirren. Usually football memoirs tend to be much of a muchness but Tony Fitzpatrick’s is interesting. One passage which nearly brought me to tears was the bit about his young son dying of leukaemia. Tony Fitzpatrick’s book captured the feeling well of losing someone so close and so young. There are some feelings which never go, some wounds which never heal and some moments which knock you sideways, regardless how much time has passed.

Turning thirty has been difficult for me. Like most people I have regrets, things I haven’t done and things I would do differently. Recently, however, I adopted a strategy, which is ‘screw 30’. It is just a number. Life is what you make of it and it takes you in all sorts of directions. I mentioned earlier my hopes for ten years time. I would rather treat my impending oldness as an opportunity rather than something to be resented.

There is a bad moon rising right now and it might get worse. Hope is important and I hold to that today. It is cliched. It is crucial, today more than ever, to remember history. Light can often follow darkness. It’s important to hear, and listen to, a diverse range of voices, even if you don’t agree with them. So too is it crucial not to lose hope that there will be a brighter day, if not tomorrow or the next day but soon.

On that note, it’s time to end. With my time off comes a hiatus for this blog, starting in a few words time. We will resume on Wednesday 7th August with the July digest. Thank you for reading my drivel, whether you have come here by chance, or as a regular reader, commenter or follower. Have a very nice weekend and I will see you soon. Peace.

Intercity by iPhone

I’m all about the writing but now and then I like making the photos more prominent. Most photos here are taken on my trusty iPhone 7, which is currently sitting on the charge across the room. I also have a camera which I need to take out with me again soon. I thought today that I would share some of the photos from the Intercity series so far. Sometimes more can be said about a place through a photo than words. Enjoy.

Broomielaw, Glasgow, in the rain
Very appropriate swimming mural under the Kingston Bridge
The Clyde
Mar’s Wark, Stirling
Castlehill, Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle
David Hume statue, Edinburgh
Dundee, looking from Dens to Tannadice
Public art by the Tay in Perth
By the Ness in Inverness
Union Street, in Aberdeen
Motorcyclists in Aberdeen
Linlithgow Burgh Halls, looking towards the Palace
Gilmour Street, Paisley
Very grand, St. Vincent Place, Glasgow

My to-read pile

I work around books for a living and that means I tend to get tempted an awful lot. Books end up on my pile and good intentions are soon derailed by more books than I know how to handle. At times when I’m reading well, that’s less of an issue but over the last couple of months I’ve been reading less. Life’s been busy plus my head hasn’t really been in it. I’ll get back to it. The football season is starting and I do a lot of reading travelling to games. On Saturday I finally finished Underland by Robert Macfarlane, which I started in May. I read a lot of it on the bus to Dunfermline a couple of weeks ago, on the way to the football, naturally enough.

What I may need to do is ditch some of the good intentions. Being disciplined is difficult. Instead I might need to keep just two books, the one I’m reading and a spare, the rest back on library shelves or in a box. The next book I want to turn to is Confronting the Classics, a book of essays by Mary Beard, while a crime novel called Death on a Longship by Marsai Taylor, set in Shetland, is also high up the list. A book did skip the queue just yesterday, a football memoir by journeyman striker Jon Parkin (braw, by the way), which I read in its entirety on the way to Edinburgh last night.

I usually stock up when I’m off for a few days, which I am next week. Again, good intentions but it never works out the way I planned. The book and the spare approach might be how I have to do it, making mental lists of what to go back to rather than just piling these books up for a day that might never come. It’s sad but practical. An ideal day would be spent reading but sadly life gets in the road. It tends to do that.

Intercity: Stirling II (St. John Street/Spittal Street)

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I associate Stirling first and foremost with its castle. I always say that it’s my favourite big castle in Scotland, far better than Edinburgh which benefits hugely from its location but otherwise is just a barracks. For this second Intercity round, I had to think of other streets I associate with Stirling and the only other one that came to mind was the other road up to the castle, the one that goes past the Old Town Jail and the Youth Hostel. I was in Stirling on a warm July afternoon and walked up to the Castle Esplanade where I stood for a moment and looked up to the castle itself. I had no time to explore it, sadly, and headed back down the esplanade with a fair few others. A piper stood outside Mar’s Wark so I couldn’t really look much at the edifice. I might be chucked out of Scotland for saying this but I don’t actually like bagpipes. Luckily the tourists and purists do so it benefits the economy and makes the world go round. As I passed the Church of the Holy Rude, an impressive grey pile, I made the usual resolution to go in one day. Again, time.

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Cities are excellent places to look up in. Stirling is a great example of that. I turned my head and saw the Tolbooth tower with a weathervane on the building below, the words ‘Quarrelling is taboo’ across its lintel. That building belonged to the Scouts judging by its symbols. Across the road was the Old Town Jail, which had an interpretation board talking of its modern design with single cells and which meant ‘the chaplain could preach to all the prisoners whilst they were in their cells’. I suspect the prisoners might have been especially repentant after that. Next door was a monument to Ebenezer Erskine, an 18th century secessionist from the Church of Scotland, the cupola and pillars suitably grand and it’s not at all surprising that they were added in 1859. A proper old 16th-17th century townhouse complete with lime harling stood across the way. The house next door boasted it was once the home of James IV’s tailor. It’s not for nothing that I think of Stirling as historical Disneyland. The old Royal Infirmary is now a hotel.

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Going back to the modern world, a cafe further down the hill was called Mamma Mia. Always one for the easy joke, I couldn’t help thinking ‘Here I go again’ as I came past it. The school across the road was a suitably Victorian schoolhouse, the 1891 epitome of ‘the most recent improvements in school architecture’, according to the board. Welly boots hung on the railings and I’m not sure why. Further down the hill the Wetherspoons was full of Hibs fans in town for the football, just enjoying the day soon to be ruined by our team’s dismal performance. A sign for a cat cafe made me shake my head in disbelief. I just don’t get cats as a concept. Strange animals. Anyway, what I do like is architecture and the Athenaeum at the top of King Street was great, bearing a statue of William Wallace. Frankly it would be either him or Bruce. The Athenaeum is a stunning building, designed like a horseshoe with an elegant spire and clock tower. It now houses shops and offices, according to the Stirling City Heritage Trust. King Street is generally interesting with lots of businesses, hotels and restaurants, the Co-op building suitably Victorian style. The lampposts bore banners for the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival which happens in Stirling in September. That’s a genre I like to read but sadly I am yet to get there. I always like a town that flaunts its reading.

After a walk through the shopping precinct, I ended up back at the station, my next destination the rather fine Engine Shed, a centre for historical buildings and their conservation, and finally the football. My last thought came as I passed a shop. Its A-frame had the words: ‘Dad, Are We Scottish? Shut Up Son And Drink Your Whisky’. Guess what they sold?

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Thank you for reading. Another Intercity adventure will appear here in August. Other instalments in this series can be found on the Intercity page including the first Stirling walk which was on a wet day in December.