Virtual Loose Ends I: Castles, towers, woods and breweries

Good afternoon,

Welcome to the first of a new series here on Walking Talking. Since travelling great distances across Scotland is currently restricted – I am writing in June 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic – I decided to do a Virtual Loose Ends adventure. Loose Ends is a series I’ve been doing where I visit different places based on connections from the previous place. This will be similar but virtual. There are two rules. There will be 62 connections and will begin at Aberdour Castle and end at the V and A in Dundee, as before. Only what will come in between will be entirely different. No places will recur. I sat down one afternoon recently and came up with a list of 61 different places across Scotland, from Fort William to Dundee, Argyll to Anstruther. Let us begin.

Aberdour Castle began the original Loose Ends. Aberdour is a fine ruined castle in Fife with a doocot and a painted ceiling in the castle tower. It has an orchard and views across the Forth. It’s one of my favourite castles in Scotland though I haven’t been since the original visit for Loose Ends back in 2018.

Huntingtower Castle: a three-storey castle with a green field in the foreground.

Where next? Rather than Linlithgow Palace, which connected through Outlander, I plumped for Huntingtower Castle, just outside Perth. I’ve been there a few times. It sits just by the A9, comprised of two tower houses smooshed together. Huntingtower also has bats. It connects from Aberdour in several ways, including that they are both managed by Historic Environment Scotland but also because Huntingtower also has a rather fine painted ceiling which I admired on my last visit.

Huntingtower is also just across the A9 from McDiarmid Park, home of St. Johnstone FC. The next connection is Alloa Tower, a National Trust for Scotland property in the centre of Alloa, naturally enough. I’ve been to Alloa Tower just once, one drookit July Saturday before going to watch the Hibs play at Alloa in the League Cup. It was wet that day and sitting in the temporary stand didn’t keep me dry. Anyway, Alloa Tower is a substantial 14th century tower house and it is quite handsome, filled with doodads and stuff like most National Trust places. It connects through football to Huntingtower.

Alloa is also known for brewing. I grew up in Dunbar which has a brewery, Belhaven. I went there once on a school trip to learn about yeast. I think it helped that the Grammar is just up the hill from the brewery.

Lochend Woods: a grey, gnarly, curly tree in a woodland.

Over the railway from the Belhaven Brewery is Lochend Woods. I know the woods well and visited them for the first time in many years in January on the way to the DunBear. Lochend House once stood in the woods and only a small trace remains, an armorial panel fenced off by a road. Mainly I walked in the woods to reflect and think.

Lochend Park is a city park in Edinburgh. It connects just dandily to Lochend Woods by its name. Lochend Park has a loch in the middle of it, occupied by ducks, swans and trees. It is just behind Easter Road Stadium, home of the mighty Hibernian FC. I often sit there before games and read or munch lunch.

To conclude this instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, I’ve decided to move just a few hundred yards. Behind the South Stand at Easter Road is the old Dunbar Lemonade Factory. It is now artists’ workshops. Hilariously, when you Google this place, my blog post on the subject comes up as the second result. The words James Dunbar are displayed right across the building as you walk behind on the way to the park.

That’s the first of the Virtual Loose Ends cavalcade. Next week will see a virtual visit to another seven places, beginning in another familiar place before going back west. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

5 In 5: Pollok Country Park

Pollok House: looking through a doorway to a country house on three levels with wings on either side. In the foreground is an ornate decoration atop a wall. 

I wasn’t sure what to include in the third instalment of 5 In 5. I thought about street art or my local cemetery but instead I reasoned it had to be Pollok Country Park. It was once Best Park in Europe after all. I can walk to Pollok Park in about 40 minutes and I’ve been twice since lockdown began. I entered from the Corkerhill end as it was raining fairly steadily. I got most of the way there dry and decided that I had walked too far just to turn back. I hadn’t went in that way before. The path wound under the M77 and up through woods towards Pollok House. The woods were beautiful. I’ve long thought that a walk in the woods can cure many ills and these woods were particularly fine, leafy on the ground and with enough of a canopy to keep me relatively dry. The place was fairly busy despite the rain with varying degrees of social distancing happening as I stepped off the path at regular intervals. A group of girls were sitting under a tree near the Cart at Pollok House and further towards the stables folk stood under a canopy to avoid the ever heavier rain. A planter shaped like a galleon stood and I had a memory of Belhaven, near where I grew up, and of the planters made out of old fishing boats in Coldingham in Berwickshire.

Pollok Country Park is home to Pollok House, once home to the Maxwells and now a National Trust for Scotland property, and the Burrell Collection, a world-class museum currently being refurbished. Up until now I’ve approached the park from its eastern side at Pollokshaws though there is also an entrance at Dumbreck, which I used last time, and between Titwood Road and Haggs Road which is towards Shawlands. The walk under the motorway from Corkerhill was perhaps less scenic than the Pollokshaws entrance with the winding river but it’s not bad. On a nicer day I might have roamed a bit further, to visit the highland cows or traverse some earthworks I’ve been meaning to find for yonks, but it wasn’t to be. I walked around the back of the gardens and Pollok House then headed for home, wet but unbowed. 1.8 miles from the house.

Saturday Saunter: Podcasts, magazines and hayfever

Before I start today, the news is full of the tragic events in West George Street yesterday. It’s hard to make sense of such events wherever they happen, let alone so close to here. Councillor Aitken is right, Anas Sarwar is right: we can do worse than be human and be united.

Without further ado, here’s today’s Saturday Saunter written on Thursday.

Good Saturday to you,

This is being written on Thursday afternoon. It’s properly warm out there today. I of course don’t do well in the heat plus my hayfever has been off the charts so of course I was in Bellahouston Park at lunchtime having a picnic. Thankfully the forecast for Saturday, as this is posted, is for rain and it to be cooler.

img_2386
Bellahouston Park: looking through gaps in dense trees towards a bright park.

I’ve managed to read a bit this week and listened to a few podcasts. On Saturday afternoon I read a book in its entirety, Jeremy Hardy Speaks Volumes, a book in tribute to comedian Jeremy Hardy who died in 2019 featuring some of his writings and musings. It was excellent. I’ve also read some magazines. I recently re-subscribed to football magazine When Saturday Comes, which has just celebrated its 400th issue. Although WSC has far more English content than Scottish, it is a good read, with thoughtful takes on the game and its history, including in this issue about how players are younger now and about fanzines. I also have the app on my iPad and made the mistake of reading most of the new issue on screen rather than waiting for the paper copy, which was waiting for me when I got in. I also sat the other night and started to read the latest issue of History Scotland, which featured a bit about people investigating their local areas during lockdown. Imagine that. (5 In 5 returns tomorrow, incidentally.)

Podcasts have been mixed, some about football, others not about football. I’ve binged Sandi Toksvig’s We Will Get Past This, a podcast discussing events on this day in history and particularly featuring women who have often been overlooked. Sandi Toksvig has an excellent, reassuring voice which is good in these times. I can’t remember if I mentioned Melissa Harrison’s podcast The Stubborn Light Of Things before. It’s excellent, about nature. It lowers the heart rate.

Incidentally I’m currently watching comedian Jay Foreman doing a live gig on YouTube. He did it a few weeks ago but I like Jay’s style. YouTube has been good for educational stuff lately, including train discussions with Tim Dunn and the oeuvre of the National Library of Scotland.

I read today that the Rosetta Stone is being added to the LGBTQ+ tour of the British Museum. One of the people who studied it extensively in the 19th century was William John Bankes. Have a read at the Guardian article. We now have possible dates, subject to confirmation, about when museums and other cultural institutions can reopen in England and Scotland, and various institutions have talked about their plans to reopen. Caution will undoubtedly be the order of the day.

Our looking at the world in a broader sense article is from the New York Times this week, about when the statues being toppled are of people you are related to. It’s thought-provoking.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 27th June 2020. Thanks for reading. 5 In 5 returns tomorrow and it’s a visit to an airport. Virtual Loose Ends is new on Wednesday and it’s going to be a virtual connected adventure around Scotland. I’ve managed to write all the different parts of it so I’m looking forward to sharing that. In the meantime, keep safe. Cheery.

 

Loose Ends Redux: Caledonia Road Church-V and A Dundee

Good afternoon to you,

I started doing Loose Ends Redux back in March when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, only that I needed something easy to put together. It’s been nice to revisit past adventures but as they are getting much more recent – and readers remember the original post – I’ve decided to curtail it here. This super post will contain thoughts on the most recent round of Loose Ends, just to get it done so I can post something else. Next week will be the start of Virtual Loose Ends, a virtual journey around Scotland with brand new connections. Starting at Aberdour Castle and ending at the V and A in Dundee like the series did, I’ve pieced together some places that didn’t feature in the original, finding connections between them. Some I’ve been to lots of times, others only once or in the passing. That comes next week.

This post will include:

Caledonia Road Church

Arandora Star Memorial Garden

Leith Links

Charlotte Square Gardens

Agassiz Rock

Blackford Hill Rocks

Arden Street

Espedair Street

Glasgow Central Station

Kibble Palace

George Square

Donald Dewar statue

La Pasionaria statue

Billy Connolly mural

Mitchell Street mural

Fisherrow Fishermen

Rottenrow

Creel Loaders statue

DunBear

Abandon Ship

V and A Dundee

Caledonia Road Church: looking up towards a ruined church with a tower to the left and a smart Grecian top with pillars. Weeds are growing from the middle of the level of the building.

The Caledonia Road Church is a ruined church designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It has been a ruin since the 1960s and it is one of Glasgow’s great curiosities. I went there straight from Queen’s Park and wandered, looked and took photos.

Arandora Star Memorial Garden: an urban garden with a tree to the left and mirrors arranged on a patio area to the right. Behind is a red apartment building and a breezeblock wall with some plaques on it. 

The Arandora Star Memorial Garden is in the grounds of St. Andrew’s RC Cathedral by the Clyde. It connected from Caledonia Road through religion. The garden is a memorial to those who perished when the Arandora Star was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in 1940. Italian and German internees bound for Canada were on the ship. 805 people were killed. The garden is a beautiful memorial to this event and a reminder of how we should never judge people for their origins, only what they make of themselves.

Leith Links: a path underneath some trees in a park. A red curved building is to the right.

Leith Links came about because I had a Proclaimers song called ‘Scotland’s Story’ in my head. It mentions internees and Leith. I was in the capital for football and to go to an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I sat there, ate my lunch then went to the game. It’s amazing, writing this in June 2020 as movements are restricted, how remote that feels.

Charlotte Square Gardens: the back end of a statue of a man on a horse. Statue figures are gathered at the base. On ground level are trees and tents, one advertising the New York Times.

Charlotte Square Gardens lies empty most of the year. Only in August – in normal circumstances – is it opened, housing the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was there in August and so I sat, read, wrote, bought books and went to an event. It linked to Leith Links because of geography.

Agassiz Rock: a rocky outcrop with a tree atop a rock in the foreground. To the left is an area of rock with graffiti on it. 
Blackford Hill Rocks: layers of geological rock with trees above.

At the time I was reading a book about geology. That was how I linked Charlotte Square to the Agassiz Rock, in the shadow of Blackford Hill in the south of Edinburgh, named after Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz who did some fieldwork there. On the way back into the city I came to other rocks, which linked to the Agassiz Rock by geography.

Arden Street: an urban street with identical grey and yellow tenement buildings on either side and at the end. A blue sky with some white clouds above.

On the very same Sunday I walked back into Edinburgh city centre and came down Arden Street, the street where Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus lives. I linked it to Blackford Hill through books. Arden Street was bright and sunny and no sign of Rebus’s beaten-up Saab.

Espedair Street: an urban street with buildings on either side. The building to the left is yellow with satellite dishes on it. To the right are buildings of various sizes, some yellow, brown or white.

Espedair Street is in Paisley, a little south of the town centre. It’s residential, with a ghost sign and a park behind. I know it a bit better since I did Loose Ends as someone I know stays near there. It linked to Arden Street since Espedair Street is the title of a book by Iain Banks.

Glasgow Central Station: looking up towards a glass roof of a railway station with buildings curving to the left, including a Costa Coffee shop. 

Glasgow Central Station is the busiest railway station in Scotland. I haven’t been there since March at time of writing. It is a grand station, fronted by a hotel, with trains going to England and across western Scotland. I had to look up the link I found from Espedair Street:

‘Central had a tenuous link to Espedair Street through the works of Iain Banks. As well as Espedair Street, he also wrote The Bridge. Bridge, railway, station, Central Station.’

Kibble Palace: inside a bright glasshouse with ferns amidst the pillars and a sculpture of a woman in side profile with her hand on her chin in the centre.

The Kibble Palace is in Glasgow Botanic Gardens. There used to be a railway station in the Glasgow Botanics and that was the link from Central. I was there in October just as there was about to be a light show in the Botanics. The Kibble Palace is a greenhouse with temperate plants, sculptures and benches. I like to sit there and read from time to time.

George Square: looking up at a grand building with a tall tower in the centre and two smaller towers to the left and right. A lit-up stencil of a Christmas tree is at the left of the image.

George Square was the next link late one afternoon. George Square houses the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, who manage the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It is a city square with statues, restaurants, traffic and pigeons. I like to sit there and peoplewatch, sometimes to eat lunch on a nice day.

Donald Dewar statue: the statue of a tall man wearing a suit. The man is balding with glasses. Behind is a building with a city crest and the words ‘The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’. On the glass frontage of the building is the reflection of part of a shop sign for John Lewis.

Donald Dewar was the first First Minister of Scotland, a Labour politician who represented Glasgow and did a lot of work to establish the Scottish Parliament. He died suddenly in 2000 and his statue sits at the top of Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The statue linked to George Square by geography.

La Pasionaria statue: a statue of a woman with her arms aloft. Below is a quote ‘Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live For Ever On Your Knees’. Below that is information paying tribute to volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War.
Billy Connolly mural: a mural on the gable end of a city building depicting a man with tousled hair with one arm pointing up and one pointing down. Behind him is the sea.
Mitchell Street mural: a mural on the end of a city building featuring a woman looking through a magnifying glass towards people between her fingers.

La Pasionaria is a statue by the Clyde put there by various groups including the Labour Party to commemorate those Glaswegians who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. At time of writing, it is one of four statues of women in Glasgow. It links to Donald Dewar by being a statue in Glasgow as well as through Labour. I did this while on the way into town one December Sunday.

Around the corner is one of the murals of comedian Billy Connolly, this one painted by Jack Vettriano, depicting the Big Yin being blown about on the Caithness coast. It is public art in Glasgow, as with the next link, the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids mural of a woman with a magnifying glass. It sits on the end of a building on Mitchell Street, a back street not far away from the Clyde.

Fisherrow Fishermen: two sculptures of two men on a rock. 

The next link was a sculpture by Gardner Molloy of two fishermen by Fisherrow Harbour in East Lothian. I was there early in the New Year on a dismal, dreich day. It is public art and I like it. The walk from Portobello to Prestongrange blew cobwebs away, I have to say.

Rottenrow: sculpture of a nappy pin with city buildings behind.

Rottenrow used to house Glasgow’s maternity hospital and is now a park with only part of the hospital’s exterior remaining. It also has a sculpture of a nappy pin. It links to Fisherrow through the word ‘row’, pure and simple. I remember this day for other reasons. It was an early January Saturday and I had been in Paisley for business before going to Kelvingrove to see the Linda McCartney photography exhibition before it closed.

Creel Loaders: a sculpture of three people, two men and one woman. The woman is carrying a basket on her head. To the left and right are residential streets.

‘Row’ also provided the connection to the Creel Loaders statue on Victoria Street in Dunbar, Victoria Street formerly housing a row of houses called the Cat’s Row. The Creel Loaders statue, sculpted again by Gardner Molloy, marks the fishing industry of the burgh, creels of fish and shellfish often taken long distaes over the hills.

DunBear sculpture: a metal sculpture of a brown bear stood atop a plinth with a dramatic sky behind. 

The new DunBear sculpture of a bear sits in a field under Doon Hill on the outskirts of Dunbar. It links to the Creel Loaders by geography. I was there that same January Sunday and it took a few minutes for it to be free of people enough for me to get some photos. I quite like it though of Andy Scott’s sculptures, I prefer the Kelpies.

Abandon Ship: some street art on the doorway of a building featuring a ship and some lavishly illustrated plants with the words ‘Abandon Ship’ in the top left.
V and A Dundee: looking through an archway with water either side of the path towards a river with a bridge stretching to land on the other side.

The DunBear is dedicated to John Muir, who sailed across to America on a ship. The Abandon Ship art is on the wall outside a pub in Dundee and I noticed it on the bus into the city. I liked it and realised it connected just dandily with the bear and with the last connection of the current round, which was across the road. The V and A is fairly new, a ship-shaped museum jutting into the Tay. From the museum it is possible to get a great panorama up and down the Tay, to Broughty Ferry, Fife and up into Perthshire. It seemed the right place to pause.

That is the end of the Loose Ends Redux. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Next week will come a brand-new virtual adventure, beginning in Aberdour. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

 

 

 

 

 

5 In 5: Ghost sign

img_2324
Ghost sign: peeling signs on the side of a tenement building. From the top are adverts for the News of the World, beer and Coca-Cola. Below the Coke advert are the words ‘Thirst knows no reason’. 

I’ve always liked this ghost sign. It feels like a relic from a bygone age, when advertising was more pervasive and the cityscape was more traditional. It advertises a newspaper which is now defunct, a beer that might well have brewed its last pint and Coca-Cola, which is very much still going. The only thing I’ve been able to find out about it online was a Glasgow Times article that it might date from the 1950s and one of the local councillors was trying to get it preserved for future generations. As it is, it’s on the side of a tenement, by a bookies and a bus stop.

I came to it on the way back from Bellahouston Park. A right few people were on the pavement by the shop and post office, a few more stood at the bus stop. I walked on the road past the shops though got a section of pavement socially-distanced enough to get a couple of photos of the ghost sign. I realised I probably had nicer photos of it, sunnier photos rather than in the overcast cloud, but that didn’t matter so much. It was there, a fine example of urban archaeology, albeit high up the side of a building. 0.7 miles from home.

Thanks for reading. This is the second of the 5 In 5 series here on Walking Talking, a few interesting places within five miles of my house. It is inspired by a Historic Environment Scotland social media campaign during June 2020 asking folk about five interesting places within five miles of where they live, due to the coronavirus restrictions which limited movement.

This particular ghost sign has also appeared in my Streets of Glasgow post aboutPaisley Road West.

Saturday Saunter: Efty

Well, hello,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a warm and sunny Thursday. The pollen count has been particularly high this week so lots of products have been used to varying effect. Lately, whatever the forecast says, the pollen has still been wreaking havoc. I have been out today, stopping off on the way home to do some blog business for 5 In 5, though being inside is more favourable, since it’s cooler inside and pollen has less of an effect.

I haven’t read that much this week, mainly news and articles online. I did read a Horrible Histories book about Edinburgh the other night but it wasn’t as good as other books in that fine series, with a few very cliched jokes about Scots which tend to grate when you actually live in Scotland. What I did read and enjoy was a book about design on London transport, London By Design, produced by the London Transport Museum and Transport for London. It features photographs of defining design from bus stops to seat moquettes to Tube stations. It’s a coffee table book really and beautiful without being pretentious. Design is for everyone.

img_2194
Pollok House: looking over a wall to a three-storey country house with lower wings at either side.

Friday teatime now. It was nicer earlier but we had a showery downpour in the last hour. Pollen has been mostly manageable today, which is an undoubted bonus. I’m thinking of going for a walk tomorrow (Saturday), maybe to Pollok Park, which I visited a few weeks ago. Then again I have said I would go for a walk each of the last two weekends and it hasn’t happened so I’m not holding out too much hope. I have been busier with actual things the last few weeks so there is a clearer differentiation between weekdays and weekends than there has been for a while. A walk in the hereabouts would be nice.

I am a member of the two largest historical conservation organisations in Scotland, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. The nearest HS property to here is Crookston Castle while the NTS manage Pollok House. I’ve seen both in the last few weeks though both remain closed to the public so getting into them isn’t possible yet. Indeed the NTS has announced that Pollok House will not reopen until 2021 while HS are currently assessing options for how its properties will reopen in an appropriate, socially-distanced way. This will no doubt be a complex process since our historic places are very different. What would be effective at Stirling Castle might not work at Skara Brae, for example. It will be interesting to see how this happens and how it will take effect, indeed also whether these changes will be permanent.

I like to share a Scots word from time to time and the best one that has come to mind is ‘efty’, an east coast word for afternoon, popularised by Bill Barclay when he presented an afternoon show on the radio. I don’t know why that came to mind.

Our weekly reminder to listen to other voices to understand our world better is from The Guardian, an anti-racist reading list written by Layla F Saad.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th June 2020. Thanks very much for reading. 5 In 5 returns tomorrow and the very last Loose Ends Redux is on Wednesday careering right across Scotland from the Caledonia Road Church to the V and A in Dundee. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

 

 

 

 

 

Loose Ends Redux: Desperate Dan-Queen’s Park

Good afternoon,

Welcome to another instalment of Loose Ends Redux. This will be slightly different. I’ve decided to make a change and so over the next two weeks I’m going to post two quite long posts of recollections from the rest of the Loose Ends series before embarking on a new virtual adventure.

Today’s post will therefore include:

Desperate Dan

Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart

Bilsdean

Bridge to Nowhere

Dirleton Castle

Marjorie Bruce cairn

Democracy cairn

John Frederic Bateman monument

Craigmaddie Gauge Basin

Bearsden Bathhouse

Queen’s Park

Queen’s Park, again

Desperate Dan statue: a statue on a city street of a cowboy with a dog trailing behind and a girl brandishing a slingshot to the left.

The Desperate Dan statue stands in the centre of Dundee. Desperate Dan was a cowboy who appeared in the Dandy comic produced by DC Thomson. He liked cow pies and had a dog called Dawg, who also appears behind him in this statue. I’ve always liked Desperate Dan and his statue, claiming him to be a style icon since I always seem to have stubble of some kind and am partial to a pie or two or a peh or twa, as they would say in Dundee. I consider comics to be literature and I think that was the connection with Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness. This one was a wee sneaky Loose Ends. I had stayed over in Dundee on the Friday night after football and was heading on the Saturday morning for a quick trip up to Aberdeen.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue: a statue of a man sat on a chair, on a plinth, amidst a modern housing development.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue stands on the corner of St. Vincent Street and Argyle Street in a fairly new housing development. I quite like it though personally feel that Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh should have appeared with him. It’s a statue, so is the one of Desperate Dan. I often combine a few blog things in one and did this the same day as I did the following connection and the Streets of Glasgow posts on St. Vincent Street and Argyle Street.

img_8245
‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart: a painting in a golden frame of a seascape with four triangular hills in the background.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh has a whole section of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to himself so he connected quite dandily with my favourite painting, which also hangs in Kelvingrove. Hopefully soon I will get a few minutes in front of it. ‘Paps of Jura’ is by William McTaggart and hangs in a stairwell at Kelvingrove. It was painted in Kintyre, looking towards Jura and its distinctive hills, called ‘paps’ because they resemble breasts. There are quite a few so-called hills in Scotland. It is a gorgeous seascape and I make a point of getting a few minutes to look at the waves every time I’m at Kelvingrove.

Bilsdean: looking across a stony beach to a sea with waves and a rounded cliff in the centre-right of the image.

Loose Ends: Bilsdean was a hard one to come up with. I also wanted to do something to mark the blog’s 600th post (we are on 760 as I write this). I had tried to make Kintyre happen, the subject of ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart, my favourite painting in Kelvingrove, but it wasn’t to be. In the end I kept an art connection and went to Bilsdean Beach, subject of a particularly lovely Glasgow Boys painting by Arthur Melville. Due to the vagaries of Sunday buses, I had to be very careful how I made this one happen. I got the bus to Cockburnspath then walked up to Dunglass Collegiate Church, a rather fine ruined church, then down by the waterfall to the beach. There were one or two walkers floating about. The view was particularly fine, looking right to St. Abbs Head, left less scenic to Torness Power Station. I sat for a while, scribbled some notes, etched 600 in the sand then left.

Bridge to Nowhere, Belhaven: a silhouette of a bridge over a burn. The bridge has railings on either side with stairs to the left.

The Bridge to Nowhere is a place I know very well. It is in Belhaven Bay, near Dunbar, and is cut off at high tide, leading from a car park to the beach. It’s appeared in lots of paintings, photographs and even album covers and music posters. This trip was quite sunny, if memory serves. I walked over the bridge, took some photographs, sauntered for a bit on the beach then headed back.

Dirleton Castle: looking over a bridge into a ruined castle with a tower to the left and living quarters to the right. A saltire flies from the tower.

Dirleton Castle connected because it’s in East Lothian too. Dirleton is a particularly fine medieval castle near North Berwick, home to three families over the years. It has its own bowling green and there is a village green in Dirleton too, an unusual touch in Scotland. It was quite cloudy that day, a few weeks after the Bilsdean and Belhaven adventures, though the views over the East Lothian countryside were quite unimpeded.

Marjorie Bruce cairn: a brown stone cairn with a plaque on it. Behind is a modern brown house; a bus shelter sits to the right.

The Marjorie Bruce cairn, which commemorates where Robert the Bruce’s sister fell off her horse and died, is in Gallowhill in Paisley. I did this one walking from my work into Paisley. It sits in a housing estate and usually you can smell fried chicken from the KFC across the way. It connected with Dirleton because both are of interest to medievalists, I think. This post actually gets quite a few views through search engines, interestingly. Reading it back just now, it’s actually one of the best in this series, particularly as it is notably anti-monarchy. I had my tongue firmly in my cheek writing that one.

Democracy cairn: a cairn with a fire basket on the top. A hill sits to the right with a rounded summit and a ridge to the right. Some city buildings sit below the tree line in front of the hill.

The democracy cairn sits on Calton Hill, which has of course appeared in Loose Ends before. The series doesn’t have many rules but repeating a place automatically ends the series, as does going back to its first connecting place, Aberdour Castle. The reason why I make the connection quite specific is because I can use multiple things in the same general area. I learned that for the later Loose Ends connections. Dunfermline and Coldstream are gubbed, for example, because those posts were about the towns and not just one place in them. Anyway, the cairn was put on the southern end of Calton Hill to mark the campaign for home rule in Scotland. From there can be seen the Scottish Parliament, the ultimate result of that campaign. The cairn contains quite a few stones from different places or commemorating different people, including Jane Haining, the only Scot known to have died in the Holocaust.

John Frederic Bateman monument: a slab on a patch of grass. The slab bears a plaque.

John Frederic Bateman was an engineer who worked to get clean water for Glasgow in the 19th century. His work led to the Mugdock Reservoir and 26 miles of tunnels between there and Loch Katrine, quite an endeavour. A monument to him, a plaque on a slab, really, sits by Mugdock Reservoir and I saw it while walking up there last Easter. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I was enjoying my walk. The connection with the cairn on Calton Hill came simply because it was a monument.

Craigmaddie Gauge Basin: looking over to an ornate archway with walkways and pools of water between the strands of the walkway. Trees stand above the archway and wall which curves from either side.

Craigmaddie Gauge Basin is lovely, part of the Craigmaddie Reservoir, the newer of the two reservoirs just north of Milngavie which give Glasgow much of its drinking water. It connected with the John Frederic Bateman monument because of its shared history and geography. It was very photogenic and one of the photos is on a screensaver of mine to this day.

Bearsden Bathhouse: an archaeological site with low stone walls. An interpretation board sits in the middle of the site. Brown housing blocks sit in the background. A tree trunk is to the right in the foreground.

Bearsden Bathhouse was a place I had wanted to go for a very long time, since high school, the remains of a Roman bathhouse, used by soldiers stationed on the Antonine Wall. It sits in the midst of modern housing and I had it to myself for a wee while as I wandered, took photos and sat under a tree for a bit. It connected to Craigmaddie because it’s near Craigmaddie. Simples.

Queen’s Park: view from a hillside across a cityscape with a church spire particularly prominent in the foreground. Church spires, bridges and hills appear in the city.

I knew I wanted to end at the flagpole at Queen’s Park in Glasgow. The last round had ended on Calton Hill in Edinburgh and I realised ending in a place with a synoptic view was a good shout. Queen’s Park connected with Bearsden as while I couldn’t see it from the flagpole, I could see Glasgow University, whose Hunterian Museum houses a considerable Roman collection. I was knackered as it had been a busy and very warm day, with a Streets of Glasgow walk still to be fitted in while in the area. I was glad to have Loose Ends done for a little while and felt it was the right place to pause, looking over this great city.

The second Queen’s Park visit, to start the third round of Loose Ends, was on a cooler August day. The next connection, Caledonia Road Church, could be seen and I decided on that fairly swiftly. I always like a trip to Queen’s Park. Being able to see a great swathe of the city, being both in it and out of it, always appeals.

That’s another Loose Ends Redux done. The next one will be next week and it will be another lengthy post containing the entirety of the third round of Loose Ends, beginning at Caledonia Road Church. Until then, cheers just now.

5 In 5: Bellahouston Park

Bellahouston Park, view towards Mosspark: view from a path across a tree-filled park towards some houses on a hill with more hills in the background.
Bellahouston Park, looking west: looking from a park towards a leisure centre with trees and various tower blocks on the skyline.

Bellahouston Park is one of the biggest parks in Glasgow. It has seen two Papal masses, several pop concerts and the Empire Exhibition of 1938. It houses the House for an Art Lover, a ski slope and leisure centre too, even though all of those are currently closed. Bellahouston is a park of several parts, flat plain, hill and cultural quarter. Calmer towards Mosspark, busier towards Paisley Road West. I can walk there from my house and I’ve now been twice since lockdown started. A decent view can be had over much of the city, particularly in winter when the trees are bare, but it is particularly fine to look from the Cathkin Braes to the Gleniffer Braes to Eaglesham with the wind turbines. From the Empire Exhibition monument, I could see almost to my house, across an urban landscape but a familiar one. The best urban landscapes to survey are familiar in my experience.

Sunken Garden: an art installation featuring eight concrete blocks arranged in a line. A wall and trees are behind.

Having said that, the Sunken Garden has had better days. It sits where Bellahouston House once stood. The blocks of Glasgow Roots are still there and they work as contemporary art, even if their information has gone in many cases. The libraries one is close to my heart though I liked reading the history of railways in the city. The other day railway historian Tim Dunn Tweeted a picture of cut-and-cover works during the redevelopment of the Glasgow Subway in the 1970s, the old ticket office at St. Enoch standing still amidst the chaos. Our city has a lot of railways still but much less than it did. I could hear more cars than trains from Bellahouston, to be fair.

Glasgow is known as the Dear Green Place and it has many parks, some more celebrated and visited than others. Bellahouston is not even my local. Two cemeteries and even another park are closer. I like Bellahouston. It’s huge, it has a history all of its own. An estate to an exhibition space to an encounter with a Pope or two. 1.3 miles from the house.

Thanks for reading. 5 In 5 is a new five-part series here on Walking Talking, some interesting places within five miles of where I live, which is at time of writing the recommended maximum distance to travel for leisure in Scotland. It is inspired by a social media campaign from Historic Environment Scotland, encouraging its users to share five historical places near them.

Saturday Saunter: Travels and books

Good morning,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a wet and dismal Wednesday. On in the background as I start this today is Tide Lines, more specifically ‘Innocent and Beautiful’, the opening track from their very new album, ‘Eye of the Storm’, which I’ve been listening to over the last couple of weeks.

Last week here I talked a bit about Black Lives Matter and the history of slavery in Glasgow. Since then, protests have happened and statues have been chucked in rivers. Rather than rehash what I said last week, I would urge readers to go search out some other voices who can speak with more credibility than me. David Olusoga has written insightfully about Bristol in recent days. Geoff Palmer has spoken about the history of slavery in Scotland. Also, the excellent poem ‘Scotland, You’re No Mine’ by Hannah Lavery, one of the Best Scottish Poems of 2019 according to the Scottish Poetry Library.

North Berwick: looking across a beach on a sunny day towards a harbour with a red building in the centre of the image.

The Scottish Government has announced this week that it hopes that 15th July will see the start of the tourist season here in Scotland, depending, of course, on continuing progress. That is excellent news for many people, those of us who like to roam our land and even more for those whose livelihoods depend on tourism. I’ve written many words here about the places I love right across Scotland. I want to go to the sea. Whether it’s in Ayrshire, or East Lothian, or anywhere, some waves and wind would do me fine. Then a castle or two, even if the National Trust for Scotland has said that it doesn’t expect some of its properties to reopen for up to two years. Some food, a fish supper, a meal in a cosy restaurant, a packed lunch, even. In time, hopefully, this will be possible once more.

In the meantime, five miles is the leisure limit. Tomorrow will see the first of my 5 In 5, five places within five miles of my home which are interesting. On Tuesday I was in Bellahouston Park and stopped off on the way homeward at a bit of ghost signage I like. Not sure what the other three places will be. Maybe some street art or a statue. We’ll see.

Last Saturday I read It Wisnae Us by Stephen Mullen about Glasgow and slavery though I haven’t read much else since. By my bed I have two editions of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd so could just wander virtually into the Cairngorms. Or I have a book I bought quite recently about design on London transport, London By Design, which I’ve delved into but not fully. When we look around our world, we see finely – or not-so-finely – honed designs everywhere.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th June 2020. Thanks so much for reading, commenting, following. Tomorrow will be 5 In 5, and Wednesday will see the return of Loose Ends Redux, this time in Dundee and Glasgow. Until then, keep safe. Peace.

 

Loose Ends Redux: Portobello Community Garden-Leakey’s Bookshop

Well, now,

Welcome to another Loose Ends Redux. Today’s three instalments are:

Portobello Community Garden

Portobello Potteries

Leakey’s Bookshop

I remember these three particularly clearly. The two in Porty were on a very cold Saturday and I was taking a very scenic route to Easter Road for the football. As I recall, afterwards, I walked by Seafield and Leith Links to the ground. Strangely I can’t remember the game itself.

Portobello Community Garden: three elaborate pillars with crown-shaped tops in the middle of a garden of durable plants.

Portobello Community Garden I remember but I can’t remember how I connected it to Meadowbank. It was bright and sunny but very cold. I remember looking from there over to East Lothian, a view right up the coast to North Berwick Law possible. The Garden has pillars salvaged from a nearby garden (Coade Stone, I gather from the original post) and at that time Meadowbank was being demolished and built anew. I’ve always liked them and I think it was because they’re a bit unusual that I particularly wanted to shoehorn them into Loose Ends somewhere.

Portobello Potteries: two bottle-shaped kilns in an housing estate. The sun is blocked from view by the kiln on the left.

The Portobello Potteries connected, purely and simply, by geography. The kilns which now stand in the middle of an industrial estate are particularly cool and the photos I took of them for this post are some of my favourites ever taken for the blog. Portobello has a lot of history and some of it is still in plain sight, which is particularly cheering, even on a very cold day.

Leakey’s Bookshop: a bookshop with books on two levels.

Leakey’s Bookshop was a new one for me. I was in Inverness a few Fridays later, mainly to write the Intercity post for Inverness, but I had seen pictures of Leakey’s and resolved to pay a visit. I came out with a decent wee pile of books, some of which I still haven’t read over a year and a half on. Leakey’s is in an old church, the Gaelic Church, to be precise, and a big log fire helps keep it relatively toasty. I connected Leakey’s to Portobello because of a big section of books about pottery on the mezzanine. Hopefully I will get back to Leakey’s soon. It is a glorious place with an excellent selection of Scottish books particularly.

That’s today’s contenders. Thanks very much for reading. Next week’s post will cover a considerable swathe of Scotland, first Dundee then back to Glasgow. Until then, cheers just now.