Saturday Saunter: Books and bird hides

Good Saturday to you,

It’s beginning to feel more like spring here in Glasgow. There’s more daylight, it has been fairly mild of late and the calendar has turned into March. While out walking I’ve seen a lot more crocuses and snowdrops, yellows, purples and whites. I like that. The utter cold and snow of a couple of weeks ago seems to have gone, which is undoubtedly a good thing. As this is posted, I might be out for a walk. Or not as I sometimes like a lie in. I’m writing this on Thursday night with Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig on in the background. Sandi’s a good human.

I don’t know much about birds. I can recognise crows, robins, seagulls but not much in between. Birdwatching is an ever more popular pastime and one place people go to do that is by Loch Leven near Kinross, not to be confused with the other Loch Leven by Ballachullish. I read that the bird hide by Loch Leven was destroyed by a fire recently and that is sad. Loch Leven is beautiful, historically interesting and a place of nature despite being quite near the M90 motorway. People go there to rest and to find interest in the natural world. I’ve been to Loch Leven a couple of times, both on hot, summer’s days and the castle is one of the finest in Scotland, secluded on an island in the centre of the loch. I hope the crowdfunder to rebuild the hide achieves success for when people can travel to birdwatch once more.

It feels appropriate to have Sandi Toksvig on while thinking about Women’s History Month. The other day I watched a talk on Zoom presented by the National Library of Scotland about women walkers, featuring the author Dr Kerri Andrews and curator Paula Williams. It was interesting, talking a little about Nan Shepherd as well as other notable mountaineering women who I hadn’t heard of before. It prompted me to plonk one of my three copies of The Living Mountain back by my bedside – the slender white paperback one with a Dunbar Schools bookmark – and I’m looking forward to re-reading it soon. I’ve got a couple of books on the go just now and one of them is an audiobook of Made in Scotland by Billy Connolly, where funnily enough he talked about regularly re-reading his favourite book, Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and buying copies for his friends and evangelising about it. I could relate.

I am writing this on World Book Day so it feels appropriate to write about what I’m reading. Billy Connolly, or at least his words read by Gordon Kennedy, has been my soundtrack to tidying and cleaning lately. I’ve got two other books on the go at present, Hibs Through and Through: The Eric Stevenson Story by Eric Stevenson and Tom Wright, which I’ve mentioned before and I’m enjoying, and Antlers of Water: Writing on the Nature and Environment of Scotland edited by Kathleen Jamie, which I started earlier and is also excellent, with a wheen of topics covered so far including radiation, wind turbines, red kites and ancient animals. The Eric Stevenson book is a decent one for before bed, the Antlers of Water more for the day. There seem to be good books for different types of day but I can’t quite explain which books fall into which category. I’ll have a think about that for next week.

Andrew Watson mural: a mural of a figure with crossed arms wearing a striped football jersey. There is a golden background with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ to the bottom right.

After I finish those books, I’m going to read a new book I got recently, about Andrew Watson, the first black international footballer. He appears in a mural in Shawlands as well as on the side of the Hampden Bowling Club, the first Hampden. I was prompted to buy it after listening to a virtual tour of Hampden last week and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

In a week when Scottish politics has been particularly toxic, one positive has been the debate on Thursday for International Women’s Day.

Also, I would like to share the excellent video shared by Dundee United FC in honour of World Book Day. Books and football are quite a combination.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 6th March 2021. Thanks for reading. There will be a post on Wednesday, possibly about a river, possibly not. Any suggestions are welcome. Until then, a very good morning to you all.

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Water of Leith

Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.​
Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.

I think we can call this a series now. I’ve written about rivers the last few weeks so I might as well continue. I have a list of three that I could write about, and have photographs of, including today’s offering, the Water of Leith, which runs from the Pentland Hills right through Edinburgh to Leith where it flows into the Forth. The Water of Leith was once surrounded by mills and industries though today there are a few factories interspersed with flats, allotments, the Union Canal and Colinton Dell as the river wends its way out of the city. The Water of Leith Walkway runs for 13 miles from Leith to Balerno and I’ve walked all of it at one point or another, sometimes in sunshine, other times in rain or even with snow on the ground. The last time I was there was last summer, my only visit to Edinburgh in a year, and walked from Leith towards the city centre. It included stopping by the quotations inscribed on the pavement near Great Junction Street, including the ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’. I’ve always rather liked that and it currently graces an advertising hoarding on the West Stand at Easter Road, even though it was actually to do with Leith Athletic rather than Hibs, I gather.

St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.​
St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.​
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.

The Water of Leith also passes near some of Edinburgh’s foremost visitor attractions including the Royal Botanic Garden and the Modern Art Galleries. That section from Stockbridge to Roseburn is my favourite, going by St Bernard’s Well, under the Dean Bridge and through the Dean Village before winding past a weir on the way to Murrayfield. At the weir are benches in memory of those who have died from HIV and AIDS and it is one of the most beautiful spots in Edinburgh. I remember being able to go into St Bernard’s Well one Doors Open Day and it had information panels shedding more light on that particular stunning structure, designed by Alexander Nasmyth and based on the Temple of Vista in Italy. St Bernard’s was also a football team, incidentally, who played at the edge of the New Town near Scotland Street. They took their name from the Well, so Wikipedia tells me. Their name lives on in a couple of amateur teams in Edinburgh though they left the Scottish League around the Second World War. There’s a plaque to them in King George V Park, if I recall. The Dean Village, meanwhile, had many mills harnessing the Water of Leith though now it is pretty much residential and a pleasant part of town.

Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.​
Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.

Beyond Slateford is Colinton Dell, which is particularly stunning with a weir and woodland. Colinton Village comes next, which is a conservation village and every time I’m there I always marvel that this seemingly rural place is in the capital of Scotland and very near the City Bypass. In Colinton is the Colinton Tunnel which has been artistically decorated. Some day I’ll be able to go and have a look – it’s only happened in the last year or so. The walk leads out through Currie and Juniper Green to Balerno, which is a nice village in the lee of the Pentlands. Invariably the bus back into Edinburgh takes only a few minutes to cover what has been walked in a few hours. Thankfully the memories and the good vibes from the walk take longer to fade and they encourage me to plan a visit for when the time comes.

Saturday Saunter: Clock towers, maps and virtual experiences

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this week being written on Wednesday night. The last few weeks I’ve been making a rough plan for these posts and this week I have a full slate of things so let’s dive in. I often write here about maps and I got a new one this week. An organisation called Urban Good has produced a map of the green spaces in Glasgow and surrounding districts, minimising the roads to emphasise walking and cycle routes as well as parks, playing fields and sports facilities. Interestingly, the key not only features places of interest but also what land is for, food spaces, blue spaces (water to you and me), and skate parks. The back of the map has a wheen of information about elevations, canals, rivers, how we can contribute to nature, figures about how our city’s land is used and ideas about exploring urban nature. I just had it folded out on the carpet and it’s quite a resource, the size of an Ordnance Survey map but trying to do more, to promote and encourage people to explore their local area. When we can’t go beyond our local area, as now, it’s good to see just what is out there, how many parks, gardens and green spaces there are in Glasgow. We are after all the Dear Green Place.

Hampden Park: looking up wet steps towards the back of a football stadium with a red wall, silver grille and grey roof.​
Hampden Park: looking up wet steps towards the back of a football stadium with a red wall, silver grille and grey roof.

Keeping in Glasgow, I’ve watched quite a few digital events in recent weeks, all from the comfort of my living room. Celtic Connections still provides great music through the sessions on the BBC iPlayer and I know Anabel Marsh and Down By The Dougie have both written about that in recent weeks. We watched an author event with Ann Cleeves interviewed by Steph McGovern last week and that was excellent, going into the Vera books and Ann Cleeves’s approach to writing. I also watched an online tour of Hampden Park live on Zoom last Saturday lunchtime, which was excellent. The tour, from Lindsay Hamilton, was superb and covered a whole load of history of the third Hampden and its predecessors. I had managed to avoid using video conferencing software until recently but I am now a convert as they make things more accessible, not just right now when we can’t go anywhere but for people who might not be able to travel for whatever reason. I watched quite a few Celtic Connections concerts because I bought the festival pass and I know I wouldn’t have been able to attend more than one or two in real life. I hope as many events can stay online in some way as possible after all this, including providing PPV feeds for football matches, as more people can access them and ultimately the organisers might make extra revenue, which in these times is also important.

Talking about accessibility, I read recently about Crewe railway station, which has a Calm Corner specifically for people with hidden disabilities, including those with dementia. They have old photographs of the station to encourage memories, which is commendable. I’ve never been to Crewe but know it’s a particularly busy railway station in normal circumstances so anything to help people travel safely and happily is undoubtedly a good thing.

Anabel Marsh wrote the other day about clock towers and I was inspired to add a couple of pictures from my own collection. The first is Dunbar Town House, a clock I know well. It also has a sundial next to one of its faces. The second is quite topical, this week being the 25th anniversary of the release of Trainspotting, featuring the old Leith Central station. The third is from Stirling, the Tolbooth, to be precise, another of those clocks with a blue face and golden letters.

Dunbar Town House: a white clock tower with a grey top. The shadow of a gable end with chimney pots is ​being cast on the side of the building to the right.
Dunbar Town House: a white clock tower with a grey top. The shadow of a gable end with chimney pots is being cast on the side of the building to the right.
Leith: a clock tower on the corner of a building on the corner of a street. At street level there is a doctor’s surgery with a To Let sign on the corner.​
Leith: a clock tower on the corner of a building on the corner of a street. At street level there is a doctor’s surgery with a To Let sign on the corner.
Stirling Tolbooth: a clock tower with a blue and gold face below a tower. In the foreground are some older buildings, the centre one with a weathervane on the top.
Stirling Tolbooth: a clock tower with a blue and gold face below a tower. In the foreground are some older buildings, the centre one with a weathervane on the top.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that. That’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 27th February 2021. Thanks for reading. Our post on Wednesday is about the Water of Leith. Cheers for now. Peace.

Tweed

Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.​
Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.

I was thinking of writing about the river Tyne as part of what seems to be becoming a series about rivers but I’ve done it before. In 2016, as a matter of fact. The Tyne, of course, runs from the foothills of the Lammermuirs to the sea at Belhaven. It’s not to be confused with the one in England which runs along Hadrian’s Wall through Newcastle. Instead I was thinking about the Tweed, the river which for much of its length covers the border between Scotland and England before reaching the North Sea at Berwick. I am advised that there are two Tweeds in the UK, the other in Leicestershire, but I’ve never been to that one. What I didn’t know until just now is that the Tweed rises very close to where the Clyde starts, which is quite a nice fact. When I think of the Tweed I think of the bridges at Berwick, plus Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. By far my favourite bridge is the Royal Border Bridge, the one with the trains, which leads from Berwick station towards Tweedmouth. Berwick Castle was largely pulled down to make way for the railway and the Great Hall is where the platforms are. If going south, it’s worth looking left to the other bridges and out to sea. Eventually the breakwater and the lighthouse comes into view, which is probably one of my favourite places on the earth. I like a walk around the walls in Berwick, the Elizabethan ramparts which give the best view of the town and of course out to sea and back to Scotland. Northumbrian castles at Bamburgh and Lindisfarne are also visible on a good day. The scenery inspired LS Lowry and I always contend that his seascapes are better than the matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs he’s more famous for.

Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.​
Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.

The Tweed is still the border at Coldstream. I was there a couple of summers ago to watch the Hibs on a lovely summer’s day. There’s a plaque on the bridge in the middle of the river about Robert Burns, who it is hard to escape in Scotland, even when on the border.

Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.​
Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.

Further west, the border is further south than the Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey is by the Tweed and I would love a visit there right about now, just to watch the river, read and cherish my surroundings. Melrose is near the Tweed too and when I was at Abbotsford a few years ago, I walked to Melrose by the Tweed, which was braw on another summer’s day.

The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.​
The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.

My last visit to Peebles was to go to Dawyck Botanic Garden, which is near the Tweed too. Dawyck is a glorious garden in most weathers, very alpine and usually rather wet since it’s on a hill in the Borders. The Tweed is particularly nice round there, windy and surrounded by fields and trees. In fact the Tweed is beautiful for nearly all of its length, regardless of when it’s just a river or a fiercely fought for frontier, surrounded by castles, abbeys and so much history.

Saturday Saunter: Books and Glasgow views

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night. It’s been much milder the last couple of days and the snow has melted, which even for me is a good thing. As this is being written I will probably be having a lie in before watching the football later. It’s been a long two weeks since Hibs were last in action, too long.

I’m in one of those modes where I’ve started a whole bunch of books but haven’t finished any of them yet. At current count, I have Nick Hewer’s autobiography, Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie, Rob Roy And All That by Allan Burnett and an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland read by Alan Bennett. I think Alice in Wonderland will be finished first – it was a decent soundtrack for cleaning earlier – and it’s got about 45 minutes left. Nick Hewer is the outgoing host of Countdown, soon to be succeeded by Anne Robinson, and his memoir is arranged by letters rather than chronology. Snapshot I’ve written about before and Rob Roy And All That is a Horrible Histories-type book about one of Scottish history’s foremost figures and one I don’t know much about.

Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.

The other night I was catching up with The Sunday Times from the weekend, which featured 32 Scottish walks, one from every local authority. East Lothian’s was Aberlady Bay and Gullane Point – one of the finest walks in Scotland – and Edinburgh had the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill, also very fine. Dundee has the Law from Discovery Point and I’m also familiar with Falkirk’s, involving the Falkirk Wheel and the Antonine Wall, and Castle Campbell and Dollar Glen in Clackmannanshire. All of these are historically interesting, picturesque in many cases. Glasgow featured the street art in the city centre. Don’t get me wrong. We have some incredible murals and street art in Glasgow but we also have many, many fine parks, some of which are lesser-known than others. There are fine views right across the city from Bellahouston, the Necropolis, Tollcross and the Forth and Clyde Canal, amongst others. We have rivers and burns, castles and much else besides, all within the boundaries of the largest city in the nation.

About a year ago I was in London for a few days. It feels like much more than twelve months have passed since I was there. I’ve been binging Hidden London Hangouts produced by the London Transport Museum, featuring discussion of old and disused Underground stations and other transport locales in the metropolis. It’s a really innovative way to fulfil their remit and it includes those of us who don’t get to London very often but remain interested in its hidden places.

Another interesting article I read was by the mighty Mary Beard, talking about witchcraft and abuse on social media. There’s been too many stories lately about folk getting abuse and even death threats on social media, including footballers and football managers, academics, politicians and people trying to share interesting things and thoughts. It honestly eludes me why people would prefer to vent and cause harm rather than just switching off their devices or scrolling on when things annoy them.

Our different perspective for today comes from Glasgow University. The Hunterian Museum has appointed Zandra Yeaman as its Curator of Discomfort. She has the specific remit to change institutional attitudes about its collections and their links to slavery and colonialism.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. It’s appreciated. A post about the Tweed will be here on Wednesday though I’m running out of rivers I have enough to blether about. Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Until then, a very good morning to you all.

Since this was written, I can confirm that Rob Roy and All That was finished first. Alice as read by Alan Bennett has been dispatched too.

Tay

The Tay, Tay Road Bridge and Fife from the V and A - a view towards a river and road bridge stretching across it between two parts of a building. The picture is taken from a path with water on either side.
The Tay, Tay Road Bridge and Fife from the V and A – a view towards a river and road bridge stretching across it between two parts of a building. The picture is taken from a path with water on either side.

The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland. Like the Forth and Clyde, it becomes a firth before flowing into the sea. I don’t know it as well as the other two but I like being by it. The last time was in September, during a couple of days in Dundee. The Tay begins on the slopes of Ben Lui and flows through Perth as a river then Dundee as a firth. It’s the subject of some of the worst poetry ever committed to paper, which I never fail to remember when in the vicinity of Magdalen Green or the current Tay Bridge, as well as being in some frankly far superior paintings by the likes of James McIntosh Patrick.

The Tay in Perth - a river with trees and a hill in the background with a path with a railing and pavement to the right in the foreground.
The Tay in Perth – a river with trees and a hill in the background with a path with a railing and pavement to the right in the foreground.

Perth is split by the Tay. I particularly like that the Tay has islands in Perth, one housing a golf course. Being a person who contends without fail that golf ruins a good walk, I will also say that the golf course can be crossed while walking to Branklyn Garden, which is at the eastern bank of the Tay. I’ve always liked Perth because it feels like a gateway to mountains and adventure, with hills to be seen to the north as well as roads to cities, mountains and fine restaurants like Cardo with its fine macarons.

The Dundee V and A and RRS Discovery - a grey building that looks like the prow of a ship next to an actual ship with a tall mast.
The Dundee V and A and RRS Discovery – a grey building that looks like the prow of a ship next to an actual ship with a tall mast.

The train from Glasgow to Dundee requires crossing the Tay in Perth. From Perth station, the train is at height amidst houses then it curves across the river before hugging its banks on the way to Dundee where the recently redeveloped station sits a few steps from the Tay, the RRS Discovery and the V and A. That part of Dundee is excellent now. I like walking by the Tay there, the sweep of the Firth visible from Broughty Ferry and Tentsmuir up river towards hills. I’ve been there on sunny, warm days and cold, wintry twilights and it’s good to look across and around, thinking of William McGonagall and all that history or perhaps what good food might be found soon. I think that’s the point I’m getting at: there’s lots of good food by the Tay, not least macarons and of course pehs in Dundee.

Saturday Saunter: Snow and viewpoints

Good morning,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday night with ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ on in the background from the iPlayer. Much of Scotland has had snow this week. We in Glasgow had a few inches and it is beginning to thaw as I write this. Pavements and roads are slippy as the snow has compacted or iced over. It has been perishingly cold as well, the kind of cold which tingles the ears. I haven’t had a haircut since November and unfortunately that means beanie hats rise up and fail to cover my ears for long. I bought two new ones last week which fit my quite large head but still rise up to avoid covering my ears. There was proper snow here, the kind which is deep, fluffy and falls in great quantities, and it wasn’t even the first snow of the winter. I didn’t see a lot of snow growing up by the seaside so I still get a bit of excitement when there’s snow, even if the aftermath of ice and slush isn’t so great.

There have been a few cool photographs of football grounds covered in snow this week. The third best football team in the land, Hibernian FC, shared a picture with the hallowed Easter Road turf covered in the white stuff, while there was a very cool drone photograph showing Dumbarton’s ground, whose current sponsored name I forget, with the Castle Rock and the Clyde in the background. The C and G Systems Stadium is the name of Dumbarton’s ground, incidentally. I also watched a Footy Adventures YouTube video featuring Cathkin Park in the snow too. I’ve not been to Cathkin for a few months and I don’t think I’ve ever been in the snow either. Next time, maybe.

Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.
Cathkin Park, not in the snow. Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.

Dumbarton Castle is a fine place. It has incredible views across Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, the Clyde and much of western Scotland. I should have mentioned it in my post Clyde the other day. Dumbarton has a trig point at the top as well as a panel showing the distance from the castle to other major landmarks, like Ben Lomond, Glasgow University and the since demolished Singer factory in Clydebank, if memory serves. Those panels often appear in high places, like at the Robertson car park in the Gleniffer Braes Country Park above Paisley, with directions across Scotland towards Berwick and Carlisle as well as more locally to Lochwinnoch, Glasgow Cross and Dumbarton Castle, naturally enough. I only went to the Braes for the first (and second) time last year and the views from up there are incredible, 600 feet up, a great place to watch planes if you’re of a mind or spot landmarks if you’re happier on the ground, like me.

Traditionally I make mention of the fact that tomorrow, 14th February, is Valentine’s Day and write about how that day should celebrate love in all its forms, including for landscapes and treasured places, rather than alienating people who may not have romance in their lives or indeed may not want it and bombarding the rest of us with saccharine bollocks. All that’s true so I won’t repeat it. Whether you spend tomorrow alone, with a loved one, or whatever, have a good one.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. I’m not sure what I’ll be posting on Wednesday but it might be about the Tay, since I’ve written about rivers the last two weeks. Until then, cheers just now.

Clyde

Falls of Clyde: a river with waterfall surrounded by trees.​
Falls of Clyde: a river with waterfall surrounded by trees.

Last week, I wrote here about the Forth, the river that becomes a firth. I live pretty near another river, in fact three technically. The White Cart Water and the Levern Water, not to mention the Kelvin a wee bit further away. (Some time I need to walk by all of the various rivers in Glasgow, not to mention more of the Forth and Clyde Canal.) Our city is defined in many ways by its main river, the Clyde. Here in Glasgow, it is a river. It becomes a Firth and eventually joins the Atlantic Ocean but that’s not my domain. My favourite crossing of the Clyde comes just south of Glasgow Central Station, very often just heading home but sometimes on an adventure. Those invariably cross the Clyde again near Uddingston and I like to look up and down river at this point, chancing a glimpse of Bothwell Castle to the right. Bothwell is one of the finest castles in Scotland, a mighty keep with a curtain wall and tower. I’ve not been in a few years. It was a beautiful sunny May bank holiday the last time I was there and it was glorious. I usually like to take a walk through the woods after, again close to the Clyde. Hopefully I’ll get a trip down there this year. The first time I tried to get there by public transport led to me getting lost and ending up walking almost to Hamilton. That most definitely wasn’t the right way.

Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship: a grey museum with a jagged roof with a tall ship in front. A small blue ferry boat is crossing the river towards the museum.​
Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship: a grey museum with a jagged roof with a tall ship in front. A small blue ferry boat is crossing the river towards the museum.

I particularly like the view of the Clyde at Govan. A ferry still crosses the Clyde there in the summer, going the few yards to the Riverside Museum on the northern side. There’s the city skyline, particularly the SEC complex of the Hydro, Armadillo and the SEC itself currently housing the NHS Louisa Jordan. There’s trains and a hint of a view of arches which have cool street art I want to see up close some time soon. It’s always a particular treat to get a few minutes to just look along the river at Govan. The last time I was nearby was in October or November last year and got the even better view from the Riverside which gets the town as well as the southern side of the city, which as many of us know is the best side.

The picture which graces the top of this post is upriver, at New Lanark at the Falls of Clyde. I’ve only ever been there once, two years ago at the height of the summer when the pollen was rampant too. There the Clyde is beautiful, harnessed once for mills, hydroelectricity generated now from the Falls. I was barely an hour from the city but it felt many, many miles away, even though linked by the river I stood by.

The Clyde and Greenock from Helensburgh: looking down a hill surrounded by trees towards a river and a town and hills at the other side.​
The Clyde and Greenock from Helensburgh: looking down a hill surrounded by trees towards a river and a town and hills at the other side.

The Clyde stops being a river, or begins depending on your philosophical hue, roughly between Greenock and Dumbarton. That’s a particularly fine bit too – Dumbarton Castle stands on its rock dominating the landscape, the Kilpatrick Hills in the background. Proper mountains stand high in the distance and there’s towns and houses. Towards Glasgow there are parks and places to sit and look, though the landscape has changed much even in the last couple of decades, let alone the last couple of centuries. That’s for another time. I just fancied a blether about the Clyde, mainly castles and waterfalls but also the very urban, trying to encompass a bit of the river’s variety.

Saturday Saunter: Scots and screens

Good Saturday to you,

It’s Saturday again. I know, right? It’s also February, which feels like an improvement even if the weather generally has been rank this month so far. I’m writing this on Thursday night catching up with the Roaming Roots Revue concert from Celtic Connections, which I might get to talking about later. As this is posted, going by recent experience, I will probably be having a lie in before watching the football this afternoon. The hopefully resurgent Hibs versus the Sheep, live from Easter Road and seen through the tellybox. Another thing being watched through the wonders of modern technology.

At the moment pretty much all entertainment is coming through a screen of some kind. As discussed a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been watching some of the Celtic Connections concerts plus of course the football can only be seen on the TV. I know I’m not alone in finding watching football on the TV a bit flat and dull. A phone or an iPad is oh so easy to reach for to doomscroll while the game’s on. I found that the latter end of the St. Mirren vs Hibs game the other night definitely kept my attention, mind, as the third best team in Scotland successfully held off the advances of Renfrewshire’s finest to keep the score at 1-2. It really depends on the game and since Hibs haven’t been playing in a particularly swashbuckling way recently, my attention has often wandered. A concert is different. I’m writing this with Lau in the background – and very good they are too – and I don’t need to focus on that so much while I’m writing. I do for the Stanford’s Travel Writing Festival, a series of talks from travel writers produced by the mighty Stanford’s bookshop, and I’ve watched a couple of them in the last few days, Jini Reddy about her book Wanderland and Charlie Connelly about his book about the English Channel.

I tend to discover things behind the rest of the world and so it has proven with Horrible Histories, the TV version, that is, which I’ve been watching on Netflix. ‘Stupid Deaths’ is a work of genius, properly silly without compromising on historical accuracy, while the shouty man adverts also crease me every time.

A picture of the Firth of Forth, because I can. Taken from Anstruther looking towards East Lothian - a seaside scene with rocks in the foreground and a harbour wall curving to the right. On the horizon, though a little faint, are two prominent landmarks, the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law, both curved.
A picture of the Firth of Forth, because I can. Taken from Anstruther looking towards East Lothian – a seaside scene with rocks in the foreground and a harbour wall curving to the right. On the horizon, though a little faint, are two prominent landmarks, the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law, both curved.

Horrible Histories doesn’t do much about Scotland, unfortunately, or in Scots beyond horrifically bad Scottish accents. I discovered an excellent resource recently, produced by the Press and Journal, a map of Scots dialects with a short piece delivered by a native speaker from the area. The Shetland guy went off script and I’m not so sure about the Edinburgh guy. Scots is very different in different parts of the country but also different parts of cities. Edinburgh Scots isn’t the same in Morningside as in Muirhouse, for example.

An issue which has been particularly contentious lately has been whether to remove statues and tributes to people who profited from slavery. I’m trying to read and listen to different perspectives rather than opening my trap. David Olusoga has said that it is a nonsense to keep them while The Guardian has reported that 69 tributes have been removed across the UK last summer. There was also a good point made on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert the other night about the faces on American currency. Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is one thing but some of the others on currency owned or profited from slaves.

There’s been an excellent version of ‘Machines’ by Biffy Clyro in this concert, sung by Simon Neil of that brilliant band. Took me back.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 6th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. In what seems to be a growing trend, I’m not sure what will be here on Wednesday, if anything. Until next time, then. A very good morning to you all.

Forth

A few years ago, I walked across the Forth Road Bridge. I didn’t walk back – thankfully there’s a railway bridge quite nearby and a station in North Queensferry that’s on that line. I wrote a blog post about it, which appeared here around that time. The three bridges which span the Forth in that area, the Forth Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing, are well placed to give incredible views up and down the Firth to mountains, seabird colonies and many towns which line its banks. The other day I was on Twitter at the right time, a suitably rare occurrence, and watched a video on Scotrail’s feed showing the view from a train’s cab as it crossed the Forth Bridge, the mightiest railway structure in Scotland. Its struts and girders passed by in a whir of red saltires. The video didn’t share much of the view which can be seen from a train window but that is to be expected since the train driver is surely keeping his or her eyes front. The view is finest from the Forth Bridge since there is no other bridge between it and the Forth opening out. Having grown up in East Lothian I’m particularly biased in loving the view towards the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the northern coastline of my native county. The best view of the capital starts from just south of Inverkeithing, a view across a yard to Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh unfolding below. East Lothian and Edinburgh are on the right through much of Fife until just after Kirkcaldy when the line turns north. That was always the point I turned back to my book.

Forth Road Bridge looking towards Forth Bridge and North Queensferry - looking over a grey railing towards water, a village and a red cantilevered bridge.​
Forth Road Bridge looking towards Forth Bridge and North Queensferry – looking over a grey railing towards water, a village and a red cantilevered bridge.
Cellardyke Harbour - harbour scene with two piers on either side. There is a gap between them looking out to sea.​
Cellardyke Harbour – harbour scene with two piers on either side. There is a gap between them looking out to sea.

The Forth has long fascinated me, having lived near it for much of my life prior to moving west. It is a river then a Firth before unfolding into the North Sea between Fife Ness and Dunbar. It has transported goods and people for generations, millennia really, including pilgrims, traders and holiday makers. Whenever I get a view of it, be it from Edinburgh city centre, the coast or one of the many bridges which cross it, I can’t help but look out. I suspect I’m not alone. My favourite views come at Cellardyke, where the Isle of May actually looks like an island rather than a rocky cliff, Dunbar, of course, Aberlady Bay, where the Forth opens out, Morrison’s Haven and Portobello, where East Lothian is particularly prominent, including the Bass, North Berwick Law and Hopetoun Monument. A couple of years ago, on a particularly perishing day when I managed some Loose Ends for this blog, I took the scenic route from Portobello to Easter Road via Seafield and Leith Links, which was a bit more austere landside but gave a very decent view along the Forth as the land curved.

East Lothian from Portobello - a coastal scene looking over water to a coastline with some hills. In the foreground is a promenade and a grassy bank.​
East Lothian from Portobello – a coastal scene looking over water to a coastline with some hills. In the foreground is a promenade and a grassy bank.
Dysart Harbour - nine posts of varying colours with a grey sea and harbour wall in the background.​
Dysart Harbour – nine posts of varying colours with a grey sea and harbour wall in the background.

The fine set of sculptures at Dysart Harbour, Sea Beams, are painted different shades of blue and grey reflecting the colours of the Forth at different times of the year. I’ve had the pleasure of being at Dysart to see the sea in most of those colours. I’m writing this at the tail end of January, a time of year when I particularly like to be by the Forth as it is at its most dramatic. For the moment I’m settling for photographs, my own from past rovings and others who live near enough now, plus of course the videos from train cabs, which aren’t so bad either.