Day trip planning is a serious business. It is often the best bit of the whole enterprise though often the most difficult too. Choosing where to go is tricky sometimes, when I fancy going some place but can’t think of just where or even the right side of the country to pick. I often start with Google Maps, zoomed out as far as it can go, with much of Scotland and northern England on the screen ready to narrow it down. Or otherwise it is an idea, a glance at a leaflet, a conversation or a stray thought. A recent trip to Kirkcaldy Galleries was inspired by reading a Tweet. A trip to York last year was inspired by looking at a train on an adjoining platform at Central Station.
After I have decided on a destination, and that can often change or be decided on that day or as I go sometimes, I need to figure out how to go about it. Sometimes I can do that off the top of my head. Getting to Edinburgh, for example, requires knowing when the train is to Central then there are trains every 15 minutes from Queen Street to Waverley or buses from the bus station. And then the reverse. More often than not, I will know the way but not the times. I have loaded my phone with apps, namely Traveline Scotland and Scotrail, that are invaluable in this process. In the olden days, I would plan with paper timetables and the Internet when I could have access, carefully noting where and when in a notebook. I might still note things down but there’s always an app for looking it up first.
Most journeys start with a short train journey from Cardonald to Glasgow Central on a Class 380 Scotrail train. The journey isn’t that exciting, with some graffiti to make it interesting, including at Cotterill Lighting which is very arty. There used to be Yes and 45% type graffiti near Kinning Park but it seems to have been covered over recently. One of my favourites is for Turning Point Scotland, which has silhouettes of some of the prominent city landmarks as well as a mural with two male faces, one clean shaven and smiling, the other more dishevelled, showing the effects of rehabilitation.
At Central, there are more options. From there, I can go south to England, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. More often at the moment, I head for Queen Street, where there are trains to Edinburgh, Falkirk, Stirling, Dundee, Inverness, Aberdeen and the West Highlands. Both of these stations are beautiful but Queen Street has the edge on it, purely because it was so often where I arrived into Glasgow on day trips past. I like Central too, though, mainly because it gets me home and of course the view along the river at either end, particularly that towards the Broomielaw, the Kingston Bridge and the Clyde Arc.
I often visit the Buchanan Bus Station too, particularly if going to Fife or occasionally Edinburgh if I fancy a trip along the M8. The bus station is bright and relatively shiny with lots of public art, including the statue of a snogging couple in the main concourse as well as the clock with running legs which is just outside. I often have to run past myself, invariably hurtling down West Nile Street towards Central and my train home.
Day tripping from Dunbar was a whole different story. Trains were barely once an hour, more often less, and very often late. Buses were once an hour and similarly perfunctory and dilatory, a timetable a glance at a calendar. Still, it was on the East Coast Main Line and there were direct trains to Newcastle, Durham and York, as well as London, which I did at least once. Day tripping on a Saturday was a nightmare, with the last train to Dunbar from Edinburgh at 7pm, which, to put it mildly, was dire. (It is, at time of writing, 22.06, which it was when I left, but not for very long.) Coming back from Newcastle or the south was even worse with a train every two hours and I spent quite a lot of time in Newcastle Central Station waiting for my (late) train while others for Aberdeen, Glasgow and everywhere else appeared without a stop in Dunbar while the good folk of Berwick, Alnmouth and Morpeth could toddle home no bother.
Thankfully this isn’t an issue any more. I live in one of the most connected places in the land. There might not be a train from my bit of the world into the centre of Glasgow until 9am on a Sunday but there are still buses along Paisley Road that I can utilise. There are multiple options for every journey. An urge to pop into an art gallery can be put into action within half an hour. I can walk around the corner and be at the Burrell Collection within the hour. It’s not an endeavour any more.
But there are still challenges, still places I haven’t been to or are difficult to reach from this great city. The Borders is just as hard from here as Dunbar, despite my home town being closer. Much of Argyll, including Kilmartin Glen, is tricky and requires about three buses each way. Dumfries and Galloway is a beautiful part of the country but similarly hard to navigate. (I have, though. At some point, I’ll write about it here.) Craignethan Castle, near Lanark, and Dundonald Castle, near Kilmarnock, are two-bus jobs. That’s what makes it fun.
This year’s list of places to go is constantly being added to. When I was in Kirkcaldy recently, I came up with a list of four places to visit based on the art collections in the Galleries there. They were:
- Port Seton/Cockenzie
- Crichton Castle
- Kellie Castle
Of those four, only Kellie Castle is unknown to me. It’s a National Trust castle near Pittenweem in Fife and featured in two very fine paintings at Kirkcaldy. It would be one for a weekday and an early start to get myself firstly to St. Andrews then down the coast, possibly to be combined with a walk in Anstruther and Cellardyke.
I have been to Iona at least twice. It’s a beautiful island and one I would love to spend more time on.
Port Seton and Cockenzie are in East Lothian, both fishing villages with harbours. Seton Collegiate Church is nearby, possibly one of the most peaceful places in Scotland. It’s well worth spending the price of an Historic Scotland membership just to keep it open another year. I read Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne sitting in the grounds there one sunny afternoon a few years back.
Crichton Castle is more of a challenge by public transport. It involves getting to Edinburgh and then on an hourly bus service to the village of Pathhead (pronounced ‘Pethheid’ if you want to say it properly). From there, it’s a decent walk along farm tracks until you find the castle ruins, remote and on an incline, above a valley. I love castles anyway and this one is a particular favourite, not only for the surroundings but its architecture. The courtyard has what HS calls a ‘diamond-faceted facade’, which is beautiful and unique in Scottish castles, nicked from the style of an equivalent noble home near the Mediterranean rather than in deepest Midlothian.
Thinking on where to go is often the best part, for sure. It’s definitely more fun than some of the travelling. I don’t always visit the most glamorous places but those I do, there’s always something to make it worth it, even if it is a long walk or the view at the end of it. I look forward to more of the same in this coming year, even if some ideas might need to wait another year for their time to come.