Stirling Castle gave a lot of scope for the next instalment in the Loose Ends series. One Sunday morning recently, I briefly considered going to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow because it once housed Stirling’s Library. Then as the day went on and it got sunnier and warmer, I decided to head for Crookston Castle. While it is also a castle managed by Historic Environment Scotland, the real connection was looser. Outside Stirling Castle is a statue of Robert the Bruce. Robert the Bruce’s most famous contribution to history, apart from murdering his rival in a church, the Declaration of Arbroath and some deal with a spider in a cave on Rathlin Island, is winning the Battle of Bannockburn. Bannockburn is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The first NTS property was…Crookston Castle. That was good enough for me to proceed. Plus Crookston Castle is half an hour’s walk from my house and I’ve wanted to head back for ages.
Around Glasgow are a whole lot of signposts. They have been put up over the last few years to encourage walking and cycling in the city. In my bit of the city, the signs point towards the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Braehead, Crookston, Pollok and Paisley. From Paisley Road West, I looked to see if they pointed towards Crookston Castle. I knew the way but I always like to check. Even when I was fairly close to the castle, the signs pointed towards Rosshall and even Crookston railway station but not where I was heading to. Strangely I headed the other way back, via Rosshall, Crookston Road and Paisley Road that way, and there were signs aplenty that way, including brown tourist road signs. I might need to take it up with someone.
Anyway, I got there and the place was busy. It was a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon and there were a few teenagers lolling about on the grass plus folk up the top of the tower and a family about too. I did my thing anyway, looking and snapping away, generally keeping out folks’ road. I thought what I always do when I go to Crookston, that if it was anywhere else, it would be better advertised and better tended. I’ve been to other castles in Scotland and paid in. Crookston is a freebie and excellent value for it. My HES membership hopefully pays for something there. There were new interpretation boards since my last visit so maybe that’s it.
As much as the history was interesting, including a reminder of the links with Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots (her again), I was partly there for the views. Southwest Glasgow is not the most beautiful place on the planet but it’s my place on the planet. I couldn’t quite see my house but I could see across the city and to the Campsies, Gleniffer and Cathkin Braes, Bellahouston Park and cranes on the Clyde. I brought my camera to take a few photos, plenty more on my phone as I enjoyed a few minutes just looking over my domain, placing familiar landmarks and trying to guess at other prominent points around. I was soon joined by a young couple doing the same thing. As I clambered down the ladder, I soon heard some teenage girls climbing up too. At least they were there, keeping the place busy on a sunny day.
To the connections and there were quite a few. If a place isn’t linked to Mary, Queen of Scots, it usually has something to do with Sir Walter Scott who set one of his novels, The Abbot, there. To be fair I could justifiably link Crookston with Tynecastle Park since a football team called Heart of Midlothian play there, also the name of one of Sir Walter’s tomes, but I won’t. It is possible too that Mons Meg might have been used in a siege on Crookston in 1489. A trip to Edinburgh Castle, where Mons Meg sits on the ramparts, is definitely doable. There’s a legend that Mary, Queen of Scots watched the Battle of Langside from Crookston but that is sadly unlikely due to geography. The Battle of Langside took place on what is now Battlefield Road – part of the Streets of Glasgow series here last year – and I know that area well, having worked there for a while. Sir John Stirling-Maxwell donated Crookston to the NTS. He was also involved with Pollok House, not so far away, and I could go there very easily. Maxwells also held Newark Castle over in Port Glasgow but I might need to diversify away from castles for a bit. Maybe to an abbey since Crookston was a lookout post in World War II and Inchcolm Abbey was used for wartime purposes too. Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders is where Sir Walter Scott is buried. Or I could go somewhere to do with the poet Robert Tannahill since he wrote about Crookston. If all else fails, I could go to Millport which has a rock called Crocodile Rock. Sir Robert Croc built the first Crookston Castle in the 12th century.
Those are thoughts for another time. As I stood atop that tower, I just looked out and savoured the May sunshine, revelling in my surroundings, now home, an adopted home I only appreciate more with each passing week.
Thanks for reading. This is the fourth of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The last instalment was Stirling Castle. Next week will be Lamer Island.