Saturday Saunter: Walking in parks

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to yet another Saturday Saunter, this time being written quite late on Thursday night. I feel awake enough to write this despite a busy day. I’ve got All The Stations Ireland on my telly at the moment as it’s easy watching and fine in the background. I was tempted to find something on Netflix but that would involve extraneous thought.

Unusually I have absolutely loads of stuff in my inbox that could form a post. I even have two items for the usual different perspective slot at the end. The rejected ideas, incidentally, include Idris Elba reading bedtime stories, the Buckfast triangle, the best museum bum and an autistic dating show on Netflix. I mean ‘bum’ as in erse in Scots. Various museums were competing on social media for which of their sculptures and artworks has the most fetching backside. Whatever gets them through the shift.

I’m not sure what I will be doing when this is posted. I might go for a walk. I may even get a haircut, my first since March. Then again I might not.

Last Saturday involved a whole lot of walking in Pollok and Bellahouston Parks. I have been in Bellahouston a few times lately, sometimes walking around the sculptures by the House for an Art Lover. The peace sculpture in the park featured in the 5 In 5 series I did for the blog recently, though there are also cool benches, hands, feet and elephants kicking about. There’s a circle sculpture and between visits, the shopping trolley that had been lodged in it had been removed. It would have been quite an achievement to get it there. There is an Asda nearby but it would involve walking across quite a lot of park first.

See? Photographic evidence. Sculpture, Bellahouston Park: A sculpture of a circle with a shopping trolley poking through the middle. The sculpture is on a lawn by a hedge.

The turn around Pollok Park involved sitting by a pond with lilypads on it, something out of a Monet painting. Earthworks were nearby. The cooncil had put up an interpretation board which depicted a chieftain who looked like Neil Oliver with a moustache. I didn’t realise that until just now when I looked at the photo. Man alive.

I also visited the actual Glasgow city centre last weekend, given a very fine tour of Townhead including a look at the Martyrs’ School, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh who was also born nearby. It was the first time I had been in the city centre since March and it hadn’t changed too much. Wildflower gardens by Strathclyde University were new. The road home along the motorway yielded a great view of the familiar but long unseen city skyline.

Our changing perspective item is about the London Underground. Reni Eddo-Lodge and Emma Watson are working on a public history project to rename all 270 stops on the Tube after women and non-binary people. This was inspired, so says the Guardian, by a project by the mighty Rebecca Solnit and the magnificently named geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro in New York. I wonder how that would work in Glasgow on the Subway. I’m sure the fifteen stations could have new names found for them. Isabella Elder Station in Govan? Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh Station instead of Cowcaddens?

I have already included a Scots word today, erse, though in honour of the visit of our illustrious Prime Minister to our shores this week, I could also perhaps include eejit, numpty or lots of other words that could just get more sweary. Perhaps the graffiti from 2016 says it best, he really is a pure fanny.

Anyway, on that lovely note, it’s time to close for another week. That is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 25th July 2020. Thanks for reading. Virtual Loose Ends will be here on Wednesday then we pause for the traditional time off when I’m off. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning. Peace.

Virtual Loose Ends IV: Churches and barometers

Welcome to this fourth instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, a virtual adventure around Scotland, travelling by connection. We paused last week on Arthur’s Seat, the hill which dominates Edinburgh. We continue from Salisbury Crags, just downhill, a series of cliffs which look over the west of the capital, connected to Arthur’s Seat by geography and geology, certainly.

St. Patrick’s Church: a church in yellow sandstone with a central tower with a green top.

Nearby is St. Patrick’s Church in the Cowgate. St. Patrick’s is known as being where Hibernian Football Club was founded in 1875 by the Catholic Young Mens Society. A plaque to this effect sits just inside the main door of the church. It is a particularly fine church and I recommend a visit to explore it properly.

Hampden Park, during a Queen’s Park game – a large football ground with a game in progress. The seats opposite are red and blue with white writing on them spelling out ‘HAMPDEN’.

Arguably the greatest day in the history of Hibernian Football Club happened on 21st May 2016 at Hampden Park in Glasgow when Hibs won 3-2 against The Rangers to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years. I suspect I don’t mention it here very often. Hampden Park is Scottish football’s national stadium, for a little while longer also the home of Queen’s Park. In its heyday Hampden attracted well over a hundred thousand people to big matches, hosting European finals, internationals and of course Cup Finals. A more modest 52,000 capacity exists today. Also at Hampden is the Scottish Football Museum, an interesting look at the history of the game in all its facets.

Hamilton Crescent: a cricket ground with houses and trees in the background.

The first football international didn’t take place at Hampden, the third Hampden nor the first two, but at a cricket ground, Hamilton Crescent in Partick, which was then, as now, the home of West of Scotland Cricket Club. I’ve walked around its perimeter and while I have utterly no interest in cricket, I can see that it would be a fine place to watch it or indeed a proper sport.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: tall redwood trees amidst other trees on a sunny day.

I am astonished that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has not featured in Loose Ends already, being one of my favourite places on the planet and a place I like to go to to think, reflect and read from time to time. The Botanics also features a very fine view across Edinburgh and plant collections from across the world. My favourite spot is under the sequoias. There are really few finer places. It connects with Hamilton Crescent since near to RBGE is a cricket ground, The Grange.

Benmore Botanic Garden: a grove of redwood trees leading to the centre of the image.

Benmore Botanic Garden is on a hill in Argyll not far from Dunoon. It has a sequoia grove near its entrance and I never fail to feel uplifted when I walk between them. Benmore is part of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Scotland, as is the Edinburgh Garden. It is hilly though has a pleasant green at the bottom with a burn. I’ve been there in a few weathers and it is always worth spending a few hours there.

Neptune’s Staircase: a set of canal locks leading upwards.

Ben More is a mountain, as is Ben Nevis. In the shadow of Ben Nevis is Neptune’s Staircase, a series of locks which are part of the Caledonian Canal and designed by Thomas Telford. It is a fascinating place, simple scientific principles put to work by complex design.

Well, that’s another Virtual Loose Ends. Thanks for reading. We will continue next week with a more maritime connection. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

Saturday Saunter: Books and vennels

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Monday night. We’re getting earlier in the week again. It’s about half past eight as I start this and it’s a bit windy tonight. There’s a blue sky strewn with grey clouds out my window in suburban Glasgow. In the background is a Jay Foreman video from YouTube. Earlier today I had a wander in Gleniffer Braes Country Park, just south of Paisley, enjoying the views from the Robertson Car Park right across much of western Scotland. I hadn’t been there before and we had a good time picking out familiar landmarks. I always like a synoptic view.

I like a Scots word now and then and one came across my radar earlier, via Scottish Language Dictionaries, is vennel, which is an alleyway or close. The context was that there are some streets called The Vennel in Dumfries and Galloway though there is one near the East Beach in Dunbar, where I grew up. Also in Edinburgh near the Grassmarket. It’s a nice word, almost French in appearance.

I’ve read a fair bit lately. There’s been some audiobooks in the mix, including A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson which I think I was listening to writing this post last week, and the excellent The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane, a smattering of beautiful natural words narrated by Guy Garvey, Benjamin Zephaniah, Cerys Matthews and Edith Bowman. I’ve also read two books by YA writer Alice Oseman, Solitaire, which features her webcomic Heartstopper‘s main players Nick and Charlie as background characters, and Loveless, which is brand new and set in Durham, which is always a plus. I also read the excellent Imagine A Country, a series of essays about what sort of country Scotland should be, edited by Val McDermid and Jo Sharp. Some of the essays were a bit wooly, others easily implementable. Some authors were more amenable to independence than others, all imagining a country with a broader mind and perspective. On paper I have Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells A Story by Michael Rosen, a history of each letter of the English alphabet in turn.

Prestwick Beach: looking over a seaweed-strewn beach over fairly calm water towards hills on the horizon beneath a dark grey cloudy sky.

I also got to the sea the other day. We stopped at Prestwick Beach and had a quick daunder, just enough to see and hear waves and look across the Firth of Clyde towards Arran. It was just enough to clear my head and satisfy my urges.

This week’s article to make us think is an interview with the Labour MP Dawn Butler who has suffered no end of abuse and vandalism of her constituency office. Whatever your politics, that is disgusting.

I realise I used the word ‘daunder’ earlier. Sometimes spelled ‘dauner‘, particularly here in Glasgow, it means a saunter or wander. Always happy to oblige.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 18th July 2020. Thanks for reading. As I post this, I will probably be wandering in one or other of this city’s fine parks. Hope you have a good weekend. Next Wednesday will be another instalment of the Virtual Loose Ends and that will involve churches, trees, canals and sports arenas. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning. Peace.

Virtual Loose Ends III: Old houses, hills and railways

Well, hello,

Welcome to another Virtual Loose Ends. Another seven instalments appear today. We left off at Craigmillar Castle.

Craigmillar Castle is very near to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Next to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary is the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which has a Zen garden, one of very few in Scotland. I haven’t been into the museum in a few years though it has a decent permanent exhibition all about religion and indeed its impact on life, art, and pretty much everything else. It is scrupulously balanced, which is a must in Glasgow as anywhere.

Glasgow Cathedral and surroundings: a picture looking towards a cathedral, an elaborate, Victorian-looking hospital to the right and a building with a black roof and yellow edifice on the left amidst trees.
Provand’s Lordship: the yellow and grey edifice of an older building, a chimney between the triangular tops of the building. 

Across the road is Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow built in 1471. It is also a museum talking about the history of the house, which was originally a hospital, and of the city more widely. It has a pleasant garden in the back where I sat when I visited about a year ago.

Tenement House: a red tenement building on four levels with bunting on the railings in front.

Another house and another place steeped in Glasgow’s history is the Tenement House, which is in Garnethill. I have been there just once though walked past when doing a Streets of Glasgow walk on Buccleuch Street about a year ago. The Tenement House belonged to a shorthand typist called Agnes Toward and she kept her flat very like it was when it was built, even well into the twentieth century when more technology was around.

Hill House: a grey house with a tower in the centre, with an outbuilding with a turret in the foreground.

Also managed by the National Trust for Scotland is the Hill House in Helensburgh. I have been there a couple of times. It was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the family of publisher Walter Blackie. The harling is currently being protected by a large transparent box for conservation reasons though I haven’t seen it in that state yet. The trudge up from the train station is enough to prevent too many repeat visits to the Hill House, a fine place though it undoubtedly is.

Fort William statue: the statue of a man in an old motor car. The statue is on a modern street.

The West Highland Line leads from Helensburgh Upper station, just down from the Hill House, to Fort William and as far as Mallaig. Fort William is fine, notable really for its setting, on Loch Linnhe and under Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in these islands. The statue of a Model T Ford driven up Ben Nevis in 1911 sits in the town centre, which is a bizarre story I told in a post here last year.

Edinburgh Waverley: railway platforms at night with a ferris wheel, lights and a lit-up, rocket-shaped monument above.

Edinburgh Waverley station sees just one train to Fort William a day. It is where the Caledonian Sleeper divides, one part each making its way to Fort William, Aberdeen and Inverness. Waverley is named after the Waverley series of novels by Walter Scott. I seem to have spent much of my life at Waverley, changing for journeys home or day trips. Waverley sits in a valley in the centre of Edinburgh, tracks running through what was once the Nor’ Loch, which separated the Old and New Towns. Now it is Princes Street Gardens.

Arthur’s Seat: looking towards a hill with a lion-shaped summit and a ridge protruding to the right. Nearby is a cairn, a pile of stones with a fire pit on top.

This post concludes above the station, on Arthur’s Seat, one of Edinburgh’s seven hills and surely the most prominent in the capital. I have walked up it a few times though personally prefer Calton Hill, since it is an easier climb. Arthur’s Seat is allegedly named after King Arthur, though there are different theories on where the name comes from. It can be seen across Edinburgh and the Lothians and looks different from different angles. Its summit is called the Lion’s Haunch though others, including Chiang Yee in The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh, think the hill looks like an elephant, which I concur with, particularly from the west. It connects with Waverley since Arthur’s Seat can be seen from various parts of the station.

That’s another Virtual Loose Ends adventure done. We continue next week, just down the hill. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.


5 In 5: Peace sculpture

Peace sculpture: a steel globe sculpture on a grey stone plinth in a park. The sculpture features translations of the word ‘Peace’.

I wasn’t sure what to have for the fifth place in 5 In 5. I had thought about Barshaw Park in Paisley but I hadn’t been able to get there yet. Elder Park has been included here before plus I had only been able to get a picture of the Isabella Elder statue on the way back from the Clyde. Five miles from my house could include Paisley, Renfrew, the other side of the river and even Glasgow city centre but five miles there is also five miles back. On foot. I was in Bellahouston Park once more and decided that for this last instalment of 5 In 5, it would be a sculpture, either the elephant or the peace sculpture. Peace won, despite the incongruity of an elephant in Govan. The elephant was put there in 2015, the work of Kenny Hunter. It’s very fine.

The peace cairn was put there for the 1938 Empire Exhibition, with a more modern globe put there in 2004 (designed by Elizabeth Bennie) with the word ‘Peace’ on it in various languages. What caught my eye was the names of various organisations who attended the exhibition, some very local, from Glasgow and Paisley, others a bit further afield. That many of these groups were women’s groups was interesting. Empire and Glasgow’s place in it is particularly contentious right now. The wish for peace surely is not. This sculpture was put there at a time when the world was uncertain, war imminent. At a time when our world is uncertain, health and happiness threatened, it is our shared humanity that binds us together, as does the community or communities we walk with and in.

Thanks for reading. This is the final instalment of the 5 In 5 series on Walking Talking, five interesting places near my home.

Saturday Saunter: Parks, books, football and Whithorn

Good Saturday to you,

How are you? I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon and there is a big ominous rain cloud over yonder as I start this. To be honest I’m not sure what I will be doing when this is posted. I’ve had notions to go for a big walk, possibly as far as the mystical and mythical land of Glasgow city centre but definitely not to shop or go to a beer garden. It might be one of the hopefully much quieter local parks for me. That was what I did last Saturday. I went to Barshaw Park, though it felt too busy to take photos or sit in the walled garden, so I headed instead to Rosshall Gardens, which were much quieter. There’s a woodland walk there which is wonderfully peaceful and fools you into thinking that you’re not in a city.

Rosshall Gardens: a woodland scene, looking from under a tree over a pond, which reflects the trees and foliage above it.

When writing the Saturday Saunter each week, I sometimes have an idea or two, sometimes I don’t. Now and then I write out of frustration, more frequently with a skip and a jump as the words tumble out. I was tempted to write about some stuff in the news but I’m at the point where I want to avoid it. Instead I want to write today about other things. Firstly a blast from my boyhood. When I was a kid, highlights of Scottish football matches came twice a weekend, thrice if I had been at the game. Saturday night would be Sportscene on the BBC (probably Sunday as it was on late so it would get taped), Sunday Scotsport, which was on ITV (where I lived got Grampian even though we were in the catchment of STV). Scotsport is no longer and Sportscene moved later into the week, only on a Saturday night after games in the Cup. No more. Sportscene will be back on Saturday nights from the start of the season, currently looking favourite for August. BBC Scotland comes in for some stick. Some of it justified, some not, but this is a very good move. Roll on the start of August and the return of proper football, none of this corporate English pish. Even if it’s behind closed doors, it’s the real thing.

Whithorn is in Dumfries and Galloway, beyond Wigtown and Newton Stewart. It is notable as being an early centre of Christianity in Scotland. I went there once and the museum was excellent, just the right blend of text and images to appeal to most audiences. Researchers have found that the Whithorn monastery might have been established later than thought, using carbon dating to make their case that it might have come into being in the 7th century AD rather than the 5th. The BBC News story is worth a read though if you are squeamish, please be warned that it shows a burial.

Also, it is worth looking to Twitter for an interesting thread. Sara Sheridan has written about lesser-known Scottish female writers, including Susan Ferrier and Muriel Spark.

Our weekly different perspective comes from The Guardian with some black photographers looking through their archives and talking about them.

I’m currently listening to an audiobook, A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I’ve read Bryson’s travel books for years but I’ve never been able to get through one of his science books. I listened to The Lost Continent a couple of weeks ago and realised that audio might be the way to go with the science. So far I’m an hour in and it’s fine. I have to take science in small dozes. It is very important, of course, though understanding it and remembering it is harder.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th July 2020. Thanks very much for reading. The final instalment of 5 In 5 will be here tomorrow and it’s a sculpture. Virtual Loose Ends continues on Wednesday and it will be continuing back in Glasgow. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning.

Virtual Loose Ends II: Castles and Kelpies

Why, hello,

Welcome to another instalment of Virtual Loose Ends. We left off at the Dunbar End, behind Easter Road Stadium in Edinburgh. By its name it leads to Dunbar Town House, the oldest municipal building still in use in Scotland. It now houses the Town House Museum, telling the story of the town with a temporary art exhibition usually going on too. I remember the Town House being a browny-red though about ten years ago it was harled white, which was its colour for a long time, the red of the stone coming through by years of wind and rain. It is a very handsome building with the town clock and Council Chamber with heraldic panels, one from 1686 from the time of James VII/II, the other from later, when the Hanoverians were in charge.

Dunbar Town House: a white clock tower and tolbooth building. There is a blue sky behind.
Dumbarton Castle: looking through a gate in a wall to a set of steps and a house and ramparts above.

I thought of two connections that would lead from Dunbar Town House to Dumbarton Castle. Dunbar, of course, but also Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary left from Dumbarton to go to France as a young girl in 1547 and also fled to Dunbar after the Battle of Pinkie twenty years later. Dumbarton Castle sits high on a rock overlooking the Clyde and the Vale of Leven. Its buildings are more modern, changed and adapted according to the needs of the day. The views from the top are superb, up to Glasgow, down the Clyde towards Greenock and to mountains to the north.

Bowling Harbour: looking over a harbour wall to another wall and a harbour to the right with houses in the background. To the left is a river with an obelisk on a headland.

From the top of Dumbarton Castle Rock it is possible to see Bowling Harbour. Bowling is where the Forth and Clyde Canal meets the River Clyde. It has a handsome harbour with canal boats, yachts and a derelict boat silting up nearby. I haven’t been in a few years but like to sit there and watch the world go by. There are some decent owl sculptures there, if memory serves.

Falkirk Wheel: a wheel and boat lift. The day has a low sun, just to the bottom left of the image.

Near enough the other end of the Forth and Clyde Canal is the Falkirk Wheel, a boat lift which links the Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal, making boat travel possible between one side of the country and another. The Falkirk Wheel is a handsome structure, using simple physics to make it work. I was there and had a tour just at the start of the year. The tour was excellent.

Kelpies: two steel horse head sculptures with an electricity pylon between them. The right sculpture has its head pointing up.

Also by the canal a little way away across Falkirk are the Kelpies, two large sculptures of sea creatures. I was also there in January and they are gorgeous up close.

Edinburgh Castle: a boxy-looking castle with a gatehouse in the foreground with three flags flying. A bright blue sky is above.

In only six years the Kelpies have become a symbol of Scotland, often lit up as part of charity awareness campaigns. Another symbol of Scotland, possibly used too often to represent our country, is Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle is right at the centre of our capital and it has the National War Museum, National War Memorial and the Crown Jewels. My favourite bit of the castle is the view. It is the only place in Edinburgh where you can’t see Edinburgh Castle. When studying a few years ago, I often sat in the cafe at the Castle and looked out. There’s worse places to sit.

Craigmillar Castle: a castle with a crenellated rampart and a tower in the centre.

Edinburgh has other castles and my favourite of them is Craigmillar Castle. It sits on the outskirts of the city and it is possible to see Edinburgh Castle from its ramparts. It is quite substantial though ruined and a good hour or more can be spent roaming its confines. The courtyard is particularly fine at Craigmillar with an overhanging tree giving shade.

That’s another Virtual Loose Ends adventure done. Tune in next week for another seven places, back to Glasgow and finishing high on a hill. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.



5 In 5: River Clyde

River Clyde: looking upriver towards two bridges, a concert hall and crane on one bank and some modern offices on the other. The crane is reflecting on one of the office blocks in the foreground.
River Clyde: by the side of a river with two bridges including an arced one and a crane to the left. The crane, building and bridges reflect in the glass frontage of the BBC building to the right.

I hadn’t seen the river for months. I decided, as the afternoon wore on, that I would remedy that. My walk to the water took me through Elder Park, past Isabella Elder’s statue, and then to Govan Cross, by Mary Barbour leading her people against injustice. I crossed the road and the Riverside Museum came into view. As I walked closer, the river was there, the Clyde, the body of water which defines this city and which I hadn’t seen since March. The Riverside Museum was still closed, as was the Tall Ship, though people wandered by it. The ferry sat idle on the Partick side. I walked on, looking at the 1980s-vintage sculptures on slabs as I went. A tree commemorated the Govan Press, printed nearby, and that could have been a contender for this series maybe. Govan Road and over the railings was the dry dock and a view of the city skyline, at least the West End, the University, Park Circus, Yorkhill. Trains ran over the river too, going to such farflung destinations as Yoker and Dumbarton. My eventual destination was soon visible too: Pacific Quay, where there was a bridge to the other side. The nearest crossing to my house is the Clyde Tunnel but that wasn’t happening. Overground for me.

Pacific Quay is increasingly modern, with the Glasgow Science Centre, BBC Scotland and STV there. I looked politely at the Beeb then decided I would stop at the other side of the river, since I had to walk back and I was beginning to flag. The Millennium Bridge is not fancy, it’s metal and rises in the middle. It’s not as nice as, say, the Millennium Bridges in Gateshead or London, both of which I’ve crossed this year, but it does the job. I could see the reflection of the Armadillo and the Finnieston Crane in the glass frontage of the BBC and then the Clyde Arc and beyond to the constant traffic of the Kingston Bridge. I felt like a citydweller for the first time in ages, like I was surrounded by people. The path was fairly busy with folk walking, cycling or running. I plonked myself on the wall and drank juice and looked for a while, sending some texts and getting myself ready to walk back.

The Clyde starts in the hills of Lanarkshire and reaches the sea in Ayrshire, going from a stream to a river to a firth in that time. It has an immense history as much as the communities which line its banks. As a seaside person by origin, I miss the sea and I still haven’t seen it in months but being by the river, the mighty Clyde, no less, I couldn’t help but feel at home and uplifted.

Thanks for reading. This is the fourth instalment of 5 In 5, a series on Walking Talking about five places within five miles of my home. At the start of this series, a restriction on travel for leisure was in place in Scotland. The last instalment will be here next week.

Saturday Saunter: Wandering near

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Wednesday night. It’s grey and windy out there at the moment, though dry, I think. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on Saturday when this is posted. It is to be showery so might preempt the usual vague thought of going for a decent walk. I did go for a big walk on Tuesday afternoon as far as Pacific Quay and back, seeing (and crossing) the Clyde for the first time in nearly four months. I walked first through Elder Park then through Govan towards the river, looking at some interesting sculpture along the way. My first glimpse of the mighty Clyde came at Govan, looking across the way towards the Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship. I didn’t tear up at the sight of the river but I did smile. I have encountered the White Cart several times and in more than one place but as fine a river though it is, it doesn’t quite count. The Clyde at least runs to the sea and the river had a slightly maritime smell to it, not at all a bad thing.

River Clyde: looking upriver towards two bridges, a concert hall and crane on one bank and some modern offices on the other. The crane is reflecting on one of the office blocks in the foreground.

By the time this comes out, the five mile limit for relaxation and leisure in (most of) Scotland will be no more. There will still be two posts left in the 5 In 5 series here, even though I can travel beyond five miles, beginning tomorrow and then next week. I’m not sure what I will have for next week. I’ve been trying to feature places that I haven’t written about before, which rules out quite a few interesting places in the hereabouts. Theoretically, my five miles would also take me north of the river, towards Renfrewshire and the south side, so we’ll see what happens in the next wee while.

It’s now Thursday afternoon as I continue this. I’ve now got another, final place for 5 In 5, which I will write up soon for next Sunday. I was in Bellahouston Park having a picnic this lunchtime, which was excellent, not too hot, not too cold. It was just right, as they say, with good company and nice surroundings. We sat by the House for an Art Lover, surrounded by some cool sculptures including a foot, seats shaped like jelly (not jam for any American readers) and an archway. There was also an excellent elephant which got a bit of attention. Every time I’m in Bellahouston Park I always see something new. Living in a city, particularly in these times, it can feel like we see the same places every day in life but I’m glad to be able to vary it up a bit.

I’ve not read much this week. I’ve been listening to a few podcasts. This morning I listened to an episode of Scotland Outdoors from the BBC about the Royal Highland Show, which normally happens at the end of June but for obvious reasons was called off. The Highland Show, for the uninitiated, is an agricultural trade show which happens at Ingliston, near Edinburgh, though it attracts people from all walks of life as it features displays about farming, food and all sorts besides. I was hoping to go this year but alas.

In interesting things to read, the BBC featured an interesting article about how UK museums are responding to Black Lives Matter, which is worth a read.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 4th July 2020. Thanks very much for reading. 5 In 5 returns tomorrow and Virtual Loose Ends is back on Wednesday. If you missed the first instalment on Wednesday, which included Huntingtower Castle and Lochend Park, amongst other places, it can be found here. Until next time, a very good morning. Peace.


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: a castle with a smaller roofed section to the left, a taller, ruined range to the right.

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.

Alloa Tower: a tall grey tower with trees behind.

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: looking across a small loch filled with trees to a hill, houses and a right few seagulls.

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.

Dunbar Lemonade Works: a red factory building with James Dunbar across the front in big capital letters.

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.