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.
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.
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.