Saturday Saunter: 32 areas

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, being written on a warm May afternoon probably some time before it gets posted. Today we’re going to do something a bit different. The pandemic has made many of us more aware of many things but particularly in Scotland which local authority we live in has become very important for what we can do on a daily basis. To that end I’ve written a list of the 32 council areas in Scotland and a place I associate with each one of them. I have been to 30 out of 32, with Shetland and the area covered by the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar the only ones to have eluded me so far. Shetland makes me think of Mousa Broch and the Western Isles of Calanais, though as I say I haven’t been to either one, yet. Glasgow won’t be on this list because I live here. I went by population so after Glasgow comes…

Calton Hill: a tower with a cross on the top and a broader, castle-like base. There are lots of white clouds across a blue sky.​
Calton Hill: a tower with a cross on the top and a broader, castle-like base. There are lots of white clouds across a blue sky.

Edinburgh, which makes me think of Calton Hill, a place I made a point of visiting almost as soon as I got to the capital a few weeks ago. From Calton Hill it is possible to see much of Edinburgh plus over to Fife and East Lothian. It has inspired many adventures over the years as well as being a place to stand, think, ponder and gather myself depending on the day.

Sadly it isn’t possible to see Cellardyke from Calton Hill. I’ve long said that I might like to retire to Cellardyke, maybe the East Neuk of Fife more generally. It has a handsome harbour plus views to East Lothian and the Isle of May.

North Lanarkshire is home to Summerlee, an industrial museum which covers a whole swathe of that area’s past. The last time I was there they had a decent exhibition about Albion Rovers.

Calton Hill: a tower with a cross on the top and a broader, castle-like base. There are lots of white clouds across a blue sky.​
Falls of Clyde: a rocky river and a waterfall in the midst of trees.

South Lanarkshire, meanwhile, has New Lanark, which I visited for the first time a couple of years ago in a hay fever haze. The Falls of Clyde are gorgeous.

Aberdeenshire makes me think of Dunnottar Castle, ruined and rugged on a cliff. Stunning on a good day, woebegone in the fog.

Arisaig comes to mind when I think of the Highland Council area. I was there a couple of autumns ago with incredible sunsets and views to the islands.

Aberdeen brings to mind Marischal College, a massive granite complex now the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council. It’s grey, imposing and intimidating, like much of that city.

West Lothian brings to mind the bings that dominate the landscape in those parts, an area changed by industry.

A place in Renfrewshire that I visited for the first time recently was Lochwinnoch, with Castle Semple and the bird sanctuary. On a sunny day, there are few places finer.

Falkirk Wheel: a boat lift on two levels.​
Falkirk Wheel: a boat lift on two levels.

The Falkirk Wheel is a wonder of the modern age, using Archimedean principles to lift boats between canals.

Perth and Kinross is a big authority. Near the bottom of it is Loch Leven Castle, in the middle of a loch and rich with history related to Mary, Queen of Scots. I got sunburnt there once.

I have a history of castle-related mishaps. A screw fell out of my glasses at Caerlaverock Castle and the staff tried to help me find it before finding one from an old pair of sunglasses they had lying around. Caerlaverock Castle is what I imagine a proper castle to look like and it is one of the finest places in Dumfries and Galloway.

V and A Dundee has an excellent permanent display about Scottish Design and it’s building is a fine example of global design too.

North Ayrshire has Cumbrae, an island which I walked around quite recently. It is peaceful with views for miles around, to Arran, Bute and the mainland itself, only a few minutes across the water.

East Ayrshire was the hardest of the 32 to come up with something for. I came up with the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, which in normal times has decent exhibitions as well as a fine museum collection.

Arbroath Abbey is the pick for Angus and is a symbol of that county. The Declaration of Arbroath was written there but just now all I could think of it is the big abbey window being lit up for the benefit of passing mariners before the construction of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

Dryburgh Abbey is my favourite of the Scottish Borders’ abbeys, sat by the Tweed with another fine rose window.

Culzean Castle, in South Ayrshire, has big windows that look out on a good day towards Northern Ireland, the Ailsa Craig and the sea. The surrounding country park is a beautiful place to be in all weathers.

Craigmaddie Gauge Basin: a walkway protruding in five directions looking towards a tunnel with a lintel and plaque.​
Craigmaddie Gauge Basin: a walkway protruding in five directions looking towards a tunnel with a lintel and plaque.

East Dunbartonshire brings to mind Mugdock Country Park and the reservoirs which supply much of Glasgow’s drinking water. Mugdock is a stunning place.

East Lothian was a hard one since I grew up there. My pick was Seton Collegiate Church, by a main road but very, very peaceful.

Moray’s selection was another church managed by Historic Environment Scotland, Elgin Cathedral, which has a particularly fine chapter house.

Nearly there now and East Renfrewshire makes me think of Greenbank Garden, peaceful and intricately designed.

Stirling Castle is the obvious pick for the Stirling Council area since it dominates the landscape and much of the area’s history. I was there recently and it remains my favourite big castle in the land.

Crichton Castle is a hidden gem in the Midlothian countryside. It sits above a valley in midst of rolling countryside. The courtyard is dominated by an Italian diamond facade.

Bowling Harbour is one of my favourite places in West Dunbartonshire, where the Forth and Clyde Canal joins the Clyde. There’s a harbour and sculptures. Even passing by on the train, with a boat submerged in the muddy harbour, soothes the mind.

Another very soothing place is Iona Abbey, at the western end of Argyll and Bute. The cloisters are worth spending a good deal of time in.

Newark Castle sits right next to a shipyard in Inverclyde and has another pretty good perspective over the Clyde.

Alloa Tower is in Clackmannanshire and has a really interesting history. I went before the football a few years ago.

Last but not least is Orkney, which brings to mind the Ring of Brodgar. I remember walking around them and not being sure how to respond so I hugged one of them. Not sure why.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 28th August 2021. Thanks for reading. Normal service should be resumed next week. Until then, tioraidh an-drasta.

Streets of Glasgow: Vinicombe Street

Vinicombe Street: street sign high up a red wall.​
Vinicombe Street: street sign high up a red wall.
Vinicombe Street: ​buildings on either side of a street with an Art Deco building in the middle on the left.
Vinicombe Street: buildings on either side of a street with an Art Deco building in the middle on the left.

Vinicombe Street was unplanned. There were a lot of people sitting having lunch, glasses clinking, and others hanging about though as I walked higher up I was soon on a quiet residential street. The Hillhead Bookclub had jaunty posters including one which declared it to be a ‘football (free) zone’ with their preferred ball sport being ‘ping pong, thank you very much’. That felt appropriate at the time the Olympics were playing out in Tokyo and on a day when Tom Daley, Matty Lee, Adam Peaty and Tom Pidcock had won gold medals for Team GB, albeit in the pool and on a bike in Pidcock’s case, but less when my mind was turned to the start of the football season. An old garage building housed a gym and a branch of Nando’s and then it was a street of gold and red tenements, archetypically Glasgow.

Thanks for reading. This is the ninety sixth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets which have featured here include Byres Road, Great Western Road and Queen Margaret Drive. The Streets of Glasgow page features all of the posts in the series so far.

Saturday Saunter: Essentials, the Makar and a castle

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, posted a wee bit earlier than normal since it’s a working Saturday. I’m writing this quite late on Wednesday night and I just heard a car go past my window. I often think better late at night but reserve this time for reading or watching some good TV. My laptop suddenly declared it needed a charge so have turned to my iPad to continue this week’s musings.

One of the best places I visited recently was a hidden corner by the Union Canal near Linlithgow. It had prayer flags, cushions and a space to meditate, a magical place where I could feel the peace dropping slow. In the last few weeks I’ve encountered a few new, interesting and beguiling places, a pleasing change from not being able to venture far for much of the last year or so.

In recent months it has become more acceptable to just avoid the news as much as possible, for self care as much as anything else. The news from Afghanistan this week has been particularly horrific and it is a reminder why knowing about history and thinking in the round is crucial. I try to understand the essentials of the news and leave the rest. Social media has been particularly dire this week – the maxim that opinions are like backsides holds true – and I am ever more tempted to keep it to football, books and castles and block and mute the rest. Plus maybe sources of good food and bookshops.

In book news I was really happy to read that Kathleen Jamie is the new Scots Makar or national poet, succeeding Jackie Kay, Liz Lochhead and Edwin Morgan in that august position. Kathleen Jamie is a superb and perceptive writer, writing incisive poetry and prose. I’ve read more of her essays, most recently Surfacing, though her last poetry collection accompanied me to Cambridge about five years ago. She is the right voice for our times bringing environmental awareness and appreciation as well as a keen eye for people and their quirks. I heard her speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival two years ago and it was the best night I’ve spent there. She’s a great choice.

Talking of Edinburgh, I was bemused by the recent protest at the Castle which involved about 30 people storming the place citing the Magna Carta as they went, as sensible as those who went to Television Centre in London not realising the BBC now do the news about five miles away and have done so for about a decade. The Magna Carta has never applied in Scotland and I gather that the bit these folk mentioned in the name of freedom was repealed (in England where it actually had effect) in 1216. Research goes a long way, folks. Edinburgh Castle is also a barracks with actual soldiers too so the Magna Carta wouldn’t get anyone very far.

Anyway, that is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 21st August 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and we’re back in the West End. Have a good weekend, one and all. Until next time, tìoraidh an-dràsta.

Streets of Glasgow: Bilsland Drive

Bilsland Drive: a street sign on a lamppost.​
Bilsland Drive: a street sign on a lamppost.
Bilsland Drive: looking up a road with trees on the right and a wall, trees and houses on the left.​
Bilsland Drive: looking up a road with trees on the right and a wall, trees and houses on the left.

Bilsland Drive wouldn’t normally be on my radar. It’s in a part of the city I don’t know well, running between Possilpark and Maryhill and adjoining Ruchill Park. I first heard about it during an interview between Craig Ferguson and Billy Connolly on Ferguson’s old American chat show where he talked of several New Years in a row when he somehow ended up on Bilsland Drive. I watched it again recently and I thought I might as well see what’s there. I was in the area at Ruchill Park with its magnificent view across the city and beyond so decided to detour for another Streets of Glasgow walk, starting in quite a residential bit, rusting football goals on a back green. Houses lined the route for a bit with interesting scenes of local industry depicted on some of the railings. A stone sculpture stood in a square, some blocks and some pointed. It was called ‘Surf City’ but I’m not entirely clear why. The tower of the old Ruchill Hospital dominates the local landscape – I had seen it from the Forth and Clyde Canal previously – though big gates and fences blocked access and much of a direct view. Gardens called ‘Roots of Ruchill’ were scattered near the community centre and a Catholic church stood set back from the road with a prominent statue outside. It was cooler and more shaded walking on the side of the road closest to the park and there were a few people going about, at the playpark and waiting for buses. One tenement noted that it was the 500th development of the Maryhill Housing Association. The road curved down and got much more shaded as it neared a railway bridge and its end at the junction of Maryhill Road and Queen Margaret Drive, red tenements once more at either side. Glasgow is a place of considerable variety, with people from all sorts of backgrounds, some with plenty, others not so much. I had come a long way in a few minutes, from passing a Community Food Cupboard to beer gardens and busy cafes. This is why after all these years I still find Glasgow hard to figure out. It is a big, confusing, beautiful mess. Bilsland Drive encapsulates that completely.

Thanks for reading. This is the ninety fifth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Queen Margaret Drive has featured here previously and it is nearby. The Streets of Glasgow page features all of the posts in the series so far.

Saturday Saunter: Swifts, rings and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome back to the Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday night. I had planned to write it earlier but life intervened. On in the background is a Hibs TV preview of the European game against HNK Rijeka, which will have taken place by the time this is posted. It’s nice to be back writing. I traditionally take a blog hiatus when I take time off so that’s why there’s been no posts since mid-July. I have managed to do a whole bunch of Streets of Glasgow posts including the 100th instalment in that series as well as some Intercity walks. The new Streets posts started with Speirs Wharf, which was posted on Wednesday, and will continue with Bilsland Drive next week. Intercity in Edinburgh and Perth will appear some time in November. As this is posted, I will be having a quiet morning before going out later on.

Since I last posted here, the Olympics have happened. I ended up watching more of it than I planned, including athletics, cycling, boxing and of course football. I can’t really go cycling but still it stayed on. I even found myself watching dressage and horsey things, which I don’t fully understand. The TV coverage has been decent and comprehensive enough for a casual viewer like myself. I’ve also managed to watch grown-up football involving the best football team in Scotland at the moment, Hibernian FC from the capital, and rather excitingly I will get to see some in real life in the coming weeks rather than just on the TV. There has been a difference with actually having crowds in the grounds and it beats behind closed-doors, hands down.

You’re Worth Your Room On This Earth mural: colourful words on a black background. White clouds are scattered across a blue sky behind.​
You’re Worth Your Room On This Earth mural: colourful words on a black background. White clouds are scattered across a blue sky behind.
Leith Links mural: a mural on the bottom of a building with trees, birds and lots of shades of green and blue. Two trees stand in the middle of the picture with a bike closer to the mural wall.​
Leith Links mural: a mural on the bottom of a building with trees, birds and lots of shades of green and blue. Two trees stand in the middle of the picture with a bike closer to the mural wall.

I’ve managed a few adventures in the last few weeks, some of which will appear here, some not. One great day was spent in Edinburgh, in before the start of the circus, which resumes this year. I managed up to Leith to an excellent mural of swifts that’s in Leith Links and also to another put up by Studio Something, referencing the Proclaimers. You are worth the room on this earth. I went to Perth to the museum and the Fergusson Gallery. The railway exhibition at Perth Museum was all right, not much to write home about, though their shopping exhibition was better. The Fergusson Gallery was great as ever. I also managed a fair few wanders in Glasgow, as mentioned earlier, including along the Forth and Clyde Canal to Ruchill Park, where I enjoyed looking over the city and beyond.

It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that I’ve read a fair bit lately. These have included Alan Duncan, Michael Calvin, Sonia Overall and Chris Sutton, as well as excellent junior books by Elle McNicoll featuring brilliant and neurodiverse characters, plus Danny Chung Doesn’t Do Maths by Maisie Chan. Heavy Time by Sonia Overall was excellent, a psychogeographical book walking from Canterbury to Walsingham and encompassing quite a lot besides the mere walking. I also re-read Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil by Ron Ferguson, not for the first time, and particularly enjoyed it this time for the historical discussion of Fife and coal mining. I’m currently reading Worth Dying For: The Power of Politics of Flags by Tim Marshall, which is particularly topical and it’s good. I got a few books for my birthday so I will get to them soon too.

Anyway, that is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 14th August 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and there will be another Saunter here next week. Until then, mar sin leibh.

Streets of Glasgow: Speirs Wharf

Speirs Wharf: the name of the street on a black sign in white letters.​
Speirs Wharf: the name of the street on a black sign in white letters.
Speirs Wharf: the name of the street on a black sign in white letters.​
Speirs Wharf: warehouse buildings on the right, trees on the left. Pylons in the centre above a red building.

It was another scorcher as I headed for Speirs Wharf and the first Streets of Glasgow of the day. One side consists of old warehouses converted into flats, restaurants and offices and the other is the Forth and Clyde Canal, that lunchtime with a few canal boats and a fair bit of algae. I passed a sign for Speaker Martin’s Lock, named after the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, who unveiled it in 2006. I thought as I walked about how Speirs Wharf reminded me of the particularly gentrified bits of Leith though I could readily imagine a busy wharf in generations past as goods were unloaded from canal boats and packed onto others on their way into Monklands or beyond to Edinburgh. I soon passed kayakers on the canal – every time I’m there I always see someone enjoying a water sport at Speirs Wharf – and there were a fair few people walking and sitting enjoying the sunshine. It was one of those streets that was improved by the weather and made more interesting considering what it was rather than what it is today.

Thanks for reading. This is the ninety fourth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Cowcaddens Road has featured here previously and is nearby. The Streets of Glasgow page has all of the posts from the series so far.