The 100th Streets of Glasgow walk and I crowdsourced for ideas for this one. I got an idea and it felt right. This series was conceived as a way to learn more about Glasgow, my adopted home, and its history. Ladywell Street worked. One of the oldest streets in Glasgow and with some history, the site of a 13th century well closed off when the Necropolis was built. There is a monument to it, a black well with a smart top and a lion on the front. The monument sits in an alcove declaring that the Lady Well had been restored in 1836 and rebuilt in 1874 by the Merchants House of Glasgow. It was restored once more by Tennent Caledonian Breweries in 1983. That bit’s important as it sits right at the back of the Tennents brewery and the air was thick with its product. Barrels upon barrels stood at the other side of the gate but I was happy to move on since I don’t like beer. A water fountain, a gift in 1860 from James Crum of Busby, stood at the head of the street as did a Glasgow City Council security van. Its occupants didn’t pay me heed, thankfully. I looked round and I couldn’t see a street sign declaring this to be Ladywell Street. The maps say so and there is a sign pointing to the well but not saying what street it is, a rare lapse. It is a side street leading into the back of a brewery with a big cemetery wall to the left and fences to the right. It had cottages once, at least in 1902, but not now. There isn’t much to see beside the monument, which is definitely worth the diversion. But there should still be a sign. I thought I could have pulled a page out of my notebook and made a makeshift one but I decided against it. As I researched this one, I realised the old mill buildings nearby on Duke Street were called the Ladywell, as is the housing scheme across the street, so the name’s still out there even if there isn’t a street sign.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written long in advance on a sunny August day. Our theme today is ten favourite castles, mostly in Scotland, one in England. I particularly like ruined castles and understandably this list has seven of them. In no particular order, then, we’ll start with…
Stirling – my favourite big castle with an incredible view across much of central Scotland. It has some beautiful buildings and gardens but the view wins.
Blackness – another place with a great view up and down the Firth of Forth. It was a royal prison designed to look like the prow of a ship.
Tantallon – a proper ruined castle on a cliff. Red sandstone with an unrivalled view to the Bass Rock and over East Lothian as far as St. Abbs Head.
Hailes Castle – another East Lothian castle, under Traprain Law and by the mighty river Tyne. It once belonged to the Earl of Bothwell. It’s a nice, chilled out place.
Dunbar – a ruin seen from below. Not much left but it’s iconic and near where I grew up. Quite an incredible history.
Dunstanburgh – a dramatic ruin on a cliff in Northumberland between Craster and Embleton. It’s all about the setting.
Culzean – another place about the setting. Great views with a beautiful building and gardens.
Doune – I like Doune. It has links to Monty Python and Outlander. It’s a nice ruin over a river. We have a few of those, like Bothwell.
St. Andrews – St. Andrews Castle has a great edifice, looking like a proper castle. It is by the sea. There’s a mine and countermine to explore.
Caerlaverock – a proper castle with a moat and towers. It’s in the middle of a nature reserve not far from the border.
Anyway, that is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 18th September 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday. No Saturday Saunter next week so this will be back in a fortnight. Until next time, mar sin leibh.
Wishart Street started at the junction with Alexandra Parade where a big advertising screen did its stuff for capitalism. I bristled at the advert for clothes featuring the cast of Love Island, a group of people not known for wearing many of them, and not for the first time resented that perhaps maybe, just maybe, people could celebrate personality and not just how people look. As I walked I thought about George Wishart, the Protestant reformer who I thought the street was named after. I knew he had been executed in the 1540s but it was only when I got home that I realised it was 1546. I sometimes get my Protestant reformers confused. The back of the Royal Infirmary stretched out to my right, the more modern maternity wing followed by the 19th century main hospital. Folk were getting picked up and dropped off. Babies were probably born as I passed but I was very much in the present. Colourful posters called for power tae the key workers and I have no argument on that score. An old sign on a lamppost declared this area a risk for thieves or so said Strathclyde Police sponsored by the Glasgow Angling Centre, quite a combination. Gold-topped railings started and the Necropolis started to my left, graves and memorials at the bottom of the hill. I thought it was an attractive, secluded place to have a grave. A memorial to William Wallace stood on its own further on and I had another reminder of the Bell o’ the Brae, the street that used to be at the other side of the Cathedral. The Council grass cutters had been out in the Necropolis as the grass was strewn with cuttings and leavings. Joy. I had only seen Wishart Street from the Bridge of Sighs before and there it stood before me, an elegant passage from the city to the Necropolis. The lights underneath weren’t lit since it was the middle of the day. As I came to the junction, I felt cheered up by my walk on a street mainly dominated by stuff around it, the beginnings of life as well as its ending.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, again being written on a Sunday morning. This might be the new time to scrieve right enough. On in the background is a Hidden London Hangout on YouTube and before that was the last day of the Paralympics. Channel 4 have done a superb job covering the Paralympics with insightful features and commentary which didn’t patronise or reduce everything to being inspirational. I’m going to miss having live sport on before I go to work in the morning, as was also the case with the Olympics. As this is being posted, I will be having a chill day, which should be good.
Our sermon today is about constancy. No, of course, it’s not. I just had a Simpsons line in my head and felt like it was a good way to begin. I read a story the other day about how doctors in Brussels are prescribing visits to museums to help with mental health. I think that’s a great idea. I found my first museum visit after the first lockdown, which might have been Kelvingrove, was excellent. Being able to be in a dear, familiar place just made things feel more normal, calmer. I was in the Hunterian Art Gallery the other weekend and it was good to just walk in the door, let alone to enjoy its current exhibitions about Whistler and Joan Eardley, which are well worth going to see. By and large I have felt safer and happier in museums than many other public spaces since the first lockdown finished but that was the case even before the pandemic. I hope this initiative helps people at Brugmann Hospital and beyond.
I also read an excellent book the other day, Mind Games by Neville Southall, which went well beyond a footballer’s memoir and talked about so many issues which affect footballers and wider society, from addiction to sexuality, abuse to self-confidence. It is an important book and one which could be so easily dismissed as being about football when it goes far beyond. I have a long to-read list but last night I just looked at some football pictures published in past issues of Nutmeg magazine as that was all my attention span could deal with. Next is a book I bought years ago but am only now getting round to, Connemara: Listening to the wind by Tim Robinson. I’m going between nature writing and sport at the moment, which is working quite well.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th September 2021. Thanks for reading as ever. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday and it’s post 99 with mention of Love Island and the Reformation. Why not? Until next time, then, madainn mhath.
When working out which streets to cover for this series, I sometimes do a bit of research. I look at books or maps now and then while other times I just wing it. What I didn’t know until the night before this walk was that there are in fact three Castle Streets in Glasgow. My Pevsner’s guide mentions two of them. One is in Townhead, another in Partick and the third in a housing scheme in Baillieston. For the avoidance of doubt, I found myself on the Townhead version, starting by the Barony Hall, confused as I was doing the High Street walk as to where my street actually started. I deduced it was outside the Barony Hall and so I began. My soundtrack was the sound of construction work on the Strathclyde University buildings to my left though I was able to stop and read the plaque about the Alms House. The statue of William of Orange stood in Cathedral Square to my right as I walked, a couple of recent wreaths at its feet suggesting it was August, even if Orange walks hadn’t happened due to Covid restrictions over the summer. The Provand’s Lordship remained firmly shut as I passed the oldest house in Glasgow and I remembered a decent visit there a couple of summers ago. Workers from the nearby Royal Infirmary sat in the precinct in front of the Cathedral, talking and eating lunch. I passed a red traffic cone lying in the grass, perhaps from the roadworks on the nearby motorway and maybe soon to adorn the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside GoMA. The Royal Infirmary just looks like a hospital from Castle Street, imposing, brown, Victorian, with modern additions behind and to the side. In front is a busy traffic junction and much of my walk was spent navigating it. The angular tower adjoining the car park is smart with a statue of a man, which seems to be Christ giving sight to a blind child. It once housed the Blind Asylum, memorably described in my Pevsner’s guide as ‘excruciatingly Franco-Flemish, with a spire bristling gargoyles’. That’s still better than the grey, concrete multi-storey car park next door and the motorway curving in multiple ways in front of me. I turned left and walked under the motorway heading to Royston Road where Castle Street eventually ended. Once the Townhead Library stood on this part of the street but it is no longer. It is a particularly brutalist end of one of the great streets of Glasgow.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Sunday morning, late enough that the sun is up and breakfast TV has been and gone, thankfully. On in the background is Match of the Day, an unusual choice for me because Hibernian FC, the top team in Scotland at time of writing, isn’t on, but it’s all right in the background. I’m writing this on a new computer and for some reason it isn’t using keyboard shortcuts when I want to italicise, which is a pain but never mind. Unusually I don’t have much of an idea what to write, only that writing this post now will save doing it during the week.
We’re getting towards autumn though as I write this in the last days of August, we are having something of a heatwave. I never used to like autumn and the shorter days I still despise but the autumn colours almost make up for it. It’s been good this summer to be able to roam that bit further here in Scotland though caution is still very much the order of the day, especially with the high Covid case numbers here in recent days. Look after yourselves, folks. Ca’ canny. September is often a good month weather-wise so hopefully some nice days lie ahead just to be out in the world.
But first some reading. Last weekend I started re-reading my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, taking it with me on a trip to Dundee. I re-read it every year or so and it’s beside me even while my to-read pile is only growing. Next on the list will probably be one by Neville Southall, Mind Games, which delves into the broader issues around football.
I posted the 32 areas Saturday Saunter post here last week and there will be more of those types of posts in the coming weeks and months, as I will probably have much less time and energy to write more often, unfortunately. One might have to focus on some of my favourite views. I was just looking through my recent photos and came across two from a fleeting visit to Portobello, one looking towards the East Lothian coast, the other towards Inchkeith and Fife. North Berwick Law was almost golden in the sunshine and the clouds were something out of a dramatic landscape painting.
Anyway, that is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 4th September 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday and it is Castle Street. But, which one? Until then, madainn mhath.
Renfrew Street comes with a back story. I had planned to do this street about two years ago. I walked its length on the way home from an exam and decided that I would go back and tick it off the list for Streets of Glasgow. One week later there was a big fire which decimated the Glasgow School of Art and spread to the ABC on Sauchiehall Street. The stretch between Scott Street and Hill Street, which houses the GSA, is still closed off with scaffolding and construction workers everywhere. On a sunny summer’s day I decided to see how it was going. I came across the M8 and saw a cool bit of street art all about love. It is all we need, after all. There were some ghost signs including one for FW Woolworth and Co. Ltd. Some other art stated ‘Lest We Forget’ with a silhouette of a soldier. Renfrew Street was closed off near the GSA, as I mentioned, so I diverted and soon returned as it left Garnethill and became much more of a city centre back street. The Pavilion Theatre had posters about how laughter and pantomime will return soon and it may have done by the time this is posted as restrictions change. The big Cineworld was open, a Test and Protect poster at the door in a sign of the times, and I looked back up the familiar, long, straight street, in the midst of the busy city centre but shaded by the high buildings. Long city streets are my favourite kind.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.