Intercity: Edinburgh (Dublin Street)

Dublin Street: a street sign stating Dublin Street on the wall of a building.​
Dublin Street: a street sign stating Dublin Street on the wall of a building.
Dublin Street: looking down a street with buildings on either side towards trees, a cityscape, water and hills.​
Dublin Street: looking down a street with buildings on either side towards trees, a cityscape, water and hills.

Dublin Street is a street I’ve often walked in Edinburgh, often at the start or end of a New Town derive. It leads from Queen Street down into the New Town. The day I was there the place seemed to be held up by scaffolding, scattered on quite a few buildings. There wasn’t any on the dolls’ houses I’ve often admired in a property management office nor on the shop bearing the name of my last favourite punctuation mark, the ampersand. That shop looked fine enough and I walked on, stopping by the Stac Polly restaurant. I reflected that until recently, due to restrictions, Edinburgh had felt as remote and unreachable as Stac Pollaidh itself, all the way up beyond Ullapool. The unbridled joy I had felt of being able to go more than a few miles had turned to tears at the time the First Minister had announced the changes in restrictions and more than once since. Posters for Nicola Sturgeon’s party covered a window ahead as I stopped at the top of Dublin Street, turning to look back down across the city and towards the Forth, one of the better vistas our capital offers and an invitation to adventure in more ways than one.

Thanks for reading. This is another instalment of the occasional Intercity series here on Walking Talking. Other instalments appear on the Intercity page. Other Edinburgh streets which have been here previously are St. Vincent Street, Leith Walk, the High Street and Easter Road.

This post was written prior to the announcement that Glasgow and Moray will remain in Level 3 restrictions as of Monday 17th May.

Intercity: Aberdeen II (Esplanade)

Aberdeen II. The last Aberdeen Intercity walk was on Union Street, back in February. My only memories, aside from writing it up on the train home to have it ready for the next day, are of finishing it as a parade of folk on Harley Davidsons harrumphed past. The second Aberdeen walk had a sense of obligation about it since I was in Aberdeen anyway on other business so I might as well do an Intercity walk. I didn’t think it would be probably the best single walk I’ve done for this blog and pretty much capture my view of what psychogeography means.

I interpret the French Situationist concept of psychogeography as looking beyond the surface of a city, to walk in it and try and slow down to see what other folk might miss. I’ve done it for years, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, each of Scotland’s seven cities and even London too. More often I’ve gone on derives or aimless drifts, particularly in Edinburgh, but lately it’s been for this blog’s benefit, choosing a single street as a prism to appreciate the bigger place. This time I chose the Beach Boulevard or Esplanade in Aberdeen, covering nearly three miles between the city’s two rivers, the Don and the Dee.

I got off the bus on Ellon Road and crossed the Don, looking upriver then down, noticing wind turbines high and close at sea. I discovered I was in the Donmouth Nature Reserve and found a birders’ hide and a football on the grass. I kicked it with the outside of my right foot then tried to guide it round my left, my lack of skill one of many reasons why I’ve never played the game. I could see Aberdeen’s ground, Pittodrie, across the golf course (some might say they lack skill too) and the towers of the Town House and Marischal College in the city centre. They were in the distance, between a series of high-rises, all carefully laid out. I could sense the architect’s pencil working that out.

Around the corner came one of the Oor Wullie figures that have been scattered across Scotland this summer to raise money for charity. Next to it were some fairly unremarkable stone sculptures, put there by an oil company in the 1980s. At this point I had a choice. I could either walk by the road or on a prom closer to the beach. Obviously I chose the latter. Sunshine and waves. Who can ask for more? As I walked up I heard in my head an old Billy Connolly routine about being pale blue and swimming in the North Sea. It was warm with a pleasant sea breeze. There were even folk in the water. I walked and I was beginning to doubt how much I could write about this walk. Then came the shelters, a lot bedecked in words, colourful patterns and graffiti, some positive and life-affirming, others more sobering, including a graphical depiction of the very high percentage of deaths caused by drugs in Scotland. In an underpass were numerous scrawled messages amongst the graffiti, including ‘nature kens ah-hin’ (nature knows everything) and a short, colourfully depicted defence of hash. In another shelter nearby was a pitched tent, possibly occupied. Cities are often held up as places of plenty, of civilisation. In such a wealthy society homelessness is a disgrace. How we deal with drugs should change. It has to. We need to have compassion and humanity at the heart of our public discourse, not dismissing folk and their problems, looking the other way. In those hidden places lie what matters. It’s very far away from the news of the day, 10 Downing Street and even Holyrood.

By the drugs statistics was a list folk had added to of what they liked to do on a rainy day. Some included ‘do science’, ‘see the stormy sea’, ‘fuck the system the sound system way’ and ‘cuddle with Sarah’. Beside were stylistic drawings of a wolf, plant stalks and rain clouds.

I was coming past the shows, restaurants and the Beach Ballroom. None of that interested me, save a chance glance to see an institution called the Inversnecky Cafe, a slang name for Inverness in Aberdeen. Strange. A rollercoaster clattered and fell overhead, carrying screams and shouts over the wind.

The place was busy, making taking photographs harder since I try very hard not to get people in. Folk were swimming, sunbathing, walking or just sat on benches, some in considerable undress, others dressed for winter with good Scottish pragmatism. I looked along the benches since they always yield a good story or two. Some of the names reflected the new Scotland, Russian and Indian, some people having lived long lives, others far too short.

The walk came to an end as I clambered over a wall onto the path into Footdee, otherwise known as Fittie to the locals. Fittie, a traditional fishing village in the heart of the city, is neatly old-fashioned and I had a turn around before taking the high road back. Along the way I scribbled notes and thought. In life I don’t like surprises yet my writing and my walking leads me very deep into the unexpected, a strange contradiction in a world that’s full of them.

Thanks for reading. This is the last of the current Intercity series. Links to other instalments, including the first Aberdeen walk, appear on the Intercity page. Something different appears here next week.

Digest: August 2019

The August digest is usually one of the busiest of the year. August sees my birthday, the start of the football season and the Edinburgh International Book Festival as just three parts of my calendar, which is often busy enough as it is.

The month started with my birthday, my thirtieth, to be exact. On that day I was in Arran for the day in glorious sunshine. We went to Lochranza, a part of the island I hadn’t been to before, and it was brilliant, with a ruined castle to be explored after a pub lunch. After that we got a bus most of the way around the island to Blackwaterfoot, with very fine views to Kintyre, then the bus back to Brodick, ferry to Ardrossan then the train home from there. It was a great day, one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

The following day was the start of the football season. I know that I had seen Hibs play no fewer than seven times in friendlies and the League Cup but it was the proper season, the beginning of the Ladbrokes Premiership with Hibs at home to St. Mirren. Hibs won 1-0 in what can be charitably described as one of the less Brazilian football matches despite the sunshine.

That Monday saw me visit Aberdeen. Amidst some family business, I had a very decent walk along the Esplanade. I wrote about it and it appears here next week.

Sunday 11th August was wet and dismal but that didn’t stop a visit to Bute, driving the long way and having a decent walk.

On Tuesday 13th August I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre at night for an autistic friendly film. It was Spirited Away, a Japanese anime dubbed into American. It was all right. The walk in the sunshine back to Central Station was particularly fine.

Saturday 17th August saw Hibs play Morton in the League Cup. Beforehand I sat in Lochend Park and ate lunch. It was the right place to be, away from the Festival crowds.

The following day I was out and about in Glasgow. I went to Queen’s Park then out through the Gorbals back into town. I gathered up some loose ends for this blog along the way. They will appear here in the coming weeks.

On Saturday 24th August I was once more in Edinburgh to see Hibs. They weren’t great. What was much, much better was seeing Kathleen Jamie talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. An excellent writer and thinker and I walked out of there feeling about ten feet tall. I also managed a couple of bits for the blog while in the capital. Getting home was a bit interesting. I took the slow train as the fast train was mobbed. It was interesting, with some bits straight out of a Chris McQueer story.

Monday 26th August was this blog’s fourth anniversary. When I got home from work, I ended up writing a post because I forgot to prepare anything.

Saturday 31st August saw me in Motherwell to watch Hibs.

That’s the August digest out of the road. We’re coming into a time of the year I like more as I grow older. Autumn’s coming up. Not so much as I write this on Monday night as it’s roasting outside but soon it’ll be autumnal. September’s looking interesting. I have a few things in my diary, including a wee part in Doors Open Day, a wee turn and the usual Hibs and cramming in blog stuff. Plus I’m going away for a couple of days at the end of the month, which should be great. In the meantime, have a great September. Cheers.

Posts this month –

Digest: July 2019

Saturday Saunter: Zen on Arran

Intercity: Dunfermline

London Road sculptures

Saturday Saunter: Earplugs, role models and books

Intercity: Dundee II (Commercial Street)

Bonus Aberdeen walk

Saturday Saunter: Writers, zines and pebbles

Intercity: St. Andrews


Alternative Edinburgh

Saturday Saunter: Writing and reading

Intercity: St. Andrews

The last Intercity walk of the day and it was St. Andrews. I decided to get the walk done before I went to get something for my tea. There were a few contenders in St. Andrews. I decided to do the walk I do if I’m just out for a hurl, through the grounds of the Cathedral then up the Scores, ending at the Martyr’s Monument. This being the east coast there was a haar (sea mist) though it wasn’t completely all-enveloping. Enough to deal with though the sun was trying to break through and it being July it was still a bit warm. The Cathedral tower was peeking through the mist and down below in the churchyard it was busy with tourists.

As I came towards the Castle there were proper seaside flowers, hardy, perennials that won’t grace the Chelsea Flower Show any time soon. The Castle always looks the part and there were a few folk still dotting around its grounds. Across the road some of the houses were covered in foliage, a sure sign of poshness that led me to whistle the Red Flag for much of the walk, for once the slower, traditional version rather than the jazzier Billy Bragg one. I passed grand Oxbridge-esque University buildings mixed with newer constructions. I was reminded that I was once advised to study Logic and Metaphysics. I’ve never been sure exactly why. It was a school teacher years ago. I’ve always thought philosophy has absolutely no use to the actual world. This thought carried me all the way down to the Martyr’s Monument, subject of a Loose Ends post earlier in the year, and there was a very seaside smell down there, either fish or bird shit. Probably the former since there were quite a few seagulls down there, especially later as I tried to eat my chippy. Strangely some Japanese folk were taking photos of the seagulls. Do they have seagulls in Japan? With that the Intercity walk ended, enough town and gown for one day.

Thanks for reading. Another Intercity walk follows next week. The Intercity page has links to other posts in the series.

Bonus Aberdeen walk

In choosing the street for the second Aberdeen Intercity walk, which appeared here on Sunday 8th September 2019, I came down to either the Esplanade or Pittodrie Street. The Esplanade won. I did Pittodrie Street anyway, since it’s a street I associate with Aberdeen and it’s near the beach.

I started behind the Richard Donald Stand, the huge two-tiered stand that dominates Pittodrie Stadium, home for now of Aberdeen FC. It being a Monday afternoon not much was occurring at Pittodrie. A woman walked into the club shop, the door to a club Portakabin stood ajar. All was calm. I actually like Pittodrie. It’s mismatched, cold and a bit rundown, not to mention the overzealous stewarding, but at least it has character which is probably more than its proposed out-of-town replacement will. I looked down Merkland Lane and saw the stark grey granite turnstile edifice. It looks the part.

Within yards I was back on a quiet residential city street. Neighbours blethered to each other and car doors opened and closed. Student flats had sprung up since my last visit. Signs declared them to be homes, not halls. In a few steps I couldn’t see the football ground. I could just have taken a wrong turning.

Thank you for reading. The Aberdeen Intercity walk referred to above, about the Esplanade can be found here. The first Aberdeen Intercity walk, which was about Union Street, can be found here. The other Intercity posts can be found on the Intercity page.

Intercity: Dundee II (Commercial Street)

The second walk of the day and Dundee again. The first instalment of Intercity in the City of Discovery was past Tannadice and Dens Park. I also associate Dundee with Commercial Street, which runs from the McManus to the Tay, so it was natural to pick it for Dundee’s second Intercity walk. I had circled the McManus twice, fine building that it is, and sat on a bench before I took to Commercial Street. A 22 bus had passed me each time and my warped brain brought up a Taylor Swift song. Forever after, I may know the 22 in Dundee as the ‘I don’t know about you’ bus. I looked up at the Northern Assurance building, crowned by a turret and a basket, then turned down Commercial Street, which was slightly more run down than I remembered. Busy, though, with folk waiting for buses at various points. That made it a little difficult to take photos with some kind soul even ducking out my road as I took a photo. Some handsome buildings stand on Commercial Street with some fine doorways and Victorian buildings throughout, some even with towers as on the corner with Seagate.

By St. Paul’s Cathedral (not that one) stood two statues, one naval admiral Adam Duncan and the other Dundee icon Oor Wullie, one of the trail liberally scattered across Scotland this summer. This one featured a brown coloured Oor Wullie with his hair and dungarees golden. I’m not the hugest fan of the Oor Wullie figures, the Toy Story, seabird and star ones in Dundee, North Berwick and Glasgow excepted, though it was there. Even weirder was a hair mannequin in a hairdressers’ window. It bore a very luxurious mane of hair with a generous, though styled beard. It looked like Noel Edmonds if he suddenly invested in Just For Men. It might have been the work of a hair artiste whose services were offered across the road. I can only imagine what a hair artiste does. Probably something worthy of the Turner Prize.

The walk finished and I’m not sure if I know more about Dundee than when I began but it was fine all the same. I wrote the notes for this one in the nearby V and A museum, sat on a bench on the stairs. As I scribbled, I people-watched and listened, another walk done, just ready to be written down.

Thanks for reading. Another Intercity walk follows next week. The first Dundee Intercity walk can be found here, with the other instalments in the series on the Intercity page.

By popular demand, a post about my favourite places in Edinburgh will appear here a week on Wednesday.

Intercity: Dunfermline

A day of Intercity walks began in Dunfermline. Dunf is blessed/cursed with a very good bus service to Glasgow, with four or five buses an hour. Of course the day I was there saw the bus timetables in Fife change which flummoxed me a bit fitting in the later destinations. But it was possible. The timetable booklets at Dunfermline bus station were going like nobody’s business. An hour later, the Glasgow booklets were gone. Anyway, logistics worked out and fortified by the inevitable, incredible steak bridies, the Dunfermline Intercity walk began by Dunfermline City Chambers, known by the rather prosaic handle Dunfermline Customer Contact Centre, a prosaic name for a beautiful town house building quite like a Disney castle. The only municipal building I’ve seen like it is Renfrew Town Hall. This walk covered a few streets, beginning at the top of the hill and ending near the bottom by Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace. It was either that or the walk along Halbeath Road to East End Park but I get in trouble if I write too much about football here.

I soon passed Dunfermline Abbey with its spire bearing the words ‘King Robert The Bruce’. Bruce’s remains are buried within the Abbey, all except the heart which is in Melrose. Sadly I had no time for the Abbey Nave, a particular favourite place of pillars and stained glass put together by the masons who brought us Durham Cathedral. There was a decent, meaty food smell nearby, possibly coming from a pub just up the way. Nearby was a nightclub called Life. I always think life is better without being in nightclubs, to be honest. A sign by the Palace directed people to the various extremities of the Fife Coastal Path, North Queensferry and Culross closer, St. Andrews further away. I was to be there a few hours later in the day. By the sign was a plaque about Charles I, the last monarch born in Scotland, born indeed in Dunfermline in 1600. The plaque was sympathetic, maybe even obsequious, declaring that Charles met ‘his death with dignity and courage’.

Moving swiftly on I walked under the Palace, Royal place and Abbey guesthouse. I let a family pass and the girl walked by stomping, as little girls often do. I could hear kids running about the Palace – that’s fine with me as long as some history goes in along the way. I was now on Monastery Street, pedestrianised as far as the Cenotaph. I had never seen the Cenotaph before. It was present but almost an afterthought, hidden in the corner. There was a Garden for Heroes across the way too. As I walked with the Palace beside, the Abbey above and the river water in my ears, I was reminded very much of Stirling, history all around me which is never a bad thing.

Before I came to the Carnegie birthplace, I passed a ghost sign above a shop. The next door building clearly housed a nationalist with Yes flags hanging out the windows. They were bang up-to-date since the Yes campaign for independence has recently changed its branding. That’s the type of details I notice. I try not to, honest. I don’t have a scooby how Andrew Carnegie felt about Scottish independence but his birthplace had some rather cool details on the outside, panels on the wall depicting discovery (with a ship) and industry with a miller’s wheel and some tools. It seemed a good place to end this walk and it was decent, a walk through one of my favourite towns in Scotland, history as ever with every step.

Thanks for reading. Another Intercity walk follows next week. Dunfermline has also featured in Loose Ends.

Intercity by iPhone

I’m all about the writing but now and then I like making the photos more prominent. Most photos here are taken on my trusty iPhone 7, which is currently sitting on the charge across the room. I also have a camera which I need to take out with me again soon. I thought today that I would share some of the photos from the Intercity series so far. Sometimes more can be said about a place through a photo than words. Enjoy.

Broomielaw, Glasgow, in the rain

Very appropriate swimming mural under the Kingston Bridge

The Clyde

Mar’s Wark, Stirling

Castlehill, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

David Hume statue, Edinburgh

Dundee, looking from Dens to Tannadice

Public art by the Tay in Perth

By the Ness in Inverness

Union Street, in Aberdeen

Motorcyclists in Aberdeen

Linlithgow Burgh Halls, looking towards the Palace

Gilmour Street, Paisley

Very grand, St. Vincent Place, Glasgow

Intercity: Stirling II (St. John Street/Spittal Street)


I associate Stirling first and foremost with its castle. I always say that it’s my favourite big castle in Scotland, far better than Edinburgh which benefits hugely from its location but otherwise is just a barracks. For this second Intercity round, I had to think of other streets I associate with Stirling and the only other one that came to mind was the other road up to the castle, the one that goes past the Old Town Jail and the Youth Hostel. I was in Stirling on a warm July afternoon and walked up to the Castle Esplanade where I stood for a moment and looked up to the castle itself. I had no time to explore it, sadly, and headed back down the esplanade with a fair few others. A piper stood outside Mar’s Wark so I couldn’t really look much at the edifice. I might be chucked out of Scotland for saying this but I don’t actually like bagpipes. Luckily the tourists and purists do so it benefits the economy and makes the world go round. As I passed the Church of the Holy Rude, an impressive grey pile, I made the usual resolution to go in one day. Again, time.


Cities are excellent places to look up in. Stirling is a great example of that. I turned my head and saw the Tolbooth tower with a weathervane on the building below, the words ‘Quarrelling is taboo’ across its lintel. That building belonged to the Scouts judging by its symbols. Across the road was the Old Town Jail, which had an interpretation board talking of its modern design with single cells and which meant ‘the chaplain could preach to all the prisoners whilst they were in their cells’. I suspect the prisoners might have been especially repentant after that. Next door was a monument to Ebenezer Erskine, an 18th century secessionist from the Church of Scotland, the cupola and pillars suitably grand and it’s not at all surprising that they were added in 1859. A proper old 16th-17th century townhouse complete with lime harling stood across the way. The house next door boasted it was once the home of James IV’s tailor. It’s not for nothing that I think of Stirling as historical Disneyland. The old Royal Infirmary is now a hotel.


Going back to the modern world, a cafe further down the hill was called Mamma Mia. Always one for the easy joke, I couldn’t help thinking ‘Here I go again’ as I came past it. The school across the road was a suitably Victorian schoolhouse, the 1891 epitome of ‘the most recent improvements in school architecture’, according to the board. Welly boots hung on the railings and I’m not sure why. Further down the hill the Wetherspoons was full of Hibs fans in town for the football, just enjoying the day soon to be ruined by our team’s dismal performance. A sign for a cat cafe made me shake my head in disbelief. I just don’t get cats as a concept. Strange animals. Anyway, what I do like is architecture and the Athenaeum at the top of King Street was great, bearing a statue of William Wallace. Frankly it would be either him or Bruce. The Athenaeum is a stunning building, designed like a horseshoe with an elegant spire and clock tower. It now houses shops and offices, according to the Stirling City Heritage Trust. King Street is generally interesting with lots of businesses, hotels and restaurants, the Co-op building suitably Victorian style. The lampposts bore banners for the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival which happens in Stirling in September. That’s a genre I like to read but sadly I am yet to get there. I always like a town that flaunts its reading.

After a walk through the shopping precinct, I ended up back at the station, my next destination the rather fine Engine Shed, a centre for historical buildings and their conservation, and finally the football. My last thought came as I passed a shop. Its A-frame had the words: ‘Dad, Are We Scottish? Shut Up Son And Drink Your Whisky’. Guess what they sold?

Thank you for reading. Another Intercity adventure will appear here in August. Other instalments in this series can be found on the Intercity page including the first Stirling walk which was on a wet day in December.

Saturday Saunter: The Engine Shed, Stirling and not writing about adventures

Good Saturday to you,

It is Tuesday night as I start this and it’s sunny outside with a wee bit of a breeze. I had all sorts of plans to write a fairly serious Saturday Saunter about mid-year burnout, Scottish Twitter and incels but I can’t be bothered with that. Instead I’m going to go free-form.

I don’t write about every adventure here. It’s partly time but also because writing about an experience can sometimes reduce it. Places and trips blend into one and I don’t like that feeling. Being busy sometimes means that life creeps up on you and the Zen, mojo, life that comes from a good adventure can be eroded quite rapidly. Writing can relive it but then the memory can sometimes be about the piece rather than the place. It’s a problem with writing a lot and wanting to write a lot. Sometimes you can run on empty, inspiration-wise. Last weekend I was very busy and went to East Lothian on Friday, Stirling on Saturday and around Glasgow looking at the Oor Wullies on Sunday. It had a lot of good moments but I don’t want to write about too many of them. Hopefully they’ll live on in my brain a wee while longer as a result.

Stirling was really about the football but I managed to have a wander before the game. I did the Intercity walk which appears here tomorrow and then I had a few minutes in the Engine Shed, a building conservation centre run by Historic Environment Scotland. There were displays about the various materials which form Scotland’s buildings and their makeup, scientific and historical but not too technical. There was also a display about the engineer James Watt, which was decent too. Most of all I liked the architecture of the building, a former train shed, and the big windows brought a great light in too. What was also wonderful was that they are well-up on accessibility, with a poster about the sensory/relaxed hour they had had earlier in the day. When I asked about it, the very helpful member of staff showed me into their sensory room, which had some toys, beanbags and mats scattered around. It made me happy as an autistic person as well as a history buff. I am both at the same time, of course.

What I also liked in the Engine Shed was the big satellite photograph of Scotland in the middle of the floor, with an insert to the left featuring St. Kilda and the top for Shetland. Rockall was posted absent, incidentally. I had such an urge to clamber all the way across it but I desisted, even though there wasn’t a sign. It probably isn’t becoming in a person soon to be in his thirties.

I think of Stirling as being a bit like Disneyland, a Scottish historical Disneyland. A lot of the buildings, the surroundings, every few yards there’s something important. It’s like Edinburgh but less busy. It was still busy the other day, mind. Even the walk to the ground, which is out-of-town and past a retail park and a derelict barracks, had its scenery. I could see the Ochil Hills and the Wallace Monument standing high on Abbey Craig. From my seat in the stand I could see wind turbines on the hills. On the way back, Stirling’s Old Town, and its castle, rose high on the landscape. I always like a trip there, even if the football wasn’t that great.

This is being posted as I am off to Edinburgh to watch Hibs. Underland will again be with me as I continue to work my way through it. I’ll finish it eventually. I’ll probably have a walk somewhere in the capital before the game, maybe the Botanics.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th July 2019. Tomorrow’s post is Intercity: Stirling. Wednesday is about my to-read pile. Thursday is about my commute. Whatever you end up doing, have a good weekend. Cheers.