Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about rivers. That’s been fun but I’m going to draw it to a close this week by talking about a range of other rivers that I might not know as well. Some are in England, others closer to home.
Glasgow, of course, has several rivers, including the Clyde, Kelvin and White Cart Water. The Kelvin runs through the west of the city, joining the Clyde by the Riverside Museum. What I didn’t know until just now as the Kelvin went off my map is that it starts near Kilsyth in East Dunbartonshire, stretching for about 22 miles. I know the Kelvin best as it wends through Kelvingrove Park, the University of Glasgow towering above. There it is an elegant river, surrounded by trees and elegant buildings. A riverside walkway does exist, going as far as Milngavie where it links with the West Highland Way, and one day I will try and walk some or all of it.
The White Cart Water runs not far from me; indeed, I caught sight of it earlier today while walking in Rosshall Park. The White Cart Water goes from the Clyde at Renfrew, through Paisley to Crookston and Pollok Country Park, ending at Eaglesham. What comes to mind when I think of the White Cart is the section by Pollok House with a weir and a small waterfall, as well as a pleasant stone bridge linking the park and the nearby golf course. I also think of it passing through Paisley, by the Town Hall, Abbey and Anchor Mill.
Down south, the Wear brings up Durham, the Cathedral and Castle high above, and Sunderland with an elegant green bridge joining the parts of that city together. The Thames has had a lot of words written about it and I know it right at the heart of London, crossed by many bridges, a dirty big river running through the metropolis. I also think of Mudlarking, the interesting book I read last year about the objects to be found by and in the river.
As a seaside person who now lives in a city, rivers have become ever more important as a way to be beside water as well as appreciate their own merits, whether beside wells, bridges or Magdalen Green. I’m lucky to be near three of them and they bring inspiration and interest in so many ways.
I think we can call this a series now. I’ve written about rivers the last few weeks so I might as well continue. I have a list of three that I could write about, and have photographs of, including today’s offering, the Water of Leith, which runs from the Pentland Hills right through Edinburgh to Leith where it flows into the Forth. The Water of Leith was once surrounded by mills and industries though today there are a few factories interspersed with flats, allotments, the Union Canal and Colinton Dell as the river wends its way out of the city. The Water of Leith Walkway runs for 13 miles from Leith to Balerno and I’ve walked all of it at one point or another, sometimes in sunshine, other times in rain or even with snow on the ground. The last time I was there was last summer, my only visit to Edinburgh in a year, and walked from Leith towards the city centre. It included stopping by the quotations inscribed on the pavement near Great Junction Street, including the ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’. I’ve always rather liked that and it currently graces an advertising hoarding on the West Stand at Easter Road, even though it was actually to do with Leith Athletic rather than Hibs, I gather.
The Water of Leith also passes near some of Edinburgh’s foremost visitor attractions including the Royal Botanic Garden and the Modern Art Galleries. That section from Stockbridge to Roseburn is my favourite, going by St Bernard’s Well, under the Dean Bridge and through the Dean Village before winding past a weir on the way to Murrayfield. At the weir are benches in memory of those who have died from HIV and AIDS and it is one of the most beautiful spots in Edinburgh. I remember being able to go into St Bernard’s Well one Doors Open Day and it had information panels shedding more light on that particular stunning structure, designed by Alexander Nasmyth and based on the Temple of Vista in Italy. St Bernard’s was also a football team, incidentally, who played at the edge of the New Town near Scotland Street. They took their name from the Well, so Wikipedia tells me. Their name lives on in a couple of amateur teams in Edinburgh though they left the Scottish League around the Second World War. There’s a plaque to them in King George V Park, if I recall. The Dean Village, meanwhile, had many mills harnessing the Water of Leith though now it is pretty much residential and a pleasant part of town.
Beyond Slateford is Colinton Dell, which is particularly stunning with a weir and woodland. Colinton Village comes next, which is a conservation village and every time I’m there I always marvel that this seemingly rural place is in the capital of Scotland and very near the City Bypass. In Colinton is the Colinton Tunnel which has been artistically decorated. Some day I’ll be able to go and have a look – it’s only happened in the last year or so. The walk leads out through Currie and Juniper Green to Balerno, which is a nice village in the lee of the Pentlands. Invariably the bus back into Edinburgh takes only a few minutes to cover what has been walked in a few hours. Thankfully the memories and the good vibes from the walk take longer to fade and they encourage me to plan a visit for when the time comes.
I was thinking of writing about the river Tyne as part of what seems to be becoming a series about rivers but I’ve done it before. In 2016, as a matter of fact. The Tyne, of course, runs from the foothills of the Lammermuirs to the sea at Belhaven. It’s not to be confused with the one in England which runs along Hadrian’s Wall through Newcastle. Instead I was thinking about the Tweed, the river which for much of its length covers the border between Scotland and England before reaching the North Sea at Berwick. I am advised that there are two Tweeds in the UK, the other in Leicestershire, but I’ve never been to that one. What I didn’t know until just now is that the Tweed rises very close to where the Clyde starts, which is quite a nice fact. When I think of the Tweed I think of the bridges at Berwick, plus Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. By far my favourite bridge is the Royal Border Bridge, the one with the trains, which leads from Berwick station towards Tweedmouth. Berwick Castle was largely pulled down to make way for the railway and the Great Hall is where the platforms are. If going south, it’s worth looking left to the other bridges and out to sea. Eventually the breakwater and the lighthouse comes into view, which is probably one of my favourite places on the earth. I like a walk around the walls in Berwick, the Elizabethan ramparts which give the best view of the town and of course out to sea and back to Scotland. Northumbrian castles at Bamburgh and Lindisfarne are also visible on a good day. The scenery inspired LS Lowry and I always contend that his seascapes are better than the matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs he’s more famous for.
The Tweed is still the border at Coldstream. I was there a couple of summers ago to watch the Hibs on a lovely summer’s day. There’s a plaque on the bridge in the middle of the river about Robert Burns, who it is hard to escape in Scotland, even when on the border.
Further west, the border is further south than the Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey is by the Tweed and I would love a visit there right about now, just to watch the river, read and cherish my surroundings. Melrose is near the Tweed too and when I was at Abbotsford a few years ago, I walked to Melrose by the Tweed, which was braw on another summer’s day.
My last visit to Peebles was to go to Dawyck Botanic Garden, which is near the Tweed too. Dawyck is a glorious garden in most weathers, very alpine and usually rather wet since it’s on a hill in the Borders. The Tweed is particularly nice round there, windy and surrounded by fields and trees. In fact the Tweed is beautiful for nearly all of its length, regardless of when it’s just a river or a fiercely fought for frontier, surrounded by castles, abbeys and so much history.
The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland. Like the Forth and Clyde, it becomes a firth before flowing into the sea. I don’t know it as well as the other two but I like being by it. The last time was in September, during a couple of days in Dundee. The Tay begins on the slopes of Ben Lui and flows through Perth as a river then Dundee as a firth. It’s the subject of some of the worst poetry ever committed to paper, which I never fail to remember when in the vicinity of Magdalen Green or the current Tay Bridge, as well as being in some frankly far superior paintings by the likes of James McIntosh Patrick.
Perth is split by the Tay. I particularly like that the Tay has islands in Perth, one housing a golf course. Being a person who contends without fail that golf ruins a good walk, I will also say that the golf course can be crossed while walking to Branklyn Garden, which is at the eastern bank of the Tay. I’ve always liked Perth because it feels like a gateway to mountains and adventure, with hills to be seen to the north as well as roads to cities, mountains and fine restaurants like Cardo with its fine macarons.
The train from Glasgow to Dundee requires crossing the Tay in Perth. From Perth station, the train is at height amidst houses then it curves across the river before hugging its banks on the way to Dundee where the recently redeveloped station sits a few steps from the Tay, the RRS Discovery and the V and A. That part of Dundee is excellent now. I like walking by the Tay there, the sweep of the Firth visible from Broughty Ferry and Tentsmuir up river towards hills. I’ve been there on sunny, warm days and cold, wintry twilights and it’s good to look across and around, thinking of William McGonagall and all that history or perhaps what good food might be found soon. I think that’s the point I’m getting at: there’s lots of good food by the Tay, not least macarons and of course pehs in Dundee.
A few years ago, I walked across the Forth Road Bridge. I didn’t walk back – thankfully there’s a railway bridge quite nearby and a station in North Queensferry that’s on that line. I wrote a blog post about it, which appeared here around that time. The three bridges which span the Forth in that area, the Forth Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing, are well placed to give incredible views up and down the Firth to mountains, seabird colonies and many towns which line its banks. The other day I was on Twitter at the right time, a suitably rare occurrence, and watched a video on Scotrail’s feed showing the view from a train’s cab as it crossed the Forth Bridge, the mightiest railway structure in Scotland. Its struts and girders passed by in a whir of red saltires. The video didn’t share much of the view which can be seen from a train window but that is to be expected since the train driver is surely keeping his or her eyes front. The view is finest from the Forth Bridge since there is no other bridge between it and the Forth opening out. Having grown up in East Lothian I’m particularly biased in loving the view towards the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the northern coastline of my native county. The best view of the capital starts from just south of Inverkeithing, a view across a yard to Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh unfolding below. East Lothian and Edinburgh are on the right through much of Fife until just after Kirkcaldy when the line turns north. That was always the point I turned back to my book.
The Forth has long fascinated me, having lived near it for much of my life prior to moving west. It is a river then a Firth before unfolding into the North Sea between Fife Ness and Dunbar. It has transported goods and people for generations, millennia really, including pilgrims, traders and holiday makers. Whenever I get a view of it, be it from Edinburgh city centre, the coast or one of the many bridges which cross it, I can’t help but look out. I suspect I’m not alone. My favourite views come at Cellardyke, where the Isle of May actually looks like an island rather than a rocky cliff, Dunbar, of course, Aberlady Bay, where the Forth opens out, Morrison’s Haven and Portobello, where East Lothian is particularly prominent, including the Bass, North Berwick Law and Hopetoun Monument. A couple of years ago, on a particularly perishing day when I managed some Loose Ends for this blog, I took the scenic route from Portobello to Easter Road via Seafield and Leith Links, which was a bit more austere landside but gave a very decent view along the Forth as the land curved.
The fine set of sculptures at Dysart Harbour, Sea Beams, are painted different shades of blue and grey reflecting the colours of the Forth at different times of the year. I’ve had the pleasure of being at Dysart to see the sea in most of those colours. I’m writing this at the tail end of January, a time of year when I particularly like to be by the Forth as it is at its most dramatic. For the moment I’m settling for photographs, my own from past rovings and others who live near enough now, plus of course the videos from train cabs, which aren’t so bad either.
Every year, I write a post like this one with the best places I’ve been to during the year. Some years it’s easier than others. This year, despite the pandemic and resulting restrictions, I’ve managed to have some very cool experiences, some life changing, even. We have the usual eight categories this year, which are:
Best historic place
Best place to watch football
Best fish supper
This year we have two defending champions winning again and four new entries romping home with their categories. There’s even an unlikely winner coming up. Let us begin.
Best museum – London Transport Museum –
A new entry and the London Transport Museum was excellent. The Hidden London temporary exhibition was tremendous and very well designed. The London Transport Museum is very thorough, with particularly excellent displays about design.
Runner-up – V and A Dundee –
The V and A in Dundee, 2018’s winner, is good and I enjoyed visiting a couple of months ago to wander about the Mary Quant exhibition and being able to wander a very quiet Scottish Design gallery.
Honourable mention – Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow –
Astonishingly, Kelvingrove has never featured in any Best Of. My first visit post-pandemic was excellent, well laid-out and it felt very safe.
Best gallery – Trongate 103, Glasgow –
Last year’s winner in this category because of the same exhibition, Oscar Marzaroli. I’ve been at least four times, once post-lockdown, and it’s a superb exhibition.
Runner-up – Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow –
Another post-lockdown visit for a place that’s never featured in a Best Of. The thematic approach to their collection was well-done, including a cool black and white photograph of the old Yankee Stadium in New York.
Honourable mention – Kirkcaldy Galleries –
Kirkcaldy has won this category twice. I was there in February and it did the job. Hopefully I’ll get back there again next year.
Best historic place – Dunblane Cathedral –
Dunblane Cathedral is a new entry. It’s a beautiful, interesting church. Go, if you can.
Runner-up – Scone Palace, near Perth –
Another new entry. A guided tour post-lockdown and it was excellent, a good tour and beautiful grounds.
Honourable mention – Dunure Castle, Ayrshire –
New entry again. Dunure Castle is a cool ruin on a cliff in Ayrshire. The setting makes it.
Best library – Any library I work in –
Obviously but I can’t think of any other libraries I’ve been in this year.
Best place to watch football – Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh –
Sigh. I particularly remember the atmosphere the night Hibs played Inverness in the Cup. Games are behind closed doors right now so no live football since March. Easter Road has won three times.
Runner-up – Rugby Park, Kilmarnock –
This one is included because of matchday catering, before and after the match. Dinner was in a French restaurant in Glasgow.
Honourable mention – Tannadice Park, Dundee –
My last visit to Tannadice was in January and the sunset was beautiful on the walk back into Dundee city centre.
Best fish supper – Giacopazzi’s, Eyemouth –
Purely and simply, the best of this year. I like Eyemouth and the food was superb.
Runner-up – Merchant Chippie, Glasgow –
A new entry and a very decent fish supper, the produce sourced from Pittenweem.
Best park – Pollok Country Park, Glasgow –
Another new entry but one of the finest parks in Scotland and within walking distance of the house. A fairly regular haunt during lockdown and after. A visit to Pollok House was an autumnal highlight.
Runner-up – Bellahouston Park, Glasgow –
A new entry and another place I have come to know well this year, also within walking distance.
Honourable mention – Greenwich Park, London –
The views across London from Greenwich are incredible, one of the best views of the metropolis.
Best beach – West Bay, North Berwick –
I was last in North Berwick in March and it was a cold, bright day. The sand blew with the wind.
Runner-up – Belhaven Beach, Dunbar –
Belhaven is a frequent winner though North Berwick edged it because it was such a perfect day.
That’s the 2020 list, the sixth Best of list so far. Despite the pandemic, I’ve been very lucky to visit some incredible places and have amazing experiences this year. Who knows what 2021 will bring? It’s been fun assembling this list as ever. Until next time, cheers just now.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, in fact the last one of 2020. Next Saturday, Boxing Day, will be the Best of 2020. The one shockeroonie of this year’s Best Of is that North Berwick, of all places, won one of the categories. A shocking state of affairs. This is the last post I’m writing this year as I take a festive break until 2nd January.
This year has been life-changing in many ways. A lot of things I took for granted at the start of this year, like going to the football or going on a train at the spur of the moment, aren’t possible right now. I’m watching last weekend’s Hamilton Accies-Hibs match and in different circumstances I might have been there. The only fans are peering in through a gap in the stands. This year has seen many of us finding new ways to live and to be with people. A lot of people have suffered this year and when all is said and done, the pandemic will have a long impact. People are now being vaccinated and other vaccinations are being developed. This time next year, the world will be different again. Whether we will see scenes like in China or New Zealand, where life has reached a semblance of normality, we can only hope.
A few weeks ago, we were at the Riverside Museum, the fairly new transport museum which sits by the Clyde. It has its detractors but I have come to like it. My favourite part is the recreation of an early 20th century Glasgow street with a pub, shops and Subway station. One time I was there it had posters about the rent strikes in Govan led by Mary Barbour, apposite for the setting and the fact the Riverside is just across the river from Govan and the Mary Barbour statue. The Riverside’s predecessor, the Museum of Transport, which used to be in the Kelvin Hall, also had an old street and it was possibly even better with the Subway feeling just like the Subway used to be up until the 1970s with signs displaying the stops that could be reached from either side of the island platform. It is immortalised in an episode of Still Game called ‘Shooglies’, if you’re interested.
Glasgow had a fairly extensive tram network though it’s pretty much a memory, the remnants found on a few buildings and in the Riverside Museum. Modern trans are a bit space-age and when they’re done right, as in Manchester and Dublin, they’re incredibly useful. I haven’t been to Manchester for a couple of years but I like a turn on the tram, sometimes skating along city streets, others coursing just like a train on tracks behind a fence. I’m thinking about MoSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, which is a particular favourite in Manchester, its engines and displays not only about the past but the present and future. The city’s history gets a good airing and I’ve always liked that they combine more traditional museum displays of stuff and modern interpretation techniques. Their 3D printing exhibition a few years ago was excellent and made the complex seem relatively simple, a difficult art indeed.
I don’t really plan these posts and I certainly didn’t plan to blether about trams and old Glasgow streets! I’m going to draw this to a close with thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers, new and old. The blog will be back next Saturday with the Best of 2020. Until then, have a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate; if you don’t, have a very nice week. To all, keep well, keep safe. A very good morning.
Originally today, I was going to post with interesting things I’ve found in my inbox but I’m going to do something different. The photo above shows Arthur’s Seat and part of Calton Hill, two of Edinburgh’s hills. I decided to write about Edinburgh after reading about the Royal visit to the capital earlier this week. When I next get to Edinburgh – and I’m not sure when that will be possible for a lesser mortal such as myself, resident in Glasgow – I’m planning on a walk. There’s probably too many places that I want to see so I might not manage them all in a single visit. Arthur’s Seat would be a contender, at least St. Anthony’s Chapel because I’ve seen a few cool photographs taken from there recently. The Botanic Gardens would be an absolute certainty. I’ve missed the autumnal colours of the Botanics this year but it is rather fine in all weathers and at all times of the year. Reading The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst has given me the notion to walk along George Street and stop outside the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board with its model lighthouse shining. Calton Hill and its perspectives out across the city, Forth, Fife and East Lothian is a favourite and I have craved standing there for a few short minutes. Inside, the Portrait Gallery would be a great idea, possibly the National Gallery. Even just being on a train coming into Waverley, through Princes Street Gardens and under the castle, would be enough. When restrictions permit, I’ll do my best to make it happen.
A picture triptych for us tonight, three pictures from the blog archive of past adventures and hopefully inspiring future ones too. We begin in Perth, possibly the night Ofir Marciano got sent off…
There are times I miss going to the football. I was going to cut back anyway, even before the pandemic, but watching a game on the telly just isn’t the same. It’s so easy to glance at a phone and miss a moment, plus the sensory experience, the sights, sounds and all else, cannot come through the TV screen. Plus when your team has drawn when they should have won, or they’ve just gotten gubbed, the journey home helps to soothe and bring perspective, a lot harder when you’re in the house already and it’s time to make the tea.
One of my favourite away trips is McDiarmid Park, Perth, home of St. Johnstone. The long trudge to McDiarmid is usually preceded by a decent dinner, thankfully, especially before a night game. Even in the cold, high floodlights shining down are an incredible sight. Saturday at 3 is when football should be but a game under the lights can be special too.
The Bass Rock looks different from every angle. From Fife, the Bass is a rotting molar; Dunbar, curved cliffs with a lighthouse. It’s closest to North Berwick, where the lighthouse can be seen but the rock faces the other way, out to sea. By the Seabird Centre in North Berwick is a statue of a man with binoculars looking out. It’s only been there for a few years and I like it. Some people find being by the sea oppressive and limiting but I really don’t. The sea is what’s beyond the horizon, not just the horizon itself. It’s birds, fish, all manner of wildlife, boats and what passes by, trade or folk on cruises, maybe. I grew up by the sea but I now live in a city and I miss it. It’s pictures like these that make me smile and plan a trip, even if it can’t materialise quite yet.
North Berwick also features in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, in the form of a train station up the stairs on the object wall. It’s the only one of the stations I’ve actually stopped at – life hasn’t taken me to Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie, Stonehaven or Addiewell, at least not to get off a train in these places. The urge to go on a train somewhere far has receded over the last few months. My last big trip was London in February. Train videos on YouTube suffice for now. Hopefully there will soon come a time when we can travel once more without restriction, even without a face mask. Until then, it’s YouTube for me.
That’s our triptych. An inbox clearing post will be here next Wednesday and the Saturday Saunter returns this coming Saturday. Until then, cheers just now. Peace.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday. I hope everyone reading this is safe and healthy. This Saturday will be spent watching football – Hibs versus the lesser greens – and probably reading. Earlier in the week I started Barack Obama’s new memoir A Promised Land and I am about 400 pages into it so far. He’s crammed a lot into it so far, preferring to go into his mindset during big events rather than going over them in endless detail. Given that it’s over a thousand pages long, and there’s a second volume planned, that could only be a good thing.
By the time this is posted, Glasgow and much of Scotland will be under Level 4 restrictions. These mean the temporary closure of quite a few museums and visitor attractions. I had an email from Historic Scotland the other day with details of their sites which are in Level 4 areas, namely Glasgow Cathedral, Doune Castle, Dumbarton Castle, Dunblane Cathedral, Dundonald Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle. Over the years I’ve been to all of them, two since the summer, Glasgow Cathedral and Dunblane Cathedral. Glasgow is familiar and always interesting, though the one-way system meant I saw unfamiliar details on my way round. I hadn’t been to Dunblane before and it’s a beautiful church, historically interesting with great insights from the HES staff and my companion who knows far more about churches (and many other things) than I do. Looking back at my pictures there was some cool graffiti on one of the pillars in the Nave, which had been ruined from the Reformation until the 19th century, and more poignantly the grave of a young woman, Assistant Cook Grace A.S. Sharp, who had died in the First World War aged just 19. Dunblane has a particular resonance to those of us who grew up in Scotland in the 1990s and the Cathedral’s memorial to those children and their teacher is simple yet powerful.
One podcast I’ve enjoyed this week is the Nutmeg podcast, featuring interviews with notable folk from the world of Scottish football, including Ian Crocker of Sky Sports (‘And it’s Henderson to deliver!’), Jim Leighton, goalkeeper for my first Hibs team in the 1990s, and Terry Christie, former manager, headteacher and fellow alumnus of my primary school. Ian Crocker talked about how surreal it is to be commentating on closed-door games while Jim Leighton about his long and varied career as well as his more recent difficulties with prostate cancer. Terry Christie’s interview was wide-ranging too, including an encounter with a railway sleeper while being interviewed before a big game.
Before I go, Wednesday’s Streetsof Glasgow post – Langside Avenue – was written before the current restrictions came into effect. It was the last one I had managed. The next few Wednesdays will feature some blethers based on photographs from the blog archive.
Two different perspectives this week. Footballer Marcus Rashford has been in the news in the last few weeks for being a decent person, basically, talking about food poverty and the power of reading. We need more like him in our world. Also, yesterday was Trans Day of Remembrance. Trans rights are human rights.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 21st November 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow concludes, for the moment at least, on Wednesday. Another Saunter should be right here next week. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.