Digest: June 2018

Heat. Exam. Buses. Shorts. Sunshine. Castles. The first six words I can think of to describe my June. It has been very warm here in Glasgow for the vast majority of June. I am writing this on Saturday night and it is sweltering. I don’t handle the heat well anyway but this week has been beyond belief. This whole month has, really. We tend to get summer for about a week then it gets all horrible again. This year it’s been summer with a few days of dreich. I could do with some dreich soon, though.

Lighthouse lamp at National Museum of Scotland

Friday 1st June saw me going to the capital for some shopping. I walked up the Royal Mile, had a look at the quotes lining the wall outside the Scottish Parliament then ducked into St. Giles, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends here on the blog. It didn’t happen as I was scunnered by the £2 to take photos. I spent far longer in the very lovely National Museum of Scotland, which did feature in Loose Ends this past Sunday. I had forgotten how good NMS is and I only went to a few select bits, much of the Scottish and some of the old museum. Brilliant place.

St. Andrews Castle
Dunfermline Abbey Nave

The following week I was off for my OU exam. I revise better with less distractions and amazingly well on buses. I ended up on a bus to St. Andrews, reading my books on the way and having a good wander around the town and along the beach when I got there. The following day I ended up in Dunfermline, again revising on the bus and taking in the Palace and the Abbey Nave, the latter the work of the same stonemasons who did Durham Cathedral. That was another Loose End, featuring here this coming Sunday. The Friday was exam day and I sat in the Botanics before sitting my exam. I think it went okay. To chill out my head I walked into town to get the train home, going via Renfrew Street. It was a week before the fire and that night with the sunshine it felt good to be there, lots of folks around for the degree show.

Fossil Grove

Sunday 10th I went to the Fossil Grove, just over the river from here in Scotstoun. I had never been but it was fine, a wee bit neglected but interesting all the same. I walked to Kelvingrove via Partick, turning off Dumbarton Road past the West of Scotland Cricket Ground and Partick Burgh Halls, both fine looking places. I went into Kelvingrove and made sure I saw my favourite painting, The Paps of Jura by William McTaggart.

That Monday I had a day trip with a good friend and it was great. We started at the Kelvin Hall, looking at the museum displays, before going across to Kelvingrove to sit in the atrium cafe for a bit. In Edinburgh we walked up to Leith and just generally blethered. It was great.

Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. They take the tape down for the games.

Next adventure was the next Sunday, the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. For more on that, read the post on Easter Road West. Here’s Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. Normally it doesn’t have red tape.

Library at Abbotsford. Je t’aime.

The following Saturday I had been thinking about for ages. Eventually I decided on the Borders and it was the right move. A social media recommendation took me to Abbotsford, a country hoose once home to Sir Walter Scott but with a braw library. I walked to Melrose by the river through the hay fever and took a turn around the Abbey, a place I had been to before but I had never fully appreciated before. On the train back to Edinburgh I decided on a chippy over in North Berwick, which I ate at the harbour. Post on this adventure appeared here the other day.

Dumbarton and mountains beyond

The next day I was with my dad and we went to Cardross and Dumbarton Castle. Cardross featured a wee glimpse of the St. Peter’s Seminary. Dumbarton was the right place to be on a gloriously sunny day. The ice cream just made it so.

On Wednesday I went shopping after work. I soon realised that the trains were off because of the heat. I got the Subway to Govan then had a few minutes before the bus. I walked down to the river and had a good look at the Mary Barbour statue. The bus had difficulties again because of the weather but eventually it got moving and I got home.

Gable end mural, Browns Lane, Paisley
Murals, Browns Lane, Paisley
Mural, Browns Lane, Paisley

Friday I was off and went out for dinner in Paisley at night. I went up Browns Lane to see some street art and ticked off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, a drink of Belhaven beer. I wasn’t keen.

That’s June. This month I have read We Shall Fight Until We Win, the graphic anthology produced by 404 Ink and BHP Comics to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, as well as The Marches by Rory Stewart and What Goes On Tour by the Secret Footballer. Plus too bloody much about Huguenots and Martin Luther. I am currently reading the memoir by mountaineer Cameron McNeish and re-reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.

Finally, there’s also a post on my football blog, Easter Road West, tonight. It’s about Dylan McGeouch.

Thanks as ever to all readers, followers and commenters. Have a nice month.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Addison Road

Loose Ends: Lamer Island

Subway Surface: It starts

Loose Ends: Tranter’s Bridge

Different routes

Subway Surface: Govan-Hillhead

Worse

Loose Ends: Culross

The where and the how

The beach at the back of the bay

Subway Surface: Hillhead-St. George’s Cross

Loose Ends: Glasgow Cathedral

Abbotsford, Melrose and chips by the sea

Visiting Glasgow

Subway Surface: St. George’s Cross-St. Enoch

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

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The beach at the back of the bay

Not many places in central Scotland are inaccessible by road. That tends to be the case more in the Highlands – for instance Corrour on the West Highland rail line, which is only reachable by train or on foot. There is at least one place I know which is over a mile from the nearest road and I was there recently.

After the last game of the football season, I decided to head for the seaside. I ended up in Aberlady with plans to walk around Aberlady Bay and go onwards to North Berwick. I crossed Tranter’s Bridge (which features in the Loose Ends series here) and walked on through the nature reserve. The views at various points were spectacular, over the Forth to Edinburgh and Fife and across the fields to the Garleton Monument and Traprain Law. I soon came to a dune, a big tall sand dune which bore heavy foot imprints. To misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, I couldn’t go under it and I couldn’t go through it. I had to go over it and I ascended then was carried down the steep slope at the other side onto the beach. Despite it being a beautiful May day, there were barely 10 people to be seen and they were scattered along the long sands. I sat down, scribbled notes and sunbathed for a bit. If I could have stayed longer, I gladly would have but time was against me. It was a mile and a half from the nearest car park and that probably accounted for the lack of people. It’s their loss. It was a glorious place to be and I felt the effects for days afterwards.

I headed to Gullane and walked right across a golf course, of which there is no shortage in the area. I hadn’t seen a sign prohibiting me from walking there but I kept half an eye out for golf club officials approaching to tell me to get orf their land. Pursuant to the Scottish Country Access Code I also watched out for golf balls and gave golfers right of way. I loathe golf and I’m firmly of the Mark Twain school but walking there I could be tempted to take it up. Just looking across the fairway to the Forth was glorious. The sunshine and the heat made it all the better but I think I would have felt the same on a brisk January afternoon.

The beach at the back of the bay isn’t a secret but it feels like one. Being there was especially special that day, the whole world before me and precious few others around to appreciate it too.

The where and the how

Today is something called Autistic Pride Day. There is a marketing campaign just now by the National Trust for Scotland asking what folk would do on their longest day. I was hoping I could write a little something combining both of these strands but I can’t be bothered. The longest day this year will see me working until 8pm. Instead I want to write and see what happens, beginning with Saturday. With it being the close season, I actually have a clear Saturday and I am not quite sure how to spend it. Do I want to go to Oban on the bus? I like Argyll and the run by Loch Lomond, the Rest and Be Thankful and Loch Awe. It’s a maybe as other places also appeal. Anstruther and Cellardyke are perennial favourites, the sea and the East Neuk usually just what I need but I never get out of bed early enough. Dundee’s McManus Museum is a place I like but the Beano exhibition may be too close to work just now. Dawyck Botanic Garden could be a good walk or maybe Dryburgh Abbey near St. Boswells where I seem to be once a year and always like a seat by the Tweed. Some places I still haven’t seen in East Lothian might be worth a look, Hopetoun Monument and the Chesters Hill Fort. It’s a whole blend of ideas that will maybe shape into something more definite nearer the time.

I did a Streets of Glasgow walk yesterday. I haven’t done one in a couple of months though I have been psychogeographical a lot lately, particularly the Subway walk. In the last year or more, Glasgow has crept under my skin. I always liked the city but with all the walks, all the words, I have come to love it deeply. I still turn corners and see new things. Drury Street, the walk I did yesterday and which appears here sometime in July, was very brief but still interesting. Last weekend I went to the Fossil Grove just over the river in Victoria Park and while the geology went over my head, I still got a sense of deep age in a city that gets newer every day. On my walk through Partick, I also got a good look at the very fine Partick Burgh Halls and took a turn around the perimeter of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, the scene of the very first international football match. Glasgow never ceases to surprise me. Even in this dark time, with fire still engulfing the city centre, this is home, even if I’m still realising just how I feel about it.

Yesterday I went to Edinburgh for the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. There’s a post about it on Easter Road West tonight. The next few Sundays see engineering work on the train line between Edinburgh and Glasgow so the slow train via Airdrie and Bathgate is the way to get between the capital and Weegieland. I didn’t realise this before I got to Queen Street. I hate the slow train. I’ve done it a few times, a few times by choice, others by necessity owing to engineering works, and I hate it particularly because there are few seats that don’t face other seats. I like to read and write on trains. Facing other people makes me uncomfortable and my forehead hits the floor on those trains. On the way back, though, I was a little heartened because the three people in my immediate eyeline had books. The guy across from me had the Robert Webb book I abandoned because it annoyed me, How Not To Be A Boy, while the woman next to me had the latest Paula Hawkins thriller. The woman who had been standing with her luggage in the doorway since Edinburgh despite there being spare seats had a book too but I couldn’t see what. I’ve noticed this on buses too. People stand in the aisle when they don’t have to. I spend my life navigating gaps between people. This makes it harder. Anyway, positivity. In this age where folk spend hours gazing into their phones and scrolling, actual real life books in folk’s hands are great to see. For what it’s worth, I read on my tablet and wrote in my notebook for a bit. I might take a book off my to-read pile just now when I finish this. Wherever I go on Saturday, a good book will come with me.

On my longest day, if I wasn’t working, I would go for a long bus ride and sit with a good book, maybe Muriel Spark. I would walk somewhere by the sea and eat fish and chips with a good view. The fish and chips would be served with salt and sauce and a can of Irn Bru. Original 38% sugar, naturally. It would be on the east coast or maybe Culzean. I would come back to Glasgow and the big city would be a culture shock after wherever I had been but it was still home. I would get the train home and I would fall asleep wondering just where I had found myself that day. Had I really gone that far? Luckily I’ve got Saturday for a day like that. I just need to figure out the wheres and the hows.

Digest: May 2018

That’s the end of May then. Another busy month and a whole lot of adventures. In May I’ve been to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Lothian twice and all the way to Crookston. A lot of travels have been football-related though some haven’t, not least the first adventure I had in May neatly packed into a lunchtime. I was in Glenburn, a suburb of Paisley, and over lunch I ended up going for a walk a little way into the Gleniffer Braes, sitting down on a bench with a considerable view across Paisley to the hills beyond. It was a new perspective on a place I am becoming increasingly familiar with.

On Saturday 5th May I went to Aberdeen to watch Hibs. I left fairly early in the day and read and listened to music on the way up. I went to the football then took myself out to dinner before going home. I was thinking about the Bank Holiday Monday which was coming and ended up buying Ordnance Survey maps for two very disparate bits of Scotland, the area around Hawick in the Borders and Elgin in Moray, before I boarded that bus to civilisation. As it turns out I didn’t get to either one.

The following day was lovely and warm and I had a lie in. After all I had been all the way to Aberdeen the previous day. Mid-afternoon I went out to Crookston Castle, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends, a series featured on this blog on Sundays at the moment. The place was fairly busy with people though that didn’t stop me enjoying the views across this bit of the world. Crookston Castle is within half an hour’s walk so I did just that. On the way back I finally made it to Rosshall Gardens where I wrote up notes and pondered a ruined boiler house in the grounds. I still need to write that bit of the adventure up.

The next day was Bank Holiday Monday and after much deliberation I ended up on the way to Edinburgh. I wanted to do a dry run for visiting Tynecastle that Wednesday so I proceeded in lovely sunshine into deepest darkest Gorgie, found where the away end is then swiftly came away again with no fixed agenda. I found myself at the bus station thinking about where to go and I just missed a bus to St. Andrews. There was a bus sitting bound for East Lothian and I thought briefly about Hailes Castle before eventually concluding I quite fancied a trip to Dunbar. On the way down I felt like going to Lamer Island, the Battery, which has featured here before and that was where I ended up after a turn around the harbour. I managed to find a connection to Crookston Castle and thus my visit also became part of the Loose Ends series. Alas time and train timetables meant I didn’t have long before I needed to head back to Glasgow.

No wonder I’m tired. The following night I went out for dinner. On the way we looked at some of the very fine street art which is scattered around the Merchant City.

Next night was the derby at Tynecastle, another item off my 30 Before 30 list.

That Sunday was the last game of the season and it was at Easter Road. I don’t have any end of the season traditions and when I left the ground, leaving through exit number 7 as always, I decided to go get fish and chips by the sea. That became North Berwick and after walking to a shop to get provisions, it became a walk around Aberlady Bay first. Aberlady Bay, for those who don’t know it, is a nature reserve with a long, deserted beach at the end of it. But first I had to cross Tranter’s Bridge, a wooden bridge across a burn named after the author Nigel Tranter who often walked there trying to think up ideas. The bridge, which I knew about but Google Maps didnae, features in Loose Ends soon too. The walk was beautiful but very warm. I ended up on the beach and to my slight surprise I ended up sunbathing for a bit. I don’t sunbathe. I think the sand that was still stuck to my body hours later when I got home is probably why. After that interlude I walked to Gullane then got myself to North Berwick for fish and chips, which were no’ bad, eaten by the harbour.

That Tuesday I was doing a work thing in Renfrew Town Hall, recently refurbished, and it is a fabulous building.

The next Friday I ended up in Edinburgh and went for a long walk along the Water of Leith from Leith to Murrayfield, ending up there on the bus home. Particular highlights of this walk were St. Bernard’s Well which was gorgeous in that light and the grounds of the two Modern Art Galleries in the Dean Village.

That Sunday I went to watch Partick Thistle play Livingston. Thistle got relegated.

I walked home from work the next Friday and walking over by Arkleston, there was a brief moment by the motorway when I could be fooled into thinking I was in the proper countryside.

The next day was Saturday and I was off. I went to Culross, via Dunfermline where I partook in some steak bridies for lunch. I was a bit too late for the Palace but I wasn’t heartbroken since I was able to wander in the sunshine, sitting and reading for a bit and looking at the many fine buildings. I went to Culross Abbey all too briefly and the Abbey ruins were great to explore on that beautiful day.

The next day I spent the day with my dad, bopping around central Scotland, starting in Linlithgow with a turn around the loch. We then drove the few miles to Cairnpapple Hill. From the cool but pleasant weather in Linlithgow, Cairnpapple was shrouded in haar. This made the experience all the more beguiling, other-worldly as we made our way round the henge with visibility only a few feet in front of our faces. Barely five minutes away in Torphichen, it was much clearer and sunny. We had lunch in Callander Park in Falkirk, looking over a duck pond. It was good to see the museum and park busy with people. Thereafter we drove across the Forth to Castle Campbell, one of the more atmospheric Scottish castles, with a walk through Dollar Glen an added bonus. Dollar Glen feels like something out of a fairy tale, or where trolls, goblins and nymphs should live. Castle Campbell is great, a blend of ruins and a fairly intact though restored tower house. Before dining in Linlithgow, we headed back to Cairnpapple Hill where it was now sunny and decent views could be had despite the haze. We first had to contend with some cows. A family were already there, reluctant to venture across the field. To slightly misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, we couldn’t go over them, we couldn’t go under them: we had to go through them. We succeeded and the perspective was well worth the close encounters of the bovine kind.

Monday was a bank holiday and I decided to satisfy an ambition and another thing on my 30 Before 30 list to boot. I decided to walk the route of the Glasgow Subway. On the hottest day of the year. I succeeded in 4 hours and 8 minutes from leaving Govan to getting back there. Tales of that adventure will appear here shortly. Afterwards I had a fleeting visit to Glasgow Cathedral, which will be part of the Loose Ends series after Culross.

That’s us for May then. On Friday it is Streets of Glasgow time and it is the final post of that series before hiatus, Addison Road. Loose Ends returns on Sunday and it is Lamer Island this time.

Before I forget, the Wednesday’s Child blog featured an interesting post recently about what constitutes being well-read. I said I would share a list of some books that have been important to me and these appear below. At some point I will go into greater depth as to why I like these particular books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

The collected works of Roald Dahl

The collected works of Douglas Adams

The Harry Potter series

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

Candide by Voltaire

The collected works of Kurt Vonnegut

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Nasty Women, the feminist anthology compiled by 404 Ink

Godless Morality and Looking in the Distance by Richard Holloway

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Tony Benn’s diaries

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Walking Talking takes a week off next week. That’s for practical reasons. As some of you might know, I’m doing an Open University degree and the exam for my current module is next week. I’ll have to revise. Exams aren’t good. I don’t see the point in them but that’s easy to say when I’m staring down the face of one.

The Easter Road West blog, my football outpost, goes to one post a week over the summer. The football’s finished! I know there’s the World Cup but I couldn’t care less about that. Anyway, May posts might have a limited shelf-life as I was writing about then-current events. The best post over there was the season review.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It is one of the nicest bits of blogging that sometimes lengthy digressions can occur because of comments or seeing just which random has liked a post today. Cheers, folks.

Posts in May –

Digest: April 2018

Causeway cliffs

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

Sunshine

Walking talking

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

The beginning

Flotsam and jetsam

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Shoelaces

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Millport

I have a list of thirty things to do before my thirtieth birthday, a bit over a year from now. Yes, really, I am that old. I have achieved a decent percentage of them now – buying expensive underwear, drinking an energy drink, wearing shorts in winter, getting an article published, attending a derby at Tynecastle, walking the route of the Glasgow Subway and walking across the Forth Road Bridge. Another item was ‘going on a ferry to somewhere new’. I managed it about a month ago. I went to Cumbrae. Now, for those from the west, that isn’t that exciting. Having grown up in the east, it was never on my radar. It happened on a stunning day at the end of April and keeping up a fine tradition, I got sunburnt, which last happened on a CalMac ferry to Arran.

Millport is a pleasant village at the southern tip of Cumbrae. It has low property prices and only one shop that could be found anywhere else on the planet. In short it is a place out of the Daily Mail or the 1950s. That doesn’t make it bad at all, quite the opposite. It is an hour and a half from here, served by SPT buses but it feels like another world. We went for a walk to one end then another, sitting by the harbour, looking out and across to Arran and Little Cumbrae. The Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in these islands, was rather nice too, a pleasant church with a labrynth etched out in the grass outside.

One of the main thoughts I had was ‘how have I never been here before?’ I’ll be there again, definitely. I was reminded that while I love the east, the Clyde has some incredible places around it and in it, Cumbrae not the least of them. I plotted a trip to Arran which has yet to materialise but that’ll happen too. It needs the right day, the right moment. For Millport it was that day.

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

From Aberdour there were a whole load of places I could have gone. I strongly considered Glasgow Cathedral, not only because I live in Glasgow and can reach the Cathedral in well under an hour from the house, though I decided I would try and get back there and decided on another place used as a setting in Outlander, Linlithgow Palace. It helped that I was overdue a visit and each time I passed on the train, I thought ‘I should go’. One Friday recently I did just that, rocking up there on a pleasant spring afternoon. As I walked up the hill, I gazed towards the gatehouse with the crests of four orders held by James V, the Order of the Thistle a possible connection with the High Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh. I walked around the side of the Palace. Every time I go, I always see something new. This time it was the buttresses on the eastern side of the Palace for I hadn’t ever walked under them before. That was swiftly remedied and I appreciated the new angle of the Palace from underneath. I also paid close attention to the angles and details of the exterior as I walked.

I headed on in and then downstairs first. I usually do each level of the Palace in turn, picking a corner and circling around. This time I fancied going down first, soon ending up in the kitchen downstairs, a possible link to the similarly big court kitchen at Dirleton Castle. I walked upstairs and around the Palace, stopping to eat my sandwich in the Great Hall, albeit in one of the big windows rather than at a banquet table set for the great and good. The bit of wind gave me an unusual sense of vertigo as I climbed the tallest tower, looking right out over West Lothian towards Falkirk on one side and the Forth Bridges on another.

Linlithgow and I have many personal connections too. I went there for camp when I was at primary school, once orienteering around the Peel in the snow and ice. I’ve been there with family and friends. I remember one time being there and my companion complaining of the many, many stairs. I wasn’t too sympathetic, as I recall. I’ve often said that Linlithgow is like Dunbar but with better train links. Linlithgow High Street has a few independent shops but less than Dunbar, the local bakers now shut too sadly.

Despite the connections to Dunbar, Dirleton, Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, I decided to go next to Stirling, handily reachable in under an hour so I could do two that day. Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow. I thought her father, James V, was born in Stirling, though I’ve since discovered he was born in Linlithgow Palace too. No matter, for Mary was crowned in Stirling, as was her father who also developed the Castle. It was Stirling for the next trip, which follows here in two weeks time.

This is the second post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The first was Aberdour Castle and the third Stirling Castle, which appears here in two weeks time.

Next Sunday there will be a Streets of Glasgow post which is Waterloo Street.

Causeway cliffs

I rarely watch TV as it’s being broadcast, preferring instead to delve into the bottomless reaches of catch-up and YouTube. The iPlayer is one of the great wonders of the modern age. One recent Saturday night, I watched a series from BBC Alba about the North Coast 500, a road trail around the bit of Scotland furth of Inverness. It was cracking so I looked for similar programmes. One was Coast Lives, from BBC Northern Ireland, about the coastline of Northern Ireland. I’m watching one of them now where the presenter is rafting under the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I’ve been to said rope bridge and quite honestly even though I have no measurable boating expertise I would prefer to raft under it than cross it again. Even on the beautiful, warm summer’s day I was there a few years ago, it was frightening with a definite sense of vertigo ensuing.

Coast Lives reminded me of a walk I took the day before. I was there on holiday with my dad about four years ago, just prior to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In fact we hit Glasgow as the Opening Ceremony was in progress. Anyway, that day we went to the Giant’s Causeway, getting the bus along the coast from Ballycastle where we were staying. It was cloudy but unbelievably warm. Indeed the following day the Giant’s Causeway was the warmest place in the British Isles, hitting the high twenties. We got to the Giant’s Causeway about 10am and sat there for a bit. It wasn’t too busy at that point of the day. It was beautiful, looking out to sea and marvelling at the rocks around me. A few years before, we had been to Staffa, off Mull, and the basalt formations are much the same. I don’t pretend to understand the geology. I just liked being there, watching the waves and contemplating life’s imponderables.

We ended up walking along the clifftop for much of the way back to Ballycastle, the cliffs darkening then lightening, the path hugging the cliffs then meeting a few interesting coves and harbours. We had been walking through the heat of the day and we eventually gave up and got a bus the rest of the way just short of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in a place called Ballintoy.

Northern Ireland gets a lot of tourist attention, mainly now because of Game of Thrones. Or that boat built in Belfast and sunk by an iceberg not in Belfast. When I see programmes like Coast Lives, or the BBC Alba one about the North Coast 500, I want to book tickets and go. This year might be more likely to get up north so I’ll just need to settle for the telly and my memories of the place, by the Causeway and on the walk back, even if the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge still makes me nauseous just thinking about it.

Thanks for reading. The next post here will be on Sunday and it’s part of the new Loose Ends series, this time about Linlithgow Palace. Tomorrow’s Easter Road West post is about going to Tynecastle on derby day.

Digest: April 2018

April’s over and it’s featured snow and sunshine, not always at the same time. I’ve worn a thick jacket and shorts, though definitely not at the same time. So, it’s Digest time, beginning on the tres, tres cold Easter Monday. I took a train into town and as it stopped waiting for a platform at Central, I took a photo of a warehouse in the process of demolition. I stopped off in Edinburgh and managed to source a Stephen’s steak bridie or two for lunch before getting the train down to Dunbar, where it was cold and windy. It often is there though it doesn’t snow very often. Despite it being baltic, I felt in the mood for a walk and ended up walking as far as Tyninghame, sheltered for much of the way by the woods and then heading inland up a muddy track. At Tyninghame I grabbed a bus up to North Berwick where it was even colder. I got a bus into Edinburgh and headed home. It snowed as the bus headed along the M8 towards Glasgow. At least two blog posts have resulted from the Dunbar walk, namely Dunbar in the snow and Defences.

The following day Hibs played at night and I was there. It was wet, I think.

That Friday I had a Glasgow day, with two Streets of Glasgow walks. I had the notion to do a Streets walk on Firhill Road, partly because of the cool mural I had heard about at one end of Partick Thistle’s ground and also because I had featured streets near the grounds of Rangers, Celtic and Queen’s Park but not the Sizzle. The Firhill mural is excellent and I’m glad I got there. On the way across town, I decided to put Streets on hiatus, not because I don’t enjoy writing it but because I felt it was time for it to take a break. The last Streets walk was deliberately chosen, Addison Road, which is near the Botanic Gardens. It started to rain as I came the other way and I hid out in the Kibble Palace until it dried off a bit. From there I wandered up Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane before walking into town along Woodlands Road and then Renfrew Street, which may feature in Streets when it starts up again. Owing to John Lambie’s death a couple of weeks ago, the Firhill Road Streets of Glasgow post has appeared on my football blog, Easter Road West, already. It will also appear here in sequence in a few weeks, with Addison Road appearing a week later.

The following Sunday found me out and about again though not with a great masterplan of where to go. When I was on the train into town, my eye fell on a poster advertising a Lego exhibition at Aberdour Castle in Fife, a place I like. I found myself trudging up to the bus station and then on a bus to Dunfermline, changing there for another to Aberdour. The Lego exhibition didn’t excite me a great deal as I would rather go and see places then see them represented in brick form. Aberdour is a cracking castle though with a painted ceiling and interesting gardens. It was also where the new Castle connections series was conceived – it’s since been renamed Loose ends, inspired by reading the poem ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid. The next post in that series will appear on Sunday 6th May. That day in Aberdour, though, I also walked down to the Forth and looked out towards Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Back to Fife the next Saturday as once more I didn’t have a grand plan. I found myself on a bus to St. Andrews though as I got closer to that fine town, I had a notion to check out a football match even though Hibs weren’t playing. My two options within distance were East Fife vs. Arbroath or Raith Rovers vs. Queen’s Park. The fact that St. Andrews was mobbed made the decision easier and I ended up on a bus out of there after a polite walk around the town streets. The bus to Leven, where I would have to change, had great views across the hills and then the Forth too as the bus came into Lundin Links and Upper Largo. I was bound for the San Starko to see Raith Rovers play Queen’s Park and I got into the Penman Stand just before kick off and in time to see Roary Rover, Raith’s mascot, dancing to Taylor Swift. Game finished 2-0, I wrote about it on ERW here. After the game I got the bus to Edinburgh, had a wander then had a very fine chippy sitting in the gardens on London Road.

That week I had an OU essay to write. It got written and I was even under the word count.

On the Friday I decided to go to Linlithgow as part of the Loose Ends series. Linlithgow Palace, like Aberdour, appeared in Outlander. It is also one of my favourite places on the planet and I was glad to wander about for an hour in the pleasant April sunshine. I had my piece sitting in the great hall. What I did which I had never done before was walk under the buttresses at the Peel side of the Palace, a new perspective on a familiar place. From Linlithgow there’s lots of connections though I decided to find another I could do that day and found myself on a train to Stirling. Stirling Castle is my favourite big castle in Scotland and it’s linked to Linlithgow by being where Mary, Queen of Scots, born in Linlithgow, was crowned. It’s also managed by Historic Environment Scotland, as is Aberdour. I was happy just to wander about Stirling, not bothering with the Stirling Heads and instead just looking out across central Scotland and beyond to some mountains.

The following day I went to watch Hibs decisively beat Celtic 2-1 on a warm sunny afternoon in Leith. After that I went for a swift walk around Morrison’s Haven, just outside Prestonpans. The sunshine was beautiful, the surroundings even finer. It was great to be there, even briefly.

The next Saturday, last Saturday, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock and I headed through a bit earlier to sit up Calton Hill to think, look and remember.

On Sunday I went to Cumbrae. We parked in Largs then got on the ferry. Millport is a very pleasant town and the sunshine just made it and the views to Ailsa Craig, Arran and Lesser Cumbrae all the more spectacular. The Cathedral of the Isles and its labyrinth were particularly interesting. I’ll write a longer post next week about it. I managed to get sunburnt, keeping up the fine tradition I have of getting burned in the most exotic places, like last year on the ferry to Arran or a few years ago at Lochleven Castle near Kinross.

So, that’s us for April. A digest for Easter Road West appeared last night over there. Easter Road West is my football blog, almost exclusively about Hibs. As well as the Firhill Streets of Glasgow post which I posted up there recently, I particularly liked writing the posts there about my first football game, after I found the programme in a shop, and also the one about autism published on World Autism Awareness Day. There’s a post there tonight about the fast approaching close season.

I try to keep up with other blogs and last night I was on the way home and read a post on FiveThirtyEight, an American politics blog, about posts they wish they had written. I think they in turn had nicked the idea from Bloomberg. In the Books post last week, I recommended Wednesday’s Child‘s post about bookmarks. Alex Cochrane’s post from the other night about Grangemouth is also worth a look. I like the way they write and their subject matter particularly, which is usually about lesser-spotted places and sights, always insightful and showing another side beyond the obvious. This Digest originated from Anabel Marsh’s monthly digest, the most recent instalment of which appeared the other day. She features a Scottish Word of the Month and included a fair few synonyms for being drunk, including my personal favourite jaked. I drop in a few Scots words here – indeed I wrote a post in Scots here not so long ago – though the only one I can share off the top of my head is ‘fleein’ which can also mean drunk.

The next post here on Walking Talking is about the Northern Irish coast and that will appear on Friday. Loose Ends appears this coming Sunday with a post about Linlithgow Palace.

As I was revising this post last night, news came that the Glasgow Women’s Library, which I visited and wrote about last year, has been nominated for the Art Fund Museum of the Year, alongside Brooklands Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, the Postal Museum and Tate St. Ives. It is brilliant that GWL are nominated for this award. GWL benefits the city and the wider world by its mere existence, let alone the fine work it does. Hope they win.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Trongate

Some thoughts…

Digest: March 2018

Manchester and Liverpool

Streets of Glasgow: University Avenue

Dunbar in the snow

Defences

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge

Streets of Glasgow: Kelvin Way

Castle connections

Some blethers

Leith Walk the other way

Streets of Glasgow: Bath Street

Crossing the road

Books

Streets of Glasgow: Dundas Street

Castle connections

This is the first of a brand new occasional series here on Walking Talking, Castle connections. It will hopefully get a better title but it will have to be alliterative. The idea came one Sunday when I was at Aberdour Castle in Fife. The notion to go to Aberdour had come on the train into town. As I got off, my eye rested on a poster advertising a Lego exhibition at Aberdour Castle. In that moment an aimless day was changed with a walk up to the bus station bound for the Fife riviera. I’m a firm believer in things being connected, keeping in mind John Muir’s credo that ‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe’. A lot of historic places in Scotland are connected, by their owners, geography or events. This series will go from place to place, finding a connection between one place and another, started on a train in suburban Glasgow and ending somewhere as yet unknown.

Aberdour could set off a few connections. The dovecot in the orchard could take me to another place with a dovecot, like Dirleton, Tantallon or Phantassie in East Lothian, while I know there’s an orchard at Elcho Castle in Perthshire. The painted ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms could send me to Huntingtower Castle near Perth, which has a cracking one, or even to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The ceiling is incidentally best viewed by lying on the floor and Historic Environment Scotland to their credit provide torches and blankets to assist in that endeavour. Another connection can be drawn through the TV series Outlander which I still haven’t seen. A board described Aberdour’s use as a filming location in the series, along with Blackness Castle, Doune Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Glasgow Cathedral. I also know Craigmillar Castle was used, since a photo from this very blog ended up in a guidebook for Scottish Outlander locations the other month.

I am a big history buff, even trying to find time to study it through the Open University, and I’ve been going to historic places since I was a kid. There’s not many castles I haven’t been to in Scotland, though there must be some. I passed one in Fife just the other day that I had never seen before. I hope that in this series I’ll be able to get to a few new interesting places and not a few familiar ones too, finding whatever makes them tick and what will take me on another adventure thereafter.

Update: The series has since been named ‘Loose ends’. That was inspired by reading the poem ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid, which has the lines:

‘So I have gathered unto myself

All the loose ends of Scotland,

And by naming them and accepting them,

Loving them and identifying myself with them,

Attempt to express the whole’.

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge

Quite a few years ago, I was in South Queensferry one Saturday and had the notion to walk across the Forth Road Bridge. I got to the bridge and only got so far, indeed I was still over land, when I decided to chuck it. The height might have had something to do with it, possibly the constant traffic. All I knew is that I couldn’t do it and off I went for a bus back into Edinburgh.

Fast forward to the other week. I made a list of thirty things to do before my thirtieth birthday, which is in 16 months from now. Most of the items on the list are little personal touches, places to go, things to do. I achieved four in fairly quick succession though it’s not a great rush at this stage. I was talking about the list with my dad and I mentioned that one of the targets was to walk across the Forth Road Bridge. He was up for that and thus it was that one bright spring Sunday morning we were on a bus out to Queensferry.

Since the last attempt, the Forth Road Bridge had been supplanted by the shiny new Queensferry Crossing a little way west. The new bridge now carries the majority of traffic, the old bridge mainly the preserve of buses. This made walking up by the old Forth Bridges Hotel quite eerie, some punningly-named gritters parked by the road. I still felt anxious as we started to walk. It was a bright morning with very little wind. I knew that nothing much could happen to me save some freak event right out of a disaster movie. The path was one of those dual-purpose ones with separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. The cyclists got more room, which as a committed pedestrian I grudge. I felt safest roughly in the middle and that’s pretty much where I stayed the whole way across. I had some jitters and went very quiet just before our feet left dry land. Some deep breathing and keeping my eyes straight propelled me forward.

What also helped was the location. We were on the eastern walkway which was closest to the greatest bridge on the planet, the Forth Bridge, the original and best. As we walked on, I could see both the Fife and Lothian coastlines, Edinburgh and beyond to North Berwick Law. In the other direction, though I tried not to look that way too often due to the slatted gap between the walkway and the road, was a clear view up the Forth, including to Blackness Castle cradling its promontory a few miles down river. I got more comfortable the further we got, grateful for the good conditions and that the bridge was perfectly still throughout. That there were loads of joggers, walkers and cyclists going in both directions gave me precious little comfort. Below the central towers of the bridge were lots of padlocks that people had left to signify their love or whatever. It only made me think the force of all those locks must be doing the bridge some damage. I’m of the ‘leave only footprints, take only photographs’ school of travelling though I balked at taking a selfie as some signs suggested.

After about 45 minutes or so, we came back over dry land and we were duly welcomed to Fife by the inevitable road sign. Remarkably the first wobbly bit I had was walking down steps from the bridge towards North Queensferry. We ate lunch under the Light Tower. I had only been to North Queensferry for Deep Sea World, a muckle aquarium which sits by the Rail Bridge, though I knew that the village itself is pretty, not least the Light Tower designed by Robert Stevenson in 1817. A ferry ran across the Forth for eight hundred years until the Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964. The Light Tower was built to aid mariners and travellers in that endeavour. It was poky inside but I could get up to the light itself. Right by the light was a pair of binoculars, left by the local community to aid nosy visitors who might want to look out to sea. I desisted as I was happy to geek out being in a real-life lighthouse.

Now and then it’s good to do things that scare you. If we didn’t keep a sense of adventure, life would be horrendously dull and this blog would be about my collection of cats. (I don’t have any cats. I don’t like cats.) Having said that, I’m in no great hurry to walk over the Forth Road Bridge, or any other big bridge, again any time soon. I’ve done it. The views were great. I didn’t piss my pants. It’s all good. But I’m happy to travel across it on the bus in the future, content in the knowledge that even if I did walk it again, I and the bridge would both survive the experience.