Towering over Restalrig

Not too long ago, I thought this blog was getting too east coast, with more of Edinburgh, Fife and East Lothian than anywhere else. Then Streets of Glasgow happened and it got all Weegie. To get a bit of balance in this here establishment, let’s go east.

Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, the arena used for much of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, is in the process of redevelopment. The other day I saw a couple of photos online which had been taken from London Road, about fifty years apart. The one taken recently featured the velodrome while the other showed the old Meadowbank, once the home of Leith Athletic, which used to stand on the same site. The one common feature of the photographs was in the background, a tall, red tower which stands to this very day in Restalrig Drive. I went to primary school around the corner from it and the tower was a familiar part of my childhood landscape. Indeed it is prominent over much of eastern Edinburgh, visible from the East Coast main line too as it passes nearby. I took myself down there recently and from the street, right by the building (now flats), it is not possible to actually see the tower. From up the street, though, I could see the remnants of the letters ‘MUNRO’ on the centre of the tower. When I was at school, the factory was occupied by the tartan peddlars Kinloch Anderson. According to Canmore, Historic Environment Scotland’s very fine database of historic places, the factory was built in 1910 for Munro and Co. Ltd., makers of hosiery and waistcoats. The tower was in fact a water tower owing to the factory being higher than sea level. It shut in the 1990s, about the time I was in primary school, funnily enough.

When you’re a child, your reality is what’s normal, even if others would dispute it. I was lucky to grow up by the sea and have a good primary school experience. I didn’t realise until recently how the area I went to school in was actually really interesting. own the way is St. Triduana’s Chapel, which I wrote about recently and still haven’t been to, and over the hill is the Craigentinny Mausoleum, a little bit of Greece in a perjink suburb of the capital. It is always worth looking over that next horizon and keeping your eyes open. What you see in your neighbourhood might be familiar but it shouldn’t stop you from being curious or from just stopping to look up.

Thanks for reading. My other blog, Easter Road West, also has a post tonight, about reading on the way to the game. Walking Talking‘s next post is a Streets of Glasgow post, this time Duke Street.


Maps and memorials

I don’t normally post on Thursdays but decided to make an exception for today since it’s International Women’s Day. Rather than write an earnest diatribe about how women are great (which they are), I would like to share something I saw earlier on Twitter. It also fits in with something I wrote about in the Streets Govan Road post recently about the lack of statues of women in Glasgow, though today there is one more with the unveiling of the Mary Barbour statue in Govan, which seems to have been well-attended. Sadly I couldn’t make it though will get down to see it ASAP. The Glasgow Women’s Library, Women’s History Scotland and Girlguiding Scotland have joined forces and produced a website called Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland featuring a map of memorials to women all across this land. It combines at least three of my favourite things: history, maps and facts.

Elder Park

I had a quick scout around it earlier and there are loads of different spots around. Nearest to my house is Elder Park, which I wrote about recently here, donated by Isabella Elder to the folk of Govan. Around where I grew up is the Witches’ Stone in the village of Spott near Dunbar which I have read about but not yet seen. Witches seem to recur a lot around the country, including the marker on Maxwellton Street in Paisley where witches were once burned. There is also a statue in Civic Square, Tranent, by where the Library used to be, which commemorates the Tranent Massacre in 1797, a protest against conscription.

Marjory Bruce cairn, Gallowhill, Paisley

I only had a few minutes so kept to those places I have a connection with, mostly East Lothian, the east of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Near where I went to primary school in Edinburgh is St. Triduana’s Chapel, part of St. Margaret’s Parish Church, Restalrig. I’ve still not been, though at some point I’ll manage it when in the capital. I used to work in Haddington and across the road from its library is the house where Jane Welsh Carlyle was born, the wife of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and a fine letter writer in her own right. In Renfrew, there is the monument to the air ambulance, which is by Tesco in Broadloan, and not far away in Gallowhill is the cairn with a plaque marking where Marjory Bruce died after falling from her horse. The plaque to Jane Rae, who was involved in the Singer rent strikes, which sits in the garden at Clydebank Town Hall, is also on the map.

I could easily spend hours looking at this. Now I’ve reached home, I’ve looked a bit more. I just wanted to share it. It was created in 2011 but I only saw it today. I’m glad I did. Go have a look.

Digest: February 2018

So, that’s February then. We are nearly into the spring, the nights are drawing out all the time and that’s always a good thing. I wrote most of this post, including the first couple of sentences, as the month went on rather than in a burst, as I normally do. Today, Wednesday 28th February 2018, sees a red weather warning across the Central Belt for snow and ice, which extends into tomorrow too. Presently it is extremely cold outside, well below freezing, and not much adventuring is happening at the moment. Or much of anything else really. Heed the warnings, keep warm, keep safe. So, it’s a good time to run through where I got to in February.

Saturday 3rd February saw me visit London. It nearly didn’t happen because I slept in but a new ticket later and I was on the way to Euston. I walked across to the British Museum and had a very decent couple of hours working my way around the crowds to see that place’s many fine artefacts. The rest of my day was spent walking, from Kensington to Marble Arch through Hyde Park and then along the Thames from St. Paul’s to Westminster. The journey home was complicated by trains not running out of Euston, necessitating a train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh then changing, which worked out well in the end when I eventually got home about midnight. I left London at 5.30. Despite that it was a very good day, free-form and nice just to rove. I wrote about it here.

The following Friday I headed into town to do a bit of shopping. I then undertook three Streets of Glasgow walks in the cold February sunshine, on Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I wore shorts for the whole affair too, which was part of the 30 Before 30 list. It wasn’t as cold as it is today, around four degrees, which was greatly beneficial for my legs and other nearby parts of my anatomy. I am relatively self-conscious about how I look though in the end I came to not care at all as I marched up Argyle Street in my shorts, the only one in sight. I liked these Streets walks particularly because they were in largely unfamiliar terrain, though my favourite was Duke Street due to the considerable variety in architecture, modern, Victorian and Greek classical.

Saturday 17th February Hibs played Aberdeen. I got to Edinburgh a bit early and took the scenic route to Easter Road, via Leith Walk and Easter Road. Hibs won comfortably.

The next day I spent around Glasgow with my dad. Being out before anywhere was open, we headed first for a walk by the Clyde through Glasgow Green. The Green was playing host to a running race organised by an LGBT charity. When it opened, we went to the People’s Palace, which had a good display about Mary Barbour and the rent strikes. Thereafter we headed to the Lighthouse, which I had never been to before and enjoyed immensely, except the shoogly staircase up to the tower. There was also an exhibition about timber buildings, which I liked. We also went to Kelvingrove and the Botanic Gardens.

Beyond that, the rest of the month I spent living quietly, working mostly, reading, writing and keeping warm. Wednesday 28th February I was due to go watch Hibs play Hamilton at Easter Road but the bad weather happened and the game got postponed. That’s why I had time to tidy up this post and get it out tonight rather than the planned post of views from the top of the Lighthouse. That appears on Friday.

This month I also launched a new blog, Easter Road West, which is about Hibs, going to the game and the general experience. I like having the variety. The ERW posts this month were Welcome!Eastern CemeteryAway daysThe tellyGetting beatWhen the game is mince and Thoughts on the weather and the national team. The one I particularly recommend to the Walking Talking readership is the one about the Eastern Cemetery, which sits behind Easter Road.

One of the posts here this month, 30 Before 30, was about a list I’ve come up with of 30 things I would like to do prior to my thirtieth birthday, in about 18 months time. In each digest, I will update on how many I’ve achieved. In February, I achieved 4, three of them on the same day.

I also have an article coming out next month in the next issue of Nutmeg, about being an autistic football fan. It’s out in the middle of next month.

That’s the February digest. In March, I will be on some more adventures, definitely for Hibs games. Thanks to all readers, commenters, followers, particularly for everyone who responded to the 400th post, the one in Scots. Have a nice month.

February posts –

Digest: January 2018

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

400: How Ah talk, written doon

30 Before 30

The London caper

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

Hamilton Mausoleum

Going underground

A day trip experience


Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

Gazing across a map

Coming soon…

Robert Louis Stevenson

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson statue, Kelvingrove, Glasgow

A few years ago, there was a BBC Scotland series called ‘Writing Scotland’, which included a vignette with the artist and author Alasdair Gray, he of Lanark. He said that he and a group of friends once half-seriously thought of replacing the statue of Walter Scott underneath his monument in Edinburgh with a memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m not much of a fan of Gray but I could sympathise with this notion. Stevenson and Scott were vastly different writers, both producing a vast array of books about a whole host of things. Sir Walter Scott appears on banknotes as well as having the aforementioned muckle rocket ship-shaped monument in Princes Street and also Abbotsford near Melrose. RLS has to make do with a bit of the Writers’ Museum, a grove of trees in Princes Street Gardens and a plaque on the corner of Drummond Street and Nicolson Street, just off South Bridge. I spotted it a few years ago and then promptly forgot about it until the other day when I was in the area. I wonder just how many students have been inspired by it.

As it is, I haven’t read all that much of Stevenson’s work. I wrote recently about wanting to read more of Muriel Spark’s work and she is at the front of the queue. Beyond Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, read in my teens during my ‘working through the school library classics’ stage, right after I read James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, I haven’t read so much of RLS. But I hope to some time, perhaps while I still am a student but hopefully not when my heart is down.

Some words I’ve written are going to be published in Issue 7 of Nutmeg Magazine, the Scottish football periodical, namely a piece about what it’s like to be an autistic football fan. I’m very proud of it. Print copies of Issue 7 will be available from the Nutmeg website in mid March for £10 or you can download it for £3, again from the website. I do read Nutmeg and there are usually very interesting articles about the past, present and future of Scottish football. I usually read and re-read each issue, A particular highlight of the last issue was Daniel Gray’s piece about taking his wee girl to the football, indeed to a game I was actually at, Hibs vs Dundee back in November. It’s quite dizzying to see words of mine in print anyway, let alone alongside those of some well-respected people. When it’s out, have a read.

Also, Easter Road West has a new post today, which is about when football games are mince.

Coming soon…

Sometimes this blogging lark can be a bit of a blur. I am a fairly prolific writer though at the moment my writing is divided between two blogs, other projects and stories. I have been writing more for Easter Road West lately, my blog about Hibs, though Walking Talking has become a wee bit more disciplined with posts scheduled in advance and a Streets of Glasgow post ready to go each Sunday until Easter. The post I planned to put here tonight was about Ordnance Survey maps but I was reading it over and I decided to ditch it. Sorry. Instead I’m just going to blether a bit about what’s coming next.

At the moment, I’ve undertaken 27 Streets of Glasgow walks, of which 22 have been posted here so far. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the rest, one each Sunday. In order, they will be Queen Margaret Drive, Mitchell Street, Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I don’t have any others planned in the near future though I have some notions percolating around my brain.

Streets was conceived to try and understand my adopted home better. I have thought about branching out and writing about Edinburgh, a city I know well, or even doing one street in each of Scotland’s seven cities, seven of course being the most magical number. Dundee’s was going to be Commercial Street, incidentally, Edinburgh possibly Constitution Street, down in Leith. The problem is that while that would be fun, Streets is about Glasgow and figuring it out. I can do a derive in Edinburgh any old time and I did just that the other day.

Having undertaken 27 Streets walks, I don’t have any great insights about Glasgow. Peter McDougall said that Glasgow is not a geographic site, it’s a state of mind and I broadly agree with that. There are many different Glasgows, just as there are several different Edinburghs. There is the PR version, the one of the city skyline, a cone on top of a statue and the pure dead brilliant-ness. There is the Glasgow which is rough with immense poverty and considerable differences in life expectancy from one end of a street to another. The city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow’ and it’s true, the side that makes the tourist brochures and that which really doesn’t.

What has worked with Streets has been spending more time exploring the city, looking up, looking down and writing about it. I like writing the pieces and I have a well-honed routine. Not long after I finish the walk, I scribble some notes about it. Sometimes I’ve thought about the piece along the way, particularly on the longer walks, but normally not. I usually come home and that night I write up the piece, which usually comes through reading back my notes and looking at my many photographs taken along the way.

Anyway, enough of me. Here are some photos of the walks that will appear here soon, beginning with Queen Margaret Drive.

The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
West Regent Street
Mitchell Street
Duke Street

Gazing across a map

If I am running a little late in the morning on the way to work, I usually have to walk a wee bit further to get a bus, to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, to be precise, about a mile from the house. The QEUH is served by a lot of buses, with no fewer than four bus stops outside the main entrance of the hospital where it is possible to get a bus across most of the west of Scotland. On each of the bus stops is a map, produced by SPT and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which shows where the buses all go. It is sort-of like a circuit diagram, vaguely paying attention to geography but more focused on clarity and concision, much like the London Underground map. Now and then I look at it and trace out bus routes I have covered in the city, usually realising I’ve been to most of them over the last few years. I still harbour the notion of going on the 90 or the 3 around the city but I would probably have to pack enough provisions for an assault on Everest.

I like maps, particularly schematics like the bus or Tube maps. I get lost in them for a while, planning future adventures and reliving old ones. Very often working out ideas is as good as the actual experience itself.

I was looking at the Edinburgh bus map earlier and it has become significantly more complicated in recent years with Lothian taking over lots of new routes plus the addition of the trams. It is an absolute mess. Strangely it is actually easier to navigate the capital’s public transport network in person than figuring it out with the map, even with Leith Street being shut and the roadworks at Haymarket. Edinburgh is a wonderful city but it is an absolute nightmare if you desire a simple life.

The London Underground map is rightly a design classic and Transport for London have capitalised on that, putting it on duvets, wrapping paper and notebooks, amongst many other things. I sincerely hope there isn’t London Underground map underwear or condoms or something. (Having just looked up the London Transport Museum shop online, they actually do sell London Underground map-themed boxer shorts, for the mildly reasonable sum of £8.99. They don’t sell condoms, yet.) Anyway, I don’t visit London that often but when I do, I usually use the Tube to get around, not least because it is supremely logical and the stations often have a lot of character architecturally. Looking at the map just now, I seem to have been on quite a few of the Underground’s various lines, including the Northern line when I made a special pilgrimage to Mornington Crescent. I wrote about that a wee while ago here. I don’t think I’ll ever get round them all but it’s nice thinking about it all the same.

Mornington Crescent

A schematic map doesn’t need to be strictly accurate, as long as it makes sense. The whole process of planning an adventure, particularly the best adventure, involves a bit of order but a whole lot of not being exact and just plain winging it. When I want to plan an adventure, I invariably have to be somewhere else but the planning is always worth it, even if I won’t actually get to set sail in the other direction that day, that month or even that year. One day it will happen, even if it is just in my mind as I gaze across the map.

400: How Ah talk, written doon

This is the 400th post here on Walking Talking. After much deliberation, I decided to go down the Dewey Decimal route. At some point soon, I will write a post based on a kind suggestion about 1618, also known as 400 years ago. For those uninitiated in all things Dewey, it is the system used to organise many libraries around the globe. Subjects have a number with many more past the decimal point to make it all very precise and specific. 400 is language. Recently I saw a Tweet encouraging more folk to write in Scots, the words of this country and the people who live here. In that spirit, and fitting with the 400 theme, here’s a post written entirely in Scots.

Ah dinnae write much in Scots. It’s the way Ah talk, ken, it’s the way Ah hink tae but when tryin’ tae be understood, Standard English wi’ an inflection an’ a smatterin’ o’ the right wurds is usually the way Ah roll. The other day, Ah saw a Tweet fi the poet Thomas Clark who said that writin’ in Scots ‘keeps ye honest. Staps ye fae gan aff on wan. An we coud aw dae wae a bittie mair honesty’. Ah dinnae disagree. A difficulty Ah huv writin’ in Scots is that there is nae standard version o’ Scots. Wurds ur different fi toon to toon, even bits o’ toons. The wurds Ah yaise ur maistly fi where Ah grew up in East Lothian, even wi’ the nearly five year Ah’ve spent livin’ in the Weege. Guid Scots wurds that appear in Scots editions o’ books tend tae need a glossary even fir folk like me since there ur many that didnae make it doon the A1 tae Dunbar. It wis like the Scots edition o’ Harry Potter an’ the Philosopher’s Stane wi’ characters, street names an’ even the names o’ the hooses in Hogwarts changed. There’s a case fir translatin’ but there’s also a point when it’s just no’ needit. Glad they did the book, like, but it wis still stupit. We should scrieve the way folk talk, the way folk hink, no’ workin’ a’ the time oot the dictionary. There’s no such hing as standard Scots an’ that’s fine wi’ me. Take the different versions eh The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. There’s The Gruffalo’s Wean but ‘wean’ is a Weegie word. Ah say ‘bairn’. Hence the many different editions, the Orkney or the Dundee Gruffalos. Thon Dundonians, though, they speak Martian, a’ the pehs, circles, clubbies and ingin yins an’ a’. Ma point is that there is a danger o’ makin’ these hings too standard. Language is ever-changin’, ever-evolvin’ an’ it should remain sae.

There ur loads o’ guid books in Scots that folk should read. Yin o’ the best books Ah read last year wis Hings by Chris McQueer, written largely in pure undiluted Weegie. One o’ the maist famous Scottish books o’ the last thirty year wid be Trainspottin’ by Irvine Welsh, which has nae shortage o’ Edinburgh wurds, sayins an’ mannerisms in it, plus a fair few mentions o’ the Hibees tae. While the crime writer Stuart MacBride writes mainly in English, his books are aye fu’ o’ the Doric tae, even decipherable for those o’ us whae live south o’ Perth. Harder tae figure oot is The Tartan Special One by Barry Phillips, a wonderfully funny novel written in Dundonian and publishit by Teckle Books, a wee publisher whaise Dundonian pride is right there in their name. Writers like Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Nan Shepherd, Jessie Kesson, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead an’ loads o’ others bring Scots intae whit they write an’ their work is much better fer it. An’ us tae, like.

When Ah write like this, Ah usually end up wi’ a muckle grin on ma puss fi the pure pleasure o’ it. Ah write stories much mair than Ah write blog posts. Mair dialogues than anyhin’ else. They help me work through life an’ hink a bit tae. Yin character Ah love writin’ talks like Ah dae, ken, usually wi’ much swearin’ as again Ah often dae an’ like a hairy-arsed engineer fi the Pans wid. He speaks a hail load o’ sense an’ while Ah dinnae write him very often, Ah’m always gled Ah dae, fir the way ma pen rattles across the page. Like Thomas Clark said, it keeps me honest, plus it’s braw to write intae the bargain.

Ah wrote a bit here aboot Muriel Spark recently. She spent her latter years livin’ in Tuscany (as yeh dae, ken) but she wid huv tae come back tae Edinburgh every noo and again tae git the voices back in her heid, the inflections, wurds an’ everyhin else fi’ the folk o’ the capital so they could make her books mair authentic. Ah live in Glasgow an’ some Weegieisms huv crept intae how Ah talk, maybe even how Ah write, but Ah’m aye gled tae go tae the fitba an’ hear the right kind o’ voices a’ aroond me as we a’ watch the Hibs. When Ah git through tae Dunbar, that bit further east o’ Edinburgh an’ that bit broader tae, it’s a relief tae hear folk speak proper, even fir a wee bit. As Ah travel back hame, the wurds change wi’ each passin’ mile, goin’ fi braw an’ muckle tae ra champion, pure dead brilliant an’ wan insteid o’ yin. The wurds ur important an’ it’s guid noo an’ then tae hear yir ain an’ even read it on the page rather than it bein’ lost, tae me an’ everyone else.

Digest: January 2018

January’s over and done with already. Mostly I’m relieved. There was a whole lot of snow and ice in January and getting about got a bit difficult as I slipped and slid around the place. Still I managed a few adventures and a fair few of those were around Glasgow.

The first business day of the year, Wednesday 3rd January, I was still off and I decided to head for Buchanan Bus Station and get on the first bus that tempted me. I had been thinking Dumfries but the St. Andrews bus pulled in first and a few minutes later I was on the way to Fife. Somewhere between Glenrothes and Cupar, I decided to have a quick wander in St. Andrews and head for Dundee and go home from there. It was cold and windy in St. Andrews and I took a turn around the streets then went to Dundee. I walked up to the McManus (above), which was quite busy with an event though I managed to dodge most of it by judicious choices of which galleries to visit.

That Saturday Hibs weren’t playing and I decided to head for Dunbar, which I had planned to visit during the Christmas holidays. It was cold and windy but I had a good, long walk, on Belhaven beach, through Winterfield Park and around the two harbours. The waves were incredible, at various points falling high over the harbour walls.

The following Friday, I rose late and decided to go to Kelvingrove before doing a Streets of Glasgow walk. Kelvingrove was fine as ever as I walked around the French art room and spent a few minutes with my favourite painting, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart. In the end, I did three Streets of Glasgow walks that day, Sauchiehall Street, Cumberland Street and George Square. The first two had been planned for a while, the third was spur-of-the-moment. Of the three, Cumberland Street was my favourite, due to the public art and architecture of the St. Francis Centre.

Durham is one of my favourite places and I was there that Sunday, spending a while in the Cathedral before wandering by the river. It was a deep pleasure to be there, good for the soul.

I am off two Fridays a month and both of them this month have been Glasgow-based. Friday 26th it was a bright, cold day and I decided to do another Streets of Glasgow walk up Govan Road, which I enjoyed immensely. I walked into the town, intending to do another walk in the East End though got diverted up Miller Street. I decided to head on the bus to the West End and had the bright idea to do another walk, this time on Queen Margaret Drive. I went after that to the Hunterian Museum, which was being set up for an evening event so I didn’t linger. Yet another Streets walk followed back in the town, this time West Regent Street, complete with the smell of fish. I went home after that, this time by train as my feet were throbbing.

That Sunday I went to Edinburgh and did some more walking, in Leith and then around the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links and back into the city centre.

Wednesday 31st, Hibs played Motherwell. I was there. It was good to be back at the football.

Well, that’s the condensed version of January. February I am due to go to London. I would imagine I will be other places too. No doubt some of those adventures will appear here in due course. As ever, thanks so much for reading, commenting, liking and sharing. Sunday’s post will be the Streets of Glasgow post about George Square. Have a good month.

Posts this month –


Digest: December 2017

Natural light

The day when the trains stop

Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street

Walking on the waves

The last train

Streets of Glasgow: Nelson Mandela Place

Not the best castles in Scotland

Durham Cathedral

Streets of Glasgow: Sauchiehall Street

London notions

Role models

The May

On the way to the dentist

Walking, talking, blogging

Streets of Glasgow: Cumberland Street

Streets as obstacle courses

Buchanan Street, Glasgow

Being autistic has its moments. Sometimes it has its advantages, other times it can be an absolute bastard, to use a technical term. A lot of my life can be about keeping on an even keel, not getting too overwhelmed or indeed too underwhelmed, as sometimes happens. Some of the most difficult moments can be just walking along the street, trying to figure out a route along the pavement, weaving between people and other obstacles. Sometimes I get it right, other times very much wrong. When in doubt, I tend to walk around people and things, usually at a wee bit of speed as I walk a bit fast. I do that naturally, though, despite now and then just feeling uncomfortable and wanting to get through the city as fast as I can.

An example of a particularly difficult time was quite recently. I was doing a couple of bits of business in Glasgow city centre one Saturday lunchtime before heading for the football in Edinburgh. To get between the bank and Queen Street Station required walking up Buchanan Street. On a Saturday afternoon. In the space of a few hundred yards I not only had to get through a crowd of people but also to duck and weave between charity muggers, communists, performance artists, leafleters and poppy sellers, as well as a choir singing Christmas carols in early November. Of those, the least objectionable were, remarkably, the communists. I took off at top speed, deploying my very best negative body language, and soon reached my train. I just concentrated on moving through all the people, though I also took out a pen which I kept in my hand and clicked for the part between St. Vincent Street and West George Street. I landed in a seat on the Edinburgh train and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Walking along the street involves very quick decision-making, usually with a mix of instinct and systematic choices. I try to keep my head up but I am usually looking around for gaps in people so I can get through. I usually yield to others, even when I don’t really have to. Being quite polite and also walking fast tends to make that the most pragmatic approach.

In an ideal world, I would simply travel at times which are quieter. Or have crowds part like Moses parting the Red Sea as I approached. I lack that power. That’s probably for the best, to be honest. Sometimes I just have to get on with it, making my way through, around or occasionally over. Being autistic does have its moments. As well as making getting through cities difficult, though, it also gives me the sense of curiosity that makes me walk down streets on quieter days looking at architecture. There’s always a reason I’m there, just as there are thousands of reasons other people have chosen to be there at the same time, and we end up co-existing, albeit, thankfully, briefly.

Not the best castles in Scotland

VisitScotland recently released the results of a survey about castles. The headline figure was 49%, the percentage of people from the UK who haven’t been to a castle in Scotland. Of those who had been to a Scottish castle, Edinburgh was voted the most recognisable, closely followed by Balmoral. The best castle in Scotland is apparently Edinburgh, followed by Stirling then Urquhart. I’m only sharing this just so I can dismiss it. Edinburgh is a recognisable place, fine. A fair proportion of people in these islands have never been to Scotland. Probably even more haven’t been to a castle in Wales, for example, or even England. Big wowsers.

The big one for me is best castle. My favourite big castle in Scotland is Stirling. Edinburgh Castle (shown above, from Craigmillar) is busy and not really that interesting. Urquhart is perfectly fine but there are nicer lochs in Scotland than Loch Ness. There are certainly nicer castles. Instead of Edinburgh, go to Craigmillar; swap Stirling for Doune; instead of Urquhart, how about Inverlochy Castle? That’s without trying. Craigmillar has lots of ways round it. Doune has been in a Monty Python film and Outlander as well as being beautiful. Inverlochy sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis.

As a public service, here is a list of some amazing castles you should go to in Scotland instead of Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart:





St. Andrews

Castle Campbell





These are of course ruined castles, the kind I like. Boring National Trust castles with scones and tartan tat and that, they are the kind that tend to be more popular. A lot of our ruined castles are also in nicer settings than a lot of the NTS ones, with the notable exception of Culzean, which is rather stunning.

Of the list I gave above, Caerlaverock (shown above) is probably my favourite, despite three of the others being in East Lothian. Caerlaverock just looks like a castle. It has loads of towers, different lodgings, interesting decorative architecture, a moat, an old bit in the woods. It’s not far south of Dumfries. It is quite reachable from most places in this country, especially from Englandshire. I’ve been there a few times, most recently in 2016. It is the closest castle in Scotland to something out of Disney, with the possible exception of Kilchurn or Eilean Donan.

Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart aren’t bad places. It’s just that there are better castles in Scotland, beyond the Central Belt and beyond the A9. Go out and see some. You’ll be glad you did.