Dublin Street is a street I’ve often walked in Edinburgh, often at the start or end of a New Town derive. It leads from Queen Street down into the New Town. The day I was there the place seemed to be held up by scaffolding, scattered on quite a few buildings. There wasn’t any on the dolls’ houses I’ve often admired in a property management office nor on the shop bearing the name of my last favourite punctuation mark, the ampersand. That shop looked fine enough and I walked on, stopping by the Stac Polly restaurant. I reflected that until recently, due to restrictions, Edinburgh had felt as remote and unreachable as Stac Pollaidh itself, all the way up beyond Ullapool. The unbridled joy I had felt of being able to go more than a few miles had turned to tears at the time the First Minister had announced the changes in restrictions and more than once since. Posters for Nicola Sturgeon’s party covered a window ahead as I stopped at the top of Dublin Street, turning to look back down across the city and towards the Forth, one of the better vistas our capital offers and an invitation to adventure in more ways than one.
It feels particularly apposite to write about the Union in a week when very big Union flags have been in the news but this is about the far nicer prospect of the Union Canal, not the antics of certain clowns down at Westminster. It feels only right since I wrote about the Forth and Clyde Canal last week. The Union Canal runs from Fountainbridge in Edinburgh through the west of the capital and West Lothian out to Falkirk. I mostly know the Edinburgh section as far as Slateford, where it meets the Water of Leith, a waterway covered here a couple of weeks ago. The last time I was along there was a year past October when I walked along part of the Canal to Meggetland where the Hibs and Hearts development teams were playing. I think I walked part of the Water of Leith walkway first and remember going through Gorgie on the way. The aqueduct at Slateford is particularly fine – it runs adjacent to the railway and over the Water of Leith – and there’s a set of stairs leading down to the Water of Leith from the Canal. Fountainbridge has been poshed up in the last twenty years or so with offices and restaurants scattered around the side of the canal.
I was just thinking about the Forth and Clyde and Port Dundas which is in Glasgow. Port Hamilton is the name of the area of Edinburgh at Fountainbridge and I wondered who Hamilton was. It was the Duke of Hamilton of the day, of course, and the Port there was built from 1818-1822, so Canmore tells me, to support Port Hopetoun, which was closer to Lothian Road. Canals were much more important then for industry and commerce at a time when railways were much more limited and roads were much less reliable. Port Hamilton was more for coal, while Port Hopetoun had a broader range of things going on. Port Hopetoun was filled in during the 1920s and its site is now a cinema.
As I said, I don’t really know the Union Canal outside of Edinburgh aside from its western terminus at the Falkirk Wheel. That even includes the section in Linlithgow, a town I know quite well. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to remedy that soon, especially since the John Muir Way runs by the side of the Canal in that part of the world. I realised just now, looking at a map of the John Muir Way, that I do know the Union Canal as it passes over the Muiravonside Country Park near Linlithgow – the same place where I learned what an aqueduct was. I always thought aqueducts were cool, a wonderful effort of engineering. Thankfully there’s quite a few along the Union Canal, making it of architectural interest, as much of history and natural beauty in many parts.
Thanks for reading. A piece about the North Sea will follow next week.
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.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night. It’s been much milder the last couple of days and the snow has melted, which even for me is a good thing. As this is being written I will probably be having a lie in before watching the football later. It’s been a long two weeks since Hibs were last in action, too long.
I’m in one of those modes where I’ve started a whole bunch of books but haven’t finished any of them yet. At current count, I have Nick Hewer’s autobiography, Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie, Rob Roy And All That by Allan Burnett and an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland read by Alan Bennett. I think Alice in Wonderland will be finished first – it was a decent soundtrack for cleaning earlier – and it’s got about 45 minutes left. Nick Hewer is the outgoing host of Countdown, soon to be succeeded by Anne Robinson, and his memoir is arranged by letters rather than chronology. Snapshot I’ve written about before and Rob Roy And All That is a Horrible Histories-type book about one of Scottish history’s foremost figures and one I don’t know much about.
The other night I was catching up with The Sunday Times from the weekend, which featured 32 Scottish walks, one from every local authority. East Lothian’s was Aberlady Bay and Gullane Point – one of the finest walks in Scotland – and Edinburgh had the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill, also very fine. Dundee has the Law from Discovery Point and I’m also familiar with Falkirk’s, involving the Falkirk Wheel and the Antonine Wall, and Castle Campbell and Dollar Glen in Clackmannanshire. All of these are historically interesting, picturesque in many cases. Glasgow featured the street art in the city centre. Don’t get me wrong. We have some incredible murals and street art in Glasgow but we also have many, many fine parks, some of which are lesser-known than others. There are fine views right across the city from Bellahouston, the Necropolis, Tollcross and the Forth and Clyde Canal, amongst others. We have rivers and burns, castles and much else besides, all within the boundaries of the largest city in the nation.
About a year ago I was in London for a few days. It feels like much more than twelve months have passed since I was there. I’ve been binging Hidden London Hangouts produced by the London Transport Museum, featuring discussion of old and disused Underground stations and other transport locales in the metropolis. It’s a really innovative way to fulfil their remit and it includes those of us who don’t get to London very often but remain interested in its hidden places.
Another interesting article I read was by the mighty Mary Beard, talking about witchcraft and abuse on social media. There’s been too many stories lately about folk getting abuse and even death threats on social media, including footballers and football managers, academics, politicians and people trying to share interesting things and thoughts. It honestly eludes me why people would prefer to vent and cause harm rather than just switching off their devices or scrolling on when things annoy them.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. It’s appreciated. A post about the Tweed will be here on Wednesday though I’m running out of rivers I have enough to blether about. Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Until then, a very good morning to you all.
Since this was written, I can confirm that Rob Roy and All That was finished first. Alice as read by Alan Bennett has been dispatched too.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday night with ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ on in the background from the iPlayer. Much of Scotland has had snow this week. We in Glasgow had a few inches and it is beginning to thaw as I write this. Pavements and roads are slippy as the snow has compacted or iced over. It has been perishingly cold as well, the kind of cold which tingles the ears. I haven’t had a haircut since November and unfortunately that means beanie hats rise up and fail to cover my ears for long. I bought two new ones last week which fit my quite large head but still rise up to avoid covering my ears. There was proper snow here, the kind which is deep, fluffy and falls in great quantities, and it wasn’t even the first snow of the winter. I didn’t see a lot of snow growing up by the seaside so I still get a bit of excitement when there’s snow, even if the aftermath of ice and slush isn’t so great.
There have been a few cool photographs of football grounds covered in snow this week. The third best football team in the land, Hibernian FC, shared a picture with the hallowed Easter Road turf covered in the white stuff, while there was a very cool drone photograph showing Dumbarton’s ground, whose current sponsored name I forget, with the Castle Rock and the Clyde in the background. The C and G Systems Stadium is the name of Dumbarton’s ground, incidentally. I also watched a Footy Adventures YouTube video featuring Cathkin Park in the snow too. I’ve not been to Cathkin for a few months and I don’t think I’ve ever been in the snow either. Next time, maybe.
Dumbarton Castle is a fine place. It has incredible views across Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, the Clyde and much of western Scotland. I should have mentioned it in my post Clyde the other day. Dumbarton has a trig point at the top as well as a panel showing the distance from the castle to other major landmarks, like Ben Lomond, Glasgow University and the since demolished Singer factory in Clydebank, if memory serves. Those panels often appear in high places, like at the Robertson car park in the Gleniffer Braes Country Park above Paisley, with directions across Scotland towards Berwick and Carlisle as well as more locally to Lochwinnoch, Glasgow Cross and Dumbarton Castle, naturally enough. I only went to the Braes for the first (and second) time last year and the views from up there are incredible, 600 feet up, a great place to watch planes if you’re of a mind or spot landmarks if you’re happier on the ground, like me.
Traditionally I make mention of the fact that tomorrow, 14th February, is Valentine’s Day and write about how that day should celebrate love in all its forms, including for landscapes and treasured places, rather than alienating people who may not have romance in their lives or indeed may not want it and bombarding the rest of us with saccharine bollocks. All that’s true so I won’t repeat it. Whether you spend tomorrow alone, with a loved one, or whatever, have a good one.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. I’m not sure what I’ll be posting on Wednesday but it might be about the Tay, since I’ve written about rivers the last two weeks. Until then, cheers just now.
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.
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 this final instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, a connections adventure around Scotland but done on a screen. By the time this is posted (I am writing this in late June 2020), it might be possible to visit some or more of these places once more.
We left off last time at the Girl With A Backpack statue on Cumberland Street in the Gorbals in Glasgow. Along the street is a set of sculptures by Liz Peden of three boys wearing high heel shoes out in the street, based on a famous Oscar Marzaroli photograph taken nearby. I rather like the photograph and have a postcard of it beside me as I write.
Also close by is a mural of the Gorbals Vampire. The Gorbals Vampire was an urban legend of a creature who would come from the Southern Necropolis and come after children. The mural is of a more recent vintage and adorns an arch under a railway.
The DPM park is in Dundee, near the Hilltown and the football grounds. It is a legal graffiti spot, adorned with some amazing and creative art. I believe art can be found everywhere and can be created by virtually any means, be it a paintbrush or a spray can. DPM stands for Dundee Pasteurised Milk, which used to be made on the site. Nearby, incidentally, is a great mural of Oor Wullie talking about mental health, which is well worth a visit too.
Firhill Stadium is the home of Partick Thistle FC, the only team in Glasgow as they often proclaim. The only one in League 1 at the time of writing, certainly. They have a cool mural on the wall which leads up to the Jackie Husband Stand at Firhill, which features fans, a ball and general football scenes. It links with the DPM Park not only because of the art but also because the DPM is near Tannadice and Dens Park.
Brown’s Lane in Paisley also features street art and indeed art relating to football. St Mirren won the Scottish Cup in 1987 and this feat is depicted on the wall in Brown’s Lane as well as musicians, since the Bungalow music venue is nearby, and much else besides. It’s worth exploring the street art in Paisley but particularly the lane.
Another place which depicts the Scottish Cup is the Famous Five Stand at Easter Road Stadium, home of Hibernian Football Club who won the 2016 Scottish Cup. I don’t think I mention that here enough. A panel featuring club captain Sir David Gray and Lewis Stevenson lifting the cup hangs on the side of the stand. The Famous Five Stand is at the northern end of the stadium, built in 1995. The Famous Five were a notably successful forward line for Hibs during the 1940s and 1950s, comprising Gordon Smith, Eddie Turnbull, Willie Ormond, Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone. The Hibernian Historical Trust has done a lot of work showcasing the history of the club around the ground and the lower concourse of the Famous Five has a plaque about James Main, a Hibs player in the 1900s who died of a ruptured bowel the day after being kicked in the stomach during a game.
On the open-top bus route when Hibs win a trophy is the statue of Queen Victoria, which stands at the bottom of Leith Walk outside what used to be Woolworths. The statue is one of very few of women in the capital. Indeed there are more statues of dogs than women in Edinburgh, which surely, surely should be remedied.
Victoria and her husband Albert gave their name to a museum in Kensington in London, which in 2018 opened a branch dedicated to design…in Dundee.
That’s Virtual Loose Ends. Thanks so much for reading. I’m not sure what will be here next week but something there will hopefully be. Until then, keep safe. A very good afternoon.
Welcome to another instalment of Virtual Loose Ends. This whistle-stop tour is a virtual connections adventure around Scotland. We left off last time at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow. We will continue, by dint of geography, at the Hunterian Museum, part of the University of Glasgow. The nearby cloisters featured in the post last week but I was clever enough to be specific about the place. The Hunterian Museum is one of the oldest museums in Scotland, the collection of William Hunter featuring art, anatomy and geology amongst other things. The Hunterian is particularly old-fashioned in its design with a balcony and I’m fond of its old-school anatomy charts. There is also the Art Gallery across the road, which has an excellent collection of Scottish Colourists.
Cramond Island is an island in the Firth of Forth, accessible depending on the tide over a causeway. It has some World War II-vintage defences including triangular defences across the causeway. I’ve been there a couple of times though always make sure I look up the tide times lest I be cut off. It happens a lot.
Considerable views can be had from Cramond Island towards the north of Edinburgh, Fife and along the Firth of Forth, including to the Forth Bridge. There are three bridges at Queensferry, the new Queensferry Crossing, the Forth Road Bridge and the real thing, the Forth Bridge. It is one of my favourite structures in the entire world, metal and overdesigned but gorgeous. Sadly I don’t cross it very often any more but I always feel my spirits rise when I see it or indeed cross it.
On the same railway line is the Tay Bridge, opened in 1887. It was the second railway bridge to cross the Tay, of course, with the first washed away in a storm in 1879, which, as William McGonagall noted, ‘will be remembered for a very long time’. From the Dundee end it is possible to see stumps from the old bridge, running almost parallel to the 1887 bridge. It winds across the Tay from Wormit right to the centre of Dundee. On a particularly long train it is possible to see the other end of the train out the window as the train turns into Dundee.
The Clyde Arc is rarely called that in Glasgow, instead being called ‘the squinty bridge’ because it looks like an eye. It passes from Cessnock to Finnieston, near the BBC and STV on the southern side, the SEC on the north. It was built in 2006 as part of a continuing redevelopment of the riverside area in the city. The Arc is a handsome structure and adds considerably to the cityscape.
Along the Clyde is the People’s Palace, the museum of the people of Glasgow. Its displays about how people lived and thought are excellent and the video of Glaswegian comedy is always worth a look, particularly for Parliamo Glasgow.
Outside the People’s Palace is a more recent addition to Glasgow Green. Our city and country was changed utterly by migration, particularly because of famine in Ireland and the Highlands. An upturned boat and plants stand amidst some interpretation boards and the names of families and places on the path.
That’s another instalment of Virtual Loose Ends done. Next week we will continue a little way away and continue towards some castles. Until then, keep safe. Bye just now.