Loose Ends: Dunfermline

It might astonish you to learn that these posts actually have a bit of preparation behind them. I usually write notes and then work from those and the photos to get a post together. This one’s notes were actually written sitting on a step in the Abbey Nave in Dunfermline, under those pillars architecturally interesting as ever and reminding me in style of Durham Cathedral. The last Loose Ends post was the National Museum of Scotland and that could lead virtually anywhere. In the end the link between NMS and Dunfermline was that Edinburgh is the current capital of Scotland and Dunfermline was once our capital. Plus Edinburgh was the birthplace of King James VI (I of England) while Dunfermline was where his son Charles I was born, as I was reminded at the gate of the Abbey. Usually I just go to the Abbey Nave though this time I also went to the Palace, once the Abbey’s guesthouse until it was taken over by James VI’s wife, Anne of Denmark, and became an expansive palace even if it was only used for a brief time. There were connections galore as I walked around, indeed in the gatehouse is a display of gargoyles and other features with photos of other places with similar things, including Linlithgow and Aberdour visited in this series already. All sorts of links were coming to mind, Charles I leading to Oliver Cromwell and the Cromwell Harbour in Dunbar. Anne of Denmark would lead to North Berwick and its witch trials. Mason’s marks would lead to Rosslyn Chapel with the Mason’s and Apprentice’s Pillars. Graffiti in the Palace reminded me of the fine graffiti on the walls of Crichton Castle in Midlothian. Indeed the only place that I hadn’t been to before was Brechin Cathedral, mentioned in the gatehouse display.I had forgotten how good the Palace is in Dunfermline, a secret staircase leading down to the range and vaulted cellars. As I took my leave, the same guy was still bending the stewards’ ears about the Picts as when I had gone in.The Abbey Nave just makes me smile, sprays of coloured light just like Durham Cathedral with chevron pillars and the rest. It is braw. There are also examples of pre-Reformation decoration and fine carvings. My hay fever was particularly bad that day and my sneezes echoed high into the ceilings. The cellars of the Palace and the Abbey Nave itself were perfect for such a warm day and I sat there for a bit, scribbling notes and just looking around. Behind me in the Abbey Church was the grave of Robert the Bruce, making me think of trips to Melrose where his heart is buried or Dumfries where he killed a rival in a church. In the meantime I just sat and looked, feeling momentarily at peace amidst the ancient stones, at the centre of Scotland and its past revelling in where I was and where I might be another day.


Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. Elsewhere in the blogosphere today is a post from my other blog, Easter Road West, all about Paul Hanlon’s testimonial.

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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

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

The original plan was for the next Loose Ends post to be St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The last one was Glasgow Cathedral so it was a straight link between churches and patron saints. When I got to St. Giles, however, I had a quick turn around and that did me fine. I don’t know what it was, there were a few ideas percolating around but I think I was scunnered by being asked to pay £2 to take photos, which I grudged. I was planning on going to the National Museum of Scotland anyway, just up the road on Chambers Street, and just as I walked down George IV Bridge past the National Library, it started raining for the first time in what felt like weeks. I still had to find a connection between Glasgow Cathedral and NMS, though, coming up with their managing agencies both being part of the Scottish Government, that both are free to get into and they also have bits about the Reformation.

NMS and I go way back. I grew up in East Lothian and a lot of visits to Edinburgh involved a trip to Chambers Street, either to the old museum with the fish ponds or the new one, which opened in 1998 and covers Scotland. To this day I still call the Scottish bit of NMS the ‘new’ bit despite it now being in its third decade and the ‘old’ bit being spruced up and new. I don’t get there as often any more, living in Glasgow and all that, and a trip is a bit of a treat now. A lot of it is very familiar and I headed to some favourite bits straight away, starting with the Kingdom of the Scots with the Monymusk reliquary once used, or so they say, to carry the relics of St. Columba into battle. After that I looked up to a painted ceiling once in a big hoose in Burntisland and then left to some Pictish stanes. I covered bits of the ground floor, going into the other bit for the Millennium Clock and a lighthouse lamp from Inchkeith Lighthouse that I can’t help loving to photograph. I like the object wall you can see from the Grand Gallery, each bit seemingly random but interlinked somehow. The wall features rockets, Buddhist sculptures, sewing machines and railway station signs.

Back in the ‘new’ museum I made sure I had a look at the Arthur’s Seat coffins, the section on lighthouses, trains and the big Beam Engine on the third floor. At the Reformation display, revision for me for an upcoming exam, an American woman was opining about Martin Luther, her man confessing he knew hee haw about Luther. I wandered, feeling happy to be in a familiar place, still learning but thinking all the time about connections for this series. A piece of petrified wood links to John Muir and Dunbar. The lighthouse lamp could take me almost anywhere on our coastline, though Barns Ness came to mind at that moment. The painted ceiling could even take me back to Aberdour, alternatively to Huntingtower Castle not far out of Perth. The beam engine might take me to Kilmarnock, where it worked, or Prestongrange where an engine still exists, albeit not in use. One of the locomotives on the fourth floor was built in Leith, quite an historical place in its own right. To be fair to NMS, it has connections and links to many parts of Scotland and the world, in many cases drawing attention to other places to visit, even other museums in the case of Skerryvore in Tiree and the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh. I thought about the Riverside Museum here in Glasgow or even Summerlee in Coatbridge, good places both, good possible connections too.

There are many people who would argue that Scottish culture is skewed towards the central belt and Glasgow or Edinburgh in particular. I used to think NMS was but walking around it for this visit changed that view. It gives a good account of Scotland and how we see the world, a good starting point that inspires wonder and travelling once more.

Abbotsford, Melrose and chips by the sea

I didn’t know how I would spend Saturday, not even as I got ready. Ultimately I decided to head east. Edinburgh is well-connected from Glasgow and from the capital you can get to quite a lot of nice places. On the train from Queen Street, I decided on the Borders. I made a social media post to that effect and very soon after I got a suggestion of where to go. Abbotsford, Walter Scott’s house, was not far from Tweedbank station and ticked a lot of my boxes, history, architecture and books. My original plan was Melrose Abbey but that could wait for a bit. To my eternal discredit I had only been on the Borders Railway once since it had opened. I got on the train in Edinburgh and soon the train passed through gorgeous rolling countryside. One of my favourite bits of Berwickshire is the stretch of the A1 from Cockburnspath to Ayton with lots of trees, prim villages and rolling fields. The Borders Railway from Gorebridge south is much the same and I spent much of the journey just looking and relishing being in such a fine part of the world.

Tweedbank soon came and I found myself in a housing estate. The walking route to Abbotsford led along suburban pavements and by a nice pond with ducks, swans and an Innisfree-esque tree island in the middle. I ended up at a roundabout and naturally I walked the wrong way around it, though soon I came onto the right path towards the visitor centre. The Abbotsford Visitor Centre is a recent creation and I was soon relieved of a tenner for the house tour before being let loose on the exhibition. I half-expected to be irritated but I actually liked it greatly. It didn’t shy away from the rougher bits of Scott’s history, such as his nearly going bankrupt or indeed how he was to some extent a collector of stories and poems much like Burns, and it covered his life in a neat balance of text, images, interactive gadgets and actual, genuine objects and manuscripts.

The foyer at Abbotsford was stuffed full of gear, suits of armour, curiosities and coats of arms. I was handed an audio tour and within seconds realised that some of the wood around the walls came from Dunfermline Abbey, making this a definite link for my Loose Ends series, in which Abbotsford will feature some time in July. I spent the most time in the library, which was beautiful, nicely decorated but not overdone, with views to the Tweed if one was bored with the books. I did think of building a fort and staying just a while but I think they might have noticed at some point. I’m not much fussed with audio tours so I abandoned it after a while, just looking and reading. There was a good exhibition about Scott and JMW Turner, including how Scott didnae trust Turner. They made up in the end. There was also an interesting board talking about when Scott was a sheriff in Selkirk and how he administered the law, contrasting that with his literary interest in outlaws.

A quick turn around the Chapel, which had links to Cardinal Newman (heavily involved in the resurgence of Catholicism in England in the 19th century), and I was back on the road, this time bound for Melrose. Being heavily laden with hay fever, the beautiful sunshine walking by the Tweed was seen through a cloud of snot and tired eyes. It was still lovely, though, even if I cursed the guy going along on his little tractor cutting the grass. I reached Melrose via Darnick and its pretty church. Over the way, by the rugby ground, was the shows and they were busy with folk enjoying the sunshine. It’s a bit weird looking at a grand church with a pop song about not being your homey nor your ho going on the background. Being a sports ground aficionado, I took a polite interest in the rugby ground, what I am advised is called the Greenyards, before walking on to the Abbey.

I’ve been to Melrose Abbey a few times. Dryburgh Abbey edges it for me but Melrose really got me this time. Every little detail as I looked up and round was drunk in, the beautiful day just perfect to take photos, stand and stare. I went up to the tower and looked out over miles, to the fields, hills and the Tweed stretching out both ways, though I couldn’t quite see all of it all the way to Berwick. As I stood there, I thought about where next. I thought about Kelso Abbey but time was against me. The train back to Edinburgh beckoned.

Closer to the capital I thought about where I wanted to eat. I wanted a chippy but wasn’t keen on being back in the city just yet. I ended up on the train to North Berwick and sat down the harbour with a chippy. NB will never be my favourite place in East Lothian – I’m still too much of a Dunbar boy for that – but sitting at the harbour looking over the calm Forth to those islands and the Bass, as I consumed my sausage supper liberally slathered in salt and sauce, I can concede there were many worse places to be. I walked a little way along the beach past the statue of the man with the binoculars. The Bass Rock was white with seabirds and even as the time neared 8pm, the beach still had a few folk on it. I had to think of heading home, a couple of hours still between me and my bed yet.

The trains were quiet thankfully, the perfect antidote to Saturday Night Glasgow, never the most appealing prospect at the best of times. My brain turned from freeform, working on the fly to timetables and concentric city streets, though not for long as I just got myself home, happy for where I had been and the ideas of just where to go next.

Thanks for reading. Walking Talking returns on Wednesday with a post about visiting Glasgow.

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.

Different routes

I live in suburban Glasgow. I can go many different ways into the city from here including at least three by bus or I could go by train since I live between two stations on the Inverclyde line. If I walked a mile or so, I could choose the Paisley Canal line too. Plus if I really felt like it, I could just walk, as I did one day in February, doing the Streets of Glasgow walk along Govan Road along the way. Just over the railway from here is the mighty M8, Scotland’s busiest motorway running from Greenock all the way to Edinburgh. As I’m not a motorist, I’m seldom on it. In fact one of the last times was a late night taxi ride from the town after I missed the last train. The curves, dips and rises of the motorway are familiar to many folk but feel strangely exotic to me.

The other day I was heading from Renfrew into town. From there I could have gone into Paisley then got on the train or a bus via Govan or Partick. Instead I decided to change at Braehead where most buses seem to go at some point. I could get either an express or one of those lovely stoppers. Just as I rocked up at Braehead, a Stagecoach express from Ayrshire pulled up and I got on, happy to see it was a double decker. As is mandatory on such vehicles, as written about here, I headed for the top deck. The bus was soon on the motorway, making good progress through the evening traffic. What I hadn’t expected was the different perspective on the passing surroundings, places I see every day, the top deck putting places to names on a map and generally providing a great vista across the city. I could see to its high buildings poking holes in the sky or just to the bridges along the Clyde as the bus crossed the Kingston Bridge and curved along at middle floor level onto Bothwell Street, suddenly on a city street and soon time to get off.

Whenever possible it is worth taking a different route. I’m lucky that to get many places from here, I can choose almost as many ways to do it. That’s also true between Edinburgh and Glasgow where there are no fewer than four different train routes plus the 900 bus along the motorway. Last weekend I was on my way back from the football in Edinburgh when I reached Waverley and discovered that the trains to Queen Street via Falkirk were disrupted. I looked along the departure board and saw that there was soon to be a train for Ayr via Glasgow Central and I headed for that. Instead of Linlithgow Palace, Falkirk and the Campsies, I got Carstairs, Motherwell and Lanarkshire. That isn’t a bad thing. The line via Carstairs is beguiling, brooding and interesting: a wide open landscape often closed off by low cloud. Every time I’m in the French art room at Kelvingrove, there’s a painting of a house set on a moor that reminds me of that train journey. Never knock a diversion.

Most of the time I’m in a travelling routine, spending a lot of life on McGills buses or ScotRail trains. Even picking a First bus or a different train can make the difference and guard against complacency. There’s always something new to see, even if it’s just a different glaze on the old and familiar.

Loose Ends: Tranter’s Bridge

After the last game of the season at Easter Road, I had no set plans of what to do after. It was a beautiful sunny day in the capital and as I walked with the crowd down Hawkhill Avenue, I decided on a trip to the seaside. Further on, I decided that while I would ultimately end up in North Berwick for fish and chips, I would head first to Aberlady Bay with its secluded beach just perfect on this warm May Sunday. I realised, though, that the place I had in mind, Tranter’s Bridge, wasn’t on Google Maps. I could picture it, the wooden bridge curving over a burn, though Google wasn’t playing. Eventually I realised it was between Aberlady and Gullane so headed to buy some provisions then for the bus to Aberlady, soon entering my home county and following through Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Longniddry before hitting the coast road, probably the finest road in Scotland with its views to Edinburgh, the Pentlands and Fife.

I alighted in Aberlady, a pleasant village with an old kirk, and followed the road to Tranter’s Bridge, where a newlywed couple were getting their photos taken on the bridge. I waited by looking at a nearby plaque which affirmed that was indeed Tranter’s Bridge, named for the late historian and author Nigel Tranter who lived nearby and was often inspired by his walks in the East Lothian countryside. There was a quote etched on it which talked Tranter never failing to relish the ‘unending sigh of the waves…the calling of the sea-birds, the quacking of mallard and the honking of the wavering wild geese’. I stood a moment and as I sometimes do read the words aloud, savouring the cadences and imagining this figure wandering through the nearby nature reserve. I could see hints of Arthur’s Seat back in Edinburgh, more of Fife with tankers sitting tight in the Forth, while I could hear seabirds right enough with some geese in a pond nearby that I saw a few minutes later.

Eventually I crossed and took my time, looking left towards the Forth and right up the burn as it curved towards Gullane. As I walked I realised that it could be another Loose End since it connects with Lamer Island in Dunbar in at least two ways. The bridge is on the John Muir Way, the long distance footpath that leads from Dunbar through Aberlady eventually to Helensburgh on the Clyde. Also, I grew up in Dunbar and I did a Nigel Tranter book, The Story of Scotland, for a school essay once. If you want to go more substantial, I not only grew up in Dunbar but there’s a clearer link between me, John Muir’s Birthplace and one of its volunteers who was a big Tranter fan and often talked about him to me.

Towards the dunes I thought more about how no two walks in this place would ever be the same. I’m sure Tranter would have found that too and it would have coloured his writing as this beautiful day stilled me in ways I cannot begin to put into words. There it was possible to experience Scotland’s past, present and future in one sweeping vista, the Edinburgh skyline steeped in history and raising it skywards, Fife and the wind turbines at Burntisland as well as the moment I was currently living, seeing it all but just being there, setting one foot before another, thoughts slow as my steps up the dune to the beach.

Loose Ends: Lamer Island

The last Loose Ends post took me to Crookston Castle, not far from where I live in Glasgow. This time I ended up in Dunbar, where I grew up. I was going there anyway when I realised that Lamer Island, what I know as the Battery, would work as another strand of the Loose Ends series. Crookston Castle was used a lookout during the Second World War while Lamer Island was used as a war hospital during the First World War. Plus with Dunbar Castle being across the harbour it is possible to get another link with Mary, Queen of Scots, this time through her husbands, Crookston being held by the Darnley Stewarts, the Earl of Bothwell once the Captain of Dunbar Castle.

The Battery was originally built in the late 18th century to defend against a potential French invasion. It now forms part of the Victoria Harbour, built in 1842 to support a growing fishing fleet. Lamer Island was a sea defence then a hospital before eventually becoming derelict, which is as it was when I was a kid growing up nearby. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group have done a good job revitalising the Battery, putting up some interesting interpretation boards and art installations. When I got there on a hot Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, the place was busy with families. There was a wee bit of haar out to sea, the Isle of May not visible while the sea was a wee bit choppy. I was happy just to wander and look out for a while, the Battery’s raised position affording incredible views across the new and old harbours towards Barns Ness, St. Abbs Head, North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock and Fife. There were boards with apposite quotes about North Berwick Law, the Bass, May and St. Abbs Head, including my personal favourite about the old proverb of boys coming from the Bass Rock and girls from the Isle of May. I also liked the Marion Corbett quote:

‘When haddocks leave the Firth o’ Forth,

An’ mussels leave the shore,

When oysters climb up Berwick Law,

We’ll go to sea no more’

In short, persevere, as they say in Leith.

There were a lot of birds on the surrounding rocks, I’ve never been sure of the names but maybe a puffin or two to go with the usual kittiwakes and gannets nesting on the Castle rock.

Another link came to me as I looked at another of the boards, which noted that cannons had been plonked on the Battery during the Napoleonic Wars, soon returned to Edinburgh Castle. As I took the train back towards Edinburgh I thought about others, the fact that girls come from the Isle of May might not take me to the May, as delightful as it is, but to the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library. That I could see two lighthouses might send me to George Street in Edinburgh, the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board, or across town to the National Museum of Scotland, maybe even the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses up the coast in Fraserburgh. A couple of streets away from the Battery is Writer’s Court, perhaps a prompt to go to the Writer’s Museum in the capital. As ever, I will wait and see where the mood takes me, from a castle high over a city suburb to another bedecked in birds’ nests to somewhere as yet unknown.

This is the fifth post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The last instalment, last week, was Crookston Castle.

Lamer Island has appeared on the blog before, in DefencesDown the harbour  and The Battery.

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