Loose Ends: John Frederic Bateman monument

Edinburgh gave way to Milngavie. As I stood by Mugdock Reservoir, I realised that the monument to engineer John Frederic Bateman, a plaque on a slab, linked just fine to the cairn on Calton Hill, a monument by another name. Bateman was given the task of sorting out Glasgow’s water supply, a task ever more urgent as the city grew in the 19th century. 26 miles of aqueducts and tunnels link Loch Katrine with Mugdock, quite a project. It was opened in 1859 by Queen Victoria. I was there on a beautiful sunny day and the monument didn’t attract too many glances. The surroundings are beautiful, right enough. Mugdock has since been joined by Craigmaddie Reservoir, established barely two decades later as the city grew still more.

Craigmaddie Reservoir

Quite a few links could result from the monument, back to Glasgow or through water. In the end the next connection came just a few minutes later, in a burst of civic style.

Thanks for reading. The next Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.



Saturday Saunter: Cumbrae, ferries and hay fever

Good morning,

Saturday again. As this is posted, I will probably be out and about somewhere. I am in the midst of a long weekend and tomorrow I will be going to Edinburgh for the last game of the season as Hibs play Aberdeen. It is Tuesday night as I start this post and as of yet, I don’t have any plans for the weekend beyond the football.

Last Sunday involved a walk around the island of Cumbrae. It was a beautiful sunny day and I ended up very red as a consequence. The walk was brilliant, relaxing and varied. Every few hundred yards the view changed, from Largs up the Clyde to Bute, Arran, Little Cumbrae and back to Largs again. My feet were lowpin’ by the end, mind. Walking is wonderful for clearing the mind and despite Cumbrae being ten minutes from the Scottish mainland, it could have been a lot further. There was only the occasional car for most of the route. More often we were passed by cyclists and even walkers, which is a novelty for a person who walks as fast as I do. We were also passed by quite a few yachts and even paddleboards. The eastern side of Cumbrae is home to the National Watersports Centre, funded by sportscotland, and it operates various courses to teach folk how to sail. I’m told they’re great. The folk on the water certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. The land was just fine for me, though.

Going on a ferry feels like going on holiday, regardless of the distance. The trip down to Cumbrae gave me notions to go on other ferries in the west, not least the run across to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay. I like Bute and the view to Mount Stuart from Cumbrae was very tempting. I’m not bothered about going into Mount Stuart again – I’m not a big stately home kind of guy – though the grounds are gorgeous and I would like to explore more of the island while I’m at it. A turn across to Arran would be good too as I would finally like to get to Lochranza Castle, maybe even go around the island as so far I haven’t ventured beyond Brodick. This might be a quest for my football-less Saturdays in the coming weeks.

Wednesday night now and I’m starting again with the aid of caramel digestive biscuits. It’s been quite warm here the last couple of days and I’ve been working so enjoying the sunshine hasn’t been possible. That’s probably fine since my sunburn has cooled, I have epic hay fever and I don’t massively like the sun anyway. The hay fever hits this time of year and it is grass and tree pollen this weather. All the fresh cut grass and seeds, they just make my eyes and nose go. This has been a runny nose day, which is especially mortifying in a public-facing job. Plus the heat which as a pale east coast person is making me generally a hot, sticky mess. To be fair I’m that in most weathers, except less hot.

I am considering a trip to Dumfries this weekend. I’ve only ever done the bus down there once and it broke down, somewhere on the outskirts of Dumfries. I remember standing by the side of the road waiting for the replacement bus to rock up. The journey down was quite pleasant, only stopping at Hamilton, Lesmahagow and Moffat, as memory serves. Lesmahagow is a splendid name for a town. Also on that road is the Forest of Ae, which has the shortest place name in the country. Come to think of it, I may try and visit Ecclefechan, the birthplace of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle. Ecclefechan is an interesting name and ‘eccle’ is ecclesiastical, meaning religious, and ‘fechan’ suggests it may have been the place of the church of Fechan. Wikipedia suggests that may be a good assumption though it may just be the place of the small church in Brythonic. More than likely it would be a trip to Dumfries and a wander to explore that town. I don’t know it very well, which I can’t say about a lot of places in Scotland anymore.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with the theme body image, a very topical subject. Tonight I read that the National Museum of Scotland has a new exhibition opening next week called Body Beautiful discussing bringing diversity into fashion, with all sorts of bodies represented. It opens on Thursday 23rd May and it’s free. I am overdue a trip to NMS so I will try and have a look in the next few weeks.

Sticking with the mental health theme, this morning I saw a clip on Twitter which resonated with me. It included, of all people, Prince William, the Earl of Strathearn as he is known in Scotland, talking with some insight about being bereaved at a young age and how people should talk about their pain and grief. I am no fan of the Royals so it’s unusual for me to praise their work. All power to Prince William for speaking so openly and honestly about what is a horrifically difficult thing to talk about. Here’s the link to the Tweet, which is taken from a BBC documentary to be broadcast tomorrow.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow’s post is back to Loose Ends, which is by water this time. Wednesday’s Streets of Glasgow is in the city and there is a post on Thursday, which is a walk in Edinburgh. Have a read at this week’s posts, particularly Streets of Glasgow on Sinclair Drive. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing.

Thanks for reading. As a bit of blog admin, for each of my series I will now be putting a link to the series page at the bottom of every post to keep up the continuity and link to other posts. In that spirit, other Saturday Saunter posts can be found on the Saturday Saunter page.


The end of the football season

I plan a lot of my life around the football season. Whenever the fixtures come out, I stop everything and take out my diary and the work diary and plan what annual leave I need to take, what swaps to negotiate. The TV schedules often require some adjustment too, usually a lot of cursing at another early start to get to Edinburgh by lunchtime. The season comes to an end on Sunday as Hibs play Aberdeen at Easter Road. Traditionally I celebrate the end of the season by going for a long walk somewhere after the game. Last season, it was a scorching summer’s day and after Hibs sensationally drew 5-5 against The Rangers, I ended up out at Aberlady Bay lazing on a beach. I’ll take myself for a chippy at the very least this time.

Aberlady Bay

After Sunday, I have two whole months without football. I’m a club before country person so I don’t really care about the national team’s games, only taking a polite interest when a Hibs player is involved. I usually feel a bit at a loss, without a major part of my routine.

Belhaven Bay

Then I plan day trips. That’s often the best part of any adventure. Last year included Culross, St. Andrews, Abbotsford and Dunbar. This year is going to involve quite a few end-of-the-line places, those where trains terminate and others which I’ve only visited to watch football. Argyll is a contender. Maybe I’ll finally visit New Lanark. I haven’t been to Doune Castle for a while. I might take a trip up to the Mearns or into deepest Fife to Kellie Castle. Even braving Englandshire to Northumberland or a place I’ve longed to visit, the Derwent Pencil Museum down in Keswick. My favourite building, Durham Cathedral, is overdue a visit too.

Dunnottar Castle
Durham Cathedral

In short, the historian in me loves the summertime. A lot of out-of-the-road places are only open in the summer months. Plus I get to satisfy those urges that have built up over the football season, those places I’ve maybe passed but made a mental note to go back to. Over the summer, until July, the League Cup and pre-season friendlies, I’ll hopefully cover quite a bit of ground; a lot of it will probably be written about here. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Streets of Glasgow: Sinclair Drive

Streets of Glasgow is one of these things I tend to do on the spur of the moment. I was in the area on a warm Friday evening and decided to cover Sinclair Drive, a street I know very well, for this series. I walked down Grange Road from Queen’s Park, looking beyond the building work at the old Victoria Infirmary to Langside Library sitting on the corner. I used to work there and I was lost for a moment in memories. I’m never very good at returning to places or keeping in touch but Langside is one of the nicest libraries around with good people. The building is red sandstone, built in 1915. It was the first library in Glasgow where readers could go up to the shelves and pick up their own books. Before you took your request up to a counter and the librarian would fetch it for you. Langside is brilliant, a place with character. I walked past the closed library and looked across the street at the wonderfully-named Blether cafe, an orange VW van parked nearby.

The street was classically Glaswegian, lined with tenements for the most part. One of the houses had a clock hanging off it, the door black and looking like it would fold in two. Another had a brown door and a decorative canopy above it. Not for the first time, I walked and looked up and down the lanes which seemed to stretch for miles behind the side streets, cars parked and folk walking. The old-worldy feel was diluted by the minor traffic jam with cars and buses trying to take the same narrow stretch of street at the same time.

I came to the end, stopping just before the bridge over the Cart. Sinclair Drive manages to be quiet and bustly at the same time, buses coming along now and then to shake up the place. It was good to be back, thinking of past times but not forgetting the present, enjoying the sunshine and contemplating future walks in the hereabouts.

Thanks for reading. This is the sixty third Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Battlefield Road has also featured in this series.

This post is part of a series. Links to every part of the Streets of Glasgow series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.


Loose Ends: Democracy cairn

It only felt right in following on from the Marjory Bruce cairn in Gallowhill to choose another cairn. I did think about finding another Bruce or even a Stewart connection but one afternoon when roving elsewhere, it occurred to me that there was another cairn in the Central Belt that might work. On Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh are quite a few monuments but perhaps the least known is a cairn erected to commemorate efforts to establish a Scottish Parliament. In 1992, after the Conservatives won the general election, a vigil was established at the bottom of the hill to campaign for a Scottish Parliament. The Conservatives were against a Scottish Parliament and this was against the prevailing public view in Scotland, as proven by a referendum held by the Labour government in 1997 which eventually brought the Scottish Parliament into being. The Parliament now sits just below Calton Hill at Holyrood and it can be seen from the cairn.

It was a nice spring day and I walked around the cairn before plonking myself on the grass. The cairn was topped by a firepit, though unlit. Stones had been placed around the cairn for various reasons – linking to Lochmaben and Robert the Bruce, the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, Robert Burns and also Jane Haining, a missionary who did a lot of work to protect Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, eventually dying at Auschwitz. On the bottom of the cairn was a quote from Hugh MacDiarmid (him, again), which read:

‘For we ha’e faith

In Scotland’s hidden poo’ers.

The present’s theirs,

but a’ the past and future’s oors’


The Scottish Parliament came into being in 1999. I was at school the day it opened and heard Concorde fly overhead. For a lot of people, it was the culmination of a lifetime’s ambitions. Donald Dewar, the First Minister, made a speech which described the Parliament as ‘not an end, but a means to better ends’. It’s twenty years later and the Scottish Parliament is still around, very much a fixture in Scottish life. Whether it should have more powers or indeed whether it should be the legislature of an independent country is for other folk to discuss. The efforts to establish the institution over generations succeeded and it led to the cairn, another Loose End.

From the cairn, I could see right down London Road with the Forth and East Lothian behind. Arthur’s Seat was busy with a steady line of folk heading up Salisbury Crags. I could see right into East Lothian, to Traprain Law, the Hopetoun Monument, even the Lammermuirs. Behind me Calton Hill had quite a few folk on it too, mainly sticking around the National Monument. I sat there for a bit, thinking of connections then went round to stand and look across the city, to Leith, Easter Road, the New Town and the Forth Bridges.

This wasn’t a hard one for connections. The Scottish Parliament was just downhill or I also thought of the Donald Dewar statue on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Really, I could have chosen anywhere I could see or a place linked to any of the people mentioned on the cairn. In the meantime, I sat by the cairn, enjoying the sunshine. The present was mine.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Also, following on from yesterday’s Saturday Saunter post, I have since acquired a copy of Emma by Jane Austen, which I will be re-reading in the coming weeks. I last started it about ten years ago so hopefully I’ll get beyond page five this time.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Saturday Saunter: Writing, walking and special interests

Hey, hey, it’s Saturday Saunter time,

This is being posted as I’m about to head off to Kilmarnock to watch Hibs. This afternoon’s match is quite meaningless in the great scheme of things. Hibs can’t now qualify for Europe or anything like that. There are two games left and Hibs can only finish fifth or sixth. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Kilmarnock a few times and going by experience, I actually asked the Hibs ticket office to give me a seat on an aisle due to the crap leg room on offer. On the plus side, the pies are excellent and they also do hot Vimto, a niche drink but rather fine. The last time I was at Killie, I managed to make an absolute mess of sitting down and cowped a fair bit of my hot Vimto on my hand. I don’t do hot drinks as a general rule – it’s a sensory thing – but it was a cool night. Hence the seat on the stairs. I’m not that tall – about five foot eight, five foot nine – but every little helps.

Tomorrow I’m off to Cumbrae for a walk around the island. A lot of people cycle the 10 miles but that’s not an option for me so the walk it will be. The forecast is to be about 11 degrees and cloudy which is fairly decent walking weather. I’ve been to Cumbrae once before, about a year ago, and it is a very pleasant island, calm and not completely removed from the world. It should be good.

One of my special interests over the years was American talk shows. I still watch clips on YouTube. I just read the new memoir by Craig Ferguson, who hosted the Late Late Show before James Corden, and as well as talking quite candidly about his life, issues with drink and whatever else, it included a chapter on one of his favourite places, Millport. I don’t really believe in coincidences but they happen rather a lot. Reading about a place I’m about to go to in a book about something else is mental. Craig Ferguson’s book was interesting. It went in a lot of different directions, quite tangential, which is the kind of book I like since it’s how I think.

Autism is one of those things that people tend to know dribs and drabs about. One aspect that’s perhaps most familiar to neurotypical folk is special interests. I’ve had a right few. They include American talk shows, The Simpsons, football, the media, the Scottish Parliament, castles, maps and any number of other things that aren’t coming to mind right now. Luckily this makes me quite an interesting person and I can talk about a lot of things, or more often write about them. At the moment I don’t really have a special interest. My life is busy and I have a lot of things going on. That’s okay, though. It means that each day is different, which is quite nice.

I managed to get my to-read pile down quite a bit over the Bank Holiday weekend. Underland by Robert Macfarlane is still there but I’m saving that. I’ve added a few library books to the mix. I ended up going along the shelves and taking some titles that tempted me. They were Proud by Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby player, The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Jane Austen has been recommended to me several times and I managed a few pages into Emma before giving up. Gareth Thomas I’ve heard about and I think his book should be good, giving some perspective into his life and particularly in coming out as gay in that world. The Lillian Beckwith book about the Hebrides was picked based on reading the blurb. I think I’m taking Proud to Kilmarnock with me today then I’ll read the others as I go.

Every time I write this post it turns out differently. Last week it was a bookish post, the one before went on a bit of a rant. This one’s turned into 700 words without knowing quite how. I treat this a bit like psychogeography: starting without a clear goal in mind then finding that goal somewhere along the way. It’s usually a lot of fun to write. Loose Ends follows a format, which is tougher for me. Paragraph one is the story of wherever I’ve been then the connections in paragraph two and bringing it all together in the last one. I usually work with notes and photos. With this, I’m just working with my head, which is strangely easier. I’m not sure why but that might be the point.

Anyway, enough of this. Let’s get on with Saturday. Loose Ends follows tomorrow and it’s back in Edinburgh. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and it’s a street I know well down south. There will also be a post on Thursday about the end of the football season and the beginning of the day trip season. Thanks to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a nice weekend, wherever it takes you.

Streets of Glasgow: Argyle Street

Like St. Vincent Street, Argyle Street is one of the most prominent Glasgow streets, mainly known for the stretch in the town lined with shops and invariably filled with pigeons. I had wanted to write about it for this series for ages but the opportunity never arose until one Sunday afternoon in March. I began by the Kelvin Hall, the point where Dumbarton Road becomes Argyle Street, and paused to look up at the globes that adorn the two towers of the building. I had just been in Kelvingrove but I never tire of looking at that wonderful building. Then I walked on and there was a boy and his mum a little ahead of me. The boy was skipping, trying to step very precisely onto the pavement and not onto any of the cracks, something I still like to do from time to time as well. What I don’t like so much is gin and there was a bottle on the ledge outside one of the student residences and it was Edinburgh Gin, no less.

Argyle Street soon led into Finnieston with lots of ghost signs to go with the one by the Mother India Cafe. Some of these were deliberate to fit into Finnieston’s hipster ethos. There was also a pub that had lots of rugby stuff right over the outside and even advertised that people could book booths. Surely going to the pub isn’t that organised an exercise, even to watch the rugger? What also rankled was a restaurant called strip joint. The lower case wasn’t the issue, it was that it declared itself a ‘pizzaplace’ without a space. Our language doesn’t need mangled like that. Pizzeria is a perfectly lovely word. Italians and probably New Yorkers will have a few more.

I came back to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue and turned through a new housing development development into Anderston. Three hippo sculptures came up on the left, created in the 1960s and plonked there as part of Anderston’s latest redevelopment. I stopped a little while later and got a photo of the many ages of Glasgow architecture, including the pyramid (now a community space) and more modern and classically Glaswegian buildings. One of the pubs further down was decidedly less recent with a Masonic insignia above one of the windows.

The motorway intersected Argyle Street and before it did I came to some strange statues. One I could just about make out as Jimmy Reid, while the one on the left I thought was a soldier. It turns out that the one on the left was presenter and naturalist Tom Weir, Jimmy Reid in the middle and to the right James Watt. I’m not sure what I think of them. They weren’t substantial enough but that might have been intended because of the transient nature of the surroundings. I pressed on under the motorway, getting a few photos of the angles of all the overpasses and sections cutting off the middle.

Argyle Street resumed and it became more modern once more with offices, though in the middle there were some ruined and semi-derelict buildings along the way. One shop was a sex shop with the surely redundant title of ‘Your Secret Desires’. Those desires must stop being secret when people go in the door. What isn’t so secret is that I’ve always liked the Radisson a little way along the street with its many angles and protuberances. It looks like it was designed by Frank Gehry, though actually by Glaswegian architects Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop.

Central Station loomed with its golden stone and glass so I came underneath the arches. I call it the arches but it is also known as Hielanman’s Umbrella as it was once where workers who had come from the Highlands met each other. Underneath is grotty and dark though thriving and always busy with folks passing by. Back into the light and the Argyle Street walk was nearly done and it was the busiest section. Also my least favourite. What I didn’t realise was how lovely some of the buildings were above street level, especially above Footasylum, Ann Summers and the Argyle Arcade, some all pillars and decorations, another white and almost Artdeco. I say this often but it is true. The best of Glasgow is above our heads. With that cheering thought, I counted how many other Glasgow streets I’ve written about that cross or meet Argyle Street and I came up with thirteen, the record for this series. It just shows its importance in the city as a thoroughfare, shopping paradise and place to live and work. Like everywhere it has its grotty bits but many, many charms, from pyramids to globes and much else besides.

Thank you for reading. This is the sixty second Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series previously include St. Vincent Street, Sauchiehall Street, Hope Street, Oswald Street, Jamaica Street, Union Street, Mitchell Street, Buchanan Street, Queen Street, Miller Street, Virginia Street, Glassford Street and Trongate.

This post is part of a series. Links to every part of the Streets of Glasgow series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.


Loose Ends: Marjorie Bruce cairn

This one really wasn’t planned. I sometimes walk from work into Paisley to catch a bus. It helps clear my head plus of course it is good exercise. It was a bright, pleasant weekday teatime and I was proceeding on foot to Paisley. I was just in Gallowhill, not long having crossed the motorway, and I realised that the Marjorie Bruce cairn ahead of me would be a great Loose Ends link, connecting with Dirleton Castle in various ways. Dirleton is a medieval castle, Princess Marjory Bruce died in 1316, bang in the middle of that time period. That is perhaps a better connection than horses – Dirleton is right next to a farm, which has horses, Marjorie Bruce died by falling off one – so we’ll go with medieval. The cairn sits by the side of Renfrew Road, across from a KFC and a petrol station, in front of a housing scheme. It often strikes me as incongruous that a fairly important event in Scottish history, the King’s daughter dying, happened right there then again Scottish history is weird like that. We had a king, Alexander III, who died after falling off a cliff in Fife.

Princess Marjorie Bruce had a son who became King Robert II, the first Stewart king of Scotland, begatting a dynasty which caused no little bother in these islands and of course ultimately leading to the mob we have today. There are quite a few places connected with royalty in Scotland. The barony of Renfrew is one of Prince Charles’s lesser titles or I could go to Rothesay Castle, as he is Duke of there or indeed any one of the isles he is Lord of. His second son recently became Earl of Dumbarton, which I can happily go to, also linked to Mary, Queen of Scots who left from Dumbarton bound for France when she was wee. The Queen has at least two hooses in our fair land – Balmoral and the Palace of Holyroodhouse – and I could go to one of those. The castle known as the cradle of the Stewarts is Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire, which I’ve been meaning to go back to for yonks. Or I could go somewhere interesting next to a KFC and a Tesco Express. I’m sure there must be one or two.

I’ve actually spent longer writing this than I did looking at the cairn and taking photos of it. Sometimes that’s just the way of it but it’s a testament to the value of walking and what you see when you put one foot in front of another.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week. It wasn’t any of the connections suggested above.

Also, given that Marjorie Bruce lived in medieval times, there does not seem to be a standard way of spelling her first name. The cairn spells it one way and online sources spell it another. I’ve gone with the way the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (it is generally possible to get access with a public library membership) spells it.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Digest: April 2019

So, it’s the April digest. It’s been a busy month, dominated by work and life. I have been able to rove a bit, mostly in the east but a wee bit to the west of the country too.

On Thursday 3rd April, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock. The game was dismal. I had a good walk in Edinburgh beforehand, including up East Claremont Street, a long street leading through the New Town from near enough Broughton Street towards Pilrig.

That Sunday I went to Dirleton Castle. The bus took me to Dirleton and I had a good wander around the castle, despite the haar. As much as I love the castle, the bus journey was just brilliant.

The following Tuesday saw me walk into Paisley on the way home. I stopped off at the Marjory Bruce cairn, which I wrote about for Loose Ends.

On Saturday 13th April, I scaled back my day trip plans, spending much of the time in transit. I stopped in Dunfermline for lunch then headed to Edinburgh for a walk up Calton Hill, enjoying the views in the sunshine.

That Wednesday I had the opportunity to have a walk in Paisley and stopped off to look at the demolition of the old Half-Time School on Maxwellton Street, once housing a school for mill workers. In front of the rubble were remnants of the fine structure that once stood there, ruined by fire about 20 years ago.

Friday 19th April was Good Friday and I was off. Also, it was sunny and hot. I took myself off to Milngavie, a place I had never been before, and walked around its very fine reservoirs, doing a bit of blogging along the way which will appear here in the next few weeks. The Craigmaddie Gauge Basin is wonderful. After Milngavie, I headed next to Bearsden to its Roman bathhouse, part of the Antonine Wall and a place I had wanted to visit for ages. I wandered along its walls and sat under a tree to scribble. From there I went to Govanhill for a visit to Category Is Books, which I had never been to before, and then to Queen’s Park and for a psychogeographic meander around the south side. I was knackered after.

Sunday 21st April saw Hibs play Celtic. Ofir Marciano, what a man. It was hot and after the match I walked around Edinburgh a bit, eventually sitting down with a book in Lochend Park.

On Saturday 27th April, I went on a bus to Kirkcaldy and spent a wee while wandering around my favourite art gallery.

The following day Hibs were playing Hearts in the Edinburgh derby. Before the game, I stood on Calton Hill for a bit with my thoughts. After, I went to the Botanics and sat under my favourite trees, the sequoias.

Anyway, that’s the April digest. Thanks very much to all readers, commenters and followers. The Saturday Saunter is up next on Saturday and on Sunday is due to be Loose Ends. Have a very nice May. Peace.

Posts this month –

Loose Ends: ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart

Saturday Saunter: 6th April 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Wilson Street

Streets of Glasgow: Fifty Pitches Road

Saturday Saunter: 13th April 2019

Loose Ends: Bilsdean

End of the line: Gourock

Saturday Saunter: 20th April 2019

Loose Ends: Bridge to Nowhere

Streets of Glasgow: St. Vincent Street

Saturday Saunter: 27th April 2019

Loose Ends: Dirleton Castle


Loose Ends: Dirleton Castle

Another Loose Ends adventure and back to East Lothian. The last connection was the bridge at Belhaven and I had considered going to Dumbarton Castle through quite possibly my favourite possible link ever: the bridge to nowhere could link to ‘Road to Nowhere’, a song by Talking Heads, whose lead singer, David Byrne, was born in Dumbarton. Sadly, that bit of inspired thinking, which occurred to me rounding the corner at Albion Road on the way to the football, didn’t come to fruition. I still ended up at a castle but one not connected to Talking Heads, I don’t think.

Dirleton is a village not far from North Berwick in East Lothian. It is a handsome place, certainly, with a kirk and a village green. And a castle, which is what I like about it. I’ve been there a few times, once notably in snow. The east coast of Scotland isn’t really known for snow and it being the east coast, the snow swirled around in the wind, which made it even colder. Luckily this trip wasn’t snowy though there was a bit of haar (sea mist) rolling off the Forth, which meant it was a bit cooler and there wasn’t much of a view. I thought about linking Dirleton to Belhaven because it is (usually) possible to see Traprain Law from both, though I could still see North Berwick Law even with the haar, which is also visible from Belhaven.

It is probably one of my favourite castles, with bits added by each of the three families who held it, the De Vauxs, Halliburtons and Ruthvens. Dirleton is a ruin, which is the way I like my castles, but it is fairly intact with a few cracking rooms. I particularly like the cellars, topped with a rounded roof, and one of the chambers which had window seats on a few of its many sides. Despite the lousy weather, there were a right few other people there, including some with dogs (permitted in most Historic Environment Scotland properties), and some families, one doing a treasure hunt. I spent around an hour wandering from room to room, looking over the gardens and what I could see of the surrounding countryside. I didn’t imagine myself King of the Castle, though: I’m too much of a republican for that.

Loose Ends is about the connections and Dirleton can link to quite a few. It could link to the original Loose End, Aberdour Castle, because it also has a bowling green, or to Craigmillar Castle – the best castle in Edinburgh – because of its many nooks and niches, which Dirleton reminded me of. I could, just, see the Forth and along the Forth a bit is Inchcolm Abbey. Since Dirleton is managed by Historic Environment Scotland, it could link to any other property managed by that agency. I’ve never actually been up North Berwick Law, which I could see from the castle, so that might be an idea for next time.

Either way, I left Dirleton enriched and inspired, suitably in love with my nation’s history and my home county once more.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.