Union Canal

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.

Union Canal and railway side by side at Slateford: a canal aqueduct to the left, railings above stone arches, with a similar looking railway bridge to the right. Trees and industrial premises are between them.​
Union Canal and railway side by side at Slateford: a canal aqueduct to the left, railings above stone arches, with a similar looking railway bridge to the right. Trees and industrial premises are between them.

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.

Saturday Saunter: Maps, bings and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night. It’s been a beautiful day here in Glasgow, sunny and quite pleasantly warm. Very Spring-like. Whether it will still be like that on Saturday as this is posted, who knows. I imagine as this is posted that I will be easing my way into the day gently before watching the football. As well as the Livingston-Hibs game, this weekend sees the return of League 1 and League 2 in Scotland after a couple of months hiatus, undoubtedly a good thing and more relevant than a certain game taking place at Parkhead this weekend.

Rosshall Park: a still pond surrounded by trees.​
Rosshall Park: a still pond surrounded by trees.

Maps have helped many of us through the last year of not being able to travel as much as we might like. I have a few, including a decent wedge of Ordnance Survey maps covering most of Scotland. Hopefully I will be able to use some after 26th April. The Ordnance Survey seem to have had a similar thought, taking the opportunity to ask its mailing list’s subscribers where they want to walk to once lockdown has concluded. Plus sell them maps. As for me, I will be consulting the Urban Nature map of Glasgow that I acquired recently and seeing where I could go for a walk in the meantime. For example, I had a very cool walk in Rosshall Park the other day and it felt a lot further out of the city than it actually is. Over the last year I have got to know some incredible places here in the city and even when it is possible to travel, I hope to still be a regular in quite a few of Glasgow’s fine parks.

The Guardian published an article about the bings of West Lothian, heaps of spoil from industrial workings that dominate the landscape, visible from the motorway and the railway. West Lothian is quite a fascinating part of the world, encompassing both the old Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, born in the Palace by the Peel and Loch, and the New Town of Livingston, with its many roundabouts and football team who play at a stadium named after an Italian restaurant. The bings symbolise the depth of industrial history of the area, of shale and coal mining, and the Shale Trail looks like it will be a good addition to the area, using modern technology to tell the tales of the local area as people walk or cycle along the 16-mile route.

I’ve read quite a bit in the last few days. I’ve finished Nick Hewer’s autobiography and Antlers of Water, the anthology of Scottish nature writing I started last week. Antlers of Water is immense, very varied with poetry and all parts of Scotland covered by its various writers. Nick Hewer I enjoyed more as I got going as he talked about his journeys to farflung parts of the globe including Mongolia and Sierra Leone. I’ve been working between two books this week, the Eric Stevenson book I started a couple of weeks ago and Hidden London, about the abandoned and disused parts of the London Underground. My to-read shelf has two football books and a nature book so we’ll see I’m in the mood for next.

Before I go today, I’ve been thinking about how to write about the news of the weekend. I came to the conclusion that my voice is much less relevant than those of others. One is the mother of Moira Jones, who made a thoughtful statement on Tuesday.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th March 2021. Thanks for reading. A post will follow on Wednesday but I’m not sure what that’ll be just yet. Until then, cheers just now.

Trails

I was going through books recently and came across a bunch of Heritage Trail leaflets for different parts of Glasgow. The ones I’ve found are Pollokshaws, Crookston and Langside, all south of the river, though the Council have trails for quite a few parks and parts of the city on their website. There is also the St. Mungo Trail but that encompasses Traprain Law, Culross and various other places most definitely not in the City of Glasgow local authority area as well as Glasgow Cathedral, which is, thankfully. The Urban Nature map of Glasgow which I acquired recently shows parks, playing fields and public transport links though historical places is a wee bit beyond it. The Ordnance Survey Explorer Map for Glasgow (342) covers a lot of those though covering every historical place in Glasgow would need either a rather big map or teeny tiny writing. Glasgow has a very varied history and a lot of it is covered by themed trails and tours, such as those for football and the many from the Glasgow Women’s Library. There will probably be quite a lot of folk who have been doing the same walk throughout the various lockdowns over the last year and they will no doubt be experts on their particular patch and could do tours. ‘On your left is a kitchen showroom with a display showing the time, date and temperature. I was here when it was 27 degrees and when it was below freezing.’ ‘Ahead of you is a railway bridge conveying trains between Glasgow and Inverclyde and Ayrshire. The railway was opened in the 1840s.’ The mind boggles.

Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis on a sunny day: a large grey church with a green ​roof and a tower in the middle. To the left are trees and a graveyard. To the right are trees and a large, old hospital.
Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis on a sunny day: a large grey church with a green roof and a tower in the middle. To the left are trees and a graveyard. To the right are trees and a large, old hospital.

I might follow one of the ones nearest me one day soon and see where I end up, maybe Bellahouston Park’s one which talks a lot about the sculptures around the park.

A lot of cities and towns have a trail to follow so see if there’s one near you. If possible, follow it and see what you come up with. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday Saunter: Tree roots, maps and old football grounds

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Wednesday with The Chase on in the background for that’s how I roll. Not sure what I’m going to write this time but you can be assured that there will be no mention of the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, a certain ex-morning TV presenter or of the scenes around Glasgow after a certain football team won the Scottish Premiership. As this is posted, I will probably be easing my way gently into the morning before watching the Hibs play Ross County later.

I’m now continuing this on Friday night with Dr Janina Ramirez on in the background talking about Turkey. I’ve been listening to a few virtual talks in the last couple of days as well as audio books and a radio documentary. The other night I listened to a documentary on Radio 3 about Fanny Dickens, Charles Dickens’s older sister, who was a particularly accomplished musician and, unusually for the mid-19th century, her parents paid for her to get an education. Coincidentally I was listening to an art lecture earlier about 1920s Scottish art and David Young Cameron was mentioned, as was his sister, Katharine Cameron, who was also a painter though again much less recognised. I also listened to a talk put on by the Bodleian Library in Oxford featuring Jim Akerman of the Newberry Library in Chicago and he talked about maps and how they relate to American identity, discussing travel by various groups for various purposes, including safe places for African American people to stay and travel to in the 1930s as well as the Underground Railroad.

 East Stand, Highbury: looking up at a building with an art deco tower with a glass frontage to the right.
East Stand, Highbury: looking up at a building with an art deco tower with a glass frontage to the right.
Cathkin Park: terracing with green and white barriers. Wintry, leafless trees stand behind the terracing.​
Cathkin Park: terracing with green and white barriers. Wintry, leafless trees stand behind the terracing.

While I have books on the go, I have been reading more magazines and audio books recently. I think both have their merits – in short, when it comes to reading, it all counts. I got my copy of the latest edition of When Saturday Comes the other day and read most of it in a single sitting, particularly interested in articles about commentators’ notes, the abuse that James McClean receives for choosing not to wear a poppy, and football stadiums which are no longer used for football. That last article suggests preserving parts of stadiums in whatever developments spring up on their site, for remembrance or just to preserve the heritage of the place. It shows Highbury, the former Arsenal ground which is now flats, and I can confirm that the development there is sympathetically done. It’s more unusual for traces of grounds to remain in any other way than a token memorial or street names. The Morrisons supermarket that sits on the site of Brockville, Falkirk’s old ground, is cool and has an old turnstile in the car park and Falkirk-themed photos around the walls of the shop. The only ones I know in Scotland that are still in situ are Cathkin Park, the second Hampden and former home of Third Lanark, and Firs Park, once East Stirling’s ground which is now derelict. I watched a YouTube video about Firs Park recently.

Despite growing up in East Lothian, I cannot claim to have explored every corner of my home county and of course I can’t go there at the moment. One place I haven’t visited is Inveresk Lodge Garden, a garden in Inveresk, just outside Musselburgh. The new edition of the National Trust for Scotland’s members magazine features an article about it written by Chitra Ramaswamy, for my money one of the finest journalists in Scotland, and there’s a line about lockdown walks that I really like. ‘Familiarity can breed obliviousness as well as contempt’. We don’t always see what’s happening around us, even if we often tread those paths.

Scottish readers will know that we’ve had a lot of rain in the last few days, often heavy showers. That’s okay as we haven’t had a lot of rain recently though of course I have successfully managed not to be caught in it. A couple of times this week I’ve nipped down to Rosshall Park, which is small but has a lot of interest. A few of the trees have deep, sprawling roots spreading down a slope towards the path I was walking on. I spent my last walk with my head up appreciating the varied tree skyline.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th March 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. I’ve had a few kind comments about the Rivers post from Wednesday so thanks for those too. Next Wednesday’s post will be about Glasgow and maps. A very good morning to you all. Peace.

Rivers

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about rivers. That’s been fun but I’m going to draw it to a close this week by talking about a range of other rivers that I might not know as well. Some are in England, others closer to home.

Kelvingrove Park: a river with autumn trees on either side ​and Glasgow University tower on the left.
Kelvingrove Park: a river with autumn trees on either side and Glasgow University tower on the left.

Glasgow, of course, has several rivers, including the Clyde, Kelvin and White Cart Water. The Kelvin runs through the west of the city, joining the Clyde by the Riverside Museum. What I didn’t know until just now as the Kelvin went off my map is that it starts near Kilsyth in East Dunbartonshire, stretching for about 22 miles. I know the Kelvin best as it wends through Kelvingrove Park, the University of Glasgow towering above. There it is an elegant river, surrounded by trees and elegant buildings. A riverside walkway does exist, going as far as Milngavie where it links with the West Highland Way, and one day I will try and walk some or all of it.

The White Cart Water runs not far from me; indeed, I caught sight of it earlier today while walking in Rosshall Park. The White Cart Water goes from the Clyde at Renfrew, through Paisley to Crookston and Pollok Country Park, ending at Eaglesham. What comes to mind when I think of the White Cart is the section by Pollok House with a weir and a small waterfall, as well as a pleasant stone bridge linking the park and the nearby golf course. I also think of it passing through Paisley, by the Town Hall, Abbey and Anchor Mill.

Durham: Two towers of Durham Cathedral ​on the left above trees. Trees line both sides of the river below the Cathedral.
Durham: Two towers of Durham Cathedral on the left above trees. Trees line both sides of the river below the Cathedral.

Down south, the Wear brings up Durham, the Cathedral and Castle high above, and Sunderland with an elegant green bridge joining the parts of that city together. The Thames has had a lot of words written about it and I know it right at the heart of London, crossed by many bridges, a dirty big river running through the metropolis. I also think of Mudlarking, the interesting book I read last year about the objects to be found by and in the river.

As a seaside person who now lives in a city, rivers have become ever more important as a way to be beside water as well as appreciate their own merits, whether beside wells, bridges or Magdalen Green. I’m lucky to be near three of them and they bring inspiration and interest in so many ways.

Water of Leith

Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.​
Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.

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.

St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.​
St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.​
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.

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.

Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.​
Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.

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.

Tweed

Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.​
Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.

I was thinking of writing about the river Tyne as part of what seems to be becoming a series about rivers but I’ve done it before. In 2016, as a matter of fact. The Tyne, of course, runs from the foothills of the Lammermuirs to the sea at Belhaven. It’s not to be confused with the one in England which runs along Hadrian’s Wall through Newcastle. Instead I was thinking about the Tweed, the river which for much of its length covers the border between Scotland and England before reaching the North Sea at Berwick. I am advised that there are two Tweeds in the UK, the other in Leicestershire, but I’ve never been to that one. What I didn’t know until just now is that the Tweed rises very close to where the Clyde starts, which is quite a nice fact. When I think of the Tweed I think of the bridges at Berwick, plus Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. By far my favourite bridge is the Royal Border Bridge, the one with the trains, which leads from Berwick station towards Tweedmouth. Berwick Castle was largely pulled down to make way for the railway and the Great Hall is where the platforms are. If going south, it’s worth looking left to the other bridges and out to sea. Eventually the breakwater and the lighthouse comes into view, which is probably one of my favourite places on the earth. I like a walk around the walls in Berwick, the Elizabethan ramparts which give the best view of the town and of course out to sea and back to Scotland. Northumbrian castles at Bamburgh and Lindisfarne are also visible on a good day. The scenery inspired LS Lowry and I always contend that his seascapes are better than the matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs he’s more famous for.

Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.​
Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.

The Tweed is still the border at Coldstream. I was there a couple of summers ago to watch the Hibs on a lovely summer’s day. There’s a plaque on the bridge in the middle of the river about Robert Burns, who it is hard to escape in Scotland, even when on the border.

Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.​
Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.

Further west, the border is further south than the Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey is by the Tweed and I would love a visit there right about now, just to watch the river, read and cherish my surroundings. Melrose is near the Tweed too and when I was at Abbotsford a few years ago, I walked to Melrose by the Tweed, which was braw on another summer’s day.

The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.​
The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.

My last visit to Peebles was to go to Dawyck Botanic Garden, which is near the Tweed too. Dawyck is a glorious garden in most weathers, very alpine and usually rather wet since it’s on a hill in the Borders. The Tweed is particularly nice round there, windy and surrounded by fields and trees. In fact the Tweed is beautiful for nearly all of its length, regardless of when it’s just a river or a fiercely fought for frontier, surrounded by castles, abbeys and so much history.

Saturday Saunter: Books and Glasgow views

Good Saturday to you,

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.

Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.

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.

Our different perspective for today comes from Glasgow University. The Hunterian Museum has appointed Zandra Yeaman as its Curator of Discomfort. She has the specific remit to change institutional attitudes about its collections and their links to slavery and colonialism.

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.

Tay

The Tay, Tay Road Bridge and Fife from the V and A - a view towards a river and road bridge stretching across it between two parts of a building. The picture is taken from a path with water on either side.
The Tay, Tay Road Bridge and Fife from the V and A – a view towards a river and road bridge stretching across it between two parts of a building. The picture is taken from a path with water on either side.

The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland. Like the Forth and Clyde, it becomes a firth before flowing into the sea. I don’t know it as well as the other two but I like being by it. The last time was in September, during a couple of days in Dundee. The Tay begins on the slopes of Ben Lui and flows through Perth as a river then Dundee as a firth. It’s the subject of some of the worst poetry ever committed to paper, which I never fail to remember when in the vicinity of Magdalen Green or the current Tay Bridge, as well as being in some frankly far superior paintings by the likes of James McIntosh Patrick.

The Tay in Perth - a river with trees and a hill in the background with a path with a railing and pavement to the right in the foreground.
The Tay in Perth – a river with trees and a hill in the background with a path with a railing and pavement to the right in the foreground.

Perth is split by the Tay. I particularly like that the Tay has islands in Perth, one housing a golf course. Being a person who contends without fail that golf ruins a good walk, I will also say that the golf course can be crossed while walking to Branklyn Garden, which is at the eastern bank of the Tay. I’ve always liked Perth because it feels like a gateway to mountains and adventure, with hills to be seen to the north as well as roads to cities, mountains and fine restaurants like Cardo with its fine macarons.

The Dundee V and A and RRS Discovery - a grey building that looks like the prow of a ship next to an actual ship with a tall mast.
The Dundee V and A and RRS Discovery – a grey building that looks like the prow of a ship next to an actual ship with a tall mast.

The train from Glasgow to Dundee requires crossing the Tay in Perth. From Perth station, the train is at height amidst houses then it curves across the river before hugging its banks on the way to Dundee where the recently redeveloped station sits a few steps from the Tay, the RRS Discovery and the V and A. That part of Dundee is excellent now. I like walking by the Tay there, the sweep of the Firth visible from Broughty Ferry and Tentsmuir up river towards hills. I’ve been there on sunny, warm days and cold, wintry twilights and it’s good to look across and around, thinking of William McGonagall and all that history or perhaps what good food might be found soon. I think that’s the point I’m getting at: there’s lots of good food by the Tay, not least macarons and of course pehs in Dundee.

Saturday Saunter: Snow and viewpoints

Good morning,

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.

Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.
Cathkin Park, not in the snow. Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.

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.