Glasgow Gallivanting: May 17

Arran Ferry from Brodick Castle Gardens
In the UK, May is bookended by Bank Holiday Weekends and we took full advantage of both. May 1st saw us on a ferry returning from Arran after spending time there with friends, and at the end of the month we had a couple of nights in Oban.

Oban at dusk: view from our room
Full posts to follow! So what else has been happening?

Cousins

My cousin Tracy and her husband have just bought a new boat. We were able to inspect it before a family lunch at Kip Marina. Doesn’t she look delighted?

We also had dinner with another of my cousins, Ian, and his wife Lynn. No photos were taken at that event, but here we are as kids on the back green of our grandparents’ tenement flat. That’s their kitchen window behind us. I think this is 1971, so I would be 14 and Ian 4. His wee brother and my younger sister are also there, and a small girl at the end who, I think, must have lived in the same building. I have no recollection of her at all.

 

Voice from the past

Redby Infant School, Sunderland, 1963
While I’m on a nostalgia theme, how about this? As some of you know, I administer a blog, It was always sunny, for my Mum who is writing the story of her life. When she came to the section about me starting school I included the picture above and was surprised recently to receive a comment from one of the other children, the boy fourth from the left in the front row. He’d Googled the name of the school and up this popped! We’ve been exchanging memories and trying to complete a list of all the names. Can’t find me? I’m fourth from the right in the back row.

Talking of things popping up, and in the blowing-my-own-trumpet department, I was touched and delighted to find my name in Update, the professional journal for librarians in the UK (third paragraph). One of the most satisfying aspects of my career was mentoring and encouraging younger librarians so it’s great to know it was appreciated. Thank you so much to Jennifer for mentioning me.

The Elephant Park

Glasgow has many fine parks, and I’ve written about the major ones, such as the Botanic Gardens, many times. All over the city, however, you can find pocket-sized parks amidst the urban sprawl. Last year, these two concrete elephants near my home were sending out an SOS signal because redevelopment of an adjacent building put them under threat. When I passed by the other day they had obviously just been made-over (one still has its Wet Paint sign) so I’m hoping this means they have been reprieved.

The last bit

Four theatre / concert hall visits, three guided walks, a visit from my sister – I’m running out of time to write about everything this month, so I’ll quickly finish by returning to my programme of expanding your vocabulary with Scottish words! The Women’s Library guided walks that I’ve co-led have not been blessed with good weather – an understatement to say the least. Both guides and partcipants were drookit. If you can’t guess what that means from the pictures, click on the link! I have more walks coming up in June, so I’m hoping for better luck.

So that was my May – how was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2017

Mothers’ Day

But Mothers’ Day (UK) is in March! I know, but my incompetence at getting something booked in time meant that I took my Mum out for her “treat” the following Sunday, April 2nd. We had a lovely afternoon tea in Mad Hatter’s in Paisley.

Rita McGurn

One of my volunteer roles is guiding walks for three different organisations. Now that Spring is here, the season has well and truly started – I’ve already done three in April, including two Women of the Gorbals walks for Glasgow Women’s Library.

The former mill above is one of the stops. We talk about the lives of the women weavers, and also about the sculpture billowing from the chimney. Smokestack was designed by Rita McGurn who died in 2015. Rita also worked with wool and crocheted fabulous giant figures, some of which you can see in a recent article in the local press about her daughter who has yarn-bombed a bench in the Botanic Gardens in her mother’s honour. As the Botanics are very near our house, we set off to find it the other day, and there it is in the gallery above

Soutra Hill and Fala Moor

Soutra Aisle

This outing was also prompted by a cultural event. One of the concerts we attended at Celtic Connections back in January was Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart, a combination of spoken word and music inspired by Fala Moor and Soutra Hill close to her home in Midlothian. We wanted to go! And now we have.

Soutra Hill was once the site of an extensive medieval monastery and hospital. All that remains is the Soutra Aisle, not, as once thought, part of the monastery, but a burial vault constructed from its rubble. John Pringle, who died in 1777 aged 77 years, his wife and sons lie here.

Fala Moor is bisected by a track which, until the mid 20th century, was part of the road network. To the east lies Fala Flow Loch, and to the west the ruins of Fala Luggie Tower. We met not a soul along here, though we spied a party of workers in the distance burning off the heather. This accounts for the rather hazy quality of the photos below.

The track ends after 3.5 miles at Brothershiels Farm, where we were objects of curiosity for some of the residents. That was one lippy lamb – and I really don’t like the look of those mushrooms, or what they’re growing in!

Happy birthday, John!

It was John’s birthday in April and, as it coincided with the long Easter weekend, I booked a cottage in Dumfries and Galloway for three nights. The weather didn’t really cooperate, but we had a lovely time anyway and there will be lots of pictures shared in due course, both of this and another weekend away in Arran. In the meantime, here is John enjoying his birthday fish and chips in Wigtown.

Kilarden

Scotland’s Gardens Open for Charity is underway again for the summer and, on a free Sunday afternoon, we checked the programme and decided to heard for Rosneath to view Kilarden. The Rosneath Peninsula is bounded by two sea lochs, Gare Loch and Loch Long, each of which has a naval base so if you can avoid those the views are pretty. It’s also worth avoiding the thought that this is where all the UK’s nukes are stored. Scary.

This is the 25th year the owners of Kilarden have opened their garden as part of this scheme. It has lawns around the house, on one of which the Shandon Ukulele Band were providing entertainment, and ten acres of hilly woodland with a huge collection of rhododendrons.

The ruined St Modan’s Church in the village was picturesque, the current church was open for viewing and the church hall was selling very good teas. Not a bad afternoon out!

So that was my April – how was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2017

In March, we gallivanted as far away as Budapest! More, much more, to come on that in due course.

So what else has been going on?

Aye Write!

Aye Write! is Glasgow’s book festival. For a couple of years I volunteered at it, but last year and this year we missed most of it by being on holiday. However, we attended a couple of sessions on the last weekend of this year’s festival.

Elaine C Smith is a Scottish actress, comedian and activist. Outside Scotland – and I’m not even sure how far this travels – she’s probably best known as Mary Doll from Rab C Nesbitt. In discussion with novelist Alan Bissett, Elaine considered The books that made me – six titles that had a defining effect on her life. She’s maybe a year younger than I am so it was intriguing to match experiences: for example, we were both entranced by The lion, the witch and the wardrobe when a teacher read it aloud to our class of seven-year olds (and we both checked our Mum’s wardrobe in case Narnia was lurking there). I’m not sure if there was meant to be time for questions – there usually is – but the conversation flowed on and on. It was great!

The other session was more formal, an excellent talk by Anne Galastro based on the current exhibition in Edinburgh Joan Eardley: a sense of place, which we saw at the end of last year, and her book of the same title. I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Eardley (1921-1963) because she died tragically young just as she was becoming well-known outside Scotland. She had two main subjects – the area around her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, where she befriended and painted the local children, and the fishing village of Catterline in North East Scotland where she had a (very primitive) cottage. If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh I recommend going to the exhibition before it closes on May 21st. Follow the link above for details and some highlights.

Women’s History Month

Maryhill WHM Editathon

March was Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we had a Wikipedia Editathon at Maryhill where we looked for articles to update with information about women’s history and wrote some new ones.

International Women’s Day (8th March) fell while we were in Budapest, as did the European Day of the Righteous on the 6th which honours those who have resisted crimes against humanity and totalitarianism. Jane Haining brings both these commemorations and Budapest together: She was a Church of Scotland missionary working in the city when she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz later that year, and is the only Scot to be officially honoured for giving her life to help Jews in the Holocaust. We found her name on a memorial in the synagogue that we visited, and on a road called after her.

Wedding anniversary

On 21st March John and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We do have some more formal photographs in the loft somewhere, but finding them would involve climbing a ladder. This one comes from some old slides of Mum’s that I’ve been scanning, and shows the less than picturesque car park at the back of the church. As you can see, we didn’t go for the big white wedding – we were keen on being married, but not so keen on parties, so we kept it very small. We look so young!

Glen Finglas and Loch Ardinning

I thought I was going to have to report zero country walks, but the last weekend in March was absolutely glorious. Luckily, for the first time in weeks, we had nothing else planned so out we went.

Glen Finglas

Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose post Glen Finglas Reservoir inspired us to take this walk on the Saturday. Our circular route climbed above the reservoir then dropped to the dam, and the site of Ruskin’s painting by Millais, before taking in the Byre Inn (excellent late lunch / early dinner) on our way back to the car.

Loch Ardinning

On Sunday, we went back to a walk that I’ve written about before – Loch Ardinning – so I’m just including a couple of shots here.

The last bit

Instead of offering you a Scottish word to enrich your vocabulary this month, I’m offering you a phrase. You might have wondered about the title of Glasgow’s book festival, as mentioned above, Aye Write! I’m not sure exactly what the organisers intend, but I see several levels of pun. Yes, write! and I write! are probably obvious, but non-Scots might not know that Aye, right! is a Glaswegian expression of some scepticism, a double positive resulting in a negative meaning, i.e. I don’t believe it! or Not likely! (Anabel: I don’t eat out much, I prefer to watch my waistline. You: Aye, right! Your observation would be quite correct.)

So that was my March. How was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2017

 The Citizen’s Theatre

Citizen's Theatre

After Celtic Connections finished I had withdrawal symptoms and got on the internet straightaway to book tickets for something else to go to! As a result, we had a lovely evening at “The Citz” which first opened as a theatre in 1878 when it was known as the Royal Princess’s Theatre. The Citizens company was founded in 1943, and moved to this site in 1945. Since then it has been extended, as you can see in the photograph above, but the foyer retains reminders of the old days with a stained glass window from the Royal Princess and a collection of statues which used to adorn the façade.

The play we saw was Cuttin’ a Rug by John Byrne, set at the staff dance of a 1950s carpet factory – hence the punning title (to cut a rug is to dance really well). It was funny and had a great 50s soundtrack.

Of course, going to the theatre requires a pre-theatre meal and that, added to various dinners and lunches with friends, means that February has been almost as unkind to the waistline as January. Did we get a chance to walk it off? Not really…

Finlaystone

Clyde view from Finlaystone
Clyde view from Finlaystone

A combination of weather, socialising, both being struck down by horrible colds, and John having a trip to China meant we only had time for one country excursion. We went to Finlaystone Estate, about half an hour down the Clyde from home. The view from the highest point of the forest walk was magnificent – but you would never know from the photo above that both the busy A8 and the railway run between the estate and the river, so you never quite get away from the noise of traffic. However, the snowdrops were blooming and John got to play on the children’s boat when no-one was looking. Some people never grow up!

Woman on the Shelf

Woman on the Shelf
Woman on the Shelf

I’ve written before about my connection with Glasgow Women’s Library where I’ve been volunteering since I retired over four years ago. As a charity, it has a constant need to raise money and one way is the Women on the Shelf scheme. A single book, a shelf, or a whole section can be sponsored in honour of your chosen woman. I’m so grateful to my lovely Mum who sponsored a shelf in my name because she wanted to support the organisation where I am so happy working. Sponsored shelves are marked with a wooden block and I was excited to find mine had been delivered last week with the latest batch.

The inscription says –

To my book-worm daughter Anabel, a dedicated librarian who loves libraries and has found a niche in GWL

Thanks Mum!

I’ll be taking Mum into the library to see the block in place very soon, so watch this space.

The last bit

Last month, I introduced you to the word bawbag. Not long afterwards, #presidentbawbag trended on Twitter – nothing to do with me of course, but thanks to West Wing actor Richard Schiff. He’s just a tad more influential than I am, but I hope you were suitably grateful that I had given you advance warning of what it meant 😉

I thought I’d offer you another Scottish word this month, wabbit – partly because I’ve been feeling a bit wabbit myself, but also because it too has turned up in the news. Scientists at Edinburgh University have produced a paper arguing that people who claim to be feeling tired all the time might be doing so because of their genes. It’s probably the only scientific paper ever published to start with a definition of wabbit:

The Scots word wabbit encompasses both peripheral fatigue, the muscle weakness after a long walk, and central fatigue, the reduced ability to initiate and/or sustain mental and physical activity, such as we might experience while having flu.

So there you have it! I hope none of you are feeling wabbit, but if you are you have a new word to describe it.

How has your February been?

Fife Coastal Path

Inn at Lathones
Inn at Lathones

Between Christmas and New Year we stayed a few nights at the Inn at Lathones, just outside St Andrews, with the intention of walking a few stretches of the Fife Coastal Path. It’s our third time at this historic hotel where we enjoy the cosy atmosphere and good food. This time, we had a room in the Old Forge with access to the deck overlooking the farmland at the back. This would be lovely for sitting out in warmer weather but not in December – however, it did mean we always had something to look at.

Day 1 – Crail to Fife Ness

On our first full day, we headed for Crail, a traditional fishing village with a 17th century harbour.

Although we’d been to Crail many times before, we had never taken the path to Fife Ness which we now set out to do. Near the edge of town, we passed the 16th century doocot (used to harvest doves for meat), then a children’s playground and a very large caravan park. After this it became more interesting as we entered the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve where seabirds, such as shag, eider, cormorant and guillemot can be seen.

Some colourful cottages appeared above us, then we rounded a corner to the lighthouse at Fife Ness – a squat building rather than the usual attractive white tower.

Fife Ness is the most easterly corner of Fife. Its harbour dates from the sixteenth century and was used for fishing until the end of the eighteenth. It was then converted into a sea beacon construction yard, hence the circular grooves in the stone, and lightships were also built here to guide shipping before the lighthouse was constructed in 1975.

The next part of the path skirted a golf course, and then we came to Constantine’s Cave. Local legend has it that King Constantine I (one of the early Pictish Kings) was killed in this cave following a battle with the Danes in 874.

At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock were just visible across the Firth of Forth.

In Crail, we took time to admire the buildings before heading back to the hotel.

We were particularly impressed with Penman the butcher’s Christmas window!

Day 2 – St Andrews and Pittenweem

The following day, we didn’t do so much walking. John’s cousin, Lindy, lives in Anstruther and they kindly asked us to lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beforehand, we had a quick stroll around St Andrews.

Afterwards, we visited Pittenweem, Fife’s only working fishing harbour, and the site of a cave used by St Fillan in the 7th century. The light was already starting to fade when we got to the harbour.

It gave the buildings a pleasing glow.

We saw several decorated bicycles – but only one decorated bench.

As we climbed away from the sea, it got darker and darker.

By the time we walked back down past the cave it was very dark indeed.

And the harbour looked even more beautiful with the lights shimmering in the sea.

Day 3 – Dysart to West Wemyss

On our last day, we decided to stop in Dysart, a Royal Burgh dating from the 7th century, to walk the coastal path to West Wemyss. The old Harbourmaster’s House, on the deliciously named Hot Pot Wynd, now houses the Coastal Centre Exhibition and the Harbour Bistro. Great – a coffee before we started. Wrong! Despite the notice outside, and having looked at the website before we left, the place was closed. This was 31st December so not a public holiday. I know a lot of places close for the whole period between Christmas and New Year but some information would be nice. Shame on you Fife Coast and Countryside Trust!

Undaunted, we spent some time wandering round the harbour. Donald Urquhart’s Sea Beams represent the colours of the sea at different times and in different lights.

The start of the walk took us along the shore past the 13th century St Serf’s Tower and the restored Pan Ha’ red tiled cottages, then up Hie Gait.

From Dysart the path climbs to the Frances Colliery memorial and preserved winding gear, testament to the former importance of the coal industry in the area. The colliery, with so many others, closed in the 1980s.

From Blair Point you can look down on West Wemyss.

From here, the path takes you past a walled chapel garden, the private burial ground of the Wemyss family, and some pretty mosaics.

West Wemyss originated as a planned town for workers on the Wemyss estate. At one time, it was one of the most important ports in Fife, trading in coal and salt with the Continent. It is certainly picturesque, but was almost deserted and once again everything was closed despite the local pub being listed on the coastal path information boards as a “Welcome Port”. We’d had a large hotel breakfast, so there was no danger of starving, but the wind was biting and somewhere to warm up would have been nice.

There was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to Dysart where The Man i’ the Rock was able to serve us a late lunch. After a quick look around it was back in the car and home to Glasgow for New Year.

I love this part of the coast: beautiful views, historic towns and villages with some industrial history thrown in. We’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m linking up to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in another of my favourite places this week, the Yorkshire Dales, and her cyber friends are walking all over the world. Please take a look!

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2017

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections logoIf you live in Glasgow, you have about two weeks to get over the hedonism of Christmas and New Year when – ooft! – it’s Celtic Connections! This bills itself as “the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music” and we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm, usually attending half a dozen or so gigs over the 19 days.

This year, in six concerts we heard musicians from Scotland, England, Ireland and America (and that’s quite a conservative selection) in five different venues ranging from the formal concert hall, via the Old Fruitmarket, to the iconic Barrowland Ballroom. Highlights? So hard to choose but, if pushed, I’d go for Phil Cunningham’s Highlands and Islands Suite. Phil, his accordion, and a front-row of other professional musicians were supported by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – its Traditional Musicians, Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 150 people on the stage and the music soared. When I said to John at the interval that I had been moved almost to tears I half expected a scornful look, but he agreed. It wasn’t only the evocatively Scottish music, there was also something so heart-warming about a stage full of young people working hard to perfect their art – having chosen to do so in our city.

Gluttony

Celtic Connections is pretty hard on the waistline – all those pre-theatre meals – and it’s not helpful that Burns Night falls slap bang in the middle. This year, we ate our haggis, neeps and tatties with friends in the Curlers, a local pub-restaurant. We have also been tempted by two large boxes of Chinese rose pastries, a new year gift from one of John’s Chinese colleagues. Definitely yummy – ooh, I need to walk all this off, but…

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

…oh dear, we haven’t had much in the way of country walks: only one that I can remember, in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. This time last year, we spotted red squirrels from the wildlife hide. This time they were not to be seen, though there were plenty of birds about.

Exhibitions

We managed a couple of exhibitions in January. One Glasgow museum, the Burrell Collection, has recently closed for refurbishment and in the meantime some of its paintings are on show at another, Kelvingrove. The current exhibition is of work by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913), one of a group of radical painters known as The Glasgow Boys. Girl on a bicycle has long been one of my favourites – just look at the little dachshund excitedly running alongside – but there was plenty more to see, and will be until 1st July if you are in the area.

We also saw an exhibition in the Lighthouse called A Life in Letterpress. Typographic artist Alan Kitching began his working life apprenticed to a printer, before becoming a technician at Watford College, then a teacher, designer and artist. In an age of computer design, he continues to create using wood and metal letterforms. The results are stunning! On till 5th March.

The last bit

New Year, new blogging resolution – to have a round-up post like this at the end of every month. How long will it continue? My last new series (People Make Glasgow) lasted for approximately (ahem, exactly) one post, and I’m already almost a week late with this one, so we’ll see.

I also wondered what would happen if I had nothing to round up, either because I’d written about it already or (and it does happen) I had done nothing worth blogging about. Step forward The last bit of random stuff and padding. This month – Scotland reacts to Trump, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Scotland is not impressed.

  • The sublime – Karine Polwart at Celtic Connections with I burn but I am not consumed, a poetic mixture of spoken word and song considering Donald’s Scottish roots. Favourite line: You who see nothing but your own face in the sheen of the Hudson River. (Sorry, I couldn’t get this BBC video to embed).
  • The ridiculous – Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag (Buzzfeed). Not for the easily offended. Translations available on request. (As a start, baw = ball. I’m sure you can work out the rest.)

So that was January in Glasgow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Dollar Glen

Dollar
Dollar

One of our favourite outings is to the small town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, from where we walk up Dollar Glen to Castle Campbell. We did this most recently in December 2016. Unfortunately, since the last time we visited, the hotel bar in which we usually ate lunch has closed – the horror! – but we found a more than adequate substitute in the Bridge Street Kitchen – hooray!

Suitably fortified, we made our way past some chain saw carving and up West Burnside.

Just where the footpath to the castle begins there is a small museum in an old mill building. In all our years of visiting Dollar we have never been in – until this time. It’s a fascinating collection of information on local history staffed by friendly volunteers (an extensive chat with one unearthed three mutual acquaintances). I was particularly interested in the section on Lavinia Malcolm, a woman I had never heard of but who was the first woman town councillor (1907) and the first woman Provost (Mayor – 1913) in Scotland. We noted that we must have walked past a plaque on her former home and decided to look out for it on our way back.

After the museum, we climbed up the Glen past this intriguing money mushroom – I’ve seen money trees before but this is a first – to the point where we could look back on the view you can see in the post header. Castle Campbell soon loomed over us.

We had spent so long in the museum that the castle was about to close by the time we got there, so we passed it by and returned down the other side of the glen. The lights had come on by the time we got back to Dollar making it look very festive.

As hoped, we found Lavinia’s house and memorial plaque.

My favourite kind of walk – countryside and history combined! For more walks of all kinds, pop over to Jo’s Monday Walk for a wide choice of topics.

Perambulations in Perth

Perth
Perth
Somehow our usual autumn holiday downgraded itself in 2016 to a couple of nights in Perth in early December! I’m not complaining, Perth is a beautiful city and the weather, though cold, was wonderfully bright. We spent most of our day there, Sunday, following the River Tay Public Art Trail.

Sunbank House Hotel
Sunbank House Hotel
Our hotel (Sunbank House – highly recommended) was on the east bank of the river so we started there and followed the trail through a series of parks and gardens before crossing the river and returning along Tay Street. Here are some highlights.

East bank

This was my favourite part of the trail with the tall spire of St Matthew’s Church an ever-present landmark.

Perth Bridge

We crossed the river by the Perth Bridge which is equally attractive by day and night. It was built in 1766 and widened in 1869. On the other side are the Museum and Art Gallery and the Concert Hall – we didn’t go in this time, but enjoyed visits to both earlier in the year.

Returning to the river, some of the art serves a very practical purpose as flood gates.

We passed the war memorial and regimental monument and admired the beautiful houses on the side of the river we’d just come from.

Then we crossed under the bridge to walk up Tay Street.

West bank and city centre

On the section of Tay Street between Perth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge there are ten wall carvings and several other sculptures, of which my favourite is Shona Kinloch’s chubby eagle standing proudly atop its fish.

The trail now took us away from the river into the city centre – lunch! But also more to see. The Salutation Hotel is another historic landmark, dating from 1699.

St John Street has decorative lampposts and gratings – I’m not sure if they’re meant to remind me of Munch’s The Scream, but they do. Round the corner, Walter Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth sits forlornly on her bench.

Nearby, Nae Day Sae Dark is another literary sculpture, inspired by Perth poet William Soutar. The two figures represent happiness and misery. It wasn’t possible to get a picture of the full circle because a (tuneless) busker had plonked himself right in the way.

After lunch, we continued along the riverbank, passing another sculpture inspired by Soutar, Soutar’s Menagerie, until we reached the Fergusson Gallery. Housed in an old water tower, this is dedicated to the work of Scottish Colourist JD Fergusson (1874-1961). It’s not open on Sundays, but we’ve been before and it is well worth a visit. It also has information about Fergusson’s partner, the dancer Margaret Morris, and their life together.

Craigie walk

From the Fergusson Gallery we set off to follow another trail – there was life in the old legs yet – which focussed on the life of the aforementioned poet, William Soutar. We set off across South Inch (large grassy area) – Soutar was born in one of its bordering terraces.

We then walked uphill to areas Soutar would have played in as a child, passing Craigie Waterfall and climbing Craigie Knowes, a little patch of wilderness in suburbia. In Soutar’s day, the waterfall was surrounded by malt barns, a laundry and a flock mill. Now it’s all houses, though some of the windy roads probably had their origins as farm tracks. Higher still is Craigie Hill, where you can see John striding along below. This looks like the country, but to the left of the picture is a golf course and out of sight on the right traffic thunders along the motorway to Dundee.

Descending again, we passed 27 Wilson Street where Soutar lived in the last years of his life. Here he spent 13 years bedridden with an incurable arthritis of the spine, all the time writing his poetry and receiving a constant stream of friends, neighbours and literary admirers. He died of tuberculosis aged just 45.

Finally, we returned to South Inch and amused ourselves watching the birds on the frozen pond.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks where you’ll find her on trail in the Algarve and her friends – well they’re cyber-walking all over the globe.

A stroll in the grounds of Scone Palace

Scone Palace
Scone Palace

We had a couple of weekends in Perth in 2016. Both times we visited Scone Palace (and however you pronounce the thing that you eat, this Scone is definitely Scoon). The first visit was in so-called flaming June when it poured. We toured the house (no photography) and had a quick look at the Chapel on Moot Hill, crowning place of the Kings of Scots and home to the Stone of Scone aka the Stone of Destiny, before taking refuge back in the car.

As we knew there was far more than this to the grounds, we were determined to go back for a proper stroll. Fortunately, our visit in December, although very cold, was dry and we enjoyed a couple of hours there.

We started again at the palace, where we were intrigued by the white peacock which I thought might have been an albino. However, according to Wikipedia, although albino peafowl do exist, they are quite rare and almost all white peafowl have a different condition called leucism. An albino peacock will have red or pink eyes whereas one with leucism will have normal eye-colour – which I think you can clearly see here (if you click to enlarge the photo).

We followed the path round Moot Hill to the site of an old tomb and then the David Douglas Pavilion at the edge of the Pinetum. David Douglas was born in Scone in 1799 and worked as a gardener at the palace for seven years. He went on to become an explorer and a great plant hunter.

The highlight of the grounds for me was the Murray Star Maze with its copper beech hedges and water nymph in the centre. The pattern is designed to resemble the owner’s family tartan, Ancient Murray of Tullibardine, and is in the shape of a five-pointed star which is part of the family’s emblem. The shortest way to its centre is only about 30 metres although there are over 800 metres of paths altogether. We walked something in between those distances!

The village of Scone once stood within the grounds of the Palace. However, when the medieval house was rebuilt in 1803 and the new Palace grounds were landscaped in 1805 the entire village was relocated two miles away and became known as ‘New Scone’. Aren’t aristocrats lovely?

There are still many reminders of old Scone around the grounds. The Ancient Burial Ground of Scone, above, is one. The Mercat Cross and 16th century archway which was the grand entrance to the ‘City of Scone’, below, are others. Some of the stonework has been nicely restored here.

Finally we paid our respects to the Highland Cattle, one of which had rather an alarming glint in its eye. Fortunately, they were safely behind a robust fence.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your stroll round Scone Place’s grounds. I’m linking it to Jo’s Monday Walks which this week has gorgeous blue Portuguese skies to cheer you up.

Deanston and Doune

Deanston Distillery
Deanston Distillery

We’ve been meaning to visit Deanston Distillery for ages – it’s less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow – and finally got around to it in November. It’s unusual because it wasn’t purpose-built: it started life in 1785 as Deanston Cotton Mill and functioned as such until 1965. However, unlike many abandoned industrial buildings, it didn’t go into decline but reopened as a distillery in 1967. The mill’s location on the banks of the River Teith made it ideal for its new purpose and the constant cool temperature in the weaving shed was perfect for maturation.

We were lucky that a tour was just starting as we arrived. We paid £9 for the basic tour which included two drams at the end and, as John was driving, I got to drink most of that – hic! A few highlights will suffice – if you want to know about the details of whisky production at Deanston, there’s a great account on Alcademics.com.

Outside the distillery were stacks of casks – most of Deanston’s whisky is matured in ex-bourbon casks.

The most photogenic of the machines inside were the malt mill and the stills. The malt mill is the original from the 1960s, made by Porteus in Leeds. It has only had to be recalibrated twice in all that time – in fact, the company went out of business because their machines were so efficient that they never needed to be replaced!

The whisky is stored while it matures in the old weaving shed. At the front were rows of signed barrels, including one signed by the cast of the Ken Loach film, The Angel’s Share, parts of which were filmed at Deanston. (The angel’s share is a term for the amount of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation.) If you know Ken Loach’s work at all you’ll perhaps be surprised to learn that this is a comedy crime caper. I’ve seen it and would like to see it again now to spot the locations!

After our tour we had an excellent lunch in Deanston’s café, The Coffee Bothy, which helped me counter the (very slight, of course) effects of the whisky, and then we set off for a walk round nearby Doune.

We started at the castle which was built at the end of the 14th century and has found fame as a film location featuring in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of  Thrones and Outlander. We’ve explored its interior many times, but this time we took the track which follows round the outside.

This took us down to the confluence of the Ardoch Burn on the left and the River Teith on the right. Walking upstream alongside the Teith we met some friends grazing.

Eventually a high fence blocked the riverside but a path up to the right led us to the main road, and another right along the pavement took us into the village of Doune. We passed the Muir Hall and St Modoc’s Episcopal Church.

The Moray Institute, now homes, and some picturesque cottages.

There have been two referendums in recent years. The occupant of one cottage left us in no doubt which way s/he had voted in either of them, with Saltires and European Union bunting fluttering in the breeze.

We emerged onto the main street by the Mercat Cross, and then passed the Highland Hotel and the former Kilmadock Parish Church.

A final footpath took us back over fields to the castle and our car having enjoyed a lovely and varied day out.

Doune Castle
Doune Castle