Arduaine Garden and Kilmartin Glen

Arduaine Garden

After our beautiful walk on Kerrera we were disappointed to wake up the next day and find the weather had reverted to a more normal grey drizzle. Nevertheless, we decided to stick to our plan of driving home from Oban the long way round in order to visit Kilmartin Glen.

First, we stopped at Arduaine Garden, started in 1898 by James Arthur Campbell and now part of the National Trust for Scotland.

Fortified with coffee, we headed for our next stop at Carnassarie Castle, dating from the 1560s. There were good views over Kilmartin Glen from the top, even if it was a little damp and misty – we certainly didn’t envy the people excavating an adjacent mound. That looked a cold job.

Into Kilmartin itself, and we visited the small museum, the church and its associated graveyard before having lunch in the hotel.

After lunch, we set out to explore the glen further. Kilmartin Glen has one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland, including standing stones, a henge monument, numerous cists, and a ‘linear cemetery’ comprising five burial cairns. The gallery below is just a selection.

Finally, at the southern end of the glen we climbed to the remains of the fortress of Dunadd, a royal centre of Dàl Riata, the first kingdom of the Scots, more than 1300 years ago. The inauguration stone has a footprint (allegedly created by the hero Ossian) into which the new king placed his foot, thus betrothing himself to the land. These days, it’s a replica but we gave it a go anyway.

After that, it was time to head for home at the end of a lovely weekend.

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Glasgow Gallivanting: November 2017

How’s this for a highlight? Andy Murray Live was a charity tennis event starring Andy himself and some mate of his called Roger Federer who seemed to be a pretty good player too. Our seats were far too high up to get good pictures, but I think this tweet highlights the spirit of the event. The cry which came from the crowd was not “Donald, where’s your troosers?”¹ but “Roger, where’s your kilt?” If someone found him one, said Roger, he’d wear it. Within a few minutes a woman was standing at the edge of the court (with her coat wrapped round her lower half ) brandishing a kilt. My goodness, he was good at swaggering in it (*fans self quietly*). It even toned with his shirt! Towards the end, Roger presented Andy with a parcel containing a Jimmy² wig – a tam o’ shanter with ginger locks attached, easily purchased in any tourist tat shop. I think he really suited that too.

The event raised over £700,000 for UNICEF and a local children’s charity, more than double last year’s total. Good for Andy and Roger (as well as Jamie Murray, Tim Henman and Mansour Bahrami) – they did a great job.

Kelvin Way

A Sunday afternoon stroll down the Kelvin Way brought good and bad sights. Artist (and friend) Ash Loydon recently had an exhibition in the city centre created in partnership with The Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers and the Open Museum. Since it closed, the associated banner has shown up on various park fences, a great way to spread the word that “Everyone has the right to a home”.

Just across the road is the Suffragette Oak, planted in 1918 to commemorate the first women in the UK to get the vote. Long-term readers might remember that in 2015 I was part of a team from Glasgow Women’s Library which successfully nominated it as Scotland’s Tree of the Year (see here). There are big plans for next year’s centenary – but unfortunately, Storm Ophelia has pulled a great chunk of the tree down. It is hoped the oak will survive, and appropriate uses will be found for the damaged wood, but it’s so sad to see a hundred years of growth diminished.

Glasgow by night

On a brighter note, literally, a lot of November events took us into the centre of Glasgow at night and it is looking awfully pretty at the moment.

One of our events was a talk in the City Chambers, a Victorian edifice which features the largest marble staircase in Western Europe. Apparently it has “played” both the Kremlin and the Vatican on screen!

One disappointment was Nursery Crymes, billed as “A unique night-time experience exploring the dark themes behind our beloved childhood stories [and] the sinister side of nursery rhymes – the ideas of authority, morality and social indoctrination underpinning these simple stories for children.” A great idea which needs more development, but came across to us as a confusing mish-mash – sometimes we weren’t even sure which rhyme or story was playing out. Below are Rock-a-bye-baby, Bo Peep and – a large head? Who knows what that was about? Not me.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam at dusk

We’ve been to Amsterdam! A whole week at the end of November, beginning of December. More to follow soon.

The last bit

For this month’s Scottish words lesson I’ll explain some of the terms used in the first section above.

¹ Scots often change the vowel sound in words such as trousers and house to troosers and hoose. Donald where’s your troosers? is a comedy song made famous by legendary Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart. Hear him in the video below accompanied by a montage of men in kilts. Keep watching for an Elvis impersonation and a VERY cheeky ending!

²Jimmy wigs get their name from a generic term for a man, often heard in the phrase “See you, Jimmy!” For example, if a stranger knocks your elbow in the pub and you spill your pint, you might say “See you, Jimmy! Gonnae no dae that?” (“You there! Please don’t do that.”) On the other hand, I don’t advise it. It might invite aggression….

So here ends the eleventh Glasgow Gallivanting post. I never thought I’d keep it up for a whole year, but there’s only one more to go – how can it be December already? Have a great month.

A walk round Kerrera

Remember this view from last time? Our window in Oban looked out on the island of Kerrera which we were determined to explore. A small passenger ferry runs from Gallanach, a couple of miles along the coast from Oban. Unless you live on Kerrera (current population about 35) no vehicles are allowed.

There are two possible walks suggested, the southern loop taking in Gylen Castle (and nearby tea garden – vital!) or a linear walk to the northern tip where there is a monument to  David Hutcheson, one of the founders of the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry service. We chose the 11km loop to castle and tea garden / bunk house.

Kerrera

From the ferry, we turned right along Horseshoe Bay and Little Horseshoe Bay. We hadn’t gone far when we discovered the tea garden owners were enterprising in a quirky sort of way. The slates read Hello! Is it tea you’re looking for? Lionel Rich Tea. 

From here on our walk was punctuated by teapots – and cattle. At one time, Kerrera was a stepping stone for transporting cattle from Mull (the much larger island behind it) to the mainland.

Sometimes the teapot messages were really helpful. Cake!

The path to the castle was just before the tea garden but we chose to go for a cup of tea first, then explore the castle and return for lunch. Might as well make full use of the place! It was a lovely sunny day, but even if it hadn’t been there was comfortable indoor seating in the old barn.

The quirkiness continued in the bike park (an old tree trunk, click to enlarge to make it clearer).

And the toilet which is twinned with a toilet in Pakistan.

The ruined Gylen Castle, dramatically perched on a rocky outcrop, was built in 1587 by Duncan MacDougall of Dunollie, the 16th chief, on the site of an earlier fortification.

From the castle and tea garden, the path followed the more rugged western edge of the island before crossing back to the ferry point. And, of course, just in case anyone was walking the loop in the other direction, there were more teapots.

This was an absolutely beautiful day and I’d love to go back to Kerrera. The next day, we were heading back home from Oban and the weather was not so kind to us. We still made some interesting stops, though – next time!

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. Pop over for some Portuguese sunshine, I could certainly do with that today!

Oban and Dunstaffnage Castle

Thornloe Guest House

In May, we spent two nights in Oban, a west coast town a couple of hours north of Glasgow. It was a last-minute decision, so we were lucky to find a wonderful place to stay, the Thornloe Guest House, which was as attractive inside as out.

 

Note the open window above – we never tired of the view from it as you can see below. After staring at the island immediately in front of us, Kerrera, for so long we were inspired to visit it the next day, but that’s for another post.

As we only had one full day, our time in Oban itself was mainly spent wandering around at night before and after dinner. Beautiful!

 

In one of the pictures above, you can see the round arches of McCaig’s Tower on the hill above the harbour. We climbed up to it one evening for sunset views back down to the town.

 

Close to Oban is Dunstaffnage Castle. We visited on our way to the town and found they were having a Viking day. Some of those Vikings look quite scary, but we ran across them in a Chinese restaurant in Oban that evening and they seemed much more genial then!

 

Coming next, I’ll take you for a walk round Kerrera.

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2017

Canal House, Speirs Wharf

It’s been a quiet month for travel, for me at least – John spent a chunk of it working in China, so I don’t suppose he feels the same. Foul weather has meant I haven’t been very far afield, but I have tramped about Glasgow in between rain storms and have a few local buildings to show you.

Speirs Wharf

A Sunday afternoon stroll with John took us down the Glasgow spur of the Forth and Clyde Canal to Port Dundas. Here, Speirs Wharf has been a residential area since the late 1980s but originated in the 19th century as the canal’s headquarters and the City of Glasgow Grain Mills and Stores. As well as Canal House (above) we found other attractive reflections on our walk.

Temple

Forth and Clyde Canal at Temple

On a gloomy Sunday while John was away, the sun suddenly broke through about 3.30pm. I set off along the canal again, but in the opposite direction. I could almost have been in the countryside until Temple Gasometers came into view.

Temple Gasworks were built in 1871 and closed in 1968, but the two large gas holders, dating from 1893 and 1900, were still being used until a few years ago.

Historic Environment Scotland recently sought views on plans to schedule the structures as Category B Listed buildings. I don’t know the result, but the local paper reported divided opinion between those who wanted them conserved and those who would flatten them. I’d be in the former camp these days, though we used to live very close to the gasometers and I hated them then. Now, I can see their beauty as part of our industrial heritage (and I don’t have to pass them every day which helps).

Also at Temple are Locks 26 and 27. The pub Lock 27, which you can see in the background of the portrait image, used to be our local. It’s still handy for a post-stroll pint but wasn’t open on this day.

Jordanhill

At Lock 27, I left the canal and headed for Jordanhill. Some of you might remember this is the University Campus I used to work at. I swore I would never go there again after my last visit a couple of years ago when it was so sad to see the semi-derelict state of it (the campus closed in 2012 and has now been sold for housing), but that’s where my footsteps took me. Nothing has changed – there is some controversy with the development and local people are protesting about the number of homes to be built with little or no improvements in infrastructure. The handsome red sandstone David Stow Building is one of three that will be kept. The other picture is not pretty, I know, but that’s the entrance I used for work every day.

I found it funny to see the bright blue library book drop still there: locked – I checked. I probably locked it myself five years ago. On the door is a notice informing users that the library closed on 1st June 2012, telling them where to take their books in future, and thanking them for their custom over the years. I know I wrote that and put it up and I’m amazed no-one has ever taken it down. I’m just glad I can laugh, it’s all bygones now. I have no regrets.

Down by the Riverside

Another reason that October has been constrained is that I have been fighting with a broken-down boiler which took 6 visits from 4 different workmen to fix, so I have spent a lot of time hanging round the house. One visit was supposed to be on the Sunday afternoon in the middle of the saga, but the engineer phoned to say that he was still waiting for parts and would come on Monday instead. So we set off down the River Kelvin Walkway and then along the Clyde.

The last time we visited this former pumping station it still showed signs of having been a restaurant (first picture below). Eighteen months later, the restaurant’s conservatory has been replaced with a glass still-house for a new whisky distillery. Exciting!

On the other side of the river, we spotted the Waverley (the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world – red funnels) and Queen Mary (the only remaining Clyde-built turbine steamer which is now being preserved as a museum ship – yellow funnels). We crossed over to have a look.

Both ships are berthed by the Glasgow Tower, a rotating structure which you are supposed to be able to ascend but which spends more time inactive than not. From its podium, we got a good view of the Glasgow Science Centre and some of the other weird buildings by this part of the river.

The last bit

I came across this piece of street art near Glasgow University. It’s by an artist new to me, Pink Bear Rebel, who focuses, I’ve read, on anti-Trump protests and rebelling against the ‘meaningless of life’. I’ll be on the look-out for more.

And the boiler? Well, as of last Tuesday we have heat – just as well, because overnight frosts have returned. It also gives me this month’s Scottish words lesson because it’s been a sair fecht to deal with (sore/hard fight; something problematic).

I hope your October has NOT been a sair fecht!

Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2017

Forth Bridge View

Let’s start with the highlight! That has to be our trip to the top of the Forth Bridge, part of a charity event in aid of Barnardo’s. Here we are 361 feet above the Firth of Forth. In case of doubt, we are holding hands romantically, not clinging on to the rail for safety 😉

We had booked the sunset slot, hoping for colourful skies, but it had been a cloudy day so they didn’t materialise. However, we still got great views both on the ground and from the top. There are now three bridges crossing the Forth from South Queensferry to North Queensferry (where the event took place), each from a different century – full history on the Forth Bridges website, but here’s the potted version. Until the Forth Bridge opened to trains in 1890, the only crossing was by ferry. In 1964, a road bridge was added, but by the 21st century it was proving inadequate for the volume of traffic passing over it. This year, the new Queensferry Crossing has opened with the original road bridge now reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and, eventually, public transport. Unlike many public infrastructure projects, the new bridge actually came in under budget (by £245m). Well done Scottish Government!

We arrived early to look round the village of North Queensferry and admire all the bridges.

Then it was time to don our hard-hats before riding the shoogly hoist to the top of the North Cantilever. The hoist was a tight squeeze, but the viewing platform was surprisingly large and we had about 20 minutes to wander about and take photographs. Several trains passed underneath us, each producing another little shoogle.

Then it was back down to earth, and dinner in one of the local hotels before getting the train back to Glasgow – across the Forth Bridge of course!

Doors Open Days

For the week of 11th-17th September, many institutions in Glasgow which would not normally be open to the public threw wide their doors for tours and events. I took part at two venues myself – on Wednesday, I was part of a Glasgow Women’s Library event on the hidden histories of women and how we can uncover them through, for example, heritage walks and a databases of monuments and memorials. On Saturday, I led a canal walk at Maryhill (and totally forgot to take any photographs).

Sunday was our day for exploring, so I booked a back-stage tour of the Citizen’s Theatre for the morning. Our guide, Martin, was fabulous and gave us a bit of history before taking us behind the scenes. Originally opened in 1878, what became “The Citz” is the second oldest operational theatre in the UK (Leeds Grand opened 6 weeks earlier). Once we got out of the 1990 foyer this certainly showed, and I can understand why the theatre is closing next summer for two years of much-needed redevelopment. It’s what I would call a bit of a guddle.

However, the Citz will not dispose of its historical artefacts. It has the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK, and is the only theatre in Scotland still to have its original machinery under the stage. We got to visit that – and also stand on stage looking out to the auditorium.

Another piece of history is the original Victorian paint frame which is still used today to paint backcloths.

The Christmas production of Cinderella is coming up, and we saw a huge clock in preparation, which presumably will chime midnight at the appropriate time.

Designs for Cinderella were also in evidence in the costume department. I somehow don’t think any of these shoes will be suitable to play the glass slipper!

After lunch, we visited St Columba’s Gaelic Church, and Scottish Opera’s HQ. This was of interest less for its current role than for its origins (1907) as the home of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, as illustrated in the splendid stained glass by Stephen Adam.

I really appreciate the work of the hundreds of volunteers across the city who make these days such a success every year.

Blogging news

A new badge has appeared in my sidebar! I was very pleased to be included in a list of Top 30 International Retirement Blogs 2017 by Maxwell Salo of WeLoveCostaRica.com – thank you so much! I haven’t had time to explore the other 27 yet, but I did spot two friends, Donna of Retirement_Reflections and Debbie of Deb’s World. If you don’t know them too, why not visit?

I also joined in with Ishita of Italophilia and her #ItalophiliaPostcards project. Exchange a postcard with her and share the results on social media. Ishita’s card of Vienna has arrived here, but my card of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens seems to have got lost somewhere on its way. Maybe it will have arrived by next month’s roundup….

Family news

I’m sad to say that one of my uncles, Ian McKay, died in September, just short of his 89th birthday. Ian was married to Elspeth, one of my Dad’s three younger sisters, and although they settled in Brisbane before I was born I still had opportunities to get to know them on their visits back to Scotland. It was Elspeth who looked after Dad and me when Mum was in hospital having my baby sister and it was Ian who taught me to swim. The last time I saw them in person was on our only visit (so far) to Australia, in 2004 when this picture was taken. Ian will be missed.

On a much happier note, John has been presented with the prestigious Chengdu Jinsha Friendship Award for “foreign experts” in recognition of his role in the development of the relationship between the University of Glasgow and the University of Electronic Science and Technology China in the city of Chengdu. As you usually see him wearing walking gear (and now a hard-hat) you might not recognise him in this smartly turned out gentleman. Doesn’t he scrub up well? More info on the University of Glasgow news page if you are interested.

The last bit

And finally, on to Scottish words of the month! I’ve used three that might not be totally familiar. If you’re puzzling over Firth of Forth, it means the mouth of the River Forth. (Firth is pronounced the same but spelled differently from furth meaning outside, e.g. outside Scotland would be “furth of Scotland”.)

The shoogly lift and bridge were shaking, but I think shoogle is a much more evocative word than shake. The Glasgow Subway makes extensive use of it in its advertising. It is also used in the phrase “yer jaiket’s on a shoogly nail” meaning “your jacket is hanging on a loose peg”, i.e. you could be out on your ear at any time.

Earlier, I described backstage at The Citz as a bit of a guddle, which is my favourite word to describe a mess of impressive proportions. It’s also possible to guddle about, which I quite enjoy doing, or to find yourself in a bit of a guddle, or a confusing situation where you don’t quite know what to do. I enjoy that less.

Of course, guddle rhymes with puddle – plenty of those here at the moment, where the weather is getting colder and wetter and the nights are fair drawing in, as my Grandad used to say. Who can believe we’re into the last quarter of the year already?

Let’s see what October brings.

Glasgow Gallivanting: August 2017

Union Canal, Falkirk

With just coming back from Canada at the end of July, John having two business trips during the month (to Singapore and China) and replacing all the windows in our house, August has not seen us travel very far – at least, not together. Perhaps the most unusual thing we did was going to a play, The Resurrection, which took place on the banks of the Union Canal, including inside the Falkirk Tunnel. Based on the infamous Burke and Hare murders in 1827/8 it was quite scary in parts!

In the 1820s, there was a lucrative trade in selling cadavers to Edinburgh University (for use in the study of anatomy) which produced a spate of grave-robbing leading to the term “resurrection men”. Strictly speaking, the title of the play is a misnomer as Burke and Hare cut out the necessity for “resurrection” by murdering the victims themselves. Four actors met us in turn as we walked along the canal and through the tunnel on which Burke and Hare had been labourers. Below, you can see Margaret Logue, landlady of the lodgings in which the murders took place, and William Burke himself.

It was impossible to take photographs inside the tunnel, but if you are interested, this very short video shows how spooky it was. It was very different to any other event we have been too, and really enjoyable. I’m just glad I wasn’t the person right at the front when Mr Burke suddenly appeared as we exited the tunnel. The first woman out screamed blue murder!

Dinosaurs in the park

Jurassic Kingdom has come to Glasgow! This collection of animated dinosaurs has been touring the country and is currently in our Botanic Gardens. Over a week or so, we watched the models develop from a collection of body parts into rather impressive life-sized models. Once the event opened they were screened off for paying customers only, but we could still hear them ROARRR!

Blogging friendships

Donna at Retirement_Reflections has been hosting guest posts over the summer through which I’ve met some interesting new friends. On August 20th it was my turn. Thanks, Donna, for hosting me. Everyone else – I definitely recommend a visit to Donna’s blog. She and her husband have just finished hiking the Camino Trail which makes my walks look like mere ambles.

Another recommendation is Sarah at The Old Shelter who recently tagged me for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop. Thank you Sarah but, honestly, my first post is really not worth the effort! Three lines saying little more than that I’d started a travel blog (though it does have quite a cool picture of me at the Grand Canyon). Nobody visited. Nobody cared. If anyone cares to visit now (here), they’d probably double the page views. Just saying…..

The last bit

In which I occasionally teach you some Scottish words and phrases. Today: reek, meaning smell or smoke. Burke and Hare lived in Edinburgh, the old town of which was so dirty that it was nicknamed Auld Reekie (Old Smoky / Smelly) – but reek can also be used in a phrase wishing someone a long and healthy life. Literally meaning “long may your chimney smoke”, I finish by saying to all my readers:

Lang may yer lum reek!

I hope your August was great too. See you in September!

Arran – the walks

Machrie Moor

Moss Farm Road Cairn

The trail to Machrie Moor Stone Circles is an out-and-back walk of 4km. Before we got to the main event, we passed Moss Farm (above), the burial cairn of a powerful person who lived about 4,000 years ago, and Fingal’s Cauldron Seat (below), named after the legendary warrior Fhionn / Fingal.

Fingal’s Cauldron Seat

We stepped through a gate just beyond this onto open moorland and the sight of five separate stone circles – the tallest standing stone is over 5m high.

Kilpatrick Preaching Cave

A coastal walk took us to the well-hidden Kilpatrick Preaching Cave. After the Highland Clearances in the 19th century, when the Earl of Arran evicted many of his tenants to make room for more sheep, local people showed their disapproval in the only way they could by rejecting the Earl’s choice of minister. The Preaching Cave provided a suitable meeting place for the congregation. A sad story, but a beautiful setting.

String Road Viewpoint

Returning to Brodick on our last afternoon in Arran, we crossed the island via the String Road (B880) from which a short trail led to a beautiful viewpoint. Ayrshire was just visible on the horizon.

And behind us were beautiful mountain panoramas.

The next morning, we took the ferry back to the mainland while hoping to return to Arran soon.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – today she’s taking us to Bolton Abbey, and her cyber-companions are walking all over the world.

Arran – the castles

Brodick Castle

With a couple of friends we rented an apartment in Arran over the May Day Bank Holiday. It was a long time since we’d been and it was their first visit – it was definitely a success, but, as with our earlier weekend in Galloway, the weather was a bit iffy. Still, we got out and about and there was plenty to see.

It was a disappointment to find that Brodick Castle is closed this year, presumably for maintenance. However, the gardens were open and we spent a whole morning wandering about.

Later that day, we went to Lochranza Castle, a 13th century ruin which can be visited free of charge. What a beautiful setting!

The following day, we had lunch at the Kildonan Hotel and took a short walk afterwards to see Kildonan Castle. This is also 13th century, though there’s much less of it left and it’s not accessible – it’s actually in someone’s garden! The modern standing stones at the hotel were interesting too.

Next time: the walks.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2017

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. In the meantime, here’s my protagonist, Nurse Watt, who caught my eye smiling in the centre of the picture above.

Happy birthday to me!

60th birthday in Jasper

My birthday is in July, and 2017 was a big one. 60! I can’t quite believe it. I celebrated on vacation in Canada, and here I am with some of my cards – from the three people who managed to send one in advance, and John who made me stand outside a shop in Canmore, Alberta, while he selected his.

Lake Louise

As I spent most of July in the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Louise as seen above, and I intend to blog much more about that later, it doesn’t leave a great deal of Glasgow Gallivanting to write about. So that’s it for this month – except to say that I hope you’ve had a great July too.