April Squares: Lake Louise

Two squares for the price of one today. Here we are on top of the world at Lake Louise: firstly at the viewpoint looking down to the Fairmont Château, and secondly on the gondola up Mount Whitehorn.

Linked to Becky’s #SquareTops challenge.

Full story here: Lake Louise.

April Squares: Calgary Tower

In the first few days of Becky’s #SquareTops challenge I looked at various places in the US where we felt on top of the world. Now it’s time to move to Canada and our Rockies trip of 2017. We flew into Calgary and climbed the Calgary Tower soon after we arrived. These are my feet as I stand at the very top, looking down through a rather scary glass window. My knees feel quite wobbly remembering this!

Original post: Calgary.

April Squares: Pikes Peak

Today’s post is a memory of a glorious trip up Pikes Peak in Colorado which, at 14,115ft, is the highest I have ever been. So definitely the top of my world – but don’t worry, we drove up. Or rather, we were driven by Scott, husband of fellow-blogger Claudia, both of whom generously gave up their time to show us some of their favourite places in Colorado. You can find Claudia at The Bookwright, where she’s currently engaged in the A to Z Challenge.

Linked to Becky’s #SquareTops challenge.

Full story: Pikes Peak with Claudia and Scott.

April Squares: Beartooth Highway

After yesterday’s appearance by John, here’s a rare photograph of the two of us together. We’re feeling on top of the world on the Beartooth Highway, surely one of the most scenic roads in America. We were on our way from Yellowstone, Wyoming, to Red Lodge, Montana, and in the original post about this trip, there’s even a Top of the World Store!

Linked to Becky’s fabulous #SquareTops challenge.

April Squares: Snowy Range

Today’s square top is still in the USA, but from a different trip – in 2016 we visited Wyoming and Colorado. It’s also John’s turn to be in the spotlight! Here he is feeling on top of the world on our first hike in Wyoming’s Snowy Range.

Linked to Becky’s #SquareTops

Read the full story: The Snowy Range, Wyoming

April Squares: Shenandoah

Like yesterday’s photograph, this one is from 2014’s trip to Virginia and West Virginia. Here I am on top of the world at a lookout along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Linked to Beck’s marvellous April Squares Challenge – #SquareTops.

Read more: The bears of Shenandoah.

April Squares: Endless Wall

So it’s April, and the wondrous Becky has started another of her square photography challenges. This time it’s #SquareTops, and one of the suggested ideas is Top of the World. I’m taking that idea and running the hell away with it in a purely self-indulgent fashion. In these difficult times, when we can hardly go beyond our own front doors, it will cheer me up no end to look back on the days when John and I were on top of the world metaphorically, by enjoying our travels, while also being on top of some (usually) natural high point. As John is Photographer-in-Chief on this blog, it will mostly be my grinning face that you see. And for other frustrated gallivanters who fancy some armchair travel, I will always provide a link to the full post.

Today’s photograph, from 2014, is of the Endless Wall Trail above the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Read more in Fayetteville and the New River Gorge.


Goats of Haddington

Haddington is a pleasant country town in East Lothian. Our most recent visit was in July last year when we stopped for lunch on our way to our holiday cottage on the east coast. After lunch, we strolled round the town, first passing The Goats of Haddington. This sculpture by Dyre Vaa, depicting two fighting goats, was gifted to the town by the Norwegian firm Tandberg Electronics in 1978. A goat and vine appear in the coat-of arms granted to the Royal Burgh of Haddington in 1296, and are believed to represent prosperity – there is no need for the goat to eat grass when a vine is available. Or so I read on Wikipedia!

At Haddington House, we strolled round St Mary’s Pleasance, a 17th century-style garden created in 1972.

Next door is St Mary’s Collegiate Church, the largest parish church in Scotland, dating from the 14th century and restored in the 1970s. We had a wander round, inside and out. The wheelbarrow in the church porch was part of the Blooming Haddington Wheelbarrow Trail – we saw a few more about town. The crucifixion was made by Margery Clinton when she was teaching art in a rough secondary school in London. This was her response in her studio at home. The green board is a 17th century Burgess Board recording legacies – known as mortifications – given for support of the poor. £12 Scots equated to £1 Sterling, so this one for £18 Scots is for £1.50, the equivalent of about £180 today.

Finally, we took a walk along the River Tyne, past an old mill (Poldrate Mill, now an Arts and Crafts Centre) and back into town.

A very pretty, genteel place? Yes, but not without its revolutionaries!

We didn’t meet any of them and continued safely towards our destination.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2020

Maryhill Window Wanderland 2020

Many of you liked the photos I posted of the two Window Wanderlands we attended in February, so I thought I’d start with more of the same – Window Wanderland Part 3! As with the other events, Maryhill’s took place on a wet, cold night, but the colourful displays cheered us up. I think cheering up is what we all need at the moment, with so much closed down because of the coronavirus, COVID-19, so I’m going to show you lots and lots of windows and gardens in this post.

The top image has a musical theme with The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine on one side and Pink Floyd’s The Wall on the other. The Beatles cropped up again with Norwegian Wood, which included the song itself playing, one of two windows we found with sound effects. Round the corner, this seascape was accompanied by the sound of rushing waves.

The Wanderland took place on the eve of International Women’s Day (8th March) so we appreciated that one household had chosen to celebrate this. The nearby Be Kind message is also very relevant today.

Here’s a great big gallery for your delectation!

Finally, one householder had set up a cinema in his back garden, complete with popcorn and – because the film was Whisky Galore – a wee dram.

Stank Glen

Ben Ledi from Stank Glen

The last weekend before everything started to shut down was amazingly dry, and we got a couple of outings. A circular route took us up the forested Stank Glen, above Loch Lubnaig, and in the shadow of Ben Ledi. Dry it might have been but, after all the rain we have had, some of the paths were like small streams, and crossing the actual streams was tricky because any stepping stones, natural or otherwise, were submerged. Cue wet feet!


That same weekend, we visited a couple of the gardens advertising snowdrops through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. It was right at the end of the snowdrop season, and not much else was out, but it got us into the fresh air again at a troubling time.

Kilbryde Castle has been home to the Campbell family since 1659. The current owners, Sir James and Lady (Carola) Campbell were out gardening when we arrived and greeted us from a safe distance. We had a rather slithery, muddy walk round the property.

We dropped into nearby Dunblane for lunch. The restaurant we chose, Allanview, had just opened the week before. What an unfortunate time to start a new venture: I feel so sorry for the owners. The food was excellent, but now they will have had to close like every restaurant in the country.

Things we noticed in Dunblane: I’ve posted Andy Murray’s gold post-box before (all home-grown 2012 Olympic gold medallists got one in their home town), but not since it had a plaque celebrating his special stamps, and I don’t remember his Wimbledon bench either.

We loved this quirky signpost.

And we also loved the mosaics decorating the bridge over the Allan Water.

Finally, on our way back to the car we spotted a ghost sign. This house is called The Old Bakery, and the ghost sign tells us why – Tea Room.

From Dunblane, we drove to our second garden of the day, Braco Castle. The oldest part of this house dates from before 1600, a rectangular tower built by the 3rd Earl of Montrose for his son, William Graham. It has been owned and adapted by several families since – judging by the surname, the current owners might be Dutch.

Braco Castle

The gardens were more elaborate here than at Kilbryde – still not much out, but there was more colour than just snowdrops.

The last bit

I gave my talk, Jessie Stephen: Scottish Suffragette, to the Drymen Lunch Club – the last talk for some time, and the first one to actually have my name on a ticket! I quite liked that. I also saw my talk in print for the first time in Gallus, the journal of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society, who hosted me back in September. They have made a clever acronym out of Gallus – Glasgow Ancestry Links the Life of Us. I’ve explained gallus before: in fact five years ago I did a whole A to Z Challenge on Gallus Glasgow – here’s the explanation if you don’t know what it means.

The week before Glasgow Women’s Library closed down (though we didn’t know that at the time) we had a tea party to say goodbye to one of my fellow volunteers, Eleanor, who is moving to Berkshire to live nearer her son. We’ll miss her – that’s Eleanor in the middle with me and Anna. The three of us comprised the Thursday morning cataloguing team.

As you might expect, all of these events took place in the first part of March before life changed utterly. I don’t expect anything worth writing about to happen between now and the end of the month so I’m clearing the decks and publishing early. We can still walk outside, and we’re lucky to live near a river and a canal – however, the banks are quite narrow and it’s hard to keep the recommended 2m distance from passers by. At least the weather is now dry. To illustrate the difference, here are two pictures taken across the Kelvin in February and March. In the first, the little seating area is completely flooded. In the second, the river has retreated to its natural level.

COVID-19 is already spawning its own art. Street artist Rebel Bear, who has featured here several times before, has contributed this mural on Bank Street.

And Twitter, which can be an absolute cesspit sometimes, has the lovely hashtag #COVIDCeilidh in which traditional musicians post videos of themselves performing to create an online ceilidh (a social event with Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling). You don’t have to be on Twitter to see it, just clink my link above. Here’s one of my favourites so far, Anna Massie of Blazin’ Fiddles, a band we’ve seen a few times, accompanied by her mum on the spoons. Watch for the head movements at the end!

Will there be another Gallivanting post when I can’t gallivant? At the moment I haven’t a scooby*, but at least I have plenty of backlog to keep up with, and I’m thinking of joining Becky’s latest Squares challenge in April, SquareTops, hopefully with a travel theme. Virtual travel is the best we can do at the moment.

*I’ve already had two Scottish words in this post, but Scooby is my actual Scottish word of the month – I didn’t realise it was Scottish, but it’s in my book 100 favourite Scots words so it must be! It means I haven’t a clue and is rhyming slang for the cartoon character, Scooby Doo. First found in print in the Glasgow Herald in 1993 apparently!

Stay safe everyone. As we practice social distancing, or self-isolate, our online buddies are even more important. Till the next time.


The final day of last year’s North-West Highland trip dawned very wet. We were staying in Ballachulish, which we had explored thoroughly the previous evening, so we decided to take a scenic drive to Kinlochleven. Despite the rain, the views of Loch Leven (above) were, indeed, scenic.

Kinlochleven is a former industrial settlement, the site of a huge aluminium smelter built in 1904. When it closed in the 1990s, the owners, Alcan, transferred land to the community for use by the village. This Pelton Wheel, part of the hydro-power system, was also donated and is proudly displayed in front of the old smelter buildings. They now serve as a climbing centre, The Ice Factor, of which more later. Kinlochleven is also a stop on the West Highland Way long-distance footpath so climbing and hiking tourism keeps it going.

We strolled along the River Leven, above, spotting several sculptures along the way.

I thought this bench was going to be a war memorial, but it turns out to be celebrating the local angling club.

Fancy a glamping holiday? The Blackwater Hostel has some attractive pods and a welcoming bear.

We also found that some of the locals had very quirky gardens!

We took a short path up to Grey Mare’s Waterfall. I turned back before the very end – I didn’t want to fall in and get wet feet!

Finally, we used the West Highland Way to create a circular walk above Loch Leven. Despite the weather not being great (and luckily, it wasn’t as wet as it was when we set out in the morning) the views were once again good.

As promised, back to the climbing centre. The Ice Factor opened in 2003 and boasts the biggest indoor ice climbing wall in the world, the UK’s highest indoor articulated rock climbing wall, and a competition bouldering wall voted the best in the UK. Wow! More important to me – it also has a very nice café which we visited for lunch, and again for a cup of tea before we returned to our hotel. From it, you can observe some of the climbing walls, and on our second visit we watched a drama unfold on the Outdoor Aerial Adventure Course. A gangly boy of 16 (we know his age because his granny kept wailing “He’s only 16!”) got well and truly stuck. He slipped off the footholds and didn’t have the strength to pull himself back up – I think the instructor certainly earned her money that day by getting him back on track. (Photos taken through a very wet window!)

And so ended the first section of our 2019 summer trip. The next day, we drove back to Glasgow where we spent a few days with friends and family before setting off again, this time for the south-eastern part of Scotland. Maybe with all this “social distancing” I will have time to catch up. I hope everyone is doing well in these difficult times.