Drummond and Monzie

Drummond Gardens

The garden at Drummond Castle in Perthshire is said to be one of the finest formal gardens in Europe according to its website (source not provided!) First laid out in the 17th century, it was restructured in Victorian times and again in the 20th century. Queen Victoria herself visited in 1842 and expressed approval.

The original castle was built around 1490 by John, 1st Lord Drummond. The keep still stands, but the rest of the castle was remodelled in 1890. It’s not possible to visit either part, but you get excellent and varied views from the gardens.

The free map provided at the entrance details all the plants, many of which were not yet in bloom (our previous visit was at a later time of year when the roses were beautiful). I could have done with a guide to the statuary as my knowledge of mythology is not up to identifying the various gods and goddesses on show. Perhaps you had to shell out for the guide book to get that.

As well as the formal gardens, there is also a Woodland Walk which leads through the trees and criss-crosses the central avenue which is graced by the chap below.

The walk is enlivened by a dozen chain-saw carvings.

I wouldn’t say the carver was the best-ever. Just look at the poor wooden deer compared to the real one we spotted! Even allowing for its broken antlers, the carving is a bit weird looking.

Drummond is just south of the small town of Crieff, so when we’d exhausted the garden we headed there for lunch. New since our last visit were these “leafy” Highland cattle installed in 2018 by community group Crieff in Leaf. They celebrate Crieff’s history as the cattle-droving crossroads of Scotland.

After lunch we headed for the most important visit of the day. Monzie Castle is only open for a few weeks each year – 18th May to 16th June in 2019, so my tardiness in writing this post means you’ve missed it!

Monzie Castle

Monzie (pronounced Mun-ee) is a Gaelic word meaning field of corn. The oldest part of the castle is a 17th century tower house which was incorporated into a large, castellated mansion in the late 18th century. Owned by Grahams then Campbells, in 1856 it was bought by the Crichton family, who still live there today. In 1908 there was a serious fire which destroyed the interior leaving only the outside walls, after which it was restored by the leading Scottish architect of the day, Sir Robert Lorimer. He even furnished it.

We were given a tour by the elder Mrs Crichton, including to her private sitting room in the old part of the house, which was surprisingly cosy. At one time, you had to exit the main house and walk all the way round the back to get into the tower house, thus it fell into disuse: these days, there is a passage knocked through to the much more formal “new” house. No photography was allowed inside, but we were free to wander round the outside and the gardens.

Mrs Crichton’s son and his family also live on Monzie estate which, as well as the castle, includes holiday cottages, a B&B, a farm and a joinery business, all powered by their own hydro electric plant. Having never visited before, it’s now somewhere I’d seriously consider staying on holiday.

Finally, on our way home we stopped in the small village of Muthill which we had driven through many times but never explored. We visited the ruins of the Old Church (1400s) and Tower (1100s) as well as two present day churches (exterior only).

This is another place I would love to stay – Muthill boasts a fine-sounding “restaurant with rooms”, the Barley Bree. Some day! In the meantime, we had had an absolutely fabulous day out.

Castle Semple Country Park

Castle Semple Loch from Parkhill

Castle Semple Park, near Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire, is based on a large estate created many centuries ago by the Sempill family. The original Castle (c. 1500) is no more, but the remains of a later mansion have been incorporated into private residences which are not accessible to the public. However, there are plenty other hints as to what the landscape might once have looked like.

The park has a Visitor Centre (including café) and a loop trail for walkers and cyclists totalling 9 miles. We cut a bit out and walked about 7 miles. Here are some highlights.

Throughout the trail there are unusual seating areas and “Lookooteries” or viewpoints. The stone structure I am sitting on is the Grotto in Parkhill Wood, a once fashionable accessory to any country estate.

Another must-have would have been a water feature and, between 1727 and 1730, garden expert William Bouchert diverted the burn behind Castle Semple to create a series of cascades for then-owners the MacDowall family. Although allegedly restored recently, you can see my puzzlement as I searched for the water flow. The burn is badly overgrown!

Close by is the Collegiate Church which was founded in 1504 by John, Lord Sempill. A collegiate church was not controlled by a bishop, but was served by a college of priests whose chief duty was to pray for the souls of the Sempills. John Sempill was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and his son extended the church to house his father’s tomb. Although not used for worship after the Reformation it survived as a burial enclosure.

Finally, before turning back, we climbed Kenmure Hill to the folly known as Kenmure Temple. This was built in 1758 to provide the MacDowalls and their guests with a vantage point over the estate. It seems graffiti artists have also visited!

Castle Semple is an attractive park which, although just over half an hour’s drive from home, we’ve only visited once before. It’s maybe not as spectacular as other places we visit, but we had a pleasant afternoon out and I think we’ll now add it to our repertoire of regular walks.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in the Azores – a must see!

Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2019

Monzie Castle

Despite a wet forecast earlier in the week, the first day of June, a Saturday, turned out to be a good one. We headed for Perthshire to two castles with lovely gardens. One is above, and the other – well, wait for the full post to follow soon!

Lambhill Stables

The second of June was less good so we settled for one of our local canal walks, eastwards this time to Lambhill Stables and Possil Loch. The Stables were built around 1830 when horses pulling barges were the main means of moving goods along the canal. Today they have been restored as a community facility with a café, heritage displays, and a garden. The Stables are closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. We enjoyed a stroll round the Community Garden which has some interesting sculptures.

Possil Loch is a nature reserve which we walked round, but it’s very marshy and you don’t get close to the loch itself. The best view is actually from Lambhill’s garden. On previous visits, we had to peer through the hedge. This time, there was an official gap with an information board explaining the same view in Roman times. The route of the Antonine Wall, the Empire’s northernmost outpost, is very close.

On another, solo, walk I went to find the new statue of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh which was unveiled last year. Well not find exactly, as I knew exactly where it was and had walked past it before but without time to stop. For those who know the Falkirk Kelpies, Andy Scott sculpted both them and this statue. It’s in a part of Glasgow called Finnieston which, as far as I know, has no specific connection to CRM, nor does the new housing development it fronts come anywhere near him for architectural flair. But for whatever reason it’s there, I like it – although I do wonder why his wife, Margaret MacDonald, could not be included. As Mackintosh said, she had genius whereas he had only talent. Yeah, I know I said that last week too but it can’t be repeated often enough in my opinion.

On the way home through Kelvingrove Park I stopped at Lord Kelvin’s statue, one I know well – but not with a traffic cone on his head! If you have been following me for a while, you might remember my Gallus Glasgow A-Z Challenge a few years ago. ‘W’ featured the permanently be-coned statue of the Duke of Wellington. ‘K’ was for Kelvin – the river and all things named after it, including physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin. It seems the cones are spreading!

Lord Kelvin joins the Traffic Cone Set

We have a new public art trail in Glasgow at the moment – in fact it’s nationwide, covering Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness as well. Oor Wullie is an iconic comic strip figure who has appeared in the Sunday Post since 1937 with his spiky hair, dungarees, and an upturned bucket, often used as a seat. Now 200 artists have given him a makeover in Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail. In September, all the statues will be auctioned in aid of local children’s hospital charities.

So far, I have bagged quite a few Wullies and will no doubt find more before they disappear from our streets at the end of August. In fact, I spotted my first one before the trail even began. Late one night, we were waiting for a taxi outside Central Station and saw him being delivered. I met him again a few days later.

The Wullie in the collage below could almost serve as Scottish Word of the Month, but I’ve already written that bit! Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye (what’s meant for you won’t pass you by) is by Natasha Zelen Forrest.

And what was I saying before about the Duke of Wellington and his cone? Triple whammy below! Wellington, his horse Copenhagen, and Wullie all have cones.

In addition, there are over 300 Wee Wullies painted by local schoolchildren. I found these cheeky chappies in the Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens.

I’ll leave Wullie there for the moment, but he will no doubt appear in future months’ Gallivanting posts as I collect more. A more sombre piece of street sculpture appeared temporarily in St Enoch’s Square. Rubble Theatre by Syrian-German artist Manaf Halbounis recreated a scene from war-torn Syria where he lived as a child, and was part of Refugee Festival Scotland. Halbounis hoped to make people think about the issues around forced migration. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in conditions like this – I’m grateful I don’t have to.

Also part of Refugee Festival Scotland was the Refuweegee exhibition at Kelvingrove, a section of which is shown below. Refuweegee is a community charity which makes up welcome packs, including letters from the locals, for forcibly displaced people arriving in Glasgow. The name is a combination of refugee and Weegie, a shortened form of Glaswegian. I’m glad to know that my city is (mostly) welcoming to refugees.

Refuweegee could also be a Scottish Word of the Month, but here’s the one I prepared earlier. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed the meaning of Glasgow before. It’s thought to derive from the Gaelic Glaschu which, roughly, means green place – and that still describes it. We are the UK’s second greenest city with 32% green space, only beaten by (gulp) Edinburgh with 49%. The scenes below are both about 10 minute’s walk from my house in the west end of the city, the Botanic Gardens and the Forth and Clyde Canal respectively.

Finally on Glasgow, a word about pronunciation which visitors often get wrong. The ow in Glasgow rhymes with “oh” and not with the ow sound as in “ouch”. In Glaswegian it often comes out Glesga. So now you know!

And finally, finally – an unexpected meeting. The women’s history walk season is well under way, and on Saturday I was one of the guides on the Women’s Library Merchant City Walk. As you can see it was wet! We had the full gamut of weather from sunshine to thunderstorms, but that’s Glasgow for you.

It was a lovely surprise when one of the attendees turned out to be Natalie, pictured with me above, of Wednesday’s Child. Natalie is a Glaswegian but now lives in Manchester, so although we’ve chatted online we’ve never met in person before – next time, we’ll have to make it a proper scheduled meet-up when we can chat properly.

So who can believe we are now half way through the year? Here’s to July – may it bring you all you wish for including, if you live in the UK, summer. She has tantalised us with brief glimpses but doesn’t seem to want to stay.

Hill House

Hill House 2015

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the upper part of Helensburgh, a small town on the Firth of Clyde, became populated with a series of grand, individually designed villas commissioned by rich businessmen who could afford to move out of Glasgow but still needed to live nearby for work. (Helensburgh Upper Railway Station, opened in 1894, helped to make this possible.)

Many of the houses were very traditional in nature, as I’ll show later, but publisher Walter Blackie was more visionary. He appointed Charles Rennie Mackintosh as his architect, resulting in Hill House (designed 1902), as seen in all its glory at the top of this post.

Not only was Mackintosh’s design innovative, he used innovative materials too. Scottish houses are often harled (roughcast) with lime, but Mackintosh chose to use a more modern material: cement. It was easier to work into the curves and crisp angles of his building, but there was a serious flaw – the Scottish weather. Traditional lime harling allows a building to breathe. If cement roughcast cracks, rain soaks in but cannot evaporate back out. This has caused a lifetime of damp and damage to the walls and interiors – according to the National Trust for Scotland which owns the house, it is “dissolving like an aspirin in a glass of water.” NTS has decided to buy time by creating the Hill House Box.

Hill House Box 2019

This shelter, designed by architects Carmody Groarke, is made of steel mesh and will protect the house from up to 80% of rainfall. At the same time the wind can pass through, water can evaporate and, as the house dries out, plans can be made for its future conservation, a process which is likely to take up to 15 years.

We’ve made many visits to Hill House over the years. On our first visit to the Box we were impressed, not just with the boldness of the solution, but also with the way that NTS has ensured that the visitor misses nothing. In fact, you see Hill House as never before. Two walkways allow an incredible bird’s-eye view.

Inside is as beautiful as ever – the Blackie family could just have walked out a few minutes ago. Youngest daughter Agnes has left her bicycle, and Walter has obviously been busy in the cosy library, one of the few rooms without the classic Mackintosh touch.

Elsewhere, the interior design of Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald is much in evidence. The pair worked closely together: Charles said “Margaret has genius, I have only talent”. The drawing room and Anna Blackie’s bedroom are particularly fine. You can also see, at the end of the gallery below, examples of both interior damage and stencilling restoration.

After touring the house we wandered outside for a while waiting for the next part of our visit.

At 1pm, one of the guides, the excellent Taylor, led a group of visitors a couple of blocks downhill to compare and contrast two other houses of similar vintage. These were Red Tower (William Leiper, 1898) and the White House (M. H. Baillie-Scott, 1899). Red Tower is traditionally Scottish Baronial in style. It spent some time as a Drug Rehabilitation Centre earlier this century, but has since been taken back into private hands and restored as a 14-bedroom dwelling-house, which is apparently occupied by only two people. Baillie-Scott’s building has more in common with Hill House – he also designed Blackwell in Cumbria, another house I love to visit which always reminds me of Mackintosh. Both The White House and Blackwell pre-dated Hill House, so who influenced whom?

I know from my heritage volunteering with Maryhill Burgh Halls that their architect also designed a house nearby, so I asked Taylor if she knew which one. She went off to get her plan and identified it for me – it was right next door. Cuilvona (Duncan McNaughtan, 1907) is a mock-Tudor villa which is barely visible from the road. However, part of the Hill House walkway looks right down on it, so after lunch (yes, Hill House has an excellent café in its new visitor centre) we headed back in to look. John took the photograph through the wire mesh which is why it’s less sharp.

I had photographed the plan, so we could also identify some of the other houses. Here are Morar House (at one time known as Drumadoon; Leiper, 1903), Ardluss (Leiper, 1900) and Dhuhill (I think – in which case, James Smith c. 1850). Having been empty for some years, after serving as a nursing home, Morar House ended up on the Buildings at Risk Register, but has recently been converted to flats.

There was still part of the afternoon left, so we looked at the map and plumped for a visit to Glenarn, a 10 acre private garden in the nearby village of Rhu, which is open in the summer months as part of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme.

This was a lovely day out. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Hill House Box, but I was very impressed with what NTS has done and I fervently hope that it leads them to a permanent solution for conserving Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

A weekend in Allendale

With Val and Kenn at Swallow’s Rest Cottage, near Allendale

We spent the May Day Holiday weekend with our good friends Valerie and Kenn in a lovely cottage, Swallow’s Rest, on farmland near Allendale in Northumberland. Unlike the Easter Weekend a couple of weeks before, which had been warm and sunny, the weather was cold and damp – we even had sleet and hail on the Saturday. However, we got out and about and enjoyed ourselves as we always do – Valerie and I have a long history of friendship having started secondary school together, aged 11, and although we might have fallen out occasionally, I don’t think it’s happened since we were about 16!

Killhope Mine

Killhope Mine

On Saturday we crossed into County Durham to visit the North of England Lead Mining Museum at Killhope. (I was pronouncing this Kill-hope, but it seems to be Killup.) There are several buildings above ground to visit and you can also tour part of the old mine – wellies included, it’s ankle deep in water. If you take your own, make sure you check that they are watertight: Val discovered too late that hers leaked!

The working water wheel is spectacular.

Climbing above the wheel there’s a pleasant walk round the reservoirs with a couple of hides for wildlife watching.

One of these squirrels is real!

There’s also a small café and museum. I liked this story about the proddy mats!

Finally, the site has some pleasing sculptural features. We all enjoyed our day out here.

Allen Smelt Mill

Allen Mill in its heyday

There is much more lead mining heritage to see in this area. Just outside Allendale is Allen Mill which was a massive industrial operation, smelting lead from many mines and extracting silver from it. Now it is being restored and turned into a small business park. We visited twice: one of the units is an Indian restaurant where we ate on Friday night (the Spice Mill – excellent). We came back to look round properly on Sunday morning as we set out on a walk.

As you can see in the gallery above, this mill also has sculptures. The last image shows A conflict of interest by Dave Morris which incorporates the Christian cross and Muslim crescent with a selection of weapons. He intends this as an anti-war statement and plea for world peace. Amen to that!

East Allen walk

River East Allen

Sunday’s circular walk took us along the River East Allen and through some attractive farmland. If we look flummoxed in the first picture below – we were. These very feathery hens just refused to stop to be photographed!

The sheep were more cooperative.

We were intrigued at this system of bells to avoid flying golf balls. Ring once when you start to cross the field, and twice when you reach the other side. We could see no golf course – maybe the sheep liked to play?

Some of the farm houses were exceptionally pretty. This was a lovely walk all round, and a short detour took us to The Crown at Catton where we had a delicious Sunday lunch.

Allendale Town

The Tearoom, Allendale

Finally, as is our custom, we packed up on Monday morning, left the cottage clean and tidy, and headed out for breakfast. The Allendale Tearoom hit the spot, but we didn’t linger afterwards because it was so cold and wet. We made do with a quick walk round to see all the pubs we didn’t visit – our cottage was well out of town and no-one would have volunteered to drive.

Even a visit to the local Dalek couldn’t tempt us!

So we returned to our cars, with Val and Kenn heading south to Yorkshire and us heading north to Glasgow. We had intended to stop at some of the Roman Wall sites on the way home, but decided just to keep going. After all, we only had a couple of weeks before our next trip away – to the beautiful island of Islay. Coming soon!

Haltwhistle: the Centre of Britain

Market Place at the Centre of Britain

The name Haltwhistle comes from “Haut Whyslie” or “high watch between two rivers”. So I learned on our recent visit to this small, Northumbrian town.  Its Market Place dates back to 1207 when King John granted a Charter for weekly markets and two fairs to be held each year.

The town also claims to be the Centre of Britain. Here I am at the marker points this year, and on a previous visit in 2010.

If it surprises you that Britain’s centre should be located so far north, as it did me, see the diagram below. Convinced? Well, maybe. It is definitely plausible, although there are other places which make similar claims.

Whatever, the town certainly makes the most of it as a marketing concept with a Centre of Britain hotel, launderette and shops.

Many of the buildings around the market place originated as Bastles, including the hotel above. These are 16th/17th century defensible houses built to provide protection from border skirmishes between the English and the Scots. Haltwhistle has the highest number of bastles, 6, remaining in England.

It also has a fine example of 13th century architecture in the Church of the Holy Cross, with the addition of 19th century stained glass windows made by the William Morris Company.

I knew nothing of this heritage when I was five years old. What is the significance of that, you might ask? Well, this is the town in which I was born, and five is the age at which my family (by then including a younger sister) moved away to the bigger town (now city) of Sunderland. The War Memorial Hospital has been rebuilt in the last few years (and hasn’t had maternity services for decades) so I had to go online to find a picture of it as it was in the 50s and 60s.

Haltwhistle’s War Memorial Hospital 2019

In 1960 my sister was also born there. In those days, women were confined for almost two weeks after a birth. I wasn’t quite three, but I have clear memories of that time – one of my aunts came to stay to help Dad look after me (no such thing as paternity leave in those days). Every morning I received a postcard from my mum, and sometimes a gift that my wee sister had (allegedly) sent via Dad at visiting time: I particularly remember a small baby doll in a wicker cradle.

Children weren’t allowed to visit the wards, and one day Dad held me up to talk to Mum through the open window. I thought I was going to be handed in to her and screamed all the way home when it didn’t happen (and she tells me she took herself off to the bathroom to howl too).

And this was that home – the Methodist manse in Moor View. The colour image is 2019, the old photos show Mum and Dad posing proudly outside their first married home, probably in 1956.

And here am I at 15 months, toddling in the garden behind that big hedge at the side which looks much the same in 2019 as it did in the 1950s, and the whole family together a few years later.

The house was near the railway bridge – that hasn’t changed much either. This is my late Uncle Jim posing on it in the 1960s when it was fairly new – the stone work is dated 1953.

The railway station is also well-preserved – although now unstaffed, it retains its 1901 signal box, in the shape of a ship’s keel, and other buildings.

Finally, this is the church we went to – one of several where my father was minister – the Primitive Methodist Chapel of 1864, known as Castle Hill Methodist Church when we were there. It has since closed and both it and the Sunday School building, seen on the left behind the church, are private houses. The other Methodist church in town, Westgate, is still functioning.

After our brief, nostalgic (on my part) visit to Haltwhistle we drove on to our final destination for the day: Allendale, where we were to spend a long weekend with friends. More on that next time.

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2019

Islay, May 2019

We gallivanted off on two trips in May. We had a glorious week on the Hebridean island of Islay with lots of walking and whisky tasting (there are nine distilleries at the last count). We also spent a long weekend with friends in the beautiful Northumberland countryside near Allendale.

Walking near Allendale, May 2019

More on those two trips will follow in due course, which means this will be quite a short gallivanting post because we didn’t do much else to write about. We went to the annual Orchid Fair in the Botanic Gardens, though it seemed to me much smaller than normal and didn’t detain us long.

John bought a new car! I find the unveiling thing hilarious, I didn’t get that last year when I bought my humble little Clio. As you can see, he’s very pleased with it – even if its first outing was wet.

Forgive the terrible image below (scanned from an actual newspaper cutting, I couldn’t find it in The Herald‘s digital copy). Strictly speaking, this belongs to April when the event happened, but the photograph wasn’t published till May so here it is. I attended the Women of Scotland Lunch with my friends Sheana and Ann – they are the women with whom I’ve been promoting suffragette Jessie Stephen, Sheana being Jessie’s great-niece. I’m not sure I count as a prominent woman, as the cutting describes us – Sheana invited me, so I went! It was very enjoyable and raised a large amount of money for Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

Speaking of Jessie, I loved cataloguing this new book at Glasgow Women’s Library. Where are the women? by Sara Sheridan is a guide to an imagined Scotland where women are commemorated as prominently as men. Jessie’s in there!

Finally, many of my Scottish words of late have referred to Brexit and the political difficulties it has created. How about fankle for another one? It’s a muddle or tangle, and can also be used as a verb. It seems appropriate to me – but who’s going to unfankle it all? I wish I knew!

Happy June to you all.

Fife Coastal Path: North Queensferry to Dalgety Bay

Start of the walk – Forth Bridge

Remember the fabulous weather we had at Easter? On Good Friday, we decided to take advantage of it to walk part of the Fife Coastal Path. We’ve done the sections between the East Neuk fishing villages on several occasions, so chose something different this time: North Queensferry to Dalgety Bay and back, approximately 5 miles each way.

Last year, we both ascended to the viewing platform at the top of the Forth Bridge and also sailed under it on the Maid of the Forth. This year, we left the car at its base and merely walked under it to the start of the path where there are two ancient wells.

The path leads up between them, decorated by a series of collages made by local school children and set into the stone wall.

We then climbed up and under the bridge again to reach Carlingnose Point Wildlife Reserve, named because of its resemblance to an old woman’s nose. (Carlin means old woman: Scottish but of Old Norse origin.)

Here, there was a poignant memorial bench – Wee John was only 23 when he died. I thought at first the shells were attached to the arms but they were loose – possibly left by mourners, or maybe just by kids playing.

Although sunny and warm it was quite hazy, so the views weren’t very clear. In one direction, we looked back to the Forth Bridge. In the other, we could see the beginning of Dalgety Bay. The old World War I jetty offshore is now a breeding site for tern.

As we passed through a disused quarry, we spotted a modern house perched above it. That is certainly a room with a view! It seems a Hibs fan had been here before us and left graffiti – I do hope it wasn’t anyone I know 😉 .

By the next bay there was another poignant memorial, this time to a young man who died in the First World War. From here, there was a less interesting part of the walk as we negotiated a working quarry and a scrapyard (just visible in the view below), followed by a boring stretch of road into Inverkeithing. However, Inverkeithing’s historic centre more than made up for the tedium and we took time out to explore.

First we came to the remains of a late medieval Franciscan Friary. The Hospitium (guest house) of the Grey Friars is the best surviving example of a friary building left in Scotland and the garden contains earlier 14th century ruins.

We saw the birthplace of a Russian Admiral:

The Mercat (Market) Cross has another of those Scottish Unicorns:

The cross is said to date from c. 1400, but the unicorn wasn’t carved until 1688 by, according to the plaque, “Mr John Boyd of South Queensferry to secure his admittance to the Inverkeithing Trades Guildry”. Literally a “master” piece?

The town has many other fine buildings:

Then we were out the other side of it, past some pretty cottages.

And back onto the coastal path towards St David’s Harbour. Someone is a Last of the Summer Wine fan here.

St David’s Harbour, an area still being built, is the beginnings of Dalgety Bay. To me, it looks attractive in a soulless, rather clinical sort of way.

Dalgety Bay is a new town, built in the 1960s on the estate of the Earls of Moray. As we discovered later when we left the coastal path in search of somewhere to eat, the further you got from the sea the less grand are the houses, but they are still a huge contrast to the fishing villages further round the coast. Everywhere is pristine – it looks as though the garden police will come round if there is a blade of grass out of place. Although I admit to envying one or two of the balconies, which must have amazing views, on the whole I didn’t warm to this chunk of Suburbia-by-the-Sea.

Parts of the old estate, Donibristle, remain. In the late 20th century the wings of Donibristle House and the nearby stable block were restored as housing, and a new apartment building was erected in place of the main block of the house.

A short way off the path is the mortuary chapel (1731) in which nine earls of Moray are buried. This is definitely more my sort of thing!

The estate’s woodlands have been taken over by the community – and a very nice job they have made of them too with lots of colourful information boards.

We decided to carry on as far as the ruined St Bridget’s Kirk before turning round. Originally dating from 1178, it was altered for Protestant worship in the 17th century. As usual, we enjoyed an extended tour of the graveyard and its interesting old stones.

From here, we went up into Dalgety Bay for a (very late) lunch, then returned to the coastal path to retrace our steps. I didn’t notice these elephant gates in Inverkeithing on the way out.

Eventually, we arrived back in North Queensferry, passing back under the Forth Bridge to return to our car.

By the time I got to bed that night, my Fitbit was registering over 15 miles, and my feet certainly felt as if they needed a good long rest, but it was worth it for a glorious day out.

Sheffield 4: Kelham Island

Kelham Island

Kelham Island Museum opened in 1982, by which time we no longer lived in Sheffield. However, we didn’t move far from the area until 1986 so we visited a few times and were keen to go back. The museum stands on one of the oldest industrial sites in the city, an island which was formed in the 1180s when a mill-race was created to carry water from the River Don to the Town Corn Mill. It now tells Sheffield’s industrial story from light trades and skilled workmanship to mass production, the Industrial Revolution and the growth of “Steel City” through the Victorian Era and two world wars.

Near the entrance I spotted two things which interested me straight away. Scotland is not the only place with unicorns – the one below was made at Kelham in the late 1800s. The other thing was the tribute to Enid Hattersley. When I was studying librarianship, our class was taken to observe a meeting of the council’s Library Committee chaired by Mrs Hattersley who was later instrumental in setting up the museum. My memory is that she was a very formidable woman. Her son Roy (now Lord) Hattersley was a prominent Labour politician from the 1960s to the 1990s. I met him years later at a book signing and he was pleased to hear that I remembered his mother, though I didn’t mention the word formidable! I still have the book – unread, I’m sad to say.

As an aside, in 1980 I wrote my dissertation on library services to the visually handicapped and was granted an interview with the Leader of the Council, one David Blunkett, who had been blind since birth and had useful views on the matter. He also became prominent in a Labour Government, rising as far as Home Secretary (2001-2004), and is also now a Lord. Yup, nothing says socialist like an ermine robe.

The section on steel had some interesting tableaux, and I was pleased to see that women’s role in the industry was represented as well as the actual steelmaking.. The young woman below is a buffer girl, responsible for using polishing machinery to buff cutlery and other metal goods to give them a smooth surface. It was a hot and dirty job that required protective clothing.

The museum’s biggest (and loudest) exhibit is the River Don Engine which is run once or twice a day. Built in 1905, it weighs 400 tons and runs on 12,000 horsepower. It was in use till 1978 and is the biggest, most powerful steam engine in Britain today.

Outside, I liked the Stone Garden, particularly the hanging sheep which was the trademark for Sorby’s sheep shears in the 19th century. The stone carving came from the factory’s gate and could date as far back as 1820.

The Millowners Arms, sadly, was not a real pub but told the story of Ward’s brewery. I enjoyed reading about the 1830 Beerhouse Act which made beer cheaper and more accessible. It was meant to protect people from the perils of drinking gin, but somehow drunkenness still became a problem. Who could have foreseen that?

Fear not, we did manage to visit a real pub. When we lived in Sheffield, a trip to Kelham Island always involved the Fat Cat too. It isn’t the only choice now, as the area roundabout has been considerably gentrified since our day with a selection of smart bars and cafés, but loyalty won out. Fortunately, it was as good as we remembered and we enjoyed a lovely Sunday lunch there.

Some nice street art too, I always like to see that.

And finally, something that doesn’t look much different: these flats at Moorfields just before you get to Kelham Island. John lived here for a few months after I left Sheffield to work in Nottinghamshire. Soon, he followed me and that was the end of our residence in Sheffield, though we still considered it “our” city.

It was the end of our trip too – the next day was Monday and we took the train back home to Glasgow. I’m already planning to go back: there are more memories to pursue!

Sheffield 3: around the city

Time for a look round Sheffield’s city centre. If you follow the World Snooker Championships on TV you will know the Crucible Theatre which has hosted them since 1977. The theatre opened in 1971 so it was still very new when I arrived as a fresher in Sheffield in 1975. Students were able to purchase tickets for 50p so I spent a lot of time there – at that price, I could afford to see just about every production.

Round the corner is the Graves Art Gallery which sits above the Central Library. I spent a lot of time there too (no prizes for guessing that).

I liked the art work in the stairwell connecting the two institutions – Blue Bird (2007) by Seiko Kinoshita.

Sheffield Cathedral isn’t spectacular from the outside – it looks like the parish church it was until the Diocese of Sheffield was created in 1914 and its status was upgraded. It’s interesting inside though. The Steel Nativity by Brian Fell honours Sheffield’s major industry.

As a Methodist, I didn’t often attend the Cathedral. I went to Wesley Church in Broomhill, a large, dark building which took up the entire corner now occupied by a more modern church and a block of flats.

Back to the city centre – just behind the cathedral is the beautiful 18th century Paradise Square, quite different from all its surroundings.

Heading back in the direction of the university is the City Hall where I graduated in 1978. Here I am on the steps with my family after the ceremony.

Two new features outside the City Hall are the golden post-box and the Women of Steel Memorial. All Team GB gold medal winners at the London Olympics in 2012 were honoured with a gold painted post-box in their home towns. This one is for Jessica Ennis who won the Women’s Heptathlon – the only other one I have seen is Andy Murray’s in Dunblane. Women of Steel by Martin Jennings also dates from 2012 and celebrates the women of Sheffield who worked in the city’s steel mills and factories during both world wars.

Of course, talk of churches, theatres and libraries is all very well – but students like pubs too! Sad to relate, many of the hostelries we remember have disappeared. The Stone House was a spectacular pub – the room at the front was an ordinary bar, but if you moved through the back you found yourself in an “outdoor” courtyard with painted stone walls and a night-sky ceiling. Now it appears to be housing.

I don’t remember Harrisons, but John does (it’s near the Engineering Department). It caught my eye though because I like the way it has incorporated the original function of the building into its name: W. E. Harrison – Steeplejack of Nelson Column fame.

The Beehive and the Green Room are both near Victoria House, the flats where we lived as postgraduates. In those days, the Green Room was a wine bar called Mr Kite’s. We had some of our earliest dates there, thinking ourselves impossibly sophisticated as we shared a bottle of Hirondelle (a cheap wine of uncertain origin). On my last visit to Sheffield 25 years ago, Mr Kite’s still existed and had the same wine list painted on the wall, though it was historical by that time, Hirondelle having deservedly vanished into oblivion. The Green Room menu looked good, so we went there for lunch one day in the hope of rekindling romantic memories. The food was good – when we got it: service was atrocious. Bring back Mr Kites!

One pub which remains as good as it was is the Fat Cat – but that will have to wait till my next post when we head for Kelham Island.