East Dunbartonshire: Trails + Tales

Baldernock Parish Church

In early July, John took a week off work. This coincided with the time when restrictions on how far you could travel for leisure in Scotland eased slightly, and we ventured into the countryside for the first time since lockdown. Not too far, just over the city boundary to East Dunbartonshire where we discovered a network of Trails + Tales, several of which we followed.

Baldernock Trail

The Baldernock trail started at the pretty parish church, and had attractive views – even if we could still see the city in the distance.

Torrance Trail

The Torrance Trail started at the village war memorial. It was cold and wet as the pictures probably show.

A feature of most of the trails is a series of public artworks (Jaqueline Donachie’s tributes to women health workers already appeared in my Three times a lady post). Here we found Gumnut and a whole row of eight or nine Scholars Rocks, one of which had been customised with a small plaque reading “ALS and RR Kissing Post 2019”. Aww!

My lockdown hair was bad, but not usually this bad! The wind and rain had done their worst. Towards the end of the walk we came across a row of tenements which looked quite odd set amongst fields.

Once back in Torrance, we added on an extra loop out to Cadder Church via the River Kelvin and the golf course, and back along the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Lennoxtown / Clachan of Campsie trail

The highlight of this day was not part of the trail as such. We went “off piste” to tour the immaculate grounds of Schoenstatt. The Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt is a Roman Catholic Marian movement founded in Germany in 1914 by Father Joseph Kentenich. Its name, which aptly means beautiful place, refers to a small village near Koblenz. Schoenstatt Scotland operates as a Retreat Centre.

Kirkintilloch

The final trail we followed was round the town of Kirkintilloch and the nearby village of Waterside. It was very green with parkland, river and canal, an old cemetery to explore, historic buildings, and artworks. There was even a ghost sign to enjoy. However, we got very wet again – John does know how to pick a week off!

So those were our first, baby steps outside the city after lockdown: life was starting to feel more normal. Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. Her temperatures are a bit hotter than mine!

Stirling

Stirling Castle: Royal Palace from Queen Anne Garden

An excursion to Stirling was one of the few days out we had at the beginning of the year before the torrential rains of February / March and the following months of lockdown. As Stirling Castle reopened on 1st August (pre-booked tickets only) this seems an appropriate time to publish my post about it which has been lingering in drafts for some months. It was a fabulous day, so be prepared for a lot of photographs!

Starting at the castle, we first of all wandered around the outside. The grey building is the Royal Palace and the golden one is the Great Hall. Views from the walls round the Palace are magnificent.

The first building we went into was the Royal Palace, one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK, which has been refurbished to look as it might have done in the 1540s. This includes ceilings with brightly-painted replicas of the Stirling Heads (the originals can be seen in a museum onsite which we didn’t visit this time) and unicorns everywhere. The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries are also replicas, based on a series created in the Low Countries in the early 1500s which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York’s Cloisters. They took 13 years to weave and cost £2 million.

It’s not so long since you could watch part of the tapestry being woven in one of the castle’s outlying buildings (they were completed in 2014). Now the same building hosts an exhibition about the weaving process. I learned a lot from the panel of samples shown below, especially the knee samples. The single knee was woven at eight warps per centimetre which matches the 15th century originals. The other two knees are woven at four warps per centimetre, which is the warp count chosen for the replicas. This saved 13 years of production time – how much respect is due to the original weavers? What an achievement.

Next, we visited the Chapel Royal, built in 1593-4 on the orders of James VI who wanted somewhere suitable for the baptism of his son and heir, Prince Henry. In 1603 the Union of the Crowns saw James head south to rule from England, and in 1625 he was succeeded by his surviving younger son Charles I. The frieze was painted by Valentine Jenkin in 1628 in the expectation of a coronation visit to Scotland by the new king. He didn’t come.

The Great Hall is the largest banqueting hall ever built in Scotland and was used for feasts, dances and pageants. Completed for James IV in 1503, it has four pairs of tall windows at the dais end, where the king and queen sat, and an impressive Scottish oak triple height ceiling.

Of course, you would not expect us to miss out on a visit, or two, to the Café! Having already had lunch there, we popped back for a cup of tea before venturing out again.

Suitably fortified , we explored the Old Town Graveyard which lies between the castle and Holy Rude Church. The ladies in the glass case are “Margaret, virgin martyr of the ocean wave, with her like-minded sister Agnes”. These were part of the educational and “improving” atmosphere of Victorian Stirling. Eighteen year old Margaret Wilson was a heroine of the Presbyterian Reformation who was executed by drowning in the Solway Firth for refusing to renounce her Protestant faith.

Shown below are Argyll’s Lodging (pink) and Cowane’s Trust (yellow). The former is a 17th century townhouse which can be visited with a castle entry ticket. Cowane’s Hospital, now run by a charitable trust, is also a 17th-century building. The merchant John Cowane (1570–1633), whose statue adorns the front, left 40,000 merks in his will for the establishment of an almshouse.

On nearby Broad Street is the Mercat Cross (another unicorn) and Norie’s House. James Norie was a lawyer and town clerk who built his fashionable new house in 1671.  His bewigged head looks down from the top of the roof.

Walking further down into town we came across representations of various historic figures. A howling wolf, here carved from a tree stump, appears on Stirling’s coat of arms. Legend has it that in the 9th century a wolf saved the town by howling in response to a Viking raid. Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908) was the Member of Parliament for Stirling Burghs for almost 40 years, including a term as Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908. Rob Roy, Robert Burns and William Wallace probably need less of an introduction to anyone interested in Scottish history and literature.

Our final stop before heading back up to the castle was outside Central Library which opened in 1904 and, like so many others, was funded by Andrew Carnegie.

As we walked back to the car, the sky began to change colour. We rushed up to a vantage point in the Old Town Cemetery from which we watched a spectacular sunset unfold. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2020

Strathkelvin Railway Path and Billy the Train

In early July, John took a week off work. This coincided with the time when restrictions on how far you could travel for leisure in Scotland eased slightly, and we ventured into the countryside for the first time since lockdown. Not too far, just over the city boundary to East Dunbartonshire where we discovered a network of trails on and around the old Strathkelvin railway path, several of which we followed. I’ve written a post about that week which will follow shortly, but since then we’ve covered another couple of the trails. The first started in Milton of Campsie where we came across this cute display in the old station.

The second took us to Lennox Castle. I always thought this had originated as a Victorian “lunatic asylum” but, although the house was built between 1837 and 1841, it didn’t become a hospital until 1936 as a “mental deficiency institution” – such terrible terms to modern ears. The castle itself became the nurses’ home, and patients’ accommodation was built in the grounds: this was demolished after the last parts of the hospital finally closed in 2002, but the castle itself remains as a sad ruin and a reminder of all the suffering souls who lived there.

I did another Twitter walk for the Women’s Library this month, this time in Garnethill, and my fellow volunteer Melody has made a trailer for the same walk. Both are below for anyone interested. On the trailer, my voice is the one that starts by telling you the walk is available to download. It has been great fun doing these, and we hope to do more.

Garnethill Women’s Heritage Walk Trailer from Glasgow Women’s Library on Vimeo.

As lockdown eases, the growth of my collection of photographs of rainbows and teddy bears is diminishing. Indeed, many of the old displays have been taken down. We’ve seen more painted stones this month though, mostly in the small towns in East Dunbartonshire that we visited. People have been very artistic in lockdown!

So it’s been a month of easing restrictions with two major events: I’ve had a haircut and a birthday! Unfortunately not in that order. My birthday was the day after restaurants were allowed to re-open, so we had dinner out for the first time in four months. It felt strange and rather lacking in atmosphere, but it’s progress. What will next month bring?

A Glasgow perspective: picture this

Johnnie Walker’s Striding Man logo adorns a pub wall in Finnieston. I have a folder full of street art images: this is one which definitely benefits from Becky’s Square Perspectives challenge. Originally there were three men, but the third had an ugly red barrier in front of him. Chopping him off has made his companions much more dynamic so that I almost believe they are about to stride out from the wall.

Here are a few (a lot?) more which work as squares, starting with a couple from the City Centre. Glasgow has its very own panda (by Klingatron) in Gordon Lane, and what looks like the world’s most economical taxi (by Rogue-One) is in nearby Mitchell Street.

The mural of St Mungo and his robin, by Smug, is on High Street and has featured before, but this is a new perspective. It’s hard to get a good photograph from the road – there are often cars parked in front, and you can’t stand back far enough without being mown down by traffic. I like this image of him taken from the grassy area behind. This was in February – there would be too many leaves on the trees for it to work now.

Details now from two contrasting mosaics in stations. On the left, in Central Station, is part of a mural by professional artist Jude Burkhauser. It dates from 1989 and was commissioned for Glasgow’s reign as European Capital of Culture in 1990. The other tiled mural is from my local station, Hyndland, and runs the full length of the pedestrian tunnel under the platforms. It was designed by local schoolchildren and dates from roughly the same time.

Two perspectives on this colourful work on the Forth and Clyde canal at Ruchill which I watched being created last year. In the first, I captured the artist, Sharon Scotland, at work, and in the second John got a nice reflection in the water below.

Of course, not all murals are commissioned and sanitised. Another pedestrian tunnel, this time under the Expressway at the Riverside Museum, has a changing roster of graffiti art. I like the little chap doing the painting: not so sure about the one at the end.

Negative Destination’s little figures and the Big Heids pop up everywhere, and often disappear very quickly. Here are example from the Kelvin Walkway at Inn Deep and behind Ruchill Church.

Time offers a different perspective on Mustio by the River Kelvin. The first image is from April 2019, the other is from June this year when both vegetation and supplementary graffiti had increased.

Finally, this was an official mural, named Betty Brown’s Eyes after a local activist in Garnethill who died in 2006. It was vandalised soon after it appeared and has since been painted over. Interestingly, the vandals have left a comment on their own artistic perspective. (Note to self, I might be overusing that word!)

This is my last contribution to Becky’s Square Perspectives challenge. I’ve really enjoyed this way of collating some of the many unused pictures of Glasgow still lurking in my files, and may well continue with it at a later date – though without the necessity to make everything square. I might not continue with the musical accompaniment, but today I offer you – what else? – Blondie and Picture This. If you don’t love the luminous Miss Debbie Harry I’m afraid I just don’t know what’s wrong with you.

A Glasgow perspective: sign of the times

Looking up and around us more gave us a new perspective on Glasgow during lockdown. One of the things that started to catch my eye was a good sign, and pubs provided several examples. Above is The Aragon on Byres Road – given that this pub was established in a former butcher’s shop in the 1970s, I’m not sure of the significance of the monk but he looks good. A few more pubs below, some from towns just outside Glasgow when we started to roam a bit further.

Why does a house in North Kelvinside have a French road sign in front of it? You could hardly smuggle it back in your suitcase …

I like the juxtaposition of these two black metal signs for the Engine Works in Maryhill and Partick Housing Association. The former was literally an engine works not that long ago – Clark and Buchanan – but has recently been renovated as an events venue. The couple who bought it sank a lot of their own money into it, so I hope their business survives the current problems.

Nae fancy nonsense at GWR restaurant, and an example of the many Chinese language signs in the area around Glasgow University. How many Chinese students will return next year? Who knows …

I liked the two cycleway signs at Kelvingrove, and was intrigued by the mini basketball hoop and sign in North Kelvinside. Do the fairies play?

Two different kinds of paradise! Paradise is an alternative name for Celtic Park football ground, the huge sign of which can be seen from Glasgow Necropolis. “Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise” (Henry Mitchell). We came across this welcoming sign to Woodlands Community Garden on our way home from our one evening out in the last four months.

We loved this two-sided sign for Milton of Campsie Bowling Club.

And finally – I would have more belief that this was a centre of excellence if Terry could actually spell it!

I’m linking to Becky’s SquarePerspectives challenge and, as has become habitual in this series, I’ll play you out with a song. I’d decided on Sign of the times before looking for a video – and they’re all awful! So this is audio only, but you do get to gaze on a still of the very mean and moody looking Mr Bryan Ferry for two minutes or so. I’ll take that.

A Glasgow perspective: animal farm

Bears of Cairnhill Woods

The bears of Cairnhill Woods have made an appearance on this blog before. We paid them another visit during lockdown – and we found some of their friends! Bearsden is a town just outside Glasgow, so their bears, below, are punning. The fishing bear is in a garden about 15 minutes walk from us. I don’t think he’ll be catching much.

Many children put their teddy bears in windows to create a Bear Hunt for others – those have been well documented in my Glasgow Gallivanting posts throughout the pandemic period. But bears weren’t the only animals we spotted as our repeated walks so close to home gave us a new perspective on our local area by increasing our powers of observation. Alternatively, you could say, it unleashed our inner nosiness – but then, many people were positively inviting us to look into their gardens and windows! Here’s a (large) selection of what we found.

Small mammals

You might spot a couple of inadvertent selfies here. I offer no comment on the aesthetics of these displays.

Large mammals

A preponderance of lions! The prancing stag is outside a restaurant called – you’ve guessed it – the Prancing Stag. The sculpture shows cartoon character Lobey Dosser, Sheriff of Calton Creek, with the villainous Rank Bajin, riding Lobey’s two-legged horse, Elfie. It’s a Glaswegian thing, but Wikipedia explains it if you really want to know! Finally, you might wonder about the Highland cattle, given that these are all lockdown walks straight from our house – they (13 in all) live in Dawsholm Park which is just over a mile away.

Birdlife

The real life birds, apart from the swans, are thanks to John. All images are taken within walking distance, except for the heron and the farm sign which were from after regulations relaxed and we could drive to the countryside to take exercise (although we do have herons on the river and the canal near us – they just don’t pose so nicely very often though).

Mythical creatures

Can I count these as animals? Yes. Yes, I can. Why not?

Finally, today’s title inspiration is Animal Farm by the Kinks. This world is big and wild and half insane is a great first line and very appropriate today for so many reasons. I have the cats and dogs promised in the lyrics, but sadly not the pigs or goats. Must try harder next time.

Linked to Becky’s SquarePerspectives Challenge.

A Glasgow perspective: three times a lady

A trio of trios for you today. In the first set we are back at Partick Burgh Hall, the roof of which featured in my first SquarePerspectives post. On the face of the building are these three lovely ladies representing Justice, Mercy and Truth.

Several libraries in Glasgow have female figures with books and children on their roofs. These three are at Maryhill, Woodlands and Govanhill.

The last trio is just outside Glasgow, spotted after the distance we could go to exercise was relaxed a bit. We discovered Jessie by accident when walking a trail near Lennoxtown. Later investigation showed that this was one of three sculptures by Jaqueline Donachie commemorating women in health and medicine who have associations with East Dunbartonshire – through education, working life or residence. We decided to seek out the other two: Elsie in Westerton and Irene in Kirkintilloch. The names don’t refer to any specific individual but represent first names that appeared frequently in Jacqueline’s research, and are a nod to just how many uncommemorated women there are. Obviously my inner women’s history nerd was very excited by this!

I’m linking to Becky’s SquarePerspectives challenge with occasional posts on the new perspectives on Glasgow that our lockdown walks have given us. We have been looking at everything in so much more detail and are often amazed at what we spot!

Today’s title is from the Commodores’ 1978 hit. Don’t be alarmed, there’s no sound till the singing starts. Take it away, Lionel!

A Glasgow perspective: the first time ever I saw your face

It began here in March. A short terrace just off Great Western Road, each door flanked on either side by one of these Egyptian-style faces. Surely we must have noticed them before? If we had, we’d forgotten.

After that, we saw faces everywhere. These two beauties (one a bit grumpy looking) are on the side of a large villa about 10 minutes walk from home.

These are on an old church, now Webster’s Theatre.

These are from Maryhill Halls, Glasgow Academy, and North Park House.

And finally, more private houses – some whose locations I can no longer remember.

I’m linking to Becky’s SquarePerspectives challenge with occasional posts on the new perspectives on Glasgow that our lockdown walks have given us. I know a few non-squares have sneaked in here – square doesn’t always work, but I’m sure Becky will forgive me!

Once again, my title is taken from a piece of music, this time from the inimitable Roberta Flack. What a voice!

A Glasgow perspective: up on the roof

Three months in lockdown tramping the same few routes from our front door every day certainly gave us a new perspective on our city. We began to spot small details that had previously eluded us in our rush to get from one place to another. Definite themes emerged to our collection of photographs and, just when you need one, along comes a challenge that allows them to be shared – the ones that look good square at least. Becky’s July Squares theme is perspectives – various interpretations are possible, and mine is “Point of View – a particular way of considering (looking at) something”. I’ll be dropping in occasionally with a new point of view on Glasgow.

Today’s theme is roofs. You might well recognise my header which is Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, an unmistakeable Glasgow landmark, but what about the one below? This splendid roof belongs to Partick Burgh Hall, designed by William Leiper in the French Renaissance style and completed in 1872. It was the home of Partick Burgh Council until the Burgh was annexed by Glasgow in 1912.

Here is a selection of other roofs and roof decorations, all within walking distance of home. As you can see, we found them endlessly fascinating!

My title is, of course, taken from the marvellous Drifters’ song, Up on the roof. Enjoy!

Loch Trool

Loch Trool from Bruce’s Stone

On our second day in Newton Stewart last December we drove to Loch Trool, about 8 miles away, to take the 5 mile walk around its shores. We parked near Bruce’s Stone and started by climbing the small mound to view this huge boulder. It commemorates the battle of Glen Trool which took place on the other side of the loch in 1307. Leading a mere 300 Scots, King Robert Bruce enticed an English force of 1500 into an ambush. The Scots rolled boulders down the steep slopes knocking men and soldiers into the water with archers picking off the survivors as they fled. Today it looks much more peaceful.

Retracing our steps to the road, we looked for the path down to the loch, and followed it across several burns to Glenhead Farm.

The words at the farm are by Galloway novelist SR Crockett (1859-1914) and read “Glenhead I saw for the first time in the broad glare of a mid-noon sun. All the valley swam in a hazy blue mist…” A little different from the day we were there!

As the name suggests, at Glenhead we had reached the top of the loch and were now walking in the opposite direction (westwards) along the other side. The path, now part of the Southern Upland Way, meandered up and down from the lochside to the forest above it. Sometimes there was even a chance to rest for a few minutes.

Before turning eastwards again we took a short detour to visit the Martyrs’ Tomb in Caldons Wood. The walled enclosure commemorates the death of six Covenanters put to death in 1685.

Walking back to the car along the last section of the walk we were treated to some beautiful reflections.

Then it was time to go back to our hotel, and the following morning we packed up and left for home. We weren’t expecting this to be the last break we would have for some time, but so it turned out.