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!

Snowdrops

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.

A weekend with kelpies and old books

Another lovely weekend in Central Scotland meant I could cross off two more items on my summer “must visit” list. The Kelpies are the latest large-scale public art installations by sculptor Andy Scott. Sitting next to the Forth and Clyde Canal in Helix Park, Falkirk, the two horses’ heads tower over 26 metres high – they’re not just art, they represent a massive engineering achievement too. If you’re wondering what a kelpie is, it’s a mythical water-being inhabiting the lochs and pools of Scotland which usually appears as a horse, but is able to adopt human form. Scott modelled his sculptures on two real-life Clydesdales in honour of the horses which used to pull the barges along the canal, so they might be mythical, but they’re also very real.

We chose to take a tour which meant we were able to go inside one of the heads (Duke, the one looking down, the other is Baron) and learn more about how they were made. They have 928 plates which took 130 days to construct on site using over 300 tons of steel. Awesome!

A word of warning about Helix Park itself – the facilities are awful. We got there just after 11am and were able to park, but from then on there was a constant queue of cars looking unsuccessfully for spaces. The advice given is to use overflow parking at the Falkirk Stadium, but that’s at least a 20 minute walk from the Kelpies, so if you’ve booked a tour you might well miss it – and if there’s a football match there, presumably you can’t use it anyway. The café is also about 15 minutes away, and when we got there just after 1pm they had no lunch left, just crisps and snacks. This is a fairly new attraction, so maybe they will get their act together soon, and I guess it’s good news in one way if more people than they expected turn up. A Visitor Centre is under construction and I assume it will have extra catering, but they need to sort the parking problems too.

Saturday was our last chance to catch Dunblane’s Leighton Library – it’s only open during the summer and we don’t have another weekend free before it closes at the end of September. This is the oldest purpose-built private library in Scotland, opening in 1687 as the result of a bequest by Robert Leighton. He had been Bishop of Dunblane from 1661 to 1670 and wanted to leave his books for the benefit of the clergy of the diocese. His own collection of around 1400 volumes eventually grew to over 4000 – all are held on the first floor, with the lower storey originally being living quarters for the librarian. From 1734 to about 1840 it functioned as a lending library, until the growth of public libraries rendered it obsolete. Despite the worthy nature of most of the tomes, the most borrowed book was a novel – Zeluco (1789) by Scottish author John Moore, which relates the vicious deeds of the eponymous anti-hero, the evil Italian nobleman Zeluco. Another novel, The cottagers of Glenburnie by Stirling author Elizabeth Hamilton, was so popular that it went missing. Now why does that sound a familiar tale? It happened regularly in every library I’ve ever worked in, that’s why!

Dunblane Museum is also worth a look – it too only opens summer hours and was closed on our last visit in December. For more on the town and its year-round attractions, such as the Cathedral, see my previous post Scottish snapshots: Dunblane.

Scottish Snapshots: Dunblane

Scottish Snapshots is a series of posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time. This is the last – and it has turned into rather more than a snapshot. I had forgotten how many pictures we took!

To those who haven’t been there, Dunblane possibly means one of two things: the site of a horrific school shooting in 1996 or the home town of Scottish tennis star, Andy Murray. You can’t escape either with touching memorials to the children and teacher who died and Andy’s golden post-box. (The Royal Mail painted a post-box in the home town of every gold medal winner at the London 2012 Olympics.) Dunblane is only a 45 minute drive from Glasgow, but we hadn’t visited for about 20 years, avoiding being grief-tourists, but when I read about a new hotel opening there I thought it would be a lovely place to stay for three nights between Christmas and New Year.

Old Churches House
Old Churches House

Old Churches House is a row of 18th century cottages opposite the Cathedral which have been converted into a hotel and restaurant. It was very comfortable and the food was good – we had breakfast every day and dinner once. The other nights we ate at India Gate and Café Continental, both enjoyable.

The Cathedral is beautiful.

We used Dunblane’s Community Paths leaflet to explore the town thoroughly – the river (Allan Water) was impressively high. The museum and Leighton Library (oldest private library in Scotland) aren’t open in winter, so we’ll need to go back.

We also explored Dunblane by night – the Christmas lights were very pretty.

On the one day with reasonable weather, we walked out to Sheriffmuir, site of a battle between the Jacobites and the Government Army in 1715. The monument is to the members of Clan MacRae who died there. There’s nothing like a walk with a strategically placed pub for lunch and the Sheriffmuir Inn didn’t disappoint, providing the best meal of the holiday. It’s beautiful inside too.

This was a lovely “Twixmas” break – and there’s a lot to be said for a holiday where the journey home is only 45 minutes!