Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2017

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections logoIf you live in Glasgow, you have about two weeks to get over the hedonism of Christmas and New Year when – ooft! – it’s Celtic Connections! This bills itself as “the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music” and we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm, usually attending half a dozen or so gigs over the 19 days.

This year, in six concerts we heard musicians from Scotland, England, Ireland and America (and that’s quite a conservative selection) in five different venues ranging from the formal concert hall, via the Old Fruitmarket, to the iconic Barrowland Ballroom. Highlights? So hard to choose but, if pushed, I’d go for Phil Cunningham’s Highlands and Islands Suite. Phil, his accordion, and a front-row of other professional musicians were supported by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – its Traditional Musicians, Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 150 people on the stage and the music soared. When I said to John at the interval that I had been moved almost to tears I half expected a scornful look, but he agreed. It wasn’t only the evocatively Scottish music, there was also something so heart-warming about a stage full of young people working hard to perfect their art – having chosen to do so in our city.


Celtic Connections is pretty hard on the waistline – all those pre-theatre meals – and it’s not helpful that Burns Night falls slap bang in the middle. This year, we ate our haggis, neeps and tatties with friends in the Curlers, a local pub-restaurant. We have also been tempted by two large boxes of Chinese rose pastries, a new year gift from one of John’s Chinese colleagues. Definitely yummy – ooh, I need to walk all this off, but…

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

…oh dear, we haven’t had much in the way of country walks: only one that I can remember, in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. This time last year, we spotted red squirrels from the wildlife hide. This time they were not to be seen, though there were plenty of birds about.


We managed a couple of exhibitions in January. One Glasgow museum, the Burrell Collection, has recently closed for refurbishment and in the meantime some of its paintings are on show at another, Kelvingrove. The current exhibition is of work by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913), one of a group of radical painters known as The Glasgow Boys. Girl on a bicycle has long been one of my favourites – just look at the little dachshund excitedly running alongside – but there was plenty more to see, and will be until 1st July if you are in the area.

We also saw an exhibition in the Lighthouse called A Life in Letterpress. Typographic artist Alan Kitching began his working life apprenticed to a printer, before becoming a technician at Watford College, then a teacher, designer and artist. In an age of computer design, he continues to create using wood and metal letterforms. The results are stunning! On till 5th March.

The last bit

New Year, new blogging resolution – to have a round-up post like this at the end of every month. How long will it continue? My last new series (People Make Glasgow) lasted for approximately (ahem, exactly) one post, and I’m already almost a week late with this one, so we’ll see.

I also wondered what would happen if I had nothing to round up, either because I’d written about it already or (and it does happen) I had done nothing worth blogging about. Step forward The last bit of random stuff and padding. This month – Scotland reacts to Trump, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Scotland is not impressed.

  • The sublime – Karine Polwart at Celtic Connections with I burn but I am not consumed, a poetic mixture of spoken word and song considering Donald’s Scottish roots. Favourite line: You who see nothing but your own face in the sheen of the Hudson River. (Sorry, I couldn’t get this BBC video to embed).
  • The ridiculous – Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag (Buzzfeed). Not for the easily offended. Translations available on request. (As a start, baw = ball. I’m sure you can work out the rest.)

So that was January in Glasgow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Loch Ard walks

Loch Ard Trails
Loch Ard Trails

It’s nice to get away for a bit of relaxation between Christmas and New Year – even if the weather doesn’t always co-operate. This year we stayed at the Forest Hills Hotel in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The first day was dull and damp, but good enough for walking, so we drove to the Loch Ard car park and followed the red and green loops on the map. This totalled about 8 miles / 11 km so we did quite well!

This is Loch Ard from the red route:

However, I preferred the green route to Lochan Spling where we found some fabulous sculptures, and a bench to admire one of them from (which I did). The Dragonfly, the Pike and the Osprey are all by Rob Mulholland, and the inscription on the bench says “Sitting by the Spling in Spring makes you feel like a King”. Wrong season and wrong sex, but I suppose Winter and Queen wouldn’t rhyme.

When we got up the next day, we discovered we were trapped! There is only one way out (the road the other way ends at Loch Katrine) and it was both flooded and blocked by abandoned cars. We looked out at the torrential rain and imagined a day with our books, but after breakfast there was a dry spell so we pulled on our boots and set off to walk again. We ended up going even further than the day before – I’m not sure my feet like hiking two days in a row any more.

This is the waterfall in the hotel grounds on day 1 and day 2, which shows how much extra water there was.

From the hotel, it was about a mile to the village of Kinlochard. They like a good sign here!

Nothing wrong with this sign in itself – but we felt they might need a boat to get to their boathouse.

The fields were flooded too (that’s not the Loch you can see).


Undeterred – it still wasn’t actually raining – we climbed up into the forest behind the village and followed the path down to Loch Ard until we almost met the walk we had done the day before. We found more benches:

We saw our hotel on the other side of the Loch and climbed to a fabulous viewpoint.

At this point, the rain returned with a vengeance and we got drenched on the way back – but we had a nice, cosy hotel room to dry out in. And what about the road? It reopened the next day and we were able to get home (although being trapped an extra day wouldn’t have been a huge hardship).

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – maybe some of her other contributors have sunnier walks to report on? I hope to provide something sunnier myself next week…..

Scottish Snapshots: Lime Craig Trail

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Lime Craig Trail is in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Start or finish with lunch in the recently refurbished Visitor centre above Aberfoyle and have a great walk. It was eerily misty on the November day we went, but we’ve also been to Lime Craig by a different route in summer weather – brighter pictures here.

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park


QEFP, created in honour of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, is a beautiful area of forests, lochs and hills. We must have done most of the walks in it at least once, because it’s so accessible from Glasgow. Today saw a break in the torrential rain we’ve had recently, so it was a good opportunity to get out there again. Aberfoyle was full of tour buses and, given that it’s also the first weekend of the Scottish school holidays, we decided to give the visitor centre at the David Marshall Lodge a miss and walk from the Braeval car park instead. This is just half a mile the other side of the Rob Roy roundabout from Aberfoyle and was a good choice – we barely saw another soul. We did Lime Craig, a circular walk waymarked with red posts – you need to know this before you get there because, unfortunately, the information board has disappeared. It’s about 3.5 miles, so not too taxing – and, although the skies looked ominous at times, we always managed to keep ahead of the rain!