Port Glasgow Heritage Walk

Newark Castle and Ferguson Marine

The name Port Glasgow means exactly what you might expect. It was originally a fishing hamlet called Newark which expanded because large ships were unable to navigate the River Clyde, then shallow and meandering, to the centre of Glasgow. Newark became the port for Glasgow in 1668 and was known as New Port Glasgow until this was shortened in 1775. By the 19th century Port Glasgow had become a centre for shipbuilding, but today only Ferguson Marine remains and in its shadow lies a lingering vestige of the old name, Newark Castle (c1484). It was once home to the Maxwell family, hence the initials PM on some of the windows.

This visit took place in November after the castle had closed for the winter (and the foreseeable future, as it turns out), but we had a look round the outside before setting off on our walk.

The Port Glasgow Heritage Walk has been created by the blogger The Greenockian and can be downloaded from the link. Before setting off west on her route, we walked east for a mile or so along the riverside walkway. The posts you can just see sticking out of the water, in the first picture below, are the remains of old timber ponds. At the beginning of the 18th century vast amounts of timber were imported into Port Glasgow and stored in the ponds, being seasoned by the salt water, until needed by local shipwrights or sawmills.

Once back at the castle, we started the walk proper by walking west past the gates of Ferguson Marine. Across the road is the Ropeworks Building where ropes and sails used to be made, but which was converted into housing in 2007/8.

The route then took us through Coronation Park. Points of interest included an old steam hammer, manufactured by Glen & Ross of Glasgow, and a memorial cairn to the Clyde Boating Tragedy of 1947 when 20 people died in an accident while on a pleasure cruise.

On the back wall of Fergus Monk’s garage at the West Quay are these two colourful murals by Jim Strachan. One shows fishing boats and the catch being processed on the quay, while the other shows people enjoying themselves in a non-socially-distanced way that seems but a dream now..

Looking out to the Clyde, there are two lighthouses here, Perch Lighthouse (1862) on the treacherous Perch Rock, and the taller West Quay Lighthouse built in the 1870s to guide ships using the docks.

Across a busy road from here is a large retail park (a good stop for lunch, if anything is open, I think we went to Marks and Spencer). Set into the pathway are slabs with the names of local shipyards, such as the Inch Yard. On the way out of the retail park going towards the town centre is a replica of the Comet, the first commercial steam-powered vessel in European waters (1812).

We passed two churches – St John the Baptist (left below) was built in 1854 for the growing number of Roman Catholics, many from Ireland, who came to work in the area. The current St Andrew’s Church dates from 1823, but there has been a church on the same site since 1719. You can see St Andrew’s again peeking out from behind the Old Bank Building.

Port Glasgow has had a railway since 1841. The current station building has 14 murals made by local people, each celebrating part of the town’s history. I had a hard time choosing favourites, so here’s a large selection, starting with the remembrance panel because our visit was very near Remembrance Sunday.

Opposite the station is the Star Hotel with a couple of interesting ghost signs – or are they really ghost signs if the original business is still there? Old signs anyway!

A stroll down King Street took us past the Salvation Army, then we turned down Customhouse Lane heading for the town buildings.

These date from 1816 and once included a court, a council chamber, prison and police department. Port Glasgow is now part of Inverclyde and no longer needs these things, so the building houses the public library. There are references to the town’s past with sailing ships everywhere, including the weather vane atop the 150ft steeple and on the coat of arms seen on the lamp.

Across from the town buildings are two monuments, the War Memorial and the Endeavour sculpture. The latter was created by Malcolm Robertson in 2012 and is another celebration of the town’s shipbuilding heritage.

From here, we crossed the main road again to return to our car. Port Glasgow is somewhere I drive through regularly without stopping, so I’m grateful to The Greenockian for opening my eyes to its interesting history. Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

2 Sundays 2 Sails

Four Glasgow icons: the Riverside Museum, the Armadillo, the Tall Ship and the Squinty Bridge

Doon the watter

For generations, families packed their bags for Glasgow Fair, the fortnight in July when all the factories closed, and took a boat doon the watter to one of the Clyde resorts for their holidays. The Waverley is a relic of those days – the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. I hadn’t travelled on her since my childhood until John and I took a day trip down the Firth of Clyde one Sunday this month. As we set off, we left behind the view you see above: all of these Glasgow icons have appeared in the blog at one time or another.

The cruise, to start with, was a mixture of heritage and industry – sometimes both together, as below where the 15th century Newark Castle is almost dwarfed by Ferguson’s Shipyard at Port Glasgow.

We shared the river with other vessels – here a Clyde ferry is waiting at Wemyss (pronounced Weems) Bay.

And when we got into more open water, the view was dominated by the distinctive “sleeping giant” form of Arran.
The skies were quite grey, as you can see, and it was windy and cold on deck. However, fleeces and cagoules dealt with the temperature and we stayed in the open most of the day, only disappearing downstairs for a beer towards the end. That, and a delicious Thai curry on the way home, rounded off a great day out.

From the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth

We enjoyed that trip so much that the following Sunday we headed to the other side of the country to take a trip on the Firth of Forth. The pier at South Queensferry lies just underneath the Forth Bridge from where we waited for our boat, Maid of the Forth, to come in.

We sailed under the bridge towards Inchcolm Island, passing several rocky outcrops populated by cormorants (which are doing really well this year, after some lean times).

We had 90 minutes ashore to explore the island and its abbey, the earliest parts of which are 12th century. We had booked a tour and our guide, David, was excellent.

After David left us, we climbed the bell tower (the narrowest spiral staircase I’ve ever been up, followed by a steep ladder) from where we could view the rest of the island, including some Second World War defences. Then we still had time for a quick walk where we saw lots more seabirds.

As the boat left, we passed “Inch Gnome” and some very relaxed seals before sailing under all three bridges – 19th century Forth Bridge (rail), 20th century Forth Road Bridge and 21st century Queensferry Crossing.

On top of the Forth Bridge, we could see the viewing platform we visited last year. It was raining slightly by this time, and most people stayed below (wimps!) leaving me space to get a selfie at the back of the boat

Finally, we returned to South Queensferry. Just opposite where we had parked the car was this lovely Nessie made by local schoolchildren.

Another fabulous day out! If you’d like to do either of these trips, check the links below for timetables and tickets. Even if you’re not in Scotland you could catch PS Waverley, as she also visits the Bristol Channel, the South Coast, the Thames and the Irish Coast later in the year.

PS Waverley

Maid of the Forth

Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2017

Canal House, Speirs Wharf

It’s been a quiet month for travel, for me at least – John spent a chunk of it working in China, so I don’t suppose he feels the same. Foul weather has meant I haven’t been very far afield, but I have tramped about Glasgow in between rain storms and have a few local buildings to show you.

Speirs Wharf

A Sunday afternoon stroll with John took us down the Glasgow spur of the Forth and Clyde Canal to Port Dundas. Here, Speirs Wharf has been a residential area since the late 1980s but originated in the 19th century as the canal’s headquarters and the City of Glasgow Grain Mills and Stores. As well as Canal House (above) we found other attractive reflections on our walk.


Forth and Clyde Canal at Temple

On a gloomy Sunday while John was away, the sun suddenly broke through about 3.30pm. I set off along the canal again, but in the opposite direction. I could almost have been in the countryside until Temple Gasometers came into view.

Temple Gasworks were built in 1871 and closed in 1968, but the two large gas holders, dating from 1893 and 1900, were still being used until a few years ago.

Historic Environment Scotland recently sought views on plans to schedule the structures as Category B Listed buildings. I don’t know the result, but the local paper reported divided opinion between those who wanted them conserved and those who would flatten them. I’d be in the former camp these days, though we used to live very close to the gasometers and I hated them then. Now, I can see their beauty as part of our industrial heritage (and I don’t have to pass them every day which helps).

Also at Temple are Locks 26 and 27. The pub Lock 27, which you can see in the background of the portrait image, used to be our local. It’s still handy for a post-stroll pint but wasn’t open on this day.


At Lock 27, I left the canal and headed for Jordanhill. Some of you might remember this is the University Campus I used to work at. I swore I would never go there again after my last visit a couple of years ago when it was so sad to see the semi-derelict state of it (the campus closed in 2012 and has now been sold for housing), but that’s where my footsteps took me. Nothing has changed – there is some controversy with the development and local people are protesting about the number of homes to be built with little or no improvements in infrastructure. The handsome red sandstone David Stow Building is one of three that will be kept. The other picture is not pretty, I know, but that’s the entrance I used for work every day.

I found it funny to see the bright blue library book drop still there: locked – I checked. I probably locked it myself five years ago. On the door is a notice informing users that the library closed on 1st June 2012, telling them where to take their books in future, and thanking them for their custom over the years. I know I wrote that and put it up and I’m amazed no-one has ever taken it down. I’m just glad I can laugh, it’s all bygones now. I have no regrets.

Down by the Riverside

Another reason that October has been constrained is that I have been fighting with a broken-down boiler which took 6 visits from 4 different workmen to fix, so I have spent a lot of time hanging round the house. One visit was supposed to be on the Sunday afternoon in the middle of the saga, but the engineer phoned to say that he was still waiting for parts and would come on Monday instead. So we set off down the River Kelvin Walkway and then along the Clyde.

The last time we visited this former pumping station it still showed signs of having been a restaurant (first picture below). Eighteen months later, the restaurant’s conservatory has been replaced with a glass still-house for a new whisky distillery. Exciting!

On the other side of the river, we spotted the Waverley (the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world – red funnels) and Queen Mary (the only remaining Clyde-built turbine steamer which is now being preserved as a museum ship – yellow funnels). We crossed over to have a look.

Both ships are berthed by the Glasgow Tower, a rotating structure which you are supposed to be able to ascend but which spends more time inactive than not. From its podium, we got a good view of the Glasgow Science Centre and some of the other weird buildings by this part of the river.

The last bit

I came across this piece of street art near Glasgow University. It’s by an artist new to me, Pink Bear Rebel, who focuses, I’ve read, on anti-Trump protests and rebelling against the ‘meaningless of life’. I’ll be on the look-out for more.

And the boiler? Well, as of last Tuesday we have heat – just as well, because overnight frosts have returned. It also gives me this month’s Scottish words lesson because it’s been a sair fecht to deal with (sore/hard fight; something problematic).

I hope your October has NOT been a sair fecht!

Glasgow’s Clyde

Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
A few weeks ago, our Sunday afternoon plans fell through so we took a walk down to the Clyde instead. So many times I have walked in other riverside cities and marvelled at what they have made of their waterfronts. Glasgow always seemed to be lagging behind – in fact there were parts of the Clyde Walkway I just wouldn’t have felt safe walking along at one time. Thankfully, in recent years we have been catching up with the rest of the world and the Walkway is a very pleasant stroll. It also allows for a trip down Memory Lane as you shall see.

We started at the old (1870s) Hydraulic Pumping Station on Yorkhill Quay which used to power a swing bridge over the dock entrance. These Victorians really knew how to dress up their industrial buildings! It’s been used as a restaurant recently, hence the much newer conservatory. From here, you can look back to the Riverside Museum and the Tallship Glenlee.

Across the river, on the south side, is the Science Centre flanked by the BBC building, just visible on the left, and the Glasgow Tower which opened in 2001.

Glasgow Science Centre
Glasgow Science Centre
According to the Science Centre website:

Glasgow Tower is the only structure on earth capable of rotating 360 degrees into the prevailing wind and holds the Guinness-World-Record for the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the World. At 127 metres high, the equivalent of over 30 double-decker buses, the Glasgow Tower is the tallest freestanding building in Scotland.

You should be able to take a lift up to the Tower’s viewing platform. However, it has been closed for about 80% of its life because of a succession of structural problems and the fact that it can’t operate if it’s too windy. To be honest, I’m not that keen to try it…..

Near here, two pedestrian bridges cross the Clyde. We took the Millenium Bridge across the river, pausing in the centre to look upstream to Bell’s Bridge (the blue one) and the Clyde Arc, better known in Glasgow as the Squinty Bridge.

Bell's Bridge and Clyde Arc
Bell’s Bridge and Clyde Arc
This is where Memory Lane kicks in. Bell’s Bridge was built as the entrance to the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988. I have wonderful memories of this – we had season tickets and visited often over the summer. Once the festival was finished, the site lay derelict for years until it slowly re-established itself as a media quarter. Here’s Bell’s Bridge in 1988 (with a bearded John) and a view of the site from the festival’s tower. Bell’s Bridge is visible at top left.

We only walked a little way along the south bank so that we could cross back over at Bell’s Bridge. We got a good view of the Clyde Auditorium (aka Armadillo) on the north bank and saw a poignant memorial to a firefighter.

The BBC Scotland Building is fronted by a sculpture, Poised Array, by Toby Paterson and displays a fabulous reflection of the other side of the river in its glass walls.

In 1988, Bell’s Bridge would never have been quiet enough to get a shot like this! Once again, we stopped in the centre of the bridge, this time to watch jet-skiers tearing downriver.

Back on the north side of the river we came to the Finnieston Crane – you’ve possibly spotted it already in both 1988 and 2016 pictures. It was erected in 1931 to load huge locomotives, a major export and Glasgow’s second most important engineering industry.

A little further on, we reached the North Rotunda. It and its southern companion mark the ends of the Harbour Tunnel built in the 1890s and long since fallen into disuse. The North Rotunda has been a restaurant for as long as I can remember, but the South Rotunda is boarded up. However, during the Garden Festival it served as Nardini’s Ice Cream Parlour.

Across from the Rotunda is a Hilton Garden Inn with a riverside bar. It was a very hot day, so we couldn’t pass that could we? Behind me, you can see the South Rotunda and the STV building. It seems that drinking beer in the sun was a 1988 pastime too!

Just past the Hilton is the Squinty Bridge. We didn’t cross it, but I’ve included this shot so that you can see why it got it’s nickname. I’ve never heard anyone actually calling it the Clyde Arc.

Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
The next bridge down, we most certainly couldn’t cross. The Kingston Bridge carries the M8 over the river. We could stand under it though and admire the mural by Smug (Sam Bates). It’s one of several around the city celebrating the Commonwealth Games of 2014 which were held in Glasgow. There’s also a memorial to another fire disaster.

From the Kingston Bridge we decided to head for home. First we had to negotiate the bridges and walkways across the M8 and the Clydeside Expressway, both very busy roads.

On the other side, we came across this lovely old building, a former savings bank.

We walked past the splendid new Central Gurdwara and the building it replaced…

….before heading home through the greenery of Kelvingrove Park.

Kelvingrove Park
Kelvingrove Park
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Clydeside stroll. The best bit for me has been looking out my 1988 photographs, though my memory failed me in one thing. I thought we had so many – but there are only 55. For the whole summer! We take more than that in a day now: how times have changed. I also went looking for our Glasgow Garden Festival whisky miniature but, unaccountably, that seems to have gone. I did find our Festival Friends lapel pins and this photograph of me hillwalking the following year in my Festival T-shirt (another non-survivor) so I’ll leave you with that while I go off and nurse my serious hair envy. Can you have that for your younger self?

Ben Chabhair 1989
Ben Chabhair 1989
Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Dumbarton and the Denny Tank

Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank
Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank

Ever since our visit to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine in March, John has been itching to visit its other site at Dumbarton, the Denny Tank. The book of Clyde walks we’ve been using recently includes a 5 mile circuit of Dumbarton, so it was conceded that we could visit the tank and do the walk at the same time. But, oh look! It says café. So, of course, we had to have lunch before exploring the museum.

William Denny & Brothers’ innovative, experimental approach made waves in the shipbuilding industry from the 1800s to 1963. (Don’t blame me for the terrible pun, that’s from the museum’s website.) They built the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank which you can still see in situ, along with associated workshops.

Ho hum, that bit wasn’t really for me, but when we got upstairs to the offices I was much more interested. I’m not usually into model ships either, but this is none other than the Cutty Sark which was built by Denny & Brothers. The cat’s head is a genuine carving from the ship.

I got really excited by this next bit, though – a Banda machine! If you don’t recognise the name, you might know it as a Ditto machine in North America or Roneo in France and Australia. Bandas were spirit duplicators, and as soon as I saw this I was taken right back to my school days. The pong. The pale purple print. The primitive technology!

Also in the offices were these large boxes – Deacon Boxes – containing graphs from over 300,000 individual ship model experiments carried out in the tank. Honestly, the whole place looked as though the workforce could come back in and get on with the job at any time.

That workforce was strictly demarcated by sex, although Denny was one of the first shipbuilding firms to employ women. The men would be downstairs doing the experiments, the women would be upstairs in the offices working as tracer / analysts. I love finding out about the history of women’s lives and how things have changed. They all look so happy in these pictures.

If you’re still with me after all that, it’s time to get some fresh air. From the museum, we headed down towards Dumbarton Castle on its plug of volcanic rock where the River Leven flows into the Clyde. The riverside path boasted a CD tree and some fairy doors!

From here, we looped back into town to the Municipal Buildings. The archway is all that remains of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, founded in 1453 (although the arch has moved twice since then). The statue is Peter Denny, one of the shipbuilding brothers.

Our route then took us down to the River Leven. From the bridge we got a view of Dumbarton Rock again, this time from its other side.

On the other bank of the Leven we walked through Levengrove Park.

The view to the Rock and Castle was stunning.

Dumbarton Rock and Castle
Dumbarton Rock and Castle

Next, we retraced our steps to the bridge. Some of the boats looked as if they needed some attention…..

Our car was parked near the red sandstone ruin in the gallery above, the last remaining part of the former Inverleven Distillery. We returned home tired but happy after a good mix of culture and exercise.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. This week she has a lovely garden for you, plus her usual international band of cyber-walkers. All welcome!

The Greenock Cut

Greenock Cut
Greenock Cut

The Greenock Cut was built in 1825 to carry water into the town from Loch Thom reservoir. These days a tunnel carries the water supply, and the Cut is part of Clyde Muirshiel Park forming a 6.5 mile circular walk above the Firth of Clyde with spectacular views. First, you look down at Inverkip (for context, the red vessel and Kip Marina are both in the first picture if you enlarge it enough).

The path then passes 23 stone bridges, a couple of workers’ bothies and some drainage equipment (this was explained in more detail by the engineer, but don’t ask me. It’s a bucket with a hole in it, basically.)

As the path meanders over the moorland, there are grand views of the mountains.

The houses of Greenock then come into view. We spent quite a while here looking down and trying to identify where my Grandad used to live – somewhere on the road running up the middle of the first picture I think. My other grandfather used to walk his whippet up here.

More of Greenock –

When the path met a minor road, we turned and climbed upwards to a ridge from where we made our way down to Loch Thom.

At the bottom we discovered a memorial well and benches. Where’s a bench challenge when you need one?

From here, it was a short walk back to the car which we’d left at the Greenock Cut Visitor Centre. We’d hoped to get a coffee there, but it was shut (4pm). However, there is also a little café at Ardgowan Fishery at the other end of the car park which, although basic, is a better bet – we’d had some tasty lentil soup there before we started the walk so we couldn’t complain. In fact, we’d had a lovely afternoon all round.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where there are lots of goodies as usual.

Bothwell and Blantyre

River Clyde at Bothwell Castle
River Clyde at Bothwell Castle
The 13th century remains of Bothwell Castle are the starting point for this 3.5 circular walk. We’ve visited the castle many times, so didn’t go inside but dropped straight down onto the Clyde Walkway below. We followed the wooded banks until we could see Blantyre on the other side of the river.

Here, we made a detour over the Livingstone Memorial Bridge. What a beautiful house next to it!

Blantyre is the birthplace of David Livingstone – although the David Livingstone Centre wasn’t yet open for the season, we enjoyed the surrounding park and garden. The statue of Livingstone and the Lion is spectacular.

We also liked the fountain, even if it had no water in at the moment, and the giant stone frog in the pond.

Crossing back to the other side of the river we walked through Old Bothwell to Bothwell Bridge, scene of a battle in 1679 between the Covenanters and Charles II’s army (the Covenanters lost). A memorial to them was erected in 1903.

From the memorial, it was a steep climb up the road to the centre of Bothwell after which we definitely deserved lunch – which we ate outside. In Scotland, in March! We were amazed too (though I confess I did feel it a little nippy).

After lunch, we stopped to admire this lovely memorial outside the Parish Church. Joanna Baillie was a renowned poet and dramatist who was born in Bothwell in 1762.

Another garden next. The Gilchrist Garden was donated to the residents of Bothwell in 1940 by Marion Gilchrist who was born in Bothwellpark Farm in 1864. Despite the education of women then being considered a waste of time, she went on to qualify as a doctor becoming the University of Glasgow’s first female graduate in 1894. The memorial sculpture, by Adrian Wiszniewski, was added in 2013. The cut-out shapes represent organisms seen under a microscope, the black represents Marion’s inner strength and the pink her femininity and sensitivity.

Bothwell used to be a mining village, and our final stop was this replica coal hutch which has recently been placed on the way out of town by the local Historical Society to commemorate the miners of Castle Colliery.

Miners Memorial, Bothwell

From here, it was about a mile back to the castle where we had left our car. So – scenery, history and art! I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll through Bothwell which I’m linking to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Elder Park and Govan

Like many major cities, Glasgow has grown by incorporating surrounding towns and villages. Govan was a separate burgh until 1912 – it once had a population of 60,000 when shipbuilding on the Clyde was at its height. Now it is more like 16,000, and is a sadly rundown district of decaying historic buildings and boarded up shops. In the 19th century it was dominated by the Elder family – they lived across the river in Glasgow, but John Elder (1824-1869) was boss of the Fairfield Shipyard in Govan employing 4,000 men. He was known for good worker relations and, after his untimely death, his widow Isabella (1828-1905) carried on his good works. In Govan itself, she provided a park, a library and a hospital and in Glasgow she contributed to the University, including providing a property for the fledgling Queen Margaret College for the education of women. Today’s millionaires, including the shower in the UK cabinet, could learn a lot from such Victorian philanthropists.

Govan is only a few stops on the Subway from us, so yesterday we went over to have a look at Isabella’s legacy. On the way to Elder Park, we passed the Aitken Memorial Fountain, the Pearce Institute and the old Fairfield Shipyard itself.

Although funded by Isabella, Elder Park Library was opened by Andrew Carnegie in 1903 – he later funded several others in Glasgow himself. We could only visit the outside as it was closed for the Easter Weekend.

Elder Park has statues to both John (erected 1888) and Isabella (erected 1906).

Other features of the park include two memorials to shipping disasters, the K13 submarine which sank during trials on the Gareloch in 1917 and the SS Daphne which capsized during her launch in 1883; “The Launch” by George Wylie, a sculpture of the bow of a ship complete with champagne bottle; and the portico of the former mansion-house of the Linthouse Estate.

We used Glasgow City Council’s Elder Park Heritage Trail – if visiting Glasgow, check out the council’s excellent page of this and similar trails. They are usually well illustrated and packed full of historical information – highly recommended.