Chi mi a-rithist thu (I’ll see you again)

Our last day dawned – grey, breezy but dry… at first. Florence again decided to miss sunrise and take a walk around Tarbert instead. I took the minibus to Traigh Mhor beach. I’d visited it last year a couple of times, both times at low tide on a warm early summer evening. This morning was about as different as you could get. It was grey, misty, windy and cold. The rain had returned and was blowing off the sea into our faces. For the first twenty minutes my camera stayed in the bag. I stared at the sea, watching the waves, sometimes having to step back when a big wave came further up the beach. After a while the rain stopped and I set up my tripod for a few images then tried a few handheld shots low over the waves. Quite soon the rain returned and we decided to return to the hotel early for breakfast. Meanwhile Florence had wandered round downtown Tarbert and taken some shots of grey buildings and colourful front doors.

When we left for Stornoway Airport, the clouds were hanging low over the hills and little waterfalls had appeared alongside the road; the rain continued. The island still looks beautiful in these conditions, the colours of the gorse and heather become richer. There is water everywhere, lochs and streams, waterfalls and pools, occasional distant views to the sea.

We had about an hour to wait for the short flight to Glasgow then another few hours before the flight to Gatwick. The descent into Glasgow was a little bumpy in places. It’s clear from the air that the city ends quite suddenly and the hills and forests aren’t far away.

The week has been really enjoyable, the light and conditions have generally been good and Harris is one of the best locations for landscape photography anywhere; its a great place without a camera too. I certainly hope to be back here soon.

Red barn door

No sunrise shoot this morning. Clouds and rain meant that we had an extra 30 minutes in bed. Yeah!

Full vegetarian Scottish breakfast and tea. And ready to hit the road. We were against a deadline today – heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon, and we had a few spots we wanted to get to before then.

We drove to the west coast of North Harris. The landscape is stunning in a desolate way. We had the road to ourselves, mostly, but we still had to make use of the passing places every now and then.

We spent a few minutes at a scenic view point. Our second stop had something for everyone – a rusty boat; wild flowers; patterns on rock; sheep and a red barn door. Which I loved. I could have spent all day at that one spot, but too soon it was time to move on.

But that’s okay, because around the corner we came across a herd of Scottish moos. Lovely things they are.

We pressed on, passing through Bunabhainneadar. A tall brick tower on a shore is now all that remain of a whaling station. The road next takes you through a set of gates, and it seems that we were on private grounds… but no, this is the main road, and it passes right in front of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle. Quite surreal.

Our final destination was Huisinish beach. Looking at the water and the sand, you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere else altogether. It reminded me of French Polynesia. The main differences would be the landscape around us (mountains and lochs), the fact that we had layers and layers of clothes on, and of course, the temperature of the water. But it was a fun place to spend an hour or so. The red barn (held together with gaffa tape); rusty bits; patterns in the sand; bits of seaweed and wave bubbles. As the wind picked up and the rain started, we headed to a newly community-built shelter for… shelter, and warmth. With large windows facing the beach, this was the perfect place to have our packed lunch.

Back at the hotel for a hot drink, and then the idea was for the group to split in two. One group was going to go back out to photograph the shapes and colours of Luskentyre beach, and the other group was staying put for a photo processing session. But then the rain hit, so everyone attended the processing workshop.

Pre-dinner drinks in the bar, dinner, post-dinner drinks in the bar.

Slàinte mhath!

In Rainbows

Today was a day of rainbows.

I started with sunrise at Luskentyre beach looking towards the mountains of North Harris. There was a double rainbow over the sea; the light over the mountains was beautiful and two gannets wheeled over the waves.

Florence went for a walk around Tarbert, which was surprisingly busy for an early morning. People in town seemed blasé about the rainbows despite there  being a beautiful double one right over the distillery; rainbows happen here a lot!

The bulk of today was spent on the ‘Golden Road’ down the south east coast of Harris. The road was built in 1897 and needed a lot of money and engineering skill to complete. The landscape on the east side of the island is very different to the west – no big beaches, lots of little fishing harbours and desolate hills. At the first harbour we were told off by the grumpiest man on Harris, he didn’t like us taking pictures near his house even though we were on a public pier. We’d met him last year actually. He was the captain of our boat to St Kilda. He didn’t say a word for the whole trip – 3.5 hours each way – leaving all that to his crew, he had a bit too much to say today.

Today was a stop and start kind of day.  We stopped many times for views, abandoned crofts and harbours full of little details to photograph – and rainbows. Every time we stopped there was a rainbow about; we were lucky to get mainly sun and very few showers.

One highlight of the day was the Bay Café mid-afternoon. The elderly lady who served us was the sweetest person you could hope to meet. Funny, cheeky and friendly. She was born on the island and left for short while when she was young but has been living back here since 1971 and no longer leaves very often – ‘why would you when it’s the most beautiful place in the world?’

We passed a number of abandoned crofts today, some are just shells, some have collapsing roofs, some look like somebody just got up and walked out one day, never to return. It appears that its easier and cheaper to build new houses than renovate old ones.

The road ended at Leverburgh. We called in at the Atlantic Café for refreshments and facilities before heading back up to Seilebost for sunset. We didn’t get huge coloured skies but there was still more than enough to see.

The weather forecast is grey in the morning so we’re allowed a lie-in – hoorah!

Stepping into history

Another 7.15 departure. This is civilised sunrise photography.

We revisited the second site we went to on the first day – it was too windy to go on the beach so some perspective seemed like a good idea. The sea was wild and the waves were powerful and certainly the biggest we’ve seen so far.

The group dispersed and then re-grouped as the sun hit the waves. It was mesmerising.

The incessant wind is tiring. Keeping the camera still and composing your image whilst not being blow away demands concentration. It takes a lot out of you, and so back at the hotel, Andy went for the full Scottish vegetarian breakfast. I had gallons of tea.

After breakfast, it was time to hit the road again. We were going to the Isle of Lewis for the day. Lewis is the northern part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides. People talk about Harris or Lewis, but it’s all the same.

And yet, the scenery is immediately different. We crossed a pass through a mountain range.

The scenery is mostly meadows, peat bogs, lochs. The machair at first looking bleak but home to many wild flowers, heather and caterpillars.

Our first stop was at Mangersta – a large stack formation. The sea was lashing. The wind was… windy! We were warned off the edge of the cliff – good advice generally, but with the wind being what it was, this was definitely advice to follow. Wild.

Which brought us back to a discussion we’ve had on and off all week. How hardy you have to be to live here. This is the very beginning of winter. It’s only going to get bleaker from now on.

We stopped at a community owned café in Uig for a hot drink and cake (lime and coconut). Lewis is internationally famous for the Lewis chessmen discovered nearby in 1831. These date back to the twelve century, and – little know fact – they are also known as the Uig chessmen.

We had our pack lunch in a car park near our next photo shoot – Traigh Na Beirghe, a Caribbean-white sand beach with turquoise water. And then add wind, showers, overcast weather.

After an hour, it was time to move on again. Out of the car window, I spotted one of Lewis’s 2000-year-old brochs (Iron Age roundhouses).

We raced against the clock to get to our last stop for the day – the Callanish Stones. The standing stones are arranged in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. It is thought that they were used for ritual activity during the Bronze Age (late Neolithic era).

Andy let his creative side get the better of him and some of his photographs were simply out there. To be fair, this is not your traditional landscape photographic workshop. We are constantly encouraged to be creative, and to spend time with such a bunch of creative people is rewarding and exhilarating.

The long drive back to the hotel was spent in gentle banter (someone told me I had ruined their life and they wished they’d never met me! To put this into context, I must say that I had merely answered his question about what it’s like to travel to Antarctica).

Another full on day. Feeling slightly weary, we sat down for dinner and chatted about photography, and the trip so far. We’re all loving it!

Exposed to the Elements

This being a landscape photography trip we’re not allowed to take it easy; if there’s daylight we should be out photographing. In our favour the sunrise and sunset are at quite civilised times at this time of year so we found ourselves in the car park wrapped up and ready to go at 7:15.

Luskentyre beach has been voted one of the ten best in world, based on its beauty other than its climate. It faces to the west so the sun rose behind us, lighting the clouds and the island of Taransay across the water. The sun shone, it rained, we got sandblasted – this is going to be the story of our time on Harris. There was rainbow too.

An hour and a half flew by and we returned to the hotel for breakfast. Washed, refueled and ready to go again we headed for Horgabost beach. This is a broad sandy beach with rocks at both ends, lots of patterns in the sand and big waves –  plenty to keep us amused for a few hours.

Just above the beach is the new West Harris community centre, this was recently completed with the help of EU finance – no need to guess which way the island voted! There is a restaurant, some artists studios, accommodation and a number of other facilities. The West Harris Pensioners Lunch was in full swing when we arrived. We spotted the couple who owned the cottage we stayed in last year and went over to say hello – they have some spaces over the winter so maybe we’ll be back soon!

After lunch, the forecast was for grey skies for the afternoon so we headed for a couple of more intimate sites – a salt marsh with a number of channels meandering through it and a small loch with some reed beds in the middle. There was a fisherman out on his boat on the loch, probably hoping for a quiet afternoon but he found himself featuring as a compositional feature of 12 photographers shots.

Last stop of the day was Rodel church on the far south east corner of the island. The church is no longer active, it was built in the 15th and 16th century and restored in the late 19th. The tower has two significant historical carvings on it; the Feileadh Mor (big covering) traditionally worn by men evolved in to today’s kilt and a Sheela na Gig, carving of a naked women – a warning against the evils of lust.

Back to the hotel, pre-dinner whisky (Florence had a G&T with a gin from the Isle of Skye) and another tasty meal. Everybody was a bit subdued after a long and full-on day. Same again tomorrow!

The Outer Hebrides of Scotland

We left the hotel just before 8:30am and walked the five minutes to the bus station. The airport bus was – again – very efficient.

We checked in and had breakfast and walked to gate 1 for our flight to Stornoway.

The one hour flight was uneventful. We spent most of our time above the clouds to avoid the high wind. But as we started to come down, ready for landing, we saw the weather coming in.

We landed in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and drove 40 minutes or so to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. The rain pouring down. Sheets of it. Coming at us. That was quite spectacular.

We came to Harris last year for a week, in early May, but this is definitely the time of year to come for a landscape photographic workshop.

We’ve only been here a few hours and the weather’s already been very very wild.

Our first outing was to Seilebost beach. A long sandy beach with dunes, and just us. We spent a couple of hours there. I had to give up the macro photography (I came across some really cool patterns in the sand). The wind was blowing wildly, and the sand… the sand decided to come out and play. Sand everywhere – my hair, my eyes (argh), my camera, lenses…

We then went a few minutes up the road. We were higher up so we had a sweeping view of the sea, the mad mad waves and sunset. That was incredibly windy (so much fresh air) and so breathtaking. And somehow, I ended up with a massive rip in my coat. No idea how that happened.

Back at the hotel, I dropped my coat off in reception to see if it could be fixed. I really hope so… that’s my wind-proof and water-proof for the week!

Dinner was booked for 8pm. And then we retired to the hotel bar… for a whisky, or two.

And the best news? Sunrise isn’t that early in the morning… so that’s almost a lay in!

Show Me the Way to the Next Whisky Bar

We woke up quite early so I got some coffees from the hotel restaurant. We had a brunch reservation for 11:00 and Glasgow was doing its wet thing this morning, so we decided to have a slow start and watch a movie in bed. The in-house entertainment system had a reasonable selection so we made a start on La La Land – it’s been on our list for a while and seemed fluffy enough for a lazy Sunday.

We watched an hour or so then hit the rainy streets. Sauchiehall Street runs right through the city centre and is pedestrianised a lot of the way. We followed it back towards West End, taking a few detours around grand Victorian and Georgian crescents and terraces.

Stravaigin is a bar, restaurant, music venue and all round cosy place to be on a wet Sunday. They source as much as possible from local farms and producers and the menu has a wide variety of brunch dishes from around the world. We settled on Indonesian and Mexican eggs, both were very tasty – Florence’s was accompanied by a Bloody Maria – tequila not vodka.

The rain continued as we made our way through Kelvinside Park to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. A soggy looking rat scampered across our path. The River Kelvin got noisier as the water levels rose.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a huge Victorian edifice containing an eclectic mixture of art, sculpture, stuffed animals and a spitfire. The section on Scottish Life had a poster inviting people to emigrate to New Zealand – we’d seen the other end of this story in museums in Wellington and Dunedin not long ago. There is a feeling of trying to display everything they have without a lot of coherent themes, or so it seemed to us. Some rooms try to explain the works on show; the display about reading a picture was very good, but overall we left with the impression of a few highlights amongst a jumble of works. The highlights included a very calm Lowry seascape that seemed completely out of step with his usual work and some Signac landscapes.

The rain had reduced to heavy as google maps guided us on the 17 minute walk to the Riverside museum. The museum opened in 2011 to house the city’s history of transport collection. It was designed by Zaha Hadid and won the European Museum of the year award in 2013. It houses an extensive collection of cars, trams, buses, railway engines, model ships and transport related items. The largest exhibit is a locomotive built for South Africa in Glasgow in 1945. The explanation makes a point of explaining the impact of apartheid on the South African railways. Florence seemed particularly interested in my explanation of the wheel layout of the Caledonian Railways engine from 1880. It made me feel old to see some model railways that I’d once played with in a museum cabinet.

We stopped in the cafe for a tea and snack. As we sat down, the rain was lashing the windows. 10 minutes later the sun was out so we had a look round the outside of the building while we could.

It wouldn’t be right to come to Glasgow and not ride on the third oldest subway in the world – behind London and Budapest since you ask. There is only one circular route and the trains take about 30 minutes to complete a circuit. The trains are tiny compared with London and only four coaches long.

The blue sky had returned when we left Cowcaddens station and walked back down to Sauchiehall Street to explore the Centre for Contemporary Arts. The main exhibition featured work by an Indian artist with wide-ranging themes around male-dominance and political protest, after a long day we found it hard to understand these works. The Centre also has a busy bar, cafe, music venue and a cinema which is currently hosting the Scottish Queer International Film Festival – SQIFF!

Although it was only 6:00 Florence was demanding food; Rumours Kopiliam is a Malaysian restaurant in the City Centre, not much to look at but the food was very tasty: mock chicken curry, chilli fried tofu and coconut rice.

Last activity of the night was another whisky bar. Òran Mór used to be a church, now it’s a bar, restaurant, music venue and theatre. Lunchtimes they offer ‘a play, a pie and a pint’ for £13.00. We tried a couple more whiskies, sticking to the island theme to fit with the theme of the forthcoming week. Florence had a Port Charlotte and a Bruichladdich and I had a Talisker Storm and a Caol Ila. After the bar, we walked down Byres Road and Ashton Lane – places we hadn’t managed to get to yet.

Finally back to the hotel to finish the film.

People Make Glasgow

This slogan is plastered on one of the tall buildings in the centre of town, and it greeted us as we travelled from the airport to the hotel (in the very quick and efficient airport bus).

We flew from London City and got to our hotel just under four hours after leaving home. Our check-in ‘ambassador’ was very friendly and she made a few suggestions of things to do and see whilst we were in Glasgow. We dropped our bags in the room, and went to the bar where we got two 15 year-old Dalwhinnies.

This morning, when Andy went to speak to the ‘ambassador’ on duty (our complimentary in-room mini iPad charger was broken), he got more friendliness and tips! And she kindly offered to book our table for dinner.

We had a leisurely day ahead of us, with plenty of walking… so it made sense to start with a full vegetarian breakfast at Café Gandolfi, where the food is seasonal and locally sourced.

After that, we enjoyed watching a couple of running races from the Great Scottish Run Super Saturday – children and families. A prelude to the main event tomorrow – the Great Scottish Run.

Just outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) was the statue of the Duke of Wellington we wanted to see.  Today, he was wearing not one but two traffic cone hats – a tradition that goes back decades. In 2013, the council apparently tried to raise the height of the plinth to discourage this practice but campaigns put stop to this proposal.

We did pop into GoMA. There weren’t a lot of works on show but the exhibition on homelessness was thought-provoking and Gallery 2 had works from Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andy Goldsworthy, David Hockney, David Shrigley and Andy Warhol. The gallery is housed in a neoclassical building built in 1778 for William Cunninghame of Lainshaw – a wealthy Glasgow Lord who made his fortune through tobacco and the slave trade.

After a refuelling coffee break, we headed to the Lighthouse. This is not an actual lighthouse but Glasgow’s national centre for design and architecture. We had exactly three minutes to take in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh before racing up the staircase to the top of tower. The sky was clear (apparently this is a rarity in Glasgow) and this afforded us great views over rooftops and high rises. We spotted Parkhead in the distance (Celtic were at home today and we’d briefly considered going to the game).

We wandered for a while, taking in the mishmash of architectural styles – the old Georgian buildings (always so imposing), the art deco ones and the eyesore 60’s monstrosities.

Glasgow Central deserved a few minutes of our time. The station has kept many of its original features and isn’t spoilt by advertising. Andy was thrilled to see a train in plum and spilt milk, a recreation of British Railway’s original livery.

On our way to the Tenement House, we stumbled across a gallery which is currently exhibiting works from Ron Lawson. We came across his works in Edinburgh a few weeks ago. He is currently Scotland’s most successful landscape painter. His style is contemporary and all his own.

The Tenement House museum is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. First we read about the tenements and how when most were demolished, people felt a loss of community spirit. This was like stepping back into history. The flat belonged to Miss Agnes Toward and she lived in it ‘from 1911 until 1965, and preserved her furniture and possessions with love and care. She held on to all sorts of things that most people would have thrown away, and this extensive personal archive is a valuable time capsule for visitors today‘ (source).

Our tired legs were begging for a rest. Time for tea, and there’s only one place to go for tea in Glasgow and that’s Tchai Ovna in Otago Lane. The place comes with two resident cats (the one sitting next to me was very keen on cucumber!) and hundreds of teas from all around the world. We both had pots of chai – mine was Bombay Lemongrass Tchai and Andy’s was Tchai Hel (Persian). Otago Lane is also home to a record shop and Voltaire and Rousseau – the most crazy bookshop ever. Books are piled up, three rows deep and at the top of the shop is a fairly eccentric man.

On the way back to the hotel, we popped into the Thistle Gallery. A silk screen print caught my eye… and as today was the preview, we were offered glasses of wine. Four members of a family were exhibiting together (what a talented family!) and we chatted to a few of them.

The area around the gallery – West End – is mostly residential, with huge houses mostly split into flats now. This is where you find trendy restaurants, delis and cafés.

Dinner was at the tiny Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, just a few minutes from our hotel. We had potato patties, pau vada, egg dipped roti with dhal, Punjabi channa masala, tamarind carrot and a ‘100 clove garlic and red chilli chutney’. Delicious!

And there was only one way to follow that – a visit to The Pot Still where they have over 300 malt whiskies. What followed was a fascinating conversation with (the now legendary) Frank Murphy. We each told him the type of whisky we like, and he picked five choices for each of us, talked us through them and then made us sniff them. Our choices were excellent.

Mr Murphy was one of many people we talked to today. Everyone’s chatty and incredibly patient with us (and yes, we can only ask them to repeat what they’ve said a few times).

We were lucky with the weather today – nippy at times but sunny, and we managed to be indoors whenever the showers struck. Tomorrow’s something else altogether!



Another slow start after another late night. Very tasty avocado and fried egg brioche sandwiches.

We planned to take a walk roughly following the Water of Leith along the northern edge of the city centre towards Stockbridge. We started towards the river but soon got distracted by Rosebank Cemetery. The cemetery not surprisingly has many graves of ship owners, harbour pilots and others relating to the maritime history of Leith. One significant memorial is to the servicemen who died in the Quintinshill rail disaster in 1915. Four trains were involved; the busiest of which was taking soldiers to Liverpool to travel onwards to Gallipoli. 215 people were killed making it the worst crash in British railway history.

The Water of Leith flows 22 miles from the Pentland Hills before meeting the Firth of Forth in Leith. It can be followed in part on footpaths and by road. We walked along a muddy path by the Water for about a mile before heading up onto the road. At this point, we passed a coffee shop that I couldn’t resist – flat white time. We were now on the edge of Stockbridge. The architecture became more grand. Tall imposing houses and apartment blocks characterise the New Town.

I’d found an exhibition which had works from Morag Patterson, a photographer that I particularly like. We came across the gallery by accident so we had a quick look. It’s a group show by 12 artists based in the south west of Scotland. Some works were challenging, some beautiful. One of the artists was there, she was unwilling to explain much about her piece. I should just ‘read it as I like’. Next door was another gallery, and we particularly liked the work of Ron Lawson. He paints simple landscapes featuring a single small craft or bothy. The paintings had all sold so I had to be content with a card.

One of our destinations was the Stockbridge Sunday market. This is a small gathering of about 20 stalls – mainly food and drink with a few craft stalls as well. We bought a vegetarian scotch egg, some smoked mozzarella and a small print of some penguins.

Stockbridge has many characterful streets but none more so than Circus Lane. The street is a long semi-circle of pretty cottages that are beautifully kept with flowers and plants outside but without being too twee. A church tower looms over the eastern end to complete the scene.

We continued up towards the city to meet our friend for lunch but were distracted by a photographic gallery on the way. The owner showcased his own work, mainly from Greenland, along with pictures from five other photographers; a few of whom I knew and some that need more exploring.

Lunch was at El Cartel café. We just made it inside ahead of three others who were turned away because they were full. The food is simple Mexican street food – tacos, corn and guacamole. Florence had a Mexican Bloody Veera and I had a Mescal, Salted Pear and Lemon cocktail – both were delicious. The food was all really well prepared with lots of interesting flavours. They don’t however do puddings (apart from ice cream) so we crossed the road to Henderson’s. They have been serving vegan and vegetarian food since 1968 and are completely vegan since 2015.

After lunch, we carried on our exploration, heading back to the river and into Dean Village. In the late 19th century a Stockbridge newspaper magnate got tired of looking at the slums and riverside industries that his house overlooked and built some new housing in the form of a turreted red brick gothic castle (now a World Heritage site).

After criss-crossing the water a few more times we ended up at the modern art museum. This is split between two former stately homes that face each other across large gardens and a road. We only had 40 minutes to try and visit both. Not much grabbed us in the first one so that was done in ten minutes. The highlight of the second museum was ‘Lamp of Sacrifice’ by Nathan Coley. This consists of simplistic cardboard models of the 260 places of worship open in Edinburgh at the beginning of 2004. The models are all thrown together with no regard for their actual locations and the overall effect is one of seeing a city from a strange bird’s eye view. The museum also had a room of works by Ed Ruscha and we only had a couple of minutes to take this in, not really enough. The garden in front of this gallery has a large earthwork sculpture in it. Shapes in the ground are grassed over and two pools sit in front of them.

We’d been lucky with the weather so far but as we walked back towards Princes Street, heavy rain set in.

Our last site was the statue of Wotjek, a brown bear who served in the polish army in WW2. He was adopted as an orphaned cub by the soldiers but they weren’t allowed pets in battle so he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds and given a rank and number. After the war, he ended up in Edinburgh zoo where he lived until 1963.

The rain continued so we took a bus back to our apartment. We’d been in for about 15 minutes before the sun was shiny again. Time for some tea and toast and putting our feet up for a bit before our sleeper back to London.

We’ve done a lot this weekend but it’s shown us there’s so much more to do so we hope to be back soon.

The Dunedin of the North

Not surprisingly, following last night’s extravaganza, we had a slow start this morning. We woke up to a sun-filled room. Mugs of tea and breakfast at home, making the most of our welcome basket – eggs and toast with homemade marmalade.

Our AirBnB is so comfortable and homely that we could have spent the morning in – reading and chatting.

We had plenty of walking ahead of us, so eventually we made a start!

Walking all the way up Leith Walk, taking in antique shops, galleries and shops selling Scottish handmade things. We’re both in love with the stunning architecture here and kept prodding each other whenever we came across a gem. We’ve been chatting about the architecture of Edinburgh a lot since we got here yesterday – how preserved it is and the sense of history emanating from it. We’re guessing that the major difference with London is due to how much London was bombed during the Second World War. Edinburgh reminds us of Newcastle – big imposing buildings, with many details.

And obviously, we compared what we saw with Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the South. The man in charge of the building of Dunedin was instructed to follow the characteristics of Edinburgh, complete with street names. The main difference I could see between the two towns was the amount of sunshine we had yesterday!

After the obligatory flat white stop (excellent coffees from Artisan Roast), we walked to Greyfriars Kirkyard. The graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk is incredibly photogenic. Located in the middle of the old town, it is also famous for being the resting place of Greyfriars Bobby, a little dog that guarded its former master’s grave in the graveyard for 14 years.

From there, we walked to St Giles Cathedral. The cathedral has stunning stained glass windows. We also wanted to check the carved angel playing the bagpipes but sadly the Thistle Chapel was closed and the helpful man at the front desk wasn’t sure when it would open.

We made time for the Shackleton photography exhibition at the National Library of Scotland. The images on display were taken from Frank Hurley’s negatives and they give a real inside into what life was like for these brave men stranded for months and months in the ice.

For a little while after that we walked up and down Royal Mile, and popped in and out of many of the closes – narrow alleys – leading off the Royal Mile.

Royal Mile itself was very busy with tourists. The shops seem to be selling either toot, woollen goods or whisky.

At 2pm, we met our friend outside the National Museum of Scotland and had a great lunch at Tower. We then went up to the roof terrace for spectacular views of the Edinburgh skyline, and especially the castle.

What followed was quite special. We spent approximately 40 minutes in the museum. We had two things on our list to check out – the Lewis Chessmen and the ‘light-filled atrium of the Grand Gallery’. But what made the experience so good was the special tour our friend gave us – insider knowledge! From bringing the Lewis Chessmen to life to pointing out the other highlights of the gallery – Dolly the Sheep; the oldest locomotive ever; some amazing Alexander McQueen shoes (emulating goat hooves) to a Mantua dress, and a Lego replica of the Museum. And finally, a personal introduction to the Galloway Hoard – ‘the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain.’ The Museum is currently fundraising to save the Galloway Hoard for the nation. And that’s a good cause.

Our friend had one more treat for us – the Dovecot Studios, just a few minutes away from the National Museum of Scotland. This incredible fine art tapestry studio is located in a renovated Victorian pool building. You can view the works in progress from a gallery. That was quite special, and I particularly enjoyed the Daughters of Penelope exhibition, and especially the works of Caroline Dear, made of grass from the Isle of Sky.

We walked home – via Grassmarket and the Scottish Parliament. A glass of white wine and some olives… and it was time to set off again.

We walked down to Leith shore. At The Ship on the Shore, we enjoyed terrific cocktails. We were tempted by the Mars bar martini…. No, not really. Andy settled for a Glenmorangie-based cocktail and I had a superb margarita.

Our table at Martin Wishart, just a few minutes walk from The Ship on the Shore, was booked for 8pm. We opted for the vegetarian eight course tasting menu, with the matching flight of wine. As the courses followed each other, we oohed and aahed, and sometimes meh-ed. The food always demanding a strong reaction.

We walked home, and settled in the lounge to talk the day over with a small glass of Bunnahabhain 12 year old.

Another late one!