A few days in the Scottish lowlands, March 2019

The following ‘photos illustrate a trip to Scotland in March: to the west in and around Glasgow and to Edinburgh. With one exception the pictures aren’t classic views of the region, but I have done my best to capture a ”sense of place.” It was a pity that we didn’t have time to go further north to explore the highlands and islands. Maybe we’ll get another chance…

There’s a disused railway track near the village of Kilmacolm where my aunt lives. It’s popular with cyclists and walkers; nothing too strenuous, with some gently sloping landscapes as well as heather, pines and wee lochs to admire. We went for a stroll to get our leg muscles in trim ready for the more intensive urban wanderings we had planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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A small museum has been opened next to a giant supermarket in Johnstone, the cotton mill town where my grandparents lived for most of the 20th Century.[1] Many childhood memories are associated with the town. At the museum I was particularly amused by the inclusion amongst the exhibits of the Scottish bard Robbie Burns (1759-96) musing on drink!

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The highlands are tantalisingly close to the northern banks of the Firth of Clyde. On a cloudy day we drove along the southern banks from Port Glasgow to Largs stopping for coffee and for lunch (at the Bosun’s Table…) and to take a picture of one of the ferries. Often there are good views of the mountains towards Loch Lomond to the north, but we were unlucky.

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A series of statues surround George Square in the centre of Glasgow. James Watt (1736-1819) is one of the great Scots: responsible for getting the industrial revolution seriously underway by inventing an improved steam engine. Coal mining then took off, leaving later generations to clean up the mess before global warming spirals the planet into hothouse conditions.[2]

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The Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh is a wonderful building stuffed with almost everything imaginable, from ancient Egyptians to eagles, from huge whales’ skeletons to Samurai warriors. There’s a lot of scientific and technological stuff including a small 1990s particle accelerator from CERN in Geneva.[3] I liked the colourful cosmic sunburst.

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Our choice of a deli for lunchtime sandwiches in Edinburgh was just opposite the St. James Centre. An ugly 20th Century concrete monstrosity – apparently one of the city’s most unloved buildings – was torn down a couple of years ago and the construction of a new urban complex is underway. I thought the cranes were cool, standing like cranes in the landscape!

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It seems that the Barony is one of Edinburgh’s oldest bars. We ate the “specials” – pie and chips and fish and chips – on our last evening. The décor was stylish and the food was good too! According to information on a little sign outside, the site in the Broughton district was known for black magic, witches’ covens and suchlike goings on in the 18th Century.

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Finally, in honour of Edinburgh’s distinctive grey stonework as well as the extraordinary rooftops with chimneys, I took a ‘photo of the building where we stayed. There are hundreds of similar street scenes in the so-called New Town. But I don’t know any other cities where the chimneys are arranged in long rows in this manner.

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PS … and not a word about the Scots Nat Party or Brexit… as the UK heads for the showdown…

[1] Check out: http://johnstonehistory.org

[2] Possible hothouse scenarios for the earth system in the future can be found in a recent article on trajectories in the anthropocene by Will Steffan et al: https://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252

[3] https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/science-and-technology/cern-accelerating-cavity/

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