Friday 27 November 2009

Peebles for Pressies

Something you may not know, but has been on my mind for a while, is that the old royal burgh of Peebles in the western Borders has the best independent high street in the UK (after Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire). There are more speciality and independent retailers than anywhere else in Scotland. And now that the time for buying Christmas presents has come, it has occurred to me that there is potentially a more pleasant experience than struggling with crowds and tram works in central Edinburgh this weekend.

Peebles isn't far from Midlothian where I now live - in fact, it will probably take no longer to get to Peebles than to central Edinburgh, and the parking will be easier and cheaper. So, people of Edinburgh and southeast Scotland - why make shopping more of a chore than it needs to be? Why not take a trip into Peebles for the Christmas shopping?

Saturday 21 November 2009


Thinking that readers might like to geographically see the areas mentioned in this blog, I created a googlemap of the blog entries. You can see it here:

Loveofscotland Googlemap.

Let me know what you think - do the photos in the links work for you?

It also helps me see what areas are under- or over- represented. No surprise that Edinburgh, my home area for the last few years, has a lot of entries. But interesting to see gaps for Galloway, Moray, and one of my favourite parts of the country, the Argyll & Moidart coast.

Off to the Baggershambles gig/hillbagger gathering now. A strange event: I've never been to an event before whose main aims are to perform music and talk about hillwalking! Hope I can remember the words to my songs...

Wednesday 18 November 2009

98.8 Leith FM and Blackwells Bookshop

Have you ever wondered about the great conspiracy between TV executives and publicans? It is fairly blatant. It's Saturday night, and you're wrapped up in the house, fancying a cosy night in front of the telly with a cup of tea. You switch it on and flick through the channels. What's on? X Factor, Big Brother, I'm A Celebrity, Britain's Got Talent, Celebrity Come Dancing?! "Sod this," you think, don your coat, and go down the pub.

It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

And nearly as blatant as the one between the daytime TV executives and the jobcentres. No fit and healthy person would choose to watch daytime telly over even a mind-numbing, repetitive job.

Both examples of conspiracies by TV executives to help mould society's behaviour.

However, the one night that you should stay in, the night you should be done with your weekend's fun and mentally preparing for another week's useful toil, is Sunday night. And well, have the powers that be arranged some fine entertainment for you on Sunday night! Perhaps not telly entertainment but, you wouldn't want to get too stimulated. No, something nice and intellectual as the last sands of the week slide down the neck of life's eggtimer. Something like a Leith tonight arts and culture interview with me on 98.8 Leith FM on Sunday 22 November at 22:00. It's supposed to be about The Weekend Fix: do you think I can squeeze Tokyo in there as well?

Oh, and if you miss 98.8 Leith FM at 22:00 Sunday 22 November, there's always Blackwells Bookshop Edinburgh South Bridge 18:30 Thursday 26 November.

I can't say that my publishers aren't doing their bit to get the book publicised! If only the woman at the Edinburgh Evening News would answer her phone...

Sunday 15 November 2009

Caledonia Dreaming

As I walked up the glen to the hill this Saturday in the rain, I kicked myself for not getting out the weekend before. The weather was beautiful the previous weekend. But circumstances prevailed against, as they often do these days. Now I get away when I can, the days arranged in advance and fixed in stone. No more am I flexible, my hill time ruled by the weather forecast. I thought about the last time I went up a hill in decent weather. It was fourteen months ago, last September. I am the antithesis of Blue Sky Scotland. I dream of the hills in sunshine.

Bridge over the Allt Mhairc:

But there were compensations for Saturday's soggly slog. The rivers were full and brawling, the Allt Mhairc especially picturesque at its confluence with the Allt Diridh, crossed by an old packhorse bridge.

Crofting ruins in Glen Tilt:

And after a good bout of exercise and exposure, slopping drenched back through the forest, a red squirrel dropped the used case of a beech nut at my feet. Better than an afternoon sat in front of the telly I suppose.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Tokyo and the South Africa Connection

This has got nothing at all to do with Scotland, so you'll have to bear with me. A South African music webzine has picked up on a song I wrote a while ago about a South African politician turned businessman called Tokyo Sexwale. Yes, it's a real name, and you can hear all about it here:

Unfortunately the interview text is not included. Perhaps it was too boring, or perhaps, when they suggested I write a song about politicians Blade Nzimande or Terror Lekota, they were disappointed when I told them no, I would not write a song about these people. Tokyo is their daddy.

Gig punter with Tokyo Sexwale mask:

Monday 2 November 2009

Top 100 Walks: A Challenge

Have thought further about my top 100 Scottish Walks. They wouldn't all be hillwalks, unlike many other lists. The Buachaille via Curved Ridge would be there of course, as would the traverse of Liathach: but so would a stroll round Edinburgh, or the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven. But I've come across a problem. There are so many areas of Scotland about which I have little first hand experience. What do I know of walking in Shetland? Nothing.

Moray and Buchan? Zip.
Orkney? A little.
Lewis? Nada.
Islay? Jura? Coll? Eigg? Duinish on Skye? Never even been there.

And there are even many classics I've not done. A traverse of Fisherfield, from the shores of Loch Maree past A'Mhaigdean; the Lairig Ghru; the Gaick. And who's to know if, say, the Mull of Kintyre to Machrihanish Bay isn't a great walk, until you try it? You can't really have a definitive best 100 until you've walked everything.

The good thing is, there's lots of walking and exploring to look forward to.

In the meantime, a random selection from a top 100:


Start at the Coire Dubh car park, walk round the back of Liathach and make your way into impressive Coire na Caime. Head SW for Meall Dearg, supposedly the hardest of all the Munro tops. (Though I am sure the Bastier Tooth and Knights Peak are harder). I must confess to not having done it from this direction yet, but from above, from Mullach an Rathain. After Meall Dearg come Liathach's Northern Pinnacles, an exciting scramble whose hardest part, you'll be glad to know, is near the bottom. A great sense of achievement will be had on topping out on Mullach an Rathain. You can head down from here, but the day is only half done - head east along the fearsome Am Fasarinen Pinnacles to Liathach's summit, and continue along a delightful airy ridge to the eastern top, Stuic a Choire Dubh. Retrace your steps a little to find a steep, knee-grinding but safe path all the way back down to Glen Torridon, where a day of fear can be rewarded with a pint in the Beinn Damph hotel.

Beinn a' Chrulaiste

There's not much to this hill, conveniently situated an hour and a half (at the most) of a walk from the Kingshouse Hotel, but the view is extraordinary, the best of all of the Buachaille. Either head up the west side of a shallow corrie just to the north of the Kingshouse, or walk along the West Highland Way for a short distance until you see a rib of pink granite above you and climb this - it barely counts as scrambling. Keep your head down till the summit to enjoy the view. Extend the descent by going over Meall Bhalach and take a look at the ruined shielings by the Allt a' Bhalaich. Navvies working on the Blackwater Dam used to take this route to the Kingshouse, and a number died on the return journey, their bodies still somewhere out on the moor.

Carsaig Arches, Mull
Take a minor road to Carsaig, where there is parking for a couple of cars. Chose a windy, sunny day for the best atmosphere, Staffa-like basalt columns in the cliffs above you, sea eagles soaring, the sun shining through the surf and views of the Paps of Jura in the distance. It's not a long walk along the coast, but there is plenty of interest, so allow lots of time. The Carsaig Arches are unusual basalt formations. I suppose returning along the cliff top would be pretty cool but I've not done that.