The rapidly changing weather in Scotland is infamous. In the early afternoon when I had visited Finlaystone Country Estate in Renfrewshire and had taken photos in the sunshine. But by the time I had crossed the river Clyde and driven north a few miles to the southern end of Loch Lomond, the hail had come on and Ben Lomond was covered in clouds. Twenty minutes later (after a coffee and cake at Jenners at Loch Lomond Shores) the clouds were beginning to roll away and I took this picture. Then...
... another twenty minutes later, the setting sun was shining at least on the top of Ben Lomond, although there was still some cloud right at its peak.
Meantime, to the north of Loch Lomond, the mountains had a thicker covering of snow.
As it happened, I was passing Ben Lomond again on the following day and took this picture from further up the loch. Once again, the sun was just breaking through the clouds to shine on the higher slopes of the mountain.
During the visit to Loch Lomond, I spotted this pair of Oystercatchers on the shore. No oysters in Loch Lomond, of course, but these birds with their long beaks, are happy to eat any crustaceans or worms they can find. They are even frequent visitors to ploughed fields.
These Canada Geese are far from Canada and indeed are probably resident in Scotland. This pair have been around Kilmardinny Loch in suburban Glasgow on a number of occasions.
This Helleborus was enjoying the sunshine at Finlaystone Country Estate. The flowers often grow with their faces looking downwards and so it can sometimes be difficult to photograph inside the blossom.
There always seems to be something wild about the eyes of Tufted Duck - you can just see this one's tuft of feathers at the back if his head. The sun reflecting on his head highlighted the burnished turquoise and purple feathers. The "Tuftie" is a diving duck and often seems to rise out of the water as it is about to go underwater in search of food.
A native of south-east and south-west Australia and Tasmania, the Black Swan caused a sensation in Europe when it was found by a Dutch explorer in 1697. Until then, "all swans are white" had long been regarded as a scientific truth. This example was a long-time resident of Drumpellier Country Park. Usually it is being followed by some flightless geese who know that it has a knack of finding humans with bread! On this occasion it was sailing serenely across the loch on its own.
These snowdrops with the sun shining behind them in my own garden seemed to produce a bright and cheerful picture that was worth sharing.
While visiting the remains of a Roman camp beside the line of the Antonine Wall at Barr Hill in North Lanarkshire, the sun came out for a few minutes to light up the small town of Kilsyth, nestling below the hills in the distance. In 1645, the Marquis of Montrose was successful in a battle at Kilsyth against the Covenanters.
The Forth and Clyde Canal, connecting the east and west coast across central Scotland, was closed in 1962 but was reopened in 2001 following the £84 million project financed largely by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is now possible once again to sail along its entire length. The photo here is of the canal at the village of Twechar in North Lanarkshire. That's not far from the town of Kirkintilloch, which lays claim to being "Canal Capital of Scotland".
This snowdrop has the aristocratic name of "Lady Beatrix Stanley". This is one of many named varieties in the walled garden at Colzium Estate in North Lanarkshire.
This snowdrop is called "Magnet" and is also from the walled garden at Colzium Estate in North Lanarkshire.
Culzean Castle and the main visitor centre are not open at this time of year - but the Culzean Country Park is open all year round. Many visitors to Culzean are surprised to find date palms growing in front of the castle - Scotland is on the same latitude as Labrador, after all. But such trees are quite common on the west coast of Scotland, where the effect of the warm water of the Gulf Stream has most impact.
Camellia bushes at Culzean can be covered in glorious pink and red blooms at this time of year - though much of the red in the background to this graphic comes from berries on a neighbouring tree.
Last summer, the Osteospermum plants in front of Culzean Castle produced a profusion of blooms all summer long. There were still blooms to be seen in November. So it's surprising to find the new season's Osteospermum already opening up.
Mallards have been domesticated for centuries, to provide meat during the winter. During that time, many different plumages have been evolved, ranging from black to white (with various permutations in between). This white one seems to have settled in with the resident Mallards on the Swan Pond at Culzean. It seemed able to look after itself - chasing off other less aggressive Mallards in order to get any bread being provided by us humans!
Robins always look so cheeky and bold - and this one was no exception!
Culzean Country Park provides many woodland walks - this one is along the cliffs above the sea, between the Swan Pond and the Castle. Along the way, visitors can admire the Snowdrops at this time of year, or drop in to the Powder Store (no longer full of gunpowder), the Ice House (also not needed these days) and the battery of canons overlooking the sea.
Even though the temperatures have not yet risen to their average values for this time of year, Spring flowers are still managing to burst out of the ground. This is Leucojum, also known as Summer Snowflake or Loddon Lily. They are easily mistaken for snowdrops, but the extra green and yellow markings distinguish them - they are also taller and produce larger flowers than snowdrops. They are native to southern Europe, from the Pyrenées to Romania and western Russia, but they have been introduced and have naturalised in many gardens in Scotland and can also be found on the east coast of North America.
Visitor numbers to many museums and art galleries in Scotland went up last year - poor weather always produces an increase in interest in indoor attractions! The Transport Museum in Glasgow had nearly half a million visitors last year, making it the third most visited attraction in the city. The museum has a fine collection of tram cars (known locally as "Shooglies" from the way they swayed along the tracks) This elderly example had an open area at the front, where the driver had little protection from any cold weather.
The many business people in Scotland who take the early morning flight to a meeting in London and return home the same day don't really appreciate that it wasn't that long ago that the fastest transport from Glasgow to London was by horse-drawn coach such as this example in the Transport Museum which took several days to make the journey.
In the mid-1930s, the design of tram cars in Glasgow took a major leap forward when the "Coronation Tram" went into service in 1937, the year of King George VI's coronation. It had an enclosed cab for the driver who also had a seat for the first time.
The tradition of car making in Scotland began before the end of the 19th century, but companies were mainly only able to produce on a small scale. That changed in the 1960s when the government (full of ideas about how they should dictate to commerce and industry about how to manage their businesses) persuaded Rootes to build in the unemployment black spot of the West of Scotland. Thus the factory in Linwood near Paisley and 14 miles west of Glasgow (across the road from a pressed-steel plant and not too far from the steel manufacturing plant at Ravenscraig in Lanarkshire) came into being. In the aftermath of the Suez crisis in 1956, European car manufacturers rushed to create small cars which used less fuel and the new plant developed such a new car with a number of unique features - an aluminium alloy engine, positioned at the rear and angled at 45 degrees instead of vertically. The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the plant in October 1963 when he drove the first production Hillman Imp with the registration "IMP1" - the car is now in the Transport Museum in Glasgow. The car was launched with too few cars in the showrooms and as production was rapidly expanded, quality control suffered and the car began to develop a reputation for unreliability. Production was also being disrupted by a spate of industrial disputes - there were 31 stoppages in 1964 and only 50,000 cars were produced that year in a factory capable of manufacturing 150,000 units. In total, 440,013 cars were built by the time the last car rolled off the production line in March 1976. Car production continued at Linwood on other models - the aged Hillman Hunter and Avenger models. Losses by Rootes resulted in it being taken over by the US Chrysler company but cost cutting just led to a further deterioration in quality. In May 1981 the entire manufacturing complex was closed,
This mass of snowdrops was photographed in the grounds of Braco Castle in Perthshire. Originally a 16th century tower house owned by the Graham Earls of Montrose, Braco was extended in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
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