Rampant Scotland

Scotland in Colour Week By Week

March - Week 1

Firth of Clyde

This picture was taken from the highest point on the island of Cumbrae, off the Ayrshire coast, in the Firth of Clyde. In the distance is the island of Bute and mainland Argyll.


The ferry to Cumbrae leaves from the Ayrshire town of Largs. Still a popular seaside resort, the beachfront at Largs is not perhaps its most attractive asset - and the ten-pin bowling alley and amusement arcade (on the right of the picture) may be useful on a wet day but is architecturally an eye-sore. The red sandstone of the spire of St Columba's Parish Church has been a prominent landmark in Largs since 1892. The art-deco Nardini's Café on the next corner is probably the most famous attraction in Largs (followed closely by the "Pencil" - the monument to the defeat of the Vikings at the Battle of Largs in 1263). Nardini's has been a haven for visitors for 70 years and, in its heyday, it sold 1,000 gallons of ice-cream over summer weekends.

Calmac Ferry and Largs

The Caledonian MacBrayne (otherwise known as Calmac) car ferry "Loch Àlainn" takes just ten minutes to cross the narrow channel to the island of Cumbrae (also known as Great Cumbrae to differentiate it from the neighbouring Little Cumbrae). All cars are charged the return fare, on the not unreasonable assumption that they will leave Cumbrae at some stage. After all, Great Cumbrae is only four kilometres (2.5 miles) long by 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) at its widest point.

Cathedral of the Isles, Cumbrae

Despite its small size, Cumbrae boasts a cathedral in Millport, its one and only town. True, the "Cathedral of the Isles" is the smallest cathedral in the British Isles (and maybe even in Europe) with a capacity for only 100 worshippers. It is a cathedral because it is the centre for the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, within the Episcopal Church of Scotland (Anglican Communion). The cathedral was founded by George Frederick Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow and opened in 1851.


Many people travel to Cumbrae to see the wide variety of wildlife there. These Wigeon off the seashore were unperturbed by the waves being whipped up by the strong northerly wind.

Crocus, Newlands Park

Spring bulbs are continuing to advance. This patch of golden yellow crocus was growing in Newlands Park in Glasgow.

Sunset over Glasgow

Clear skies can also create the conditions for some glorious red and orange sunsets. This picture was taken in Bishopbriggs, looking over Glasgow in the distance.

The impressive Mitchell Library in Glasgow enderwent a major makeover a few years ago, making the facilities even more appropriate for the 21st century, with more high-tech equipment. This is one of the largest lending libraries in Europe with over 1.3 million books and is a popular place for students to do their research. The "Glasgow Room" at the Mitchell has a world-renowned collection telling the story of Scotland's largest city. The City’s archives held here date back to the 12th Century and there is a fantastic collection of rare books and manuscripts. The Mitchell Library was founded in 1877 with a bequest from the estate of tobacco merchant Stephen Mitchell (1789 - 1874). The current building was built between 1906 - 11 with further extensions in 1939 and 1981.

When Alexander "Greek" Thomson designed this church on a sloping site on St Vincent Street for the United Presbyterians, he had Solomon's Temple in mind; surprisingly, the austere Presbyterians went along with the design. Built on a steep slope, the Grecian columns, powerful tower and massive plinths are covered in Egyptian and Graeco-Roman motifs. The church rises above the encircling office blocks both physically and metaphorically. But the tatty post-war buildings do cut off many of the fine perspectives of the church. However, when one of the office blocks that encroach on this building was being pulled down and replaced, the architect had the decency to include a passageway and stairs allowing a glimpse of that tower from the street below.

Many Glaswegians will look at this photograph of the statue of the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square and immediately point out that there is something missing - the traffic cone on Wellington's head that became such a feature of this fine equestrian statue. Every time it was removed, it magically reappeared. It became such a part of the city that when it was suggested that this vandalism should cease, there was an outcry - with the Lord Provost (roughly equivalent to Lord Mayor) leading the defence, arguing that it displayed typical Glasgow humour... Eventually, however, the damage being caused to Wellington's accoutrements (and the cost of repair) eventually led to efforts to bring the "tradition" to an end. I did notice, however, there was a traffic cone on the pavement nearby...

This modern sculpture of a clock with running legs is located very appropriately outside the Buchanan Bus Station, where the sight of passengers racing to catch a bus is not unknown!

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is housed in the centre of Glasgow in a building originally built as an elegant, Grecian-style mansion for an 18th century tobacco merchant who had made his fortune in America. It later became the Stirling Library, but in the early 1990s it became the Gallery of Modern Art. As such, it has become a very popular with local Glaswegians as well as tourists. See also Places to Visit - GOMA.

The city planners must have taken a deep breath when they approved the design of the Radisson SAS Hotel on Argyle Street. But they needn't have worried - the striking, £45 million hotel has picked up quite a number prizes, including the UK-wide Architectural Award for the Best New Hotel as well as the Architectural Grand Prix and the Best Commercial Design at the Scottish Design Awards. But Glaswegians, who are hard to impress, have nicknamed the building the "Big Green Blob."

The little village of Douglas in South Lanarkshire lies just a few miles to the east of the busy M74 motorway that runs from Glasgow to the English border. Home of a major line of the Douglas family, St Bride's Church became their mausoleum. The original building dates from the 12th century and must have been built around the time that the Douglas family arrived in the area - taking their name from the Gaelic "dubh glas" or black water of the river there. The walls and tower of the original church still survive, although the hexagonal "pencil" clock tower was added in the 1500s. This once housed a clock which was said to have been gifted by Mary, Queen of Scots. The clock was well known for its good timekeeping - but chimed three minutes before the hour, in accordance with the Douglas motto "Jamais Arriere" (never behind). The roofless south transept is known as the Inglis' Aisle, named after a tenant of the Douglas family who warned of an English attack on the castle.

The Douglas mausoleum itself is inside the choir and altar to the north and was re-roofed in the middle of the 19th century. It contains an impressive series of three medieval burial tombs and other remains associated with the Douglas family. Sir William Douglas fought and died for William Wallace. His son, Sir James Douglas, was a supporter and lifelong friend of Robert the Bruce. "Good Sir James" died taking Bruce's heart on a crusade to the Holy Land. The "Black" Douglas family coat of arms includes a red heart in memory of that incident. Good Sir James' burial monument is on the left of the picture above. While his effigy was carved soon after his death, it is thought that the carved canopy is from the 15th century.

Others buried here include Archibald Douglas, the 5th Earl Douglas, who was also the 2nd Duke of Touraine (France) and a Marshall of France, showing the wide influence of the Douglas line. He died in 1438 - his tomb can be seen to the right of the picture above. The 7th Earl, James Douglas "the Gross" who died in 1443 also has a tomb in the chapel. Unusually for Scotland, his wife Beatrice Sinclair is also interred beside him, their statues lying side by side.

A short distance outside of the village of Douglas is the site of Douglas Castle. Originating in the 13th century, the building was captured by the English invaders in 1307. Sir James Douglas trapped the garrison while they were at worship in the chapel on Palm Sunday and had them put to death in what became known as "Douglas's Larder". Douglas Castle was rebuilt - but was sacked in 1455 by King James II when the Black Douglases and the 9th Earl fell out of favour because they were regarded as too powerful. The "Red" Douglases, the Earls of Angus, had sided with the king against the senior branch of their family, and it was they who gained the Douglas lands in Lanarkshire. It is likely that the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455 as a tower house and an enclosed courtyard with a corner tower. But this was destroyed by fire in 1755. It was subsequently rebuilt in 1757 as a castellated mansion with round towers by the famous Adams brothers - it had similarities to Inverary Castle in Argyll, which was begun about ten years earlier. Had it been completed the castle would have been the largest in Scotland. As it was, the Duke of Douglas died in 1761, and only around half of the original design was ever completed. Sir Walter Scott used the location and early history of Castle Douglas as the inspiration for his novel "Castle Dangerous". The castle is still sometimes referred to by this alternative name - indeed the directions to the castle in the village currently point to Castle Dangerous. Mine workings in adjacent parkland to alleviate unemployment in the 1930s resulted in that building being classed as dangerous and it had to be demolished in 1938. Now all that remains is the ruined corner tower of the penultimate castle, retained as a garden folly when the later mansion was built in 1757.

In the parkland of Douglas Castle is a memorial to the Cameronian Regiment - that's a representation of their cap badge photographed on the memorial gate. Cameronian was a name given to a section of the Scottish Covenanters who followed the teachings of Richard Cameron in the late 17th century. The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was a regiment directly descended from a unit named the Cameronian guard, which was first raised on 14th May 1689 by James Douglas, Earl of Angus, only a mile from Douglas Castle. The memorial was erected by Lanarkshire County Council in token of its high regard for the distinguished services of the county regiment during nearly three centuries. The Cameronians were disbanded "on the orders of the government" (as the memorial puts it) on 14 May 1968.

Polish soldiers who had escaped from their homeland when Germany invaded in September 1939, continued to fight in France, but were evacuated to Britain when France fell in 1940. Over 4,000 Polish troops were welcomed to the village of Douglas, where they settled into village life and made lasting friendships. The Polish soldiers built three monuments in different parts of the village as reminders of their time there. In 2002, they were all collected together to form a memorial garden with ornamental trees and flowers. The triangular monument here carries the words "Armia Polska - Souvenir 1940" and the Polish eagle, from the country's coat of arms.

About ten miles south of Douglas (as the crow flies) is the village of Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway, nestling in the Lowther Hills, part of the Southern Uplands. It is Scotland's highest village at 467 metres or 1,531 feet. The village was called Winlocke until 1566, from the Gaelic Cuingealach, meaning narrowness, or narrow place. Lead and other mineral deposits in the surrounding hills were first exploited by the Romans, and from the 13th century they began to be worked again. The village was founded permanently in 1680 when the Duke of Buccleuch built a lead smelting plant and workers' cottages. Some of the world's purest gold from here, at 22.8 carats, was used to make the Scottish Crown. The village now features a lead mining museum and industrial equipment from the 18th century and is a popular tourist destination. Wanlockhead is also the home of the highest public bar in Scotland, the Wanlockhead Inn, which opened in 2003.

Nearly every city, town and village in Scotland has its own War Memorial, originally commemorating those who fell in the First World War. Some are just simple blocks of granite with the names of those local people who died in the conflict, but many others - such as this one in Wanlockhead - are moving tributes.

The purple stripes of these crocuses are covered in raindrops after a heavy shower. They have been coming up with unfailing regularity each year in my own garden, but this is the first time I've seen such a straight line of flowers!

If you want to look back at other editions of these photos of Scotland week by week, there is an Index Page

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