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Islay – a round church, a square lighthouse and other architectural highlights

Portnhaven Church, Isle of Islay

Portnahaven Church was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1828. The two doors are reputed to allow the populations of Portnahaven and the neighbouring village of Port Wemyss to enter separately and remain segregated when inside. Very Christian!

It is one of the best remaining examples of a ‘parliamentary church’, part of a wave of church-building (funded by Parliament) designed to better serve churchgoers in remote areas. Thanks Maraid for the tip-off.

The Round Church in Bowmore, Isle of Islay

Kilarrow Parish Church, more commonly known as The Round Church sits at the top of Bowmore’s main street. It was built in 1767 and is one of few round churches in the UK. The story goes that it was designed to be round so the devil couldn’t hide in any corners, but this seems to be more fiction than fact.

The church is not usually open apart from Sunday mornings, but you can arrange a visit by contacting the parish clerk on the number at the entrance.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse on the Mull of Oa is a beautiful thing from any angle. We visited at 7.30am on the hottest day of the year.

It is Scotland’s only square lighthouse, and was commissioned by Walter Frederick Campbell, the Laird of Islay, in memory of his wife Lady Ellinor Campbell who died young in 1832. There is a beautiful dedication to her on one side of the lighthouse.

You can walk across the little path to get right up close (except at high tide). The lighthouse itself is not usually open to the public.

Further reading: a great tour of the lights of Islay and Jura by a very dedicated lighthouse-bagger.

The Royal Arch Masonic Hall, Bowmore, now the Bowmore Lodge

And finally… a pleasing doorway. Bowmore’s Royal Arch Masonic Hall has been beautifully restored and is now Bowmore Lodge holiday accommodation.

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The lonely petrol pumps of Islay

Concrete garage, Port Askaig, Islay

I’ve been on the Isle of Islay for a few days. This Brutalist shelter was the first thing I saw after getting off the ferry at Port Askaig.

Concrete garage, Port Askaig, Islay

I thought it was a bus stop, but it’s a lone petrol pump. The shape of the island is cut out of one side.

Port Charlotte Garage, Isle of Islay, Scotland

After that, I couldn’t help noticing other tiny garages. This one was in Port Charlotte.

Bowmore Filling Station, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Bowmore Filling Station, in the middle of one of the main town’s streets seemed like a megastore in comparison.

All operated by Gleaner, a family-owned Scottish fuel supplier.

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A walk around Dundee

Desperate Dan statue in Dundee opposite the Caird Hall

Went to Dundee for the weekend. It is a handsome city with a rich heritage.

The V&A museum in Dundee

First visit to the V&A Dundee to see the Michael Clark exhibition, ‘Cosmic Dancer’. There is a good trailer for it on YouTube, if you’re not familiar with his work.

Title of the Michael Clark exhibition at the V&A in Dundee

The videos were plentiful and fascinating (allow a couple of hours to see it all) and the costumes were wonderful.

Oor Wullie outside the McManus in Dundee

Also spent a good while in The McManus, Dundee’s art gallery and museum (above) which has some great exhibitions about Dundee’s history, including an exhibition of Joseph McKenzie’s photos and an olde timey street.

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A postcard from Corrie

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour view with sheep

I found this idyllic harbour last week in Corrie on the Isle of Arran.

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour wall with sheep

Corrie lies on the north-east side of the island. It has two harbours – this one is known as Sandstone Quay because of the sandstone that was quarried locally and shipped from here.

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour view with black sheep and rocks

The sheep came from the Glasgow Garden Festival, and are a fun presence. There is also a lot going on rock-wise, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

Corrie shoreline with swan - Isle of Arran

The shoreline is full of plants, lichens, birds and sealife. The textures and colours are amazing.

The sand at Corrie, Isle of Arran

The colour of the sand is warm and inviting. It reminded me of butterscotch Angel Delight.

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The Stewartry Museum

The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

No trip to Kirkcudbright is complete without a visit to the Stewartry Museum. The Stewartry is the old name for Kirkcudbright and the surrounding area.

The museum collects local items, from birds and animals, to butter churns and communion tokens.

Smoky Wainscoat butterfly in the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

It is slowly being modernised, with the beautiful handwritten captions being replaced by printed ones.

Chiff chaff eggs in the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Look beneath the blinds on the balcony to find exquisite collections of seashells, butterflies and birds eggs.

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A dull day in Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright High Street

Kirkcudbright (pronounced kir-coo-bree) is a pretty wee town in Dumfries & Galloway.

Paintings, Kirkcudbright

It’s known as the artists’ town.

Gargoyle, Kirkcudbright

It is full of quirky little details.

Coffee?, Kirkcudbright

And an interesting selection of shops.

St Cuthbert Wanderers, Kirkcudbright

The local football team is called St Cuthbert Wanderers – named after the patron saint of the town.

Kirkcudbright churchyard

There is always something good to see, even on a dull day.

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A trip to Yoker

Happy new year!

I took advantage of the sunny weather to go somewhere I haven’t been before – a trip on the Renfrew-Yoker Ferry. This is the only regular ferry that I know of still running in Glasgow, since the Govan Ferry has been off for the last couple of years.

Yoker Ferry old waiting room

This crossing has been in operation over a hundred years, in one form or another. The old Renfrew Ferry is now an entertainment venue in Glasgow city centre. The current ferry is for foot passengers and cycles only, and runs on demand between Renfrew and Yoker. The ferry is operated by ClydeLink – check for updates on Twitter @RenfrewFerry.

The ferryman said they have lost 90% of their business over the festive season and have had to implement the first price rise in 10 years. A single journey now costs £2.50 (was £2) – cash only.

Ferry Inn, Renfrew

The crossing only takes a few minutes. Not the most scenic, it has to be said, but there is a great moment in the middle where you can look right up and down the Clyde. For a city that’s so connected to its river, it’s actually quite hard to get on it (unless you join a rowing club).

Any trip to Yoker is accompanied by the spirit of Limmy’s DeeDee, who now has a cafe named after him on Dumbarton Road.

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St Patrick’s, Kilsyth

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - altar

This is St Patrick’s church in Kilsyth.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - Stations of the Cross

Designed by renowned architecture practice Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, it opened in 1965 and is Grade ‘A’ listed.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth

It was built around the same time as St Bride’s in East Kilbride, another huge brick box designed by GKC. St Patrick’s is not quite as ornate as St Bride’s (although it’s strange to describe either building as ornate) but it is still striking.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - view to back of church

The use of windows and roof lights to let in the light in interesting ways is one of its best features.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - front door

There is a very good paper on the history of St Patrick’s and development of other Gillespie, Kidd and Coia buildings on the St Patrick’s website (PDF).

St Patrick's, Kilsyth - balcony

The church and GKC buildings are feted in the architectural world. The paper (PDF) balances this with tales of leaky roofs and drafts that would knock old ladies off their feet.

St Patrick's, Kilsyth - Mortuary Chapel

Thankfully St Patrick’s has been carefully looked after and is a remarkable church to visit.

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A trip to Rothesay

Wemyss Bay station ticket office

Thought I would squeeze in another island while the weather is still decent. Off to Rothesay we go.

Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute. It is easy to get there from Glasgow by train and as a bonus, you get to go through Wemyss* Bay Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the UK.

(*pronounced Weems)

Wemyss Bay station

Get off the train and go down the adjoining walkway to get the ferry (operated by CalMac). The scenic crossing through the First of Clyde takes around 35 minutes.

Rothesay fountain

Bute is one of the easiest islands to visit, because it’s so accessible. Get off the ferry and you’re right in the centre of Rothesay. The Esplanade has a lovely vintage seaside feel.

Rothesay puppets

There are all kinds of shops and odd things to look at. Sadly, Zavaroni’s, home of the Top Hat (an ice cream cone with a Tunnock’s snowball squashed into it), and the Victorian toilets were both closed.

Gents Hairdresser, Rothesay

This little gem was still open – I was taking a picture of the shopfront, thinking it had long closed, when the owner came back from lunch and gave me a wee look inside. He said he’ll be closing up at the end of the year.

Wesley Snips, Rothesay

How can you compete with young guns like Wesley Snips?

After that it was time to head home again, with a beautiful view of all the Victorian villas along the shore and a plan to see more of Bute on my next visit.

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Bonus island: Luing

While we’re on the subject of islands, here’s Luing, from a visit in 2017.

Luing is one of the Slate Islands, in the same group as Easdale.

There is a small car ferry that runs from North Cuan on the mainland to South Cuan on Luing.

It is quite an unusual shape. The crossing takes about 5 minutes.

The island itself is great for walking. We walked from the ferry landing to Cullipool, the main settlement, and visited the Atlantic Islands Heritage Centre.

It was very picturesque and unspoilt – an easy way to get away from it all.