Category Archives: travelogue

Scotland tour part four: the route we took, the places we stayed. #NC500 North Coast 500

Uig campingTo round off my travel journal of nine days in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, this post lists what Bob and I did each day, plus some costs. The opening post has links to Google Maps of the route, along with photos of the eastern and northern stretches. Part two covers Lewis and Harris, part three the return leg of Ballachulish and the West Highland Way. Planning the route started in earnest months before, in a London pizza restaurant, while we waited to attend at gig at The Roundhouse. After that we tinkered at the edges and there’s little we would add to the route, except more time perhaps to do more walks and visit more distilleries. Let me know if you’ve any questions about the trip (dsrjarman@gmail.com), and please do what you can to promote the North Coast 500! #NC500

(As it happens The Guardian is doing just that today, 23 August 2015.)

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Day 1: Saturday 8 August 2015. From Edinburgh to Contin. Distance: 201 miles (cumulative 201).

Activities: visited Glen Ord Distillery. Dinner: Coul House Hotel (excellent service and food). Overnight: Riverside Chalets campsite (basic facilities; lovely setting).

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Day 2: Sunday 9 August 2015. From Contin to Golspie; Golspie to Wick. Distance: 104 miles (305).

Activities: took the bus from Golspie to Brora and walked back, seeing seals and a stone age dwelling (6 miles); visited Dunrobin Castle for falconry display, croquet and aristocratic artefacts.  Breakfast: improvised yoghurt and fruit. Dinner: No 1 Bistro (slow service, excellent food). Overnight: Wick Caravan and Camping Site (good facilities; lovely setting, a short walk from town).

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Day 3: Monday 10 August 2015. From Wick to Durness, via John o’ Groats, Dunnet Head and Strathey Point. Distance: 157 miles (462).

Activities: visited John o’ Groats (furthest NE) and Dunnet Head (furthest N); back to Wick to visit Old Pulteney Distillery; walked to Strathey Point light house and around; drove across the top of Scotland. Breakfast: The Storehouse (friendly and tasty, great setting at John o’ Groats). Dinner: Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant and Bar (busy pub, good food). Overnight: Sango Sands Oasis Campsite (good facilities and easy to pitch; local beach).

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Day 4: Tuesday 11 August 2015. From Durness to meet the boat to Cape Wrath, and back. Distance: 5 miles (467).

Activities: took the boat and minibus to Cape Wrath Lighthouse (furthest mainland NW), walked south from there to Sandwood Bay and on to Blairmore (21 miles, including four burn crossings); minibus/taxi back to find the car. Breakfast: Mackay’s (excellent service and great food). Dinner: Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant and Bar (busy pub, good food). Overnight: Sango Sands Oasis Campsite (good facilities and easy to pitch; local beach).

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Day 5: Wednesday 12 August 2015. From Durness to Uig (on Lewis), via Drumbeg, Stoer lighthouse, Ullapool, Stornoway. Distance: 144 miles (611).

Activities: visited Durness craft village, including Cocoa Mountain chocolatiers; Drumbeg for cake, including a 25% gradient descent; bog walking around the lighthouse; ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway (Calmac), including a visit from the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter; dusk arrival at Uig Sands. Breakfast: Mackay’s (excellent service and great food). Dinner: on the ferry (tasty and filling). Overnight: Uig Sands Campsite (isolated and stunning setting; excellent facilities).

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Day 6: Thursday 13 August 2015. From Uig to Stornoway (on Lewis), via Callanish and Hushinish. Distance: 120 miles (731).

Activities: stunning morning on Uig Sands beach; visited Callanish Standing Stones and accompanying gallery; coastal walk at Hushinish (5 miles; furthest W), including the same helicopter; in Stornoway in time for dinner. Breakfast: improvised yoghurt and fruit. Dinner: The Park Guest House (quiet restaurant that stops serving at 19:00; excellent food). Overnight: The Park Guest House (quiet hotel; excellent en suite facilities).

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Day 7: Friday 14 August 2015. From Stornoway to Armadale (on Skye), via Ullapool and Applecross. Distance: 186 miles (917).

Activities: ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool (Calmac; no helicopters); fish and chips in Ullapool; coast road to Applecross Inn; Applecross Pass from east to west; Skye Bridge; night time arrival at bed and breakfast. Breakfast: The Park Guest House (very good). Lunch: The Chippy, Ullapool (excellent). Dinner: Kishorn Seafood Bar (excellent, informal, professional). Overnight: Morar Bed and Breakfast (very friendly, excellent facilities).

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Day 8: Saturday 15 August 2015. From Armadale to Ballachulish, via Mallaig (on the mainland), Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor. Distance: 83 miles (1,000).

Activities: quick dash across the bottom of Skye to see the Cuillin range; ferry from Armadale to Mallaig (Calmac); drove the A830 and A82 ‘Road to the Isles’ through Glen Coe, Glenfinnan, Rannoch Moor and down to Ballachulish; sea kayaking, arranged through hotel; drank whisky in hotel library. Breakfast: Morar B&B (excellent). Dinner: Ballachulish Hotel (excellent and filling, stunning view over loch). Overnight: Ballachulish Hotel.

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Day 9: Sunday 16 August 2015. From Ballachullish to Bridge of Orchy; Bridge of Orchy to Edinburgh. Distance: 138 miles (1,138).

Activities: drove to Bridge of Orchy Hotel; Citylink coach to Inverarnon Village; walked back to Bridge of Orchy via West Highland Way path (19 miles); home to Edinburgh via Stirling. Breakfast: Ballachulish Hotel (very good, buffet style). Lunch: The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum (slow service, good food). Overnight: home.

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Total cost was about £1,600, split between two. If we hadn’t eaten so well just about every night that would have been lower. Camping for five nights was very cheap, then three nights not camping was less so. Sea kayaking cost £40 per person. The car was very reasonable: £207 to hire for nine days, plus £138 in diesel – granted they upgraded us from a Ford Focus to a BMW 330d! Calmac ferries for two people and one car were: £136 for Ullapool to Stornoway return; £34 for Armadale to Mallaig one way. Citylink was about £7.50 each.

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Finally, here are some tweets I sent while travelling.

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Links to the three main journal entries:

Scotland tour part three: Ullapool, Applecross, Skye, West Highland Way, home. #NC500

West Highland WayOne of the inspirations for this whole trip was for Bob and I to plug a gap in the West Highland Way. We walked most of it in July 2010, accompanied by friends for some of the southern stretches and tired limbs by the time we got to Fort William. Time was against us back then though so we skipped a bit (by bus), and it has taken us five years to join the dots between Inverarnan and Bridge of Orchy. More on that below, though as you can see from the first photo we had more fine weather along the way.

Part one of this journal covers Edinburgh to Ullapool, via the very top of Scotland. Part two is from a short but memorable trip to Lewis and Harris. Part four has daily route listings. In this final stretch we headed back to Scotland, taking the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool and then driving south. The winding coastal road led us to the Skye Bridge for a single night and quick look at the Cuillin range from a distance: we’ll be back for them one day. Then a glorious ferry and car ride, down through Glen Coe and on to Ballachulish. The West Highland Way trek came on the final day, before a final push for home.

Just to show that it wasn’t always sunny on our trip, these photos show the harsh conditions through which we had to make some kind of headway. Note the ethereal wispy clouds, the atmospheric islands in the mist. Witness Bob’s harsh weather gear as he manfully sinks a pint at The Applecross Inn (and the guy in shorts at the next table). Speaking of the Inn, we know it to be an iconic landmark for those making their way around this part of the west coast. Our short stop coincided with (as I recall) a joint 60th birthday party that was bringing people from far and wide. Space inside was at a premium and it was quite the culture shock from the previous week on the road. The bar had the dimensions and carrying capacity of a London tube train at rush hour.

No matter, for this was merely the entrée for the ‘Applecross Pass’: a road up and over the hills and one of a few on our route that has its own Wikipedia page. There you will find it under its Gaelic name, Bealach na Bà, taken from the pass it crosses at the top. The Wiki page notes that this is Scotland’s third highest road with alpine style hairpin bends to wind its way up (and down) the hillside. With my eyes firmly focused on the road ahead, I couldn’t help noticing the ‘miles to empty’ fuel gauge dropping rapidly as we ascended: climbing 1 in 5 gradients is not particularly fuel efficient! We reached the top, in fairly thick cloud, then dropped down the far side towards Tornapress. My advice to anyone heading this way is to choose a BMW, with a three litre engine and an automatic gear box. Failing that, don’t try to rush it and you’ll be fine. The barriers along the side of the single track road are a helpful reminder not to go over the edge, some mental cushioning to guide your way. It also helps to have spent several days on single track roads. Context is all and (whisper it) Bob and I didn’t reach the levels of anxiety we were half expecting, giving the prior warnings we’d received. We’ll have to return when the skies are clear, there’s a dusting of snow on the ground and we don’t have air conditioned luxury to cocoon us.

Having come down from the stratosphere time was ticking to get to our bed and breakfast on Skye, but when you’re feeling a little hungry and a delightful seafood restaurant appears out of the mist, what can you do? Excellent mussels, squat lobsters and other treats were consumed at the Kishorn Seafood Bar (with a member of the House of Lords at the only other occupied table), before we crossed the Skye Bridge and found our way to the Morar B&B.

The next morning gave us just enough time to cross the bottom of Skye to catch a glimpse of the Cuillin range, though the tops were shrouded in cloud. We had spectacular weather for the ferry crossing from Skye to Mallaig on the mainland – some of these photos show just how clear the water is on the west coast. Then one of the finest drives of the whole trip, down the A830 and A82 from Mallaig to Ballachulish, through Glen Coe, past the Glenfinnan Viaduct, across Rannoch Moor and onwards. This is another road on here and here. You really should make the trip one day, in both directions.

The village of Ballachulish sits near a narrowing of Loch Leven, where it meets Loch Linnhe. The Ballachulish Hotel was our final overnight stay, so we felt duty bound to make the most of our stay. Kayaking on the loch (taking in a mussel farm and a salmon farm), fine food, and drop or two of whisky. The photos will do a better job than my words of persuading you to pay it a visit.

And so came our final day on the road. The small matter of a 19 mile walk from Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy, along that missing stretch of the West Highland Way, was a fitting climax to an excellent week. Sad times though, as it became apparent that 12 years of service by my walking boots was at an end: Cape Wrath had been their final journey and no amount of emergency glue was going to fix that. We also established that we really hadn’t done enough to play about with the panoramic feature on my phone: here’s Bob, twice, on another sunny day.

There’s something good and wholesome about seeing a country at ground level, particularly if it’s under your own steam. Plugging this gap means we have now walked from Glasgow to Inverness, in stages. The walk itself was all rather glorious, polishing off the 19 miles in a little over six hours (plus food stops). Every hundred yards brought another photo opportunity – Scotland is a stunning place. The mix of ancient landscapes, carved by glaciers, with old stone bridges, modern farming techniques, a variety of forests, winding roads and pathways that have followed the same trails for generations… it was a privilege to see and to be a part of.

Thank you for reading!

Scotland tour part two: Ullapool to Lewis and back again. #NC500

Ferry rides… they come and go, one crossing much like the next I should think, apart from Stornoway Coastguadchanges in weather conditions. But that’s without counting on the Stornoway Coastguard to drop by. Purely a training exercise they said, nothing much to see here. Well, being easily entertained Bob and I loved it. We were also impressed: well done the Coastguard. As the boat charged along the helicopter arrived from downwind, kept pace for about 15 minutes as its crew discussed where they might drop someone, then went ahead and did just that. He swung around above the waves for a while, then was gently set down on the boat’s stern, followed by a stretcher. Both were then picked up (the stretcher still empty: nothing to see here, remember), and off they went. Amazing stuff and hopefully a fixture now on all Ullapool to Stornoway crossings. The ferry itself was pretty new, introduced this summer. Good food, a great viewing room in the bows, friendly staff and some impressive car loading. (Plus a helicopter. You got that, right?)

This is the second post covering an August 2015 tour of Scotland, with part one here and part three here. The fourth post provides daily route information. We only had two nights on Lewis and Harris (they’re one island) as a side mission from our drive around the North Coast 500. We loved the island though, so it gets a post of its own, with plenty of photos. First up, a dusk drive across to the Atlantic west coast, with views like this:

Isle of Lewis

 

We were heading to Uig sands, which was beginning to sound mythical and mystical thanks to the lack of information on it: little on the internet, few clues from the road signs. We got there though, as confirmed by a four year girl (and her father) who had pitched the only other tent. The wind was getting up, the light was fading, but the situation looked agreeable and the whisky tasted good. The next morning brought more good news – click on the photos if you’d like to see larger images.

Simply stunning.

The facilities were also excellent. If you’re anywhere nearby, and you can find yourself a pitch out of the wind, get yourself here. (Constant wind meant nae midges for us.)

Onwards, to Callanish and its standing stones. The visitor experience here is nicely balanced, with the stones themselves left to commune in relative isolation, as their guests wander between them and gather their thoughts. Close by are Harris Tweed hats (courtesy of the shop), excellent sausage rolls (via the cafe), and local art from Ivor MacKay’s studio. We made purchases from all three.

We kept being told about the terrible weather they have been having this summer. Not for the first time we felt lucky for the glorious sunshine we were getting. Driving south, into Harris, was a beautiful experience for this. Single track roads much of the way of course, but plenty of waved thanks as one car pauses for another to pass.

Onwards, then, to a place called Hushinish. The settlement was very small, but over the crest of a summer meadow we followed a walk that took us up high over the coast of a sea loch where we could look across to the island of Scarp. Around the corner and there were sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, that (rather repetitive) helicopter again, boggy stretches and more stunning views.

Lewis and Harris deserve repeat visits! Thank you also to the Park Guest House for some excellent food, and a first night’s sleep under a solid roof that didn’t rustle in the wind.

The third episode in our tour diary will cover the final two nights, from Ullapool to Skye to Ballachulish and a glorious final day walking part of the West Highland Way. Meanwhile, a few more photos of a noisy helicopter and some quiet tents.

Scotland tour part one: North Coast 500 and Cape Wrath. #NC500

For nine days, and eight nights, in August 2015 I drove, walked, ferried, ate and drank my way around Scotland with an old school friend, Bob Burgoyne. After nearly 18 years of living north of the border it was about time I got to some of the furthest corners of the country. With Bob and I having walked through many miles of Scottish countryside in recent years we set about seeing a bit more of the place at ground level.

Over this and two subsequent blog posts I’ve some notes and photos from our trip:

  • Part one (below): Edinburgh to Ullapool, including two distilleries, Dunrobin Castle, John o’ Groats, the north coast, Cape Wrath, and Sandwood Bay. (Rough route on Google Maps.)
  • Part two: Ullapool to Lewis by ferry, Uig sands, Callanish standing stones, Hushinish, and Stornoway for the return ferry trip. (Google Maps.)
  • Part three: Ullapool, Applecross, Bealach Na Bà (Applecross Pass), Skye, the ferry to Mallaig, the Road to the Isles, Ballachulish, the West Highland Way (Inverarnon to Bridge of Orchy), and home. (Google Maps.)
  • Part four: this final post has daily route information – distances covered, the campsites and accommodation we used, and some of the places we ate at.

This all comes at a time when the ‘North Coast 500’ is getting some attention. This is 500+ mile circuit, as described on the official website (www.northcoast500.com). We covered much of the same ground, though without closing the loop from Applecross over to Inverness. As the site says this is ‘Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the new scenic route showcasing the fairy tale castles, beaches and ruins’. Hard to argue with that. Other blogs to cover large parts of the route include those by Miss Smidge and Julie’s This International Life. An online search will provide plenty of mainstream media coverage of the route, including Mark Beaumont’s successful attempt to cycle it all in one go (maybe we passed him en route).

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The car hire place had to upgrade us, and despite protestations we were forced to do the journey in a BMW 330d automatic. You’ll see it from time to time in the photos, covering some of our 1,144 miles. The total fuel bill was £138, which could have been lower if we hadn’t been on single track roads for about half the time! The automatic gear box really came good on those roads, with a lot of stopping and starting, tight corners, oncoming traffic and the ups and downs of putting roads through the wilderness. North Coast 500

Our first night was at the Riverside Campsite in Contin. Handy for the Glen Ord Distillery, it was also a short stroll from the Coul House Hotel, where we had our first luxury meal of the trip (with many more of them to come). Such has been the way of things on our trips north from the central belt, that a sparsity of places to eat is broken by somewhere absolutely amazing, serving wonderful local food.

North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500The beach in the early photos is between Golspie and Brora: we drove to the former, took the bus to the latter, then walked back. Yes, there’s a #sealfie amongst the photos, with about 50 seals in that group. There were others around, singing away to each other. Also spotted, an ancient settlement, and the slightly more modern Dunrobin Castle. Despite some misgivings about handing over money to the wealthy for the privilege of seeing their house, we really enjoyed the Castle. Admittedly that had much to do with the gardens, with their croquet (Bob won 3-1) and falconry display (eagles, falcones and owls).

And then onwards, across the north coast. John o’ Groats was seen and a hearty breakfast enjoyed (before nipping back to take in the Old Pulteney Distillery, in Wick). Dunnet Head was visited (in a hurry, it being the most northerly point on the mainland). Orkney was viewed across the water (and its beer enjoyed later that evening). Strathy Point made for an excellent walk, out to one of several light houses that we came into contact with. The pictures really don’t do justice to the power and majesty of the waves around this part of the coast. Very remote, with steep, high cliffs that drop away to natural arches and caves. As you can see plenty of natural flora too, and sunshine. The sun gave way to rain as we reached Durness, our campsite for two nights. Before pitching the tents we gave way to beer and pool in the bar, then made out homes between showers. It all worked rather well.

Cape Wrath: this time the top left corner, having ticked off the top right the day before. Cape Wrath is remote and access is limited, requiring a short drive to the ferry, which turns out to be a small boat with an outboard, that gets you to a waiting minibus. The minibus crawls its way along roads that have suffered in recent really bad weather (where normal ‘bad’ is 140mph gusts), and passes through various military checkpoints. We’re informed that NATO come here twice a year, to practise with their helicopter gunships and whatever else they fancy using. We didn’t get a return trip though, oh no. From the light house we struck out south on foot, making our way across 20 miles of open country, peat bog, heather, sheep hills and the occasional river. Three times we had to search for a way to cross rivers that really couldn’t have cared less if we were there or not, tumbling as they did over rocks and waterfalls. The fourth and final river was down at the beach: a broad sweep of loch water flowing out to sea. But what a beach, for this was Sandwood Bay and an iconic sweep of sand across a mile of Atlantic coast. As you can see from the photo, tiredness and relief were evident on our faces. Getting back to Durness and the pub was no mean feat: we arrived at the nearest village Blairmore (4 miles away) just in time to catch the taxi that we had sort-of arranged. Another few minutes and he would have gone, leaving us to figure out how to make the 20-30 mile journey home along the circuitous road. (Click the images for a better view.)

 

Tiredness brought a decent night’s sleep, followed by a second excellent breakfast at Mackay’s guest house: we thoroughly recommend this place for food and shelter. Then a cruise down to Ullapool, via another bog-sodden walk, more flora and a light house or two. A near faultless start to the trip, with only my walking boots suffering lasting damage (more of that to come in part three).

North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500 Cape Wrath

Greece 2015: sailing the Ionian with dad.

Sailing the Ionian Sea, off Greece’s west coast. From Corfu to Preveza, via Fiskardho, Vathi, Lakka, Two Rock Bay, Sparakhori and a lot of other places. All aboard the yacht Margaret from 8 to 19 July 2015, with my dad.

2014: how was it for me?

davidjarman.infoLet’s not use the word ‘resolution’ for my plans for 2014, but a review of what I hoped to achieve returns a mixed scorecard. It won’t take long to run through a bullet point or two…

 

 

 

  • Blogging:
    • My WordPress review of 2014 tells me I posted 25 times to this blog. Once a fortnight doesn’t sound too much, but of course the distribution wasn’t even. There were months with nothing, then a spurt in the middle of the year. I’m glad I put together the ‘10 weeks of summer‘ series, which got me writing again just at a time when there was plenty to say. The intention was to get in to the habit of posting more frequently, on a wider range of topics and perhaps through shorter posts. It’s not really happened that way, but the blog lives on and hope springs eternal.
    • Twitter has been good fun, as usual. 1,390 followers… who they all are I’ve little idea! As the years go by I make more connections with students past and present, which helps keep me in check with the words and pictures I post there!
    • Edinburgh Napier / Edinburgh International Book Festival: I helped lead a project through work where we covered a wide range of Book Festival events, all linked to World War I. The blog is here, with stuff from me, Napier colleagues and students.
    • Podcasts: on the subject of Edinburgh Napier, I’ve posted many podcasts for my students using Audioboo, which renamed itself Audioboom at some point. What’s more I now have a microphone and have started to investigate and use Garageband to record them. The files go up, I embed them in my online teaching spaces and that’s that.
    • Blipfoto: I had a plan to post a photo a day between 17:07 and 20:14. The inspiration for this? They be the dates between the Acts of Union between Scotland and England, and the independence referendum. I couldn’t keep it going, so the Blipfoto project fell by the wayside. It was good while on trips though, so I filled in some days while in New Zealand. Maybe that’s the best way to use that platform, as the basis of smaller projects, with the images then embedded on the blog.
  • Trips and travel:
    • Two trips to Hong Kong, with work. This was teaching based, with the second one unlike anything I’ll ever see again because of the protest camps. I’ve written some of that up here.
    • The first Hong Kong trip fell just before the Easter teaching break, so it seemed reasonable to take the next fortnight off to see friends in New Zealand. It all went very well indeed.
    • Berlin, Riga and the Positivus Festival in northern Latvia: this was a great trip, I loved all these places and would happily do the whole thing over again in 2015.
    • The Netherlands is becoming an annual excursion, where I head to NHTV Breda University and carry out some external examining. It’s a lovely town, they’re all lovely people and it would be a happy privilege to carry on with this in 2015.
    • Walking: there are two plans on the go, both of which could easily have been completed in 2014, but weren’t even attempted. A ‘missing’ day’s walk on the West Highland Way needs to be filled in, then I’ve ambitions to walk from Leith to Milngavie. These things can be rolled forward.
    • Airbnb: I used Airbnb in three capital cities – Wellington, Berlin and Riga. They were all good experiences, so will be doing this again. I haven’t yet organised to have anyone to stay at mine, but it seems silly not to give it a go before 2015 is over and done with.
  • Other:
    • Arthur’s Seat: I had a plan (again) to climb it once a month, every month. I achieved three out of 12 it seems. JFxxMxxxxxxx
    • Running: I wanted to get 52 half hour runs under my belt through the year, but managed ten it seems. That’s terrible.
    • Novels: I wanted to read two novels, but managed only about 100 pages of one of them. (Nick Cave’s ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’.) Again, a terrible performance.
    • Hamonica: having been gifted a blues harp for my 35th birthday (2013) I figured I should learn a new trick or two on it. Not really managed that either.
    • The RSA: I’m still an FRSA, still sitting on the RSA Scotland Team, still enjoying it.

So what went wrong? Did I waste my time? Probably, but hopefully it’ll be a while before I run out of the stuff and I can go again in 2015.

  • Blogging: more blog posts, more ‘journalling’ using Day One and more experimentation with other media that can be integrated with these platforms and Twitter.
  • Trips: more of this please! More Europe. Airbnb again, plus a bit of hosting to fund it.
  • Walking: I’ll get that bit done up north and I’ll make it along the canal to Glasgow.
  • Arthur’s Seat: yes, let’s achieve it this time.
  • Running: I’ll aim for 26 runs, trying out some fitness apps on the phone (maybe).
  • Novels: fine, I’ll try for the same target.
  • Harmonica: maybe I should plan to play a gig on 31 December 2015…

#10wos 10: Journey’s end and Edinburgh festival shows, part four (25-31 August 2014)

Usher Hall10 weeks of summer would appear to be drawing to a close. If I were in Edinburgh just now I’d be looking ahead to the end of festival fireworks, which from a distance of a few hundred miles and a disputed border I shall have to enjoy vicariously. All the posts from 10 weeks of summer are linked through this #10wos tag. Before a few reflections here’s what happened in Week 3 of the International Festival, which took in the final hours of the Fringe and the Book Festival.

So there they are, just two events. The photo on this post is carefully chosen though, showing the end of the concert from my organ gallery vantage point. The end of the event, the closed music books, the covers back on the timpani and the audience filing out. They were superb: tremendous musicians who played so well together. (Even I could tell this, though others confirmed it to me.)

Totalling up my 2014 festival events then… four gala launches for @LoveEdinburgh; four regular festival events in Fringe Week 0 and nine the week after in the same blog post; ten after that; eleven more; then the two above. That’s 40. Add in the exhibitions I’m very glad I saw at Summerhall and the Edinburgh College of Art and you reach 42. Which is the ultimate answer to the question of whether this has been a good festival year for me. This could be a record.

This is of no consequence to anyone or anything but me. I really shouldn’t be counting, let alone putting the numbers in bold like that. Really, what have I become? A target hunting cultural magpie, taking little in and giving little in return beyond mere statistics? Then to put this online through a self-indulgent blog post? No wonder my readership stats are so small.

Same again next year, then?

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Way back when, the #10wos project was a way to get me back into blogging. A structure within which to record a few thoughts and avoid memories slipping away forever. Since Week 01 started (on 23 June) I’ve been to Edinburgh, England, the Netherlands, Paisley, Berlin, Riga, Positivus in northern Latvia, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; I’ve had a Twitter audience of 10,000 followers through @LoveEdinburgh, been in the audience for dozens of Edinburgh festival shows and events; swung through the trees at Go Ape; presented my thoughts through a festival panel and a conference presentation; congratulated scores of students on their graduation and, right about now, started preparing for the next intake. The next ten weeks may not be quite so eventful, which could be a good thing as there’s work to be done. Speaking of which, I’ve also been contributing to Edinburgh Napier’s blog on World War I events at the Book Festival.

I am very lucky and very happy to have shared many of these experiences with Amy. They have been all the more important and memorable because of her.

The sun is still shining on this Sunday afternoon in England. Many miles away a few tons of explosives are being lined up and checked before they punctuate the Edinburgh night sky and bring the 2014 summer festival season to a close. Tomorrow the city will wake up and smell the cordite in the air, hopefully smiling at the memory. Then the working week will begin… except it will be September by then. September 2014 in Scotland has a special ring to it. The count down to the #indyref Independence Referendum will no longer be counted in years or months, we’ll be talking in days. Me and my vote? I’m still swithering, because although I know what the sensible, correct, right and proper answer is, the occasional shot of adrenaline makes me wonder ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘what are we waiting for?’. Well, Scotland?