Things to do in the Scottish Borders Warm, sunny afternoons, empty country roads, windows down…..it sneaks up on me with alarming realisation that I can’t remember the last time I had this experience. This sense of solitude. You’ll certainly never find it in the Highlands in summer and it’s always in August that us locals…
It’s winter snows or pounding storms in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, this March?It’s the dregs of winter, and should be spring. There’s been a bit of snow? Whether you are a end of winter traveler taking advantage of off season pricing, or a resident day tripping, finding your way to sights to see or experiences to get out of the winter doldrums of your mind are paramount. But remember, it’s Scotland, The UK’s version of PNW weather, wait a bit, it’ll change. This great city of Glasgow is a fabulous walking town, and the best way I found to get around is by taking the subway, fondly called Clockwork Orange still by a few, but just ask for the subway. It makes a big subterranean loop and can keep you out of the elements for a quick journey to a part of the city, climb up top and you are within walking distance of many out of the way entertainments. Explore alleys off Sauchiehall Streets’s West End, or stroll the parks as there are many. And just like the PNW, people rarely use a brolly. Up your hood and go.
For some unusual things to do, check out these places. Contact them direct for winter hours of operation.
Glasgow Necropolis Beautiful both in snow and rain, and well, if you sneak in at night, moonlight. It’s filled with some very old grave sites and commands a great view of the city. Situated just behind St. Mungo’s Religious Museum and Glasgow Cathedral, Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery flanks it. Drygate area, John Knox Street.
Fossil Grove This is a subterranean find that will get you out of the elements. Travel to Victoria Park and take in this fun and spooky view of 11 fossilized stumps.
Hunterian Museum Spooky and kooky exhibits from medical and strange things. Check to see they are in operation, as in 2017 the museum was shut for rework, and still has some exhibition pieces not available. If you can’t make it to Edinburgh, it’s one of the best collections of oddities outside the capitol city. Fun stories of resurrectionists and all kinds of odd things. The anatomical collection is by appointment only. Off the Glasgow University (Hogwarts) campus. Just off the Hillhead station of the underground.
Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. An animatronic, kinetic field day can be had here. Created and run by a Russian emigre Eduard Bersudsky, this theatre is filled with macabre to delight all. It illustrates the history of Russia with a murky feel. The main attraction is the heart of the theatre, but there are traveling exhibits in many parts of the world. TRONGATE 103,Glasgow, G1 5HD
Govan Hill Baths Back in it’s Edwardian day, this community resource was where you went to swim, at one of the three pools, and do your wash (Steamie). It was shut down in 2001, but the public had sit ins to protest the loss of the historical baths. After several years, the community rallied back and now the large pool has been repurposed as an arts installation and performance venue. It is still going through renovations, but you can see community and old history in action as productions for theatre and music are hosted here. 99 Calder St, Glasgow G42 7RA
It’s slowly crawling towards spring, but you know that last stretch seems to be a huge hill to climb. Especially with this past winter, Scotland has had record snows and storms.It’s a great time if it’s safe to do so, to seek out a place where you can get a tropic feel without having to fly. Whether you are visiting Glasgow or a seasoned resident, having a bit of green during the dreary grey and white filled months, that seem to include Spring, will help those with the doldrums spring. If you find your Seasonal Affective Disorder won’t let go, Glasgow has answers.
Two of the best indoor flora venues are in this town, The Glasgow Botanics Gardens Kibble Palace and the smaller Winter Gardens, and the People’s Palace at the Glasgow Green. Both feature classic Victorian Green Houses and are free to the public, but if you have a fiver, please donate at these free venues and any other museum in the city. It all helps to give you a cheer when you have the grey throughout.
730, Great Western Road Glasgow G12 OUE Tel:0141 276 1614 Open from 7am until Dusk Every Day, Glass Houses Until 6pm, 4:15 in Winter.
Easily accessible by public transportation, near the Hillhead Underground stop, and off the Great Western Road with plenty of bus access. It’s close to the West End and Glasgow University grounds and has great access to fabulous food and other activities in the area. The Heritage walk encompases the exterior gardens off the Kelvin River and links up with the Kelvin walkways. A great way to add to a day of walking the parks in this very walkable town.
The Kibble Palace is a Victorian Glass House Arboretum that was founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, and was part of the university in its early days. The gardens began in another location closer to campus, offering support and the teaching of botanics to students. The current site has been in use since 1839, and has a grouping of large glass structures that house several collections of specimens from around the world. The palace houses the main collections, with several other glass structures surrounding it. Glass houses mean protection from the elements for the many plants that are tropic, and this means a great out of the elements exploration for you.
Each greenhouse features different world plant zones, from the tropics to the deserts of the world. There are plants from all of the continents. My favorite is the collection of Carnivorous plants, and any fun Orchid that is dangling. Every inch imaginable is packed with plants. There is even a seed exchange or purchase, but you’ll have to go soon, they are only available until about mid April.
The Kelvin Walkway extends the West Highland Way walking trails into the city proper, going through Minlgavie. This a nice river walk/hike that goes through the city and lets you pop up in several neighborhoods. The full pathways route is a good 17 Km. Keep an eye out for blocked access as some of the stairs are under repair and it may be a few streets before you can exit. You can walk portions of the river walkways and come up to view attractions or neighborhoods, there are great eats in the West End. You can start the full walk from the Riverside Museum and do the Botanics and other attractions along the way. Mind the midges.
The Best of Scotland in a Day Don’t let the title confuse you. This is not a post about an – absolutely impossible – attempt to experience this fabulous wee country in 24 hours. Rather, it’s about capturing Scotland’s broad appeal in one day. The assets that have made it one of the top destinations…
St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace, Wales
Interview with Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian
Wales, a wild and mysterious place. My first travels through the country was back in my university days. I remember some amazing mountains and terrain, very strange signs, and people with a fun, odd sense of humor I enjoyed. In doing research for historic sites interviews, I started looking back into Welsh sites and found that they certainly weren’t lacking. There are so many castles, ruins and grounds to clamber around, not to mention lovely villages and sign posts with Welsh on them to try to learn how to pronounce.
St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace is a ruin that is quite spectacular, in Pembrokeshire. It’s a family friendly place with plenty of climbs for you. The grounds offer a lot to see and just relax. Soak in some history. It’s not just a place to hang out, in the summer there are a series of events. Hopefully if you can, catch a performance.
St. Davids and Bishop’s Palace
Opening hours can vary so please contact the site for up to date information on 01437 720517. Last admissions 30 minutes before closing.
Hours of operation: Daily 9.30am – 5.00pm , July and August until 6 pm
To learn a little bit more about the site, I asked Amanda Canby-Lewis, Lead Custodian
To let us know a bit more about the site. Here is her interview below.
How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get it’s start?
The site has been open to the public and charging an admission fee since at least the early 1960’s. It was put in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1932 who did basic consolidation, conservation and excavation. As Pembrokeshire developed into a tourist area in the 1960’s it was opened as an historic tourist attraction by the Department of the Environment although I believe that prior to that visitors could just come in and walk around. Since 1984 it has been in the care of Cadw.
Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?
Very little impact has been felt here as it has been only minimally used – the BBC series ‘Antiques Roadshow’ was filmed here and then the BBC series of ‘Hollow Crown’ (the Shakespeare histories) filmed parts of ‘Richard II’. I believe that any filming and publicity for the built historic environment is mainly beneficial as it raises their profile and may attract visitors who may not otherwise visit. It is also a good revenue stream.
With revenue increase, will you be able to expand upon some projects for the site?
As Cadw is currently part of the Welsh Government we have to work within given budgets. However, Cadw are continually looking to improve both interpretation and facilities at all their sites to improve the visitor experience and meet and exceed their targets.
What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?
The maintenance and conservation of the building is paramount as it is a scheduled ancient monument. Therefore when work needs doing we have to shut areas which may impact on the public. To combat this we have found ways to make it part of the visitor experience through explanation and interpretation of what we’re doing, how and why. This has had an impact on repeat visits as people very often return to see what we’ve done and what the next phase is. There is also the competition for the tourist £ which is ever increasing with more and more attractions opening up. Looking at ways to increase our profits is also a challenge. Health and Safety presents a challenge as we aim to keep as much of the monument open to the public as possible – to do this we have to assess issues such as warning signage and look at ways of making visitors aware of potential issues.
Do you have interpreters and reenactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?
We occasionally use re-enactors. This is never an issue to run as we use companies/groups who are used to working in an environment such as this and have researched fully. They are also responsible for their own risk assessments etc. The main impact is that it can draw larger visitor numbers in a small period of time so staffing has to be in place to deal with this. I have done costumed interpretation training and this is something we aim to increase over the coming year.
Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?
Due to the nature of the building it is difficult to house special exhibits for the following reasons: it is difficult to secure the site so any exhibits are vulnerable overnight when the site isn’t staffed. Also the covered areas of the building are damp so this impacts some kinds of special exhibits. The site however has interpretation through the building in various formats. In the past we have had exhibitions of local sculptors work throughout the building and this adds another dimension to the site and attracts visitors who may not usually visit – or encourages a repeat visit.
If you get hired by a film company, how do you manage the site and what gets changed around? Because it is heritage, things must be maintained and safe, how do the film companies work around it?
On occasion it is necessary to close the site or close areas of it. However, we do try to stay open – it is good publicity for both us and the film company. We will always look to work with the company so that we have a complete plan in place long before filming takes place. It is up to the companies to put their risk assessments in place taking into account the nature of the building.
Do you have any funny behind the scenes stories?
There is nothing more unpredictable than working in tourism and most days see something unusual! We deal with people from all over the world (the most unusual visitor I’ve had here was a Sherpa from Nepal), we deal with an historic building and we deal with wildlife which uses the building as it’s habitat – badgers stuck down holes, bees nests, bats! We also deal with people who can ask very strange questions – my personal favourite was a visitor who arrived and asked me why we’d moved the building as they were convinced that the last time they visited the site it was on an island! I tried various sites that I thought they had maybe got it confused with but they were not to be persuaded – they were right and I was wrong!
In 1995 Queen Elizabeth visited the site which obviously necessitated a high level of security with security personnel on site throughout the night before the visit. I arrived on site very early to find a sniffer dog handler sitting on a wall alone – his dog had disappeared to go chasing rabbits! Something funny happens nearly every day!!