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…
It was sweltering in Dublin in July. I hadn’t planned for that. Global climate change was touching Ireland, and lucky me, I walked right into it. Ireland has the reputation for changeable weather in summer, mostly rain to clear. I’d planned for mostly that, but not the intense heat I encountered. Never thought I’d get sunburn in Dublin.
Dublin is one of the most complex and busy cities you will visit in Europe. It is also one of the most expensive to live in, eat in and tour. Unless you stick to a strictly free as much as possible day. The people of Dublin are cosmopolitan and eclectic in their tastes, and the food is fusion and experimental. The architecture is grand, with Regency Era buildings and a hodge podge of old and new. I have been in large cities, large tourist towns like San Francisco where I lived for many years, and London which is a huge tourist metropolis. I have not see anything quite like what I experienced in Dublin this July. The streets were teeming with people, you couldn’t walk down sidewalks, people poured into the streets, blocking everything. Massive groups of Italian students with their bright coordinating backpacks in swarmed like bees, turning much of Temple Bar into a piazza.
Bog Men to Vikings
Dublin is a great city for museums and each national museum is by subject. The museums can take up a day or two of your visit as the exhibits are very in depth and well curated. There are the large extensive museums and many smaller museums focusing on specific people such as my favorite, Oscar Wilde. The majority of museums are south of Temple Bar around the Trinity College area, a place filled with great buildings and architecture, buskers, and shops. This summer there was an exhibit on Vermeer paintings. All the other museums, Archeology, Decorative Arts and History, Country Life, and Natural History are free to the public.
What to do when there are so many museums and only a few days? I usually tour museums when the weather is inclement and save the rest of the days in a city for exploring. With the heat, they became a great refuges to escape the sunburn I was acquiring.
Archaeology Museum, Kildare Street
One of my main drives to get to the museums is the rich human history Dublin has. This museum had great exhibits on Viking and Mediaeval artifacts that showed the vast wealth of history Dublin had in shaping Ireland. I had not had a chance to see actual Viking objects before, so it was a great treat to see models, weapons, jewelry, and pieces of everyday life objects the Vikings would have used. The medieval history objects and stories of local chieftains and their battles over who would lead and rule Dublin are not to be missed. Then. There are the great Celtic objects on the main floor, filled with Torcs and other jewelry displayed. Truly some of the decorative pins in size and magnitude defy logic.
However the best part was the one I had been trying to get to Dublin for many years for. The bizarre Bog Men exhibit. I must admit that since I was very young and took my first Archeology classes, I had been intrigued by the story of the men and women ritually killed and left in bogs, with bodies being discovered and put on display. It was really a thrill to see the examples in this museum. I was excited to get to a city with Viking history again. When you live in the US, history starts at 1600 with the later colonizations. While Vikings may have landed in Canada and attempted settlements, we don’t get a lot of exposure on these ancient cultures in the US.
Natural History, or the Smelly Dead Zoo
National Museum of Natural History. Another fascination from childhood was with taxidermic animals. I have been to many exhibits of these over the years, and the one in Dublin is a find collection of animals collected mostly in the Victorian era. Sadly this means the specimens are very worn and tired. Now, there are some really amazing examples of extinct creatures that you should see, my favorite being the giant Irish deer from prehistoric times. The rack of antlers on these are the largest in the world.
Food and Drink, Temple Bar
This is one of the most heavily populated tourist areas in Dublin. The entertainment area is packed with restaurants and other venues. It is elbow to elbow crowding usually at night, but that week it was from late morning into the evenings. I often found that I had to circumnavigate the area and give it a wide birth, or sneak up an alleyway street. I tried to avoid this area, I knew it would be a serious tourist trap on this side of the Liffey river. The winding shop streets in the Grafton area seem to keep leading back to it and there is no escape, especially when tourist runs kept dragging you along. I steered clear of the American filled pubs and bars, packed past capacity. My one respite on day was to have sushi and sake at Banyi Japanese dining. Great restaurant with great food.
On the second part of my Irish journey this summer, I decided to take in Galway, a medieval town on the Western coast. After three days of intense heat in Dublin, a city I never thought I would see such heat in, I took a tranquil train rides through to the West of Ireland and reached Galway city mid- morning. The ride had been filled with views of great fields of green and an interesting political conversation with an Irishman. Warning, if you start up any politics with the Irish, it will be a long conversation. Actually, most conversations, especially with men in Ireland, will be long and take a while to end. It was a wam, bam, 48 hours well spent and I wished it had been longer.
The weather took a funny turn right after I arrived, I got off the train needing a good long walk, dropped cases at the bed and breakfast and took College down into the downtown area of Eyre Square, passing through the shopping mall that boasted one of the remaining walls of this great walled city of Ireland. I headed down into Quay and Spanish Arches area, chased the lanes around for a couple of hours. It looked and smelled of rain, so I tried to cram in the sights as much as I could. Then came in the storm. I had been napping at the B&B and the whole place shook. Within 10 minutes and amazing wind storm with hail, thunder and tree bits blew in and was gone. That’s Galway for you.
A Taste of Irish Feminism: Crestfall by Mark O’Rowe
One of the main reasons I was in Galway was to take in a play as the Arts Festival was in full swing. I had been trying to book plays from overseas and several had sold out but luckily I snagged a seat at the Druid for Crestfall, a play with three powerful women on a night and what their lives had culminated in for that one night. Deep and insightful to the psyche of womankind it gave a great snapshot of real life tragedy and life in a tiny compact stage. I was on the edge of my seat and drawn in, raging inside with the cast. The play ended up with few favorable reviews, but I think that is because the reviewers just could not handle the raw nature of the play. I was relieved to see a man could write about women, actually capture some of the guttural essence of single mothers and other women downtrodden by society. Directed by Annabelle Comyn, and starring Kate Stanley Brennan, Siobhán Cullen, and Amy McElhatton. Three very different women struggling in a dystopian Dublin.
Galway Arts Festival
If you get a chance to come in the month of July, this festival is a good kick off for festival travels. I managed three festivals this trip, and this was a great beginning. In the beautiful surroundings of the city and university, the big top is also filled with concerts and Trad musicians. If you are planning to go, book your accommodations early and try to get them near the river. Taxis can be rough during the festival and you will need to walk everywhere. But it’s a great little city for walking. Many big and small acts come to the festival, with some famous Irish musicians booking in because they like the festival. Keep an eye on the website as tickets sell out fast.
Dress in layers, you are by the sea. There is a great many shops to keep you busy. I usually don’t do the tourist shops things, mainly stick to galleries of which there are plenty in this town. Plenty of buskers and jewelry and clothing stalls to pass the time with. Galway is one of the arts hubs of Ireland with creativity on every corner. And then of course Galway is a tourist hub, filled with tour buses and bus barns that amazingly manage to fit in such a small downtown area.
The west of Ireland has many magical places to visit, all lush and green. I had planned for months on my day two being a fantastic trip to the Aran Islands. The weather the following day got even worse, the ocean filled with darkness and wind, so I opted for a coach tour of Connemara National Park instead. What a ride; fjords, endless sheep and landscapes, all seen in the mostly rain filled summer’s day. If you can manage it, stay in the park either camping or at a nearby inn. There is so much to see and experience hiking it will take at least a full day. The highlight of the tour was the Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Gardens estate tour. This massive estate was once home to a very wealthy family, but now has been converted to an Benedictine Abbey. The grounds are lush and rambling, you are in for a good walk with many photo opportunities.
Ireland’s west coast and the Atlantic Way is filled with a great many treats for the senses, wear layers and bring your imagination. Two days was not enough, so if you can manage it try for three to four days to explore this beautiful area fully. This is one of the few places where doing a hire car with a group may be your best advantage so you can get to all of the sights around Galway. Just be patient if you drive into Galway, for the streets pack fast and it may be better to park at the outskirts and walk in.
Hi Fin DAC, great to meet you . I’m really pleased you’ve accepted this interview for StreetArt360. I’m a great fan of your art and I feel you’re probably at the origin of my growing passion for urban art. I fell in love a few years ago with your geisha stencil under Vitry-Sur-Seine Train Station […]
Ascending a steep hill then plunging into a dark and mysterious forest, the crossing of the Highland Line feels very real…
Exhibit: From Krypton to Kelvingrove, the Works of Frank Quietly And The Art of Comics Until October 1, 2017
Looking for a great time with great artwork, look no further. Take your kids or the big kid that is you. A comic art exhibit is not to be missed. You’ve a few weeks left and if you are lucky to be in Glasgow this Fall, you will see the works of one of the comic greats, Frank Quietly. The artist known as Quietly, born in Glasgow in 1968, has been a penciller, cover artist, cover variant, colorist, artist and much more. He has worked on Batman: The Scottish Connection, Superman, Shimura (Judge Dredd Magazine) an outcast Judge in the Dredd universe, Aiko Inaba 1996, a female Samurai, 2000AD Judge Dredd, Sandman: Endless Nights, and the list goes on.
I was lucky to be able to take in the show while in Glasgow this summer. I spent several hours pouring over the artwork of this truly great artist. The exhibition rooms were small, but packed with all stages of design from many of his works. There were original artworks and scripts from Batman and Superman. There were featured works of Frank Miller and Charles Burns also in the exhibit.
I particularly enjoyed looking at the concept art for Batman: The Scottish Connection. Well, being in Scotland, it’s a must. Seeing Bruce in a kilt was fun of course. But the experience of seeing the concept art and thought process of the artist is always intriguing. To be lucky enough to see how the design process works for the story, is always a rare treat. The story was written by Alan Grant and published in 1998. The second room featured two comics I had not seen before, Shimura and Inaba. The female Samurai caught my attention and I then found myself in acquirement mode, checking Amazon and comic shops online for the series. The inking is incredible with this series and the subject matter superbly portrayed.
This exhibit is a must see and sits in the basement galleries at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which is an amazing place the spend the rest of your morning or afternoon. There are other exhibits, such as Alphonse Mucha: The Quest for Beauty and the permanent collections that will be a time well spent with family and friends. After you finish, continue out into the West End or Glasgow University for more food and sights.
If you get the comic bug after the show, visit Glasgow’s great comic shops:
Geek Retreat Cafe and Comic Bookshop several locations
Unthank Comics 23 Burgh Hall Street (off Byres Road)Glasgow G11 6NY
Edinburgh. I came for three days. I somehow survived the maelstrom that was Fringe Festival 2017. It was the 70th anniversary year, so of course I ended up going, how could I pass that up? What an amazing 3 days spent. I am surprised I survived it. To think what the performers and artists do to survive it, there have been documentaries made on it I am sure, and if there aren’t any, they have probably been filmed this year. So much material, so many great performances, so little time. It’s the frenzy and fun of a festival and in a historic city. What an amazing combination.
I had been going non-stop through my tour of Ireland and Scotland for two weeks already when I rolled into Edinburgh. I had spoiled myself a bit and taken my first ride on a Virgin Train, I figured since it was the end of the highlands tour for me, I may as well go out in style.
I had scheduled some days in between big cities to do touring and have some down time. I am glad that I did. Edinburgh on a regular tour, is a great capital city to visit. Big and filled with much to do. Twisty winding streets (Wynds) and closes, and too many people at times. Add the world’s largest and oldest Fringe festival and you have a massive sprawl that will take you along with it, like a storm rain flooding a river. It can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. How do you survive 3 or 4 intensive days of plays, comedies, music, and any other creative expression in an already teeming city, with a population that can explode to 3 times the normal capacity for the city? You try to have a game plan and be ready to take things on the fly, change at the drop of a show card and impromptu is the theme.
Before my trip, I had tried to book a few plays or comedy routines by ticket online. The online database of 3000+ shows got to be a bit much, and digging through them really daunting. Because I was not a UK resident, of course I did not know many of the performers at the shows. It is an international festival and acts come from all over the world to perform there. However, after years and years of watching UK shows on rerun and late night cable, often 5 years out of date, I h ad a fairly good grasp on many of the bigger names performing. But that’s the excitement, the discovery of new talent you haven’t seen before while traveling, taking a gamble on a artist or musician. I was well rewarded.
Lesson learned, book one to two paid shows in advance only. There will be other shows that you will want to see. Decide your show budget. While there are a lot of half price opportunities on certain days, you may not be there those days. Edinburgh is expensive, so maybe 3 shows a day and allowing for food and drink may fit into most budgets. Free shows are available, and great fun, but bring a few pound coins to drop into the hat. Edinburgh is one of the most expensive touring cities and the artists and performers have to pay to stay as well.
Not sure who to book because you usually only see US or Canadian acts? If you have some favorite UK stars, plug their names in the search on the main website. Some artists on Twitter or Facebook announce they may be doing Fringe. Many people give Fringe a whirl when they are new artists or actors and many stars came back this last year for the 70th. Look at the many play boards up. By the second week people review shows by plastering stars up on some of the playbills. Take a chance. There is no perfect way to do Fringe, so just be open and let most of it happen. That’s what’s so fun.
Every spare space in Edinburgh becomes a stage during the month of August. Every church with a spare room, all music venues and clubs get divided up and reworked by some really amazing planning people. The organizers of this amazing event hopefully get to go on holidays themselves when they are done. They do a bang up job. That said, you survival depends on your mindset. For the Fringe is a twisty wild ride of a beast. And it happens outside Edinburgh Castle gates on down through the wynds. The main maelstrom is in the upper Royal Mile, and spills out both sides into Grassmarket, the pub mecca of Edinburgh. Arm yourself with a map that includes where the Closes are, the small streets that are really winding, sauntering stairs that run in between and across the main streets. These are your well welcomed escape routes. For the Fringe indeed a teeming beast, and after being in it for an hour or two, you will need to take a break and look at the rest of the city. I found that if I worked in 3 hour cycles of being in it, watching shows and performers, then retreated to closes or even hiked Arthur’s Seat, it helped keep my sanity a few times. The Fringe has a handy app that you can load and check for performances near where you are. I had a few glitchy moments with it, but it was dealing with over 3000 shows and GPS locating. Don’t worry, there is something around every corner that you can see or do, and so many you may just not make it to. Tough choices.
Acts for The Non UK Audience
If you go somewhere like the UK and try to watch their drama or comedy shows without it being trickled down from PBS or Hulu, there are a lot of actors, singers, musicians, and any other artist you can imagine that you haven’t had the luck to see in action. We get a very filtered exposure to the worlds talent. I like it raw and out there, beyond the big networks. A whole different sense of humor than in America or Canada exists and it’s quite good. The culture in the UK is nothing like how we think in the US, and there are many very talented creatives we’ve never even heard of. That’s why going to festivals like this are so great, you can see what people in another country really find funny or entertaining and get a glimpse of culture that you would never see otherwise. I went to three planned shows, and found a few free shows that really surprised me. Here’s just a glimpse.
This show was a one man extravaganza about a Scottish darts great, Jocky Wilson. It takes place in the late 70s with the man being stranded in the Nevada desert desperately trying to get to get to an exhibition match tournament. The show was a workout and Grant took us on a journey all in one night with insight into a competitive world of dart playing and why someone would pursue that dream.
With a title like that and well, I knew I was at Fringe, may as well get out there with the humor. I decided to take the gamble, with a star that had just left Scotland’s long running soap, River City, Gary Lamont. This show was hilarious and gave me great insight to the UK humor centered around UK drama shows, what we call the soaps here. There were guest spots with some celebrities I knew, like Graham Norton, and a few references to East Enders and some other drama shows I had seen over the years. But for the most part there were references to things very Scottish or UK centric, many shows and politics. But that is what made it delicious. Hearing people talk and joke about their lives in this way, even with slang you may not get, helps you to understand the Scottishness of something, and I found that after being in the country before, I got a lot of the slang said and was just so excited about the freshness of it. It’s totally in your face and that is what is so great about it. Very talented performer and I wish him well on his future projects.
The Maydays at the Just the Tonic Venue, The Caves
I walked up, there was a poster with some very Tim Burton overtones. I know, Fringe is plastered with crazy play bills, not to mention being plied with show cards everywhere you went in the city. But this one tugged at my brain. Why? Well an ensemble promising the influence of one of my favorite directors, Tim Burton. Quirky, bizarre and Gothy. You got me. The promise was fulfilled by a great troupe of actors taking a subject cue subject from the audience and building a hour impromptu storyline. This one grew out of someone’s relative working at the post office. Not boring at all, centered around a missive that goes amiss. Engaging and twistedly Burtonesque, think Edward Scissorhands meets Big Fish, and some Gothy Fringe humor tossed in. Absolutely wicked.
Edinburgh has some amazing sights to behold, and while it is difficult to get to some during such a festival, give it the chase. Edinburgh has many themed walking tours, including underground tours for the spooky at heart. It is also the inspiration for the Harry Potter novels by J.K Rowling, and now boasts some great Harry Potter themed shops. Two of which were open while I was there, but I could not get anywhere near the doors as the lines to get in were well up the block. I was truly saddened by the many hours wait to get in. I had peeked in before they had opened and was astounded at the HP gear available, but had tickets to a show. Hopefully I can manage to make it in my next visit.
Edinburgh is an amazing city with so much to offer any tourist. There are a great many free things to do, plenty of great shops, and it boasts some great vinyl stores. I strongly recommend if you go during the Fringe next year that you plan your venues in a certain area, with a few hours between shows to go out and take in the sights. If it starts to get to be a bit much, there are plenty of escapes off the Closes or nature parks along the Leith area. Survival means join in the fray, then repose in a cafe, pub, or eatery. Then with the added excursions, you will cover every inch of this great city.