I do like to go up the Coast, any excuse to take a scenic journey up the railway line from Glasgow, with splendid views of Dumbarton Rock and the hills beyond. Last year I had been to Renfrewshire Doors Open weekend so I decided to peruse the programme and see what was on this year and chose Inverclyde as it is not a place I have spent much time in so it was nice to explore a new place with fresh eyes, a true urban wander!
First stop out of the station was the Wellpark Mid Kirk. Unusually for me I had not meticulously planned out every building I planned on seeing, so stumbling across this first was quite impressive. The church is designed to look like St Martin’s in the Field in London, a very grand portico indeed. Inside the church is, as one may expect, spectacular stained glass. I was impressed with the main window; red squirrels and industrial heritage, all beautifully illustrated. The side window also contains a dragon.
The tour of the Sheriff Court was both educational and entertaining, we were treated to a tour of the two court areas (old and new) and the cells. Architecturally the two courts are very different, clearly an 1869 Peddie and Kinnear courtroom with external baronial tower looks a little more elaborate in the cornice department than the 1980’s second courtroom!
I liked the way in which Greenock West United Reform Church welcomed visitors, for not only was there a helpful leaflet but super friendly church volunteers with home made jam tarts and fairtrade coffee, just what one wants after a leisurely stroll around the building! The white painted dove of peace sits above the organ, and the roofscape is quite impressive. The leaflet had a panoramic picture of the roof within, of a tudor gothic styling. They also point out that they are technologically minded and even make podcasts of the ministers sermons for all to hear. My Doors Open itenery said “It is suggested that the architect used a sketch design produced by a member of the congregation for the south front”. Imagine having that opportunity, I wonder if this was the intention of the person who drew it, or if they just happened to be talking to the architect… perhaps the 1840’s architect is actually “unknown” in a collaborative project with John Blair? Whilst enjoying my coffee one of the parishioners told me that there was a display in the nearby museum of the Olympic torch… having been surprisingly engrossed in the Olympic and Paralympic games this year I could not resist a pop across the road to the Greenock museum in Kelly Street.
The museum gardens are a particularly pleasant nice setting, with blue pendants and balloons for Doors Open Day welcoming you through the door. A world of information greets you, though I did make a beeline for the shiny gold torch.
The category A listed municipal buildings of 1879 (H and D Barclay) are worth a look for many reasons, but reason one for me would be the amazing plaster ceiling. There is also a fine art collection adorning the walls and a rather opulent provost’s office. One of my friends has recently made a mockumentary about a theoretical future Greenock..perhaps Felix Crammond may rather have liked the fine office there!
Seeing the painting of the Waverley made me think a trip doon the water might be in order sometime soon, the last sea going paddle steamer in the world and it’s quite a sight. I went on it when I was really small and remember the smell of the engines and the amusement of getting a postcard stamped “posted on PS Waverley”. I wonder if they still do that?
Last on my list was the Dutch Gable House, as it had advertised some comic art (always good to combine a little art and architecture) . There were even some gaelic singers and local artwork by Mhairi Robertson. The building itself, is as the name suggests, frontaged with a Dutch Gable, elegant sweeping lines now restored and looked after by Inverclyde Community Development Trust and in the process of being transformed into a community venue exhibition. The graphic art novel was generously being given away, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the history of Greenock being illustrated in this way as it is such an unusual way to present “heritage” information. It has been carefully produced and researched by several local schools and put together by local artists as part of the Identity Inverclyde project, take a look at their site for more info and a sneak peek at http://identityinverclyde.blogspot.co.uk
As I had a Discovery Ticket, in effect a free pass for the day on all forms of transport, I could not resist going other places so I headed back to Gourock by train and then waited for the ferry to Kilcreggan. The journey across the water offers amazing views up the Firth of Clyde, even on a relatively cloudy day. The journey only takes a little over ten minutes but it is a restful pursuit to watch the waves and the seagulls whilst sitting back on the wooden benches.
Kilcreggan is a beautiful village, very picture postcard. Every time I go there I stop at the little shop, it is the best stocked shop you could possibly find. Much more than a general store, it has a good selection of local produce and a vast magazine range (I found a new one called “The Simple Things”, on later reading I found that it celebrates everyday objects and home made produce as well as having articles to inspire and celebrate particular times of day (sorted by day, dawn and dusk), complemented by a beautiful layout with a pleasing mixture of photography and illustration). Ideal reading when you want to cosy up with a warm coffee and pause for reflection. I love discovering magazines which share my approach to life, especially serendipitous if you’re on an “I don’t really mind where I go as long as I know I can get home eventually” mode.
The nearest coffee shop is but a small stumble from the ferry terminal (and said village store); Café at Kilcreggan on Shore Road. I had a truly sumptuous Victoria Sponge cake and a delicious cappuccino, whilst perusing the leaflets about local events and gazing out at the lovely view back across the Clyde. My window was adorned with pretty star fairly lights and the nice linen table runner set off my view perfectly. The bus to Helensburgh leaves just next to the café and offers splendid vistas. If you have never been to this town it offers a pleasant seaside excursion, with a Charles Rennie Mackintosh villa (Hill House) and summer funfairs if you choose a little more noise to fill your day. I was treated to a little starling chorus, they had all lined up on the (now closed) roller coaster in an aesthetically pleasing formation.
As a rather beautiful end to the day, I sat on the pier next to a vociferous seagull and watched as the Lomond Hills mist gradually gave way to an unfolding sunset.