Tagged: paisley

Staring at diamonds

On a recent visit to St. Annes on Sea my mum and I spent an extraordinary amount of time staring at little metal triangles and diamonds. Why?!? Well, if you look closely you can see the mark of a Glasgow architectural metalwork firm on this seaside shelter. This makers mark confirms that a little bit of the West of Scotland has travelled to the North West of England. For a cultural planner and architectural tourist such as myself, a lovely treat to see a set of bandstand, pavilion, drinking fountain and shelter all in a row. I have also seen this ironwork as far away as Darjeeling in India, and as close as Dumfries where beautiful fountains can be seen, adorned with cherubs, animals and plants (and even full size walruses in the case of Paisley Grand Fountain!). Happy iron spotting!

The unconventional advent calendar

I’ve been creating an unconventional advent calendar related to cultural planning

UWS 2013 Cultural Planning Course

I have been playing with devising an alternative advent calendar with a daily cultural planning thought, comment or notable bit of news, as I enjoy making web projects and also wanted to continue reflecting on some of the points which were raised in the course.  My project presentation as part of the course was about considering how to use online tools to make cultural planning accessible and understandable to a wide range of people, I felt that using a thought a day type approach was perhaps one way of doing this so I’m experimenting to see what results.  The cards are designed using the Firefox web maker programme, a free online tool which allows you to create various creative and interactive items for the web (templates are provided for you to remix, where you create half of the page in code then watch the result on the other half…

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Some thoughts on cultural planning

I am currently enrolled in a cultural planning course and uploaded some content reflecting on some of the approaches mentioned in the course

UWS 2013 Cultural Planning Course

Since we did the last session of the course I have been periodically tagging things on Twitter with #culturalplanning; some of these have been my own posts with photos, and others retweeting things of interest.  I thought I would compile all of these in one place for easy reference and discussion next week.

I enjoyed the visits to Paisley and Govan, particularly the new Govan Stones exhibition as the last time I visited was some time ago (2011, I had written a short blog post about the day out, also exploring some artistic and community facilities nearby).

At a Renfrewshire Witch Hunt day conference I also heard a little more about the stones and community projects

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Dancing to your own creative tune

Coats church carvings by CrenellatedArts
Coats church carvings, a photo by CrenellatedArts on Flickr.

I have been enjoying playing with lots of different artforms recently, which has made me consider more clearly what my own creative voice actually is.  Talking to friends and colleagues about how they go about “being creative” is rather interesting.  Ideas come to us in so many different ways, and we all document our thoughts slightly differently… our outputs are completely different (be it specialising in mainly visual art, photography, music or writing novels) but we all share a desire to make our ideas come to fruition and to some extent to share our work with others.  I think another common factor is play; we all want to enjoy our creative work (whether it is done purely as a one off piece or for a bigger paid project) and put our heart and soul into it.  Exploring art forms which I am not familiar with has really helped me generate more creative ideas, as has working with others with different backgrounds as it is great for approaching a project in a different way.

I had been reading the book “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron and she suggests that creative people take themselves on an “artists date”, spending time doing only creative things for a certain period of time; personally I have been making time to visit galleries (as in my previous blog post) as this immerses me in the gallery experience, taking in both the work itself but also how it is presented and the additional materials which many exhibitions now put out (I have spent many a happy time exploring the books and publications, or web materials, accompanying my favourite exhibitions).

I love my studio but sometimes taking time away from my usual space also helps me be more creative, it is funny how an hour in a coffee shop can make me think of all sorts of ways of tackling a new piece of work.  Listening to music can help too.. I read with interest a post by Jane Hannah on her blog recently where she talked about how she started her day with music (and made some great drawings).  Sometimes music can really uplift us and also guide us to new places (I liked the recent Sonica festival where technology, visual art and sculpture all combined to make dramatic work in the Tramway arts space).

Do you make your own creative tune?  Do you have a place to “be creative” or does it just happen naturally or when you are least expecting it?

Giffnock Synagogue stained glass

Doors Opening- weekend one (Giffnock)

Hooray, it’s September again!  That can only mean… European Heritage Days.  For the first two Scottish weekends I went to East Renfrewshire, and Inverclyde.

A late start on weekend one meant there was only time to see two buildings, but they were fascinating.  It is amazing that even though some building are technically open most of the time and you would be most welcome to visit, it is often not until an official “event” invites us to wander around that we take up that offer.  Got a First Glasgow all day city ticket and headed out to Giffnock.

Giffnock and Newlands synagogue offered a welcoming tour including an explanation of not only the building but the history of the Jewish religion in the West of Scotland.  The twenty two stained glass windows actually came from Queens Park synagogue in Glasgow.  Each one depicts important events within the Jewish calendar and has been dedicated to families of individuals who donated them and allowed them to be installed in Giffnock.  I found it particularly interesting to see the wooden board in the entrance way which was engraved and painted with family names, a light bulb beside the name invites members of the congregation to bear that person in mind.  The huge Torah scrolls were beautifully engraved, our guide told us how they were read.  The inner calligrapher in me can only begin to imagine just how long it must take to hand write such documents, such careful devotion!  Upstairs one could see a stunning close up view of the stained glass, it reminded me a little of Coats Observatory in Paisley in a way, as there were many stars and planets and such lush vivid colours to be seen.

Giffnock Synagogue stained glass

Planets and stars

Next on the list was a little further up the same road, Giffnock United Reform Church.  I had never been here either, Giffnock is not a place on my usual route so it was good to go and explore a new area.  The church is a 1930’s property, from the outside you can see its front facade with painted stonework and an inviting banner…inside it was a beautifully quiet space with a quite mesmerising rose window.  From the decorative needlework panels created by the congregation one can tell that the building is well loved and well used, each pillar in the nave was adorned with a stitched scene illustrating a particular parable or tale from the Bible.  Some had quotes from different sections of text, others were abstract or depicting an image which accompanied a favourite quotation, each individually designed and hand stitched.  The light was flooding in through the windows and creating a nice glow on the wooden pews and beautiful roof to accompany our tour; so peaceful with the organ  lightly playing in the background.

Giffnock United Reform Church

Giffnock United Reform Church- roof structure and lightscape

As it was nearing the end of the Doors Open Day we did not have time to go to other places,but made a mental note of others to go and see. A little further up the road is a new supermarket called “Whole Foods” which sells organic produce, and had picnic tables outside. It was actually very warm for a September day, we sat outside and had a picnic after a wander around the store (it is quite differently laid out from most supermarkets, and the outside is all timber cladding with community information and cycle routes displayed.. not really Doors Open Day related but in the spirit of urban wandering we had a nosey http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/giffnock ). Their “dog park” amused me.

Pet Stop

Pet Stop


Oh what a feeling, gazing at the ceiling…

This weekend was weekend 3 of Doors Open Days in Scotland, chose to explore my own turf as Glasgow has a wealth of architectural goodies for our delight.

I had perused the brochure so many times prior to the weekend that I was surprised that I was surprised by some of the buildings we saw, I knew some were further away than others so we had planned out some routes beforehand.  This weeks mode of transport was the bus, £4.00 for an all day City ticket for First Bus.  This takes you all around Glasgow  for the one price, buy a ticket on the bus (no fuss, says the advert).

From town to our first building it was the number 56 to Red Road.  This was a great way to spend the first part of the morning, fascinating to see this for several reasons.  Firstly, this set of buildings is actually due to be knocked down shortly, therefore it is both a “last chance” and a “must see” Doors Open wise.  Two flats on the 23rd floor have been opened up for Doors Open Day, and have also been serving as a community flat where residents have been creating art works and working with different organisations on Red Road related projects. There were some eerie photographs of part of the flat complex which had been abandoned, coupled with lots of inspirational and moving tales of life in the flats and the story of residents.  One artist had created some work based around all the places she had lived, purely by cutting the black paper to form beautiful and intricate designs showcasing how she saw these places.  Sam Bunton and Associates 1964  original plans for Red Road were on display, this was a good chance to see how the designs were planned out.  I find it fascinating to see plans for buildings (old and new) so you can see changes over time and trace back the historical development of the spaces and places which make up our contemporary urban environment.


Read me, act on me!

Views from Red Road are outstanding; the 23rd storey offers views back into the City centre, over parts of the East End and towards East Dunbartonshire.  We could almost see another building which we were visiting later that afternoon, City of Glasgow College in North Hanover Street.

Red Road Lines


One view, Red Road

Red Road

Red Road geometry

Number 23

Floor 23, open for all to see

Back into town on the 12, we took a peek at the Merchants House.  This is just off George Square and has the grandest wallpaper I have ever seen, gilded and golden yet  dark with aging through the years.  It was quite a dramatic backdrop to the large rooms and assorted papers on display.   In the main room there was a video showing, which I listened to while staring upwards; “MHG” in gold letters with moulded plasterwork and beautiful columns, together with wooden panels around the room celebrating the generous legacies left for the people of Glasgow.

Merchants House Glasgow

MHG, Merchant's House Glasgow

The Tron Church was not listed in the Doors Open brochure but was displaying its banner outside.  I remember work being done on this building and I had been meaning to go and see it, the Tron is a church so is open for worship (and nosy people who like architecture) most days.  I was glad that we did go and see this building as it was really interesting.  The interior is very modern on the ground floor with moveable seating, colour co-ordinated decor, a large etched glass screen and big multimedia panels.  Upstairs one gets a better view of the ceiling and the stained glass, and a mixing deck!  Sitting in the curved wooden seating, again colour co-ordinated, one can take in the space and grab a bit of peace.  In this building it felt like there was a kind of photographic trail, follow the photographs to discover what the building used to look like, the story of the repairs and changes which were made, and its current appearance.  The view out onto Buchanan Street was also rather lovely, nice frame.

View of Buchanan Street from the Tron Church

Windows on Buchanan Street from the Tron Church

We decided to visit the Tobacco Merchant’s House next, home of the Scottish Civic Trust (those lovely people who help co-ordinate Doors Open Days, among other things!).  The building was so busy that we had to queue to read the information boards at one point.  It was really interesting to see the old maps of the City, I love old maps, how Miller Street has changed. It is fascinating to read the building descriptions on the maps, and try and spot things you recognise.  Upstairs we played the “where is this” game, it was great to see all the PhotoArch pictures in one place (this was a competition for children to take photographs of their local environment, so many talented photographers).  We managed to name quite a few places and buildings, there were some particularly stunning images of the Glasgow School of Art and I really liked the ones of  McManus Galleries in Dundee.  It gave us lots of ideas for places we would like to see and revisit on other weekend wanders, and also the new plaque outside declaring Glasgow’s 50 favourite landmark buildings reminded us we had a further future challenge on our hands, should we choose to accept it!

glasgow landmarks tobacco merchant's house

A Glasgow landmark

City of Glasgow College roof from their North Hanover Street Campus; we seemed to see new things every time we looked out at the view.  It was good to try and spot features which we recognised, it’s amazing how your mental map of a city is constructed around certain things and it’s not until you are getting such a unique perspective on it that you think “what are my landmarks?”.  Landmarks may not actually be particularly architecturally fantastic (not naming any particular city centre buildings which have won Carbuncle awards), but they do point the way to orientate your senses.  Things are not always in the direction you think they are!  I discovered how to use the panoramic function on my camera, do you like the results? (More over on Flickr).


North Hanover Street City Panorama (click to view larger)

We walked along George Street and Duke Street via Sanfranglasgow… more American street additions, courtesy of Cloud Atlas.  This is only a few weeks after Philaglasgowia!  Glasgow Film Office are very busy promoting Glasgow as a good place to film.


Sanfranglasgow; BBY bank mixed with the Royal Bank of Scotland for the filming of Cloud Atlas

Kirkhaven Wellpark Enterprise Centre was next for our viewing pleasure.  Here we learnt about the work of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust in creating a community office, enterprise and meeting space in two fantastic blonde sandstone buildings (and how to join buildings in an unobtrusive and innovative manner).  The knowledgeable tour guide took us to the main entrance to view the spire and exterior, noting that both buildings used to be used by the local community and those who worked in the Tennants factory (our next stop).  The palmettes on the church are vey Alexander “Greek” Thomson.  The title of this blog post comes from the absolutely awe inspiring ceiling in the Enterprise Centre; I had never seen it “in the flesh” before, and no photograph could really do it justice.  Even the archways were beautifully patterned. The offices within this space use glazing, stained timber and steel, there is a beautiful feel within the atrium meeting area.  If you are in need of an office, here is the place to have it.

Contemporary stair

Contemporary stair

Ceiling and office space


plaster at wellpark

This visual feast is making me dizzy!


Seriously, wow!

Tennants Brewery were offering tours, which we managed to book in time, we learnt that they had owned and run this site since 1885 and currently even includes a Training Academy where people who work in hospitality can learn bar management, catering skills and all about different wines and spirits.  I liked their painted tile mural on the gates, it showed the early days of the brewery through to the current times, and included an elephant.  At the end, we got to sample the product, and look back to the Wellpark Enterprise Centre.

Wellpark to Wellpark

Wellpark to Wellpark

Following a day of Doors Open, we chose to do the “alternate tourist bus” as we had our all day ticket; the Inner Circle bus (numbered 89/ 90) goes all the way around Glasgow but does not go via your usual tourist spots, if you went all the way around you would:

  • get great views over Glasgow
  • see a lot of regeneration areas
  • Hear and see the Glasgow Tigers speedway
  • Be able to do the “can you hold your breath all the way through the Clyde Tunnel?” challenge
  • See three football stadiums…..
  • feel the Luv in Linthouse (yummy cupcakes, nice art)
  • be able to go for lunch in the fabulous converted tram shelter in Langside
  • be smiled at by the Paisley Road Toll angel 🙂

The first stop for us on Sunday was the “Glasgow House”, a development by City Building and Glasgow Housing Association (GHA).  This is an exciting project which aims to provide homes with low heating costs, innovative design and sustainable building materials.  There are two types of homes, built as prototypes using different materials.  These have both been used as training facilities with the Construction Academy, where there is also a showcase of the elderly care homes of the future.  The Big Red Truck was interesting too, lots of videos of flat demolitions and stories from residents of different communities where GHA have housing.

Govanhill baths was next.  The volunteer guides here should win awards for their good patter and knowledgeable enthusiasm.  Quite a project and such a great community building, now managed by the Govanhill Baths Community Trust who plan to turn it into a wellbeing centre, art space, cafe and community place.  If you happen to have a spare penny or to, help them out, they are great!

holes on the stone

What causes this....? Go on the tour and find out!

Painted pool sign for Govanhill baths

Soup song and swally

Soup song and swally

Arty reflections

Take a seat for the swimming show (or community event)

Swim sign

Bath 9

Baths roof

Turkish bath patterns

Turkish bath patterns

An invitation to sing

An invitation to sing

Sing along...

A lovely walk up Victoria Road through Queens Park from the Govanhill pool led us to the Queens Park viewpoint.  This meant we had experienced three different panoramic viewpoints over the city within two days.  The view from here is rather spectacular and you get some good exercise walking up the hill to get there.  The Langside heritage trail and Queens Park heritage trail both pass through this route, and the glass houses are lovely, one forgets how lucky we are to have them, in other cities tourists may flock to see them, especially as one of them has a small collection of animals, and a cactus collection for the more horticulturally minded.  I made friends with a mynah bird, I like the noise they make (he was fairly quiet until I whistled, then he “talked” back which started a trend of other people having conversations with him too).  There was also a very photogenic African grey parrot.  He followed my camera around.

Queens Park glasshouse roof

African grey parrott

African grey parrot... very photogenic

Queens Park view

Queens Park view (click to enlarge)

Queens Park to Red Road

Queens Park to Red Road

Hampden Park was great, it is certainly not every day you can say you have scored a goal at Scotland’s national stadium!  We got to take the route which a team takes from arriving at the stadium to lifting the cup and also heard tales of concerts and bands and fans.  It also occurred to me that I had stood in two national stadiums in a week, given that at that time the week before I had cycled through the middle of Murrayfield.  Someone I know has said to me “you have such interesting weekends”, with experiences like this I can wholeheartedly agree.

Hampden reflections

Scotland's national football stadium

Scotland's national football stadium (click to enlarge)

Hampden roof

Hampden roof

Sloans was the last Glasgow building for the weekend; the decorative tiles featured in the brochure drew us in.  These tiles are rather beautiful, and the ballroom upstairs is also well worth a look.

Sloans tiles

Sloans tiles

Faces in Sloans

Faces in Sloans

So, what a day, what a weekend, Glasgow Doors Open, always much to see.

Stained glass and stars

On Saturday 10th September it was time for another Doors Open Day, this time weekend 2 was Renfrewshire, so we chose to re-visit Paisley and its many buildings of interest.  For this travel trip, Arriva buses were the day ticket of choice as it meant other Renfrewshire towns and villages were all in reach for the bargainous price of £2.60.

Started the day at the Abbey, that most famous of Paisley landmarks.  I have been here before to go up the tower (I can highly recommend this viewpoint, you can see for a long way over Renfrewshire, back to Glasgow and beyond.  The weather on this particular day was not really in our favour, so chose to stay indoors).  In sitting down to draw the stained glass windows in the East I became utterly fascinated by the shapes within shapes found within the window.  The window was designed by Douglas Strachan in 1931 and encompasses imagery from various biblical tales. A helpful guide noticed my gazing and offered me a guidebook to look at which explains all of the windows within the Abbey.  I became engrossed in the history and evolution of the various windows, from a William Morris example of 1864 up to more recent additions.  There is even one window which has a beautiful rainbow.  The guide told me that when the sun shines through the glass it makes beautiful shades of colour on the Abbey flagstones.  being quite a visual person, I can imagine this quite vividly and formed a “to be” artwork in my head, inspired by the various shapes and colours of the windows.

Abbey stained glass

Light through yonder window..

At the Town Hall there was a very informative and interesting film of the Abbey drain excavations.  Why does the drain not just go in a straight line?  Glasgow University archaeology department are researching the area and also working with local schools to carry out excavations and recording work.  I always think it is great when local communities can get involved in historical research and archaeology.  It’s one of the things which inspired my interest when I was wee.  I’ve always wandered about from a fairly early age with a bit of a sore neck from looking up at interesting buildings, or from having my nose in a sketchbook or guidebook.  I notice I-spy books have recently been re-released, I reckon architecture and archaeology would be a great subject for one of those.  Maybe I should write and suggest it?!?  In Glasgow Tourist Information centre they are presently giving away “I-Spy Scottish Nature” books, written with Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, promoting Scotland’s National Nature Reserves.  5 points for a blackface sheep, 10 points for a crag.  How many are crenellations worth, do you think?

The Town Hall has beautiful columns and is a great venue which holds events all year round.  I wonder how many people look up at the ceiling and its chandeliers, or take in the corinthian columns?  It is connected to the Clark family, like many of the buildings open this weekend, and their crest appears on the gates and railings.

doors open

Doors Open on the gates

A hoof up the hill to Oakshaw reveals an architectural delight, this is part of the conservation area and has stunning views back towards Glasgow and rather idyllic cobble set paved alleyways with housing and The Observatory and Neilson Institute both have large distinctive domes.  I have always wanted to have a nosy at the Neilson buillding as the first time I went to Oakshaw I actually thought it was the Observatory due to its dome!  Inside, this former educational facility (set up by a rather wealthy grocer, what a generous legacy) is now converted into flats.  The central atrium is a huge light space, beautifully decorated and quite awesome.  By day it serves as the communal entrance space for the flats.  By “Doors Open Day” it serves as a rather nice place to stop and stare, and imagine what it would be like to own one of the beautiful properties.  One of them was advertising for sale, a mere £155,000, but not having this spare change, we continued our wander around and admired the exterior.  There was an intrepid cat perched on one of the windows in one of the flats, windows open day?

cat in a window

Cat chooses to celebrate "Windows Open Day"

The weather was improving so we headed down the hill hoping to take a wander up the Thomas Coats memorial baptist church tower; sadly the crown steeple was closed but we still had an amazing tour of this gothic marvel.  The knowledgeable volunteers told us the story of the restoration of the beautiful stencilled plasterwork (the Lord’s prayer is written around the walls, accompanied by delicate nature inspired patterns). In the corridors surrounding this room, the original plasterwork and stencilling can be seen.  I have never seen a church with this sort of stencilling before.  Does anyone else know of any others?  Another guide pointed out some of the strange faces and creatures which are built into the woodwork screens whose intricate carvings are spectacular, hours and hours of work.  The whole building took over nine years to complete, what workmanship!

Coats plaster

Next stop was Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, another Coats family gift to the town.  There is so much to see in this building and we really only had time to explore the temporary “Glasgow boys” exhibition.  I was unaware that they had such a large collection of work, it was great to be able to see a selection of work in place (Kelvingrove in Glasgow also has a good selection).  The colours in the paintings are fantastic.

The Observatory was offering tours, and there is a courtyard garden link from the Museum.  The Coats Observatory has beautiful stained glass, including images of Galileo, stars, astrological constellations, an owl and a spider and also houses a working ororary. The view from the top of the observatory is also very impressive, you can see all the way to the top of Barshaw park hill  A group of very knowledgable people were on our tour, they all knew the answers to the guides questions about planets and the solar system. Clearly, in my brian, this former school science knowledge has been misplaced by random architectural facts as I learnt a lot both from our guides and the tour attendees!  I am definitely going to revisit the Observatory for one of their evening tours to observe the stars through the telescope. Our guide told us it is one of the few publicly open observatories in the UK.. where are the others?

observatory glass

Observatory glass

The library is next door to the museum and observatory, again a Coats building, they had a very entertaining exhibition on Scots words.  I thought of a fellow Twitterer (@geminica) who had been visiting Scotland recently and learnt some Scots words.    Humstrung and Nyaff, anyone?

The Threadmill Museum at Mile End Mill was next on our list (following a thoroughly reviving beverage at the well named Cardosi’s espresso bar).  Renfrewshire Doors Open Day had kindly provided a small printed childrens passport for the weekend, I amused one of the museum staff by asking for a stamp in my sketchbook.  Many many years ago I had the equivalent for National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties.. you collected a printed stamp when you visited a property and kept them in a booklet.  My inner philatelist was clearly eeking its way out and I discovered that the stamp people collected was a beautiful image of the European logo for Doors Open Day.

One of the albums on display in the museum had photographs of the mill in various stages of redevelopment (and dereliction), the original scale of the whole complex was clear to see when walking from Mile End Mill to Anchor Mill, where original buildings stand side by side with new developments. In Anchor Mill there are several display boards which show the conversion of the buildings into residential use.  We watched the dramatic sky through the rooflight, and looked at local artist Marie Hay’s  Paisley paintings and prints.  Bought a beautiful limited edition black and white print of the Abbey, a nice way to remember the day!  The bridge outside this building used to be used by the mill workers and has been fairly recently restored.  It offers good views of Anchor Mill, I felt drawn to the reflections.

Took a quick peek in the fire station on the way to another building, many community stalls and music (and doors open on a fire engine!).  There was a hive of activity at the Wasps studios; drawing in graphite with eyes closed but faces to picture and also thumb pots and clay stamps. Great fun. I like it when shops are used for creative purposes.  Wasps are a fantastic organisation, providing space for artists in rather interesting buildings.  They are open for Doors Open Day Glasgow too… www.glasgowdoorsopenday.com , the Briggait is amazing and Hanson Studios in Dennistoun has a fantastic cafe, and is well worth a look (on their website http://www.waspsstudios.org.uk it lists artist open days when studios are open for viewing)

The Masonic Temple was open, this also used to be part of the mill buildings and had a canteen area for the mill workers.  Quite a grand setting with amazing painted glass.  Heading back into town, had a sneaky peek in the John Bull which is indeed an unusual art nouveau style pub, but it was standing room only as everyone else was also rather busy admiring the architecture… or similar, it was so busy that we went across the road to Castelvecchi.  Not in the brochure, but a great chippy with cool decor, 50’s formica I believe.  Wandering around another part of the town we went to the Arts Centre (someone was belting out an Oasis tribute in the top floor bar).  This is a converted church with cafe, bar and performance space.   A good place to pick up leaflets in the daytime too (note to self, must try not to pick up own weight in “things to do” leaflets…).

So many buildings, not enough time!  It was well past Doors Open Time but we still felt like more wandering so we went to the pretty village of Kilbarchan. Have day ticket will travel!  A few weeks ago we had done a long walk around the countryside of this area, Renfrewshire Council have two splendid “walks around..” and “cycle tours around…” books which you can pick up in local Tourist Information Centres.  The walk around Kilwinning takes you up to Dampton pad which has great views, one would not imagine one was so close to urban connurbations when out in the rural surroundings.  There are beautiful churches and spectacular terraces of houses in Kilbarchan, and the Weavers Cottage (run by the National Trust for Scotland).. Doors Closed as it was well past 4pm but nice to admire outside anyway.  To finish our day we were treated to a spectacular full moon, a picturesque end to a lovely day out.

Bus moon

Bus moon

I’ve got the key…

Well, not really, but I did have a whole day exploring some of Ayrshire’s hidden gems often closed to the public, courtesy of Doors Open Day weekend 1 on the Sunday.  I spent the saturday with some of my friends doing our own architectural tour, stopped off at the Lighthouse for an awe inspiring view over Glasgow City Centre.

Travelling to Ayrshire from Glasgow can be a little on the expensive side, but not if you have an SPT daytripper ticket.  This lets you travel all over the old Strathclyde area, using many modes of transport.  On non Doors Open weekends, I tend to adopt this as somewhat of a challenge, using as many modes of transport to get as far as possible (yes, it is technically possible to do them all including bus, subway, train and ferry.. I will save this particular expedition for another blog post).

Day tripper

Day tripping

Back to Ayrshire, one of the best things about having a daytripper is the possibility of sitting on the top deck of the bus, on the big wean seats (for all non Glasgow-ers reading this, that means embracing your inner child and sitting at the front seat of the double decker bus at the top), also at getting on and off anywhere you like.  The scariest bit is scratching off the ticket foil though, no prizes if you accidentally scratch the wrong day!

This particular double decker bus journey was met with much fun views of people in tutu’s and all sorts of flourescent garb going along the Kingston Bridge as it was the day of the Great Scottish run.

On the way to Ayr I got a splendid view of the “Pure Dead Brilliant” Prestwick airport and flying man sculptures.  Does watching planes take off count as a mode of transport?  sadly, I don’t think Daytrippers are accepted on aeroplanes :-).  Just before the airport you get the most amazing view of the sea, Arran stretches out before you and the water glistens with a spectacular sense of joy. The West Coast of Scotland in the sun is indeed a beautiful sight to behold.

On the edge of Ayr we were greeted with play on words shop number 1, a nod to Ayrshire’s famous poet.  Do you think he enjoyed his fried goodies? This BBC website explains more.


Great pudding

Tempus fugit

Window glass

I have been to Ayr many, many times, but Doors Open Day gives a great excuse to go and have a nosy again.  There are a great number of architectural gems in the town, it’s amazing to think that a lot of people will only go to the shops and the beach and back and that’s it!   Arriving in Ayr bus station (actual mode of transport 1) one is met straight away with two buildings in the same street open for our delight.  The Scottish Episcopal Church of Scotland had their blue balloons out, waving at us from the end of the street.  The nearest property was the masonic hall, so we ventured in and upstairs.  What beautiful rippled coloured stained glass, originally from Newnham School.  Each part of the window was constructed from glass of a different texture, held together with lead cames.  The top parts had been changed to include various masonic symbols.  One of them said “tempus fugit” which if my Latin serves me well (I never did Latin at school, but I did learn “sinister dexter sinister dexter” while walking along the Roman Wall) means “time flies”.  Time does indeed fly, for how did it get to be September already?  Back downstairs we admired the building from the outside.

Holy Trinity church service was still on as it was a Sunday morning; we got to hear the choir belting out a hymn and the sound bouncing off the walls, what acoustics! Peeked in and admired the spaciousness, and also the beautiful vaulting in the ceiling of the porch area. There was also a beautiful door knocker, spikey ironwork (as featured in the blog entry “why I love September in Scotland (and it’s nearest neighbour)”.

Took a wander to the Tourist Information in Sandgate to pick up a map we could draw on and plot out the buildings we might see.  The TIC is in a beautiful limewashed building, not in itself a Doors Open attraction, but it’s truely spectacular vernacular.  You can’t help but stare.  The staff in the TIC are so helpful, they know everything about Ayr and will happily print things off their computer for you if needs be.  We picked up paper versions of the Doors Open brochures, and a number of “for later” leaflets about cycle routes and walking routes off the Ayr to Stranraer train line. My “Ayrshire and Arran: An Illustrated Architectural Guide” book (RIAS publications, by Rob Close… many places in Scotland have these guides and I’m still building my collection!) told me this property is “17th century onwards”.  Crazy crowsteps. There is also a sign on the building which explains the story of Lady Cathcart’s house.  John Louden McAdam, road engineer was reputedly born in this building, we had seen the remains of his works while doing the Ayr Way last year (near Muirkirk).  Just think, all those miles of motorway as a result of this building!

The Town Hall is beautifully adorned with Griffins.  There was an event on, “tea and tunes in the tower” so we were able to see inside.  There’s gorgeous civic stained glass, especially the Provost’s room.  Nearby 1930’s buildings in the High Street still have a painted “Burton’s” advert on.  Much to see and notice.

Stopped off for tea and tray bake at Ayr’s oldest restaurant, “the Swan” which has a nice view of the old bridge. Wickedly nice chocolate caramel, and yummy proper coffee.  The photos on the wall were also quite interesting, old Ayr very much in the frame.

The route which we chose to get to the “ten rooms” exhibition passed the covenanter’s grave, and offered beautiful views of the bridges, the river, and its noisy but pretty geese. We also passed two other amusingly named outlets, “Ar’Tea cafe and gallery” and “Neet Wheat” health food shop.

We spent quite a happy while wandering around “Ten rooms at Holmston House”.  I was particularly taken with the work of David Croft Smith (Journey 14 was colourful and striking, the video below shows some of his work), and loved the work of Ian McNicol.  Spectacular prints of all kinds, beautiful etchings and wood carvings, imaginatively arranged showing architectural features of buildings in Glasgow.  He had a programme out for Glasgow Print Studio, it makes me want to pick up my linocutting again.  Unusually for me, I did not do any drawing the whole day, I was too absorbed in the art and architecture! I love that handcrafted effect which you get from prints, where ink is not quite all there.  Some of Ian McNicol’s work is featured on their page  although this does not include the architectural images to which I refer.

St. Andrew’s Parish Church in Park Circus church was next on our list, a helpful guide told us all about the stained glass here (each lower window is different), and also the story of the steeple construction (a generous parishioner donated the funds to construct it). The upper floor balcony offered a good view of the main church, and a close up of the other glass, which is beautifully aged with little roundels teaming with light from the Ayrshire sun.

County buildings is half a sheriff court and half Council Offices.  i think if I worked there I would never get any work done, the view out of the windows and over the sea is fantastic! The rooms are all named after towns and villages in South Ayrshire, and the Council crest (with its motto chosen as a response to a competition for local people) is also seen in the flooring to the entrance area.  One of the most amusing features of this building was its bannisters, carved griffins or dragons invite you upstairs.  The gates are also quite impressive, framing the entrances off Wellington Square.

As closing time of Doors Open properties emerges, we retired to a lovely chip shop (well, chips always taste best by the sea!) and then decided to play pot luck with transport.  What was due next?  At the bus station we were met with a few queues but no pending buses, so we went to the train station and decided to get the first train which came. The view up the Clyde coast is beautiful, Arran and Cumbrae islands, golf courses and sparking sea.  It was o its way back to Glasgow, but far too soon to end our day so a lottery of stops ended up in Kilwinning.  We had never been there before and the guide told us that it had an 1187+ abbey which beats St Andrew’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in bulk.  What’s not to like? A monument which makes such claims is clearly worthy of a good nosy.  What we found was a beautiful mixture of a building, oh if stones could speak.  The aesthetics of eroded stone clearly on display and also some archaeological excavations underway.  One of the most striking features of the area around the Abbey was a particular grave which had the scariest yet most interesting carvings I think I have ever seen, sulking skulls.

The High Street has “The Mother Lodge”, red sandstone carving on a building which is the home of freemasonry. Having known next to nothing about this subject at the start of the day, here we had viewed two of these buildings in one day.

Here is a selection of Doors Open Day images from week 1 wanders.

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Why I love September in Scotland (and its nearest neighbour!)


Door knocker

Knock knock...

September is a busy and nosey month for all of us with a passion for architecture, art and design.  Doors Open DaysHeritage Open DaysScottish Archaeology Month.. here is a selection of various things I have done in years past…

  • Walked across the squinty bridge before it opened to traffic (Clyde Arc, Glasgow)
  • Stood on stage at the Armadillo and pretended to entertain the crowds (Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow)
  • Tried to discover the secret of Irn Bru (Irn Bru factory, Cumbernauld)
  • Seen how potatoes make their way to our plates (Albert Bartlett, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire)
  • Watched Greek Thomson paint schemes gradually being revealed (Holmwood House, Glasgow)
  • Discovered a hidden theatre (The Panoptican, Trongate, Glasgow)
  • Enjoyed a free dram and seen how it was made (Auchentoshan Distillery, nr. Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire)
  • Marvelled at a colourful Greek church interior and sampled its beautiful acoustics (St. Vincent Street church, Glasgow)
  • Been treated to one of the first tours of a new arts centre in Trongate (Trongate 101, Glasgow)
  • Seen inside an ice house (Bankhill Ice House, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland)
  • Climbed a Mackintosh tower (the Lighthouse, Glasgow)
  • Seen an innovative colourful extension and beautifully restored tiles at an art deco tyre factory (India of Inchinnan, Renfrewshire)
  • Had a taster meditation session (Bristol Buddhist Centre, Bristol)
  • Walked along to roof of Paisley abbey with a very fine view indeed (Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire)
  • Controlled traffic lights in the city centre (Traffcom, Glasgow)
  • Heard possibly the longest echo in the world (Hamilton Mausoleum, North Lanarkshire)

This is a European wide scheme, and there are worldwide equivalents, so do go and find one near you!