Round Britain: Anstruther to St Andrews


Scotland has been having some unseasonably warm weather in the last few days. On Tuesday it reached 24 degrees in Drumnadrochit and on Wednesday 25.8 in Kinlochewe which was hotter than Athens and the snowy mountains in Corsica. Our two days of driving back to the East Neuk of Fife to pick up where we left in April were plagued by closed roads, diversions and temporary traffic lights. The last few miles were through farmland where the oilseed rape was bright yellow under a blue sky and some of the potatoes were emerging. A lot of sheep were finding it very warm and I could imagine them wondering when they were going to be sheared.

Our first stop was Crail, the oldest East Neuk town. It was built around a 12th century castle and confirmed as a Royal Burgh in 1310 by Robert the Bruce. My last visit was on a primary school trip in the early 1970s. In medieval times it hosted one of the largest markets in Europe. There was much trade between Crail and Belgium and the Netherlands; delivering salted fish, linen and coal and bringing back pantiles which we were told were used as ballast. Nowadays the fishing boats bring in shellfish. The architecture of the East Neuk is characterised by crow-step gables, outside stairs and pantiles on the roof.

Heading out towards Fife Ness the road passes an old air field which was a Second World War Fleet Air Arm Station but now stands with redundant buildings and is used as a race track and to host car boot sales. At the end of the road is Crail Golfing Society which is the oldest golf club in the world, founded in 1786. There is a nature reserve on the shoreline but a height limit meant we could not park there. The golf club does allow non-players to park for £1 and a path leads down to the shore and Fife Coastal Path. There used to be a harbour at Fife Ness and a sea-beacon construction yard. This was where Robert Stevenson started to construct the first lighthouse in 1813. After five years it was almost complete when it was destroyed in a winter gale. The current low-level light dates from 1975.

There was a quay here and there is still evidence of what may have been a crane base on the rocks.

There was also a tide mill nearby and a coast guard station here since 1846.

The golf course prevents visiting Constantine’s Cave which is named after the Pictish king who is said to have been killed there by the Vikings. However, there is evidence that he died peacefully in St Andrews in 946. The cave has been used by various people over the centuries including early Christians and Fifeshire Volunteers in 1812 when there were scares over a possible French invasion.

Returning to Crail we continued towards St Andrews, stopping at Kingsbarns Distillery en route. It is outside the town, nearer to the Cambo estate. In addition to whisky, they also produce gin.

Our campsite is on the cliffs south of St Andrews and close to the coastal path where there are views over the East Stand to St Andrews.

The following morning was sunny but windier. We walked into town diverting onto the beach where the path was closed for repair.

Some of the old town walls are still in existence.

We wandered around the ruined cathedral which replaced the former St Rule’s Church and when it was consecrated in 1318, was the largest building in Scotland. The west front was completed in 1272 and then blown down by a storm. After consecration there was a fire in 1378 and it was again rebuilt. John Knox gave a sermon in the Holy Trinity Church in 1599 and during the reformation the church trappings were pulled down so that by 1600 it probably looked much like it does today.

Nearby is the ruined castle. It was here that the Protestant preacher George Wishart was burnt for heresy in 1546 at the request of Cardinal Beaton, the Archbishop. Also, in that year, a group of locals opposed to the Cardinal seized the castle. Eventually an armistice was achieved only to be followed by an artillery onslaught by the French fleet. In the 1550s it was rebuilt.

Coffee was had in the Northpoint Café whose claim to fame is that it was ‘Where Will Met Kate’. We left as students were emerging from an exam and loudly discussing their answers to the questions. Birds have been around us for much of the day. While we were breakfasting a goldcrest sat on the rowan tree at the back of the van, this gull was watching us in the street

We had lunch on a bench by the harbour sheltered from the wind.

A pair of house sparrows were feeding on worms by the water’s edge and then had a dust bath on the sandy path. A pair of Eider Ducks then landed in the harbour. We had also discovered a good secondhand bookshop and had a good chat with the proprietor who was originally from Stockport.

I recalled that while deciding which university to apply to, decided against St Andrews, partly because you could not complete the whole of your medical course there but also because coming from a small town, I wanted to go to a city and St Andrews was somewhere you took your granny on a Sunday afternoon. We have enjoyed our brief visit and tomorrow continue further around the coast.

Journeys into the past


My grandmother seemed to decide that I was to be the family archivist in the 1970s. She gave me a large number of photographs, letters from the First World War front that two of my great-great uncles fought in and letters from a relative in the USA to my great grandmother. Her father came from Ireland. A cousin had done some work on part of the family tree and this was passed onto me. Over the years I filled in many of the gaps and with the help of relatives, and the ever-increasing availability of information on the internet, now have got back as far as 1588 with the exception of the Irish relatives. James is from Northern Ireland so on a recent trip to visit his family we decided to delve further into his family tree as we had relatively little information. The major problem with Irish records is that so many public records were destroyed in the 1916 Easter Uprising. Volunteers have been digitising church register information and other information is already online. Our first step was talking to relatives, finding out if there was a family bible which often had names and dates of birth of all family members (there was not one) and then visiting the various graveyards where we were told some ancestors were buried.

In total we visited four and on the next rainy day I will start to plot out the tree and double-check what we have.

Mountstewart is an estate that used to be the home of the Marquess of Londonderry but is now under the care of the National Trust. We had been there previously so had a quick look at the house and devoted the rest of our time to the garden. Our last visit was late summer so this time it was good to see tulips and Tree Peonies blooming.


A range of animal sculptures sit along the top of the garden wall. This pig is one of them.

Across the road there are views across Strangford Lough.

On our last day we decided to pay a visit to Derry, a city neither of us had visited previously. The 400-year-old city walls stand up to eight metres high and are almost one mile around, making them the most complete city walls in Ireland.

The station is across the Foyle river from the walled city but there is a free bus link to the bus station which is near the shopping centre. We began our walk on the walls at New Gate which is near a bastion containing cannons.

Ferryquay Gate is one of the original four gates and led down to a ferry which used to cross the river. The Guildhall is nearby.

St Columbs Cathedral was built in 1633, one of the first after the Reformation and the oldest building in the city.

St. Augustine’s Church is known as ‘The Wee Church’ and was built on the site of an abbey which St Columba constructed around 543AD before sailing over to Iona in 563AD. It has been rebuilt a number of times until the last in 1872.

There are views all around: over to the Bogside

…and to St Eugene’s Cathedral

We spotted a bookshop near the Craft Village.

Foyle Books is run by a retired French teacher. It has a huge selection of Irish books and others. I picked up one on ‘Difficult to Translate Words and Phrases’ and had a chat with him about this. I had noted that French does not have a word for ‘iceberg’ and we agreed that had they remained in Canada for longer, they might have had one. He also told me that Irish Gaelic has no swear words and so use English ones. My other find was a Hungarian phrasebook which I have been looking for for a couple of months in preparation for our trip to Budapest alter this year. So far in both new and second-hand stores I had had no success. However, this shop had three different ones. I also spotted a book produced by another small society; there seem to be so many devoted to what appear to be minor interests. I had previously come across the Pylon Appreciation Society, but this was a book on British Piers published by The Piers Society which I had not heard of before. Along the wall outside the Millennium Forum is an Anthony Gormley sculpture. There were originally three but the others have ended up overseas.

To return to the station we crossed the Peace Bridge which was opened in 2011.

There is then a footpath/cycle route back to the station although some work was being done on part of it. We could have spent much more time here – there are several museums and plenty of culture. That will have to wait for another trip.

Around Australia: reacquainting myself with Melbourne


When I was in Melbourne in 2004 I was living out of town or in one of the suburbs north of the river and working at a university campus in the west of the city. On this visit, I decided to stay in the centre. We spent our first day just wandering around. Very close to our hotel was a Pop-Up Bookshop selling off their stock. The Department stores are all full of dresses and hats for the Melbourne Cup and racing season. Christmas puddings, mince pies and Christmas cards are appearing, and a fake reindeer was being carried over to Federation Square. Up the hill, Flagstaff Gardens is one of the oldest gardens in the city. I had noticed there and at other places, trees are wrapped in metal around the trunk. This may be to prevent non-native creatures climbing up and attacking native wildlife. Some people there were having a morning Tai Chi session. Down the hill a little, near the courthouse we saw a long queue of lawyers in their robes and others waiting to get in. We have always thought our courts have short hours (10-4 usually) but this was 10.25 and the queue was not moving quickly. Back on Flinders Street, Hosier Street is well-known for street art.

but there are numerous other examples around the city. At the Birrarung Marr by the river there are a number of sculptures including this one entitled ‘Angel’ by Deborah Halpern in 1988.

There were a few birds on the river, mainly ducks and gulls but this Little Pied Cormorant, one of Australia’s most common water birds, was sitting on the bank.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a good selection of work by local artists up to the present day. There was a large exhibition entitle ‘Polyverse’ by LA-based and Melbourne-born artist Polly Borland who works in Cibachrome photography and tapestry.

In the 19th and 20th century gallery I particularly liked this almost impressionistic landscape by Sidney Long in 1905

and this painting Echuca Landscape by Fred Williams in 1962.

We had dinner with some friends in the evening. The following morning, we walked up Elizabeth Street to the Queen Victoria Market. It is the largest in the southern hemisphere and you can certainly get most of the food you would need here as well as many other things. Near our hotel on Flinders Street is the remains of an old bookshop which has certainly been liberated.

Fortunately, on the opposite side of the street is City Basement Books which is a great place for good quality secondhand books. The afternoon was spent on a two-hour cruise along the Yarra River. The first hour’s journey was under some of the low bridges in the city centre that can only be sailed under at low tide and out to the port.


After a lot of driving it was very relaxing to have someone else doing the driving and navigation while we just relaxed and watched the city float by. A lot of new buildings have been constructed along the harbourside since I was last here and Federation Square looks quite different.

The second hour is spent going in the opposite direction upstream, past the stadia, botanic gardens and up as far as Herring Island.

On our return to the berth near Federation Square, dozens of rowers and canoeists were on the river making it very tricky for our skipper to turn around and get into position at the berth.

After sunset the city centre looks good at night.

This is Flinders Station:

I particularly liked the poster on the front of St Patrick’s Cathedral ‘Let us Fully Welcome Refugees’.

Tomorrow we must leave and complete the last few days of our journey.

Around Australia: Apollo Bay to Melbourne


Last evening some bikers arrived at the motel with very noisy bikes. I had hoped that they would not be leaving too early in the morning and was relieved that it was 8am before they zoomed off. We returned to the Great Ocean Road, our first stop being at Cape Patton lookout. It is one of the highest on the road. The road was completed by soldiers who had returned from the First World War. It hugs the rock face very closely in places and must have been very challenging work given the lack of machinery at that time.

Further on is a memorial and grave. The ship WB Godfrey was built in Greenock and was wrecked along the coast here on a voyage from San Francisco to Melbourne in 1891. This is all that can be seen of the wreck which now supports molluscs and other marine life.

Those on board survived but several people trying to salvage the cargo afterwards did not. At Artillery Rocks which is between Jamieson and Wye rivers, a guy was fishing with six rods. I have not been able to find out why they are called Artillery Rocks. The many holes in the rocks could resemble bullet holes. At Lorne we found the perfect combination: Moons Espresso & Juice Bar next door to Lorne Beach Books which has a very comprehensive and well organised selection of new books. I could have come out with a pile but have to think of my baggage allowance on the way home. The one we had finished reading in Apollo Bay was donated to the local Men’s Shed: an organisation which addresses mental health and well-being in men.

There were a couple of interesting signs here:

And a variant on ‘don’t’ feed the sea gulls’

This part of the coast has good waves and is known as the Surf Coast. At Lorne beach surf school was underway and others were attempting to get going.

The road was fairly quiet and at numerous points work is going on to stabilise the cliffs and prevent landslides and rockfall. A particularly winding section is known as Devil’s Elbow. It winds down to a beach at Spout Creek. Our next stop was Aireys Inlet where a small sanctuary around a pool has a number of birds. I spotted a number of Pacific Black Ducks and this male Superb Fairy Wren. His more dapper lady friend was hiding in the undergrowth.


We then drove out to Split Point Lighthouse

and Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary.

We had lunch near Point Roadknight Beach and I had a wander along it afterwards.

I am not sure what the significance of this metal hoop with yellow ribbons hanging from it, dangling one the bushes behind the beach.

At Torquay, the decision was made to head to Queenscliff, take the ferry to Sorrento and the slow road round Port Philip Bay to the city rather than the freeway from Geelong into Melbourne. The crossing only takes 40 minutes.

14 years ago, I had decided to go across to Sorrento one weekend and do some walking in the National Park on the headland. Unfortunately, a storm followed me across the bay and by the time I got off the ferry in Sorrento it was raining so I abandoned my plans. We got into the city eventually (my navigation app did not know that you cannot come over the bridge and turn right onto Flinders Street between 3pm and 7pm Monday to Friday) and parked the car up for a couple of days.

Around Australia: sampling a little of Adelaide.


We spent our first evening in Adelaide with friends and the following morning set out to sample a little of what the city has to offer. Nearest to our hotel was the Central Market which has more than 250 stalls. The Mettwurst Shop satisfied James’s craving for kabanos. In addition to food, fruit and vegetables, there are others. I had to stop at the pop-up bookshop and found one to buy.


On North Terrace there is an old and antiquarian bookshop and several others around the city. Walking north we reached the South Australian Museum on North Terrace. It is exhibiting the entries and winners of the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year which accepts photographs taken in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea. I could not select one I like best out of all those on display but there is a public vote for their favourite. After the exhibition we looked at one of the other galleries: The Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. As you enter, Norman B Tindale’s map of Aboriginal Australia is on display.

It shows the territories of over 250 Aboriginal groups at the time of European arrival and took him 50 years to produce. It was published in 1974 and challenged the myth of terra nullis. The boundaries are fluid and have changed over time, but it was an extraordinary achievement.

Nearby is the migration museum. This has a number of displays illustrating migration to South Australia from the earliest European contact to modern times. The impact on the indigenous people is not forgotten. For example, this description of the experience of the Kauna people who came into contact with the first European settlers. They thought they were visitors like the whalers and sealers they had met before. However, the Europeans fenced in and claimed land and excluded others. They destroyed the food sources and brought their own animals, alcohol and disease. After 10 years the immigrant population was 23000 and the Kauna reduced to 300. This was replicated in numerous communities.

By the rear exit is a sculpture by artist Tim Thomson created in 2007: the British Child Migrant Memorial to those shipped to SA between 1912-1970. Prior to our visit to Australia in 2011 I had read the book by Margaret Humphries ‘Oranges and Sunshine’. She was the British social worker who in 1987 had uncovered the forced child migrant programme while working in Nottingham. Many children, often those of unmarried mothers and broken families, were shipped to Australia and often subject to forced labour or sexual abuse in workhouses. Parents were told their children had been adopted. I met someone on the Indian Pacific Train who told me that he was one of those children. I had not expected to meet one, but he did not want to talk about that: he was a Jehovah’s Witness who asked me if I had read the Watchtower.

The art gallery is nearby but I needed to get outside for a while so we wandered back towards Victoria Square where 19th century buildings sit amongst the modern ones.

Our evening meal in a no frills restaurant in Chinatown which was very popular with the Chinese Community. I had a glass of wine with my food and a guy at a neighbouring table gave me the rest of his bottle when he left. There is no end to Australian generosity. Back at the hotel it was time to get organised for the morning departure to Kangaroo Island.

Around Australia: Port Lincoln to Adelaide


Our last morning in Port Lincoln saw us heading up the hill to Winters Hill Lookout for views over the town and Boston Bay.

Back in town we had coffee on the waterfront while waiting for the Book Bazaar to open. It is a secondhand bookshop which raises funds for local charities. It has a large selection of books which are very well organised and some antiquarian and collectors’ books. We found a couple to keep us going (one on the Camino de Santiago which I would like to do one day).

It was then time to get back on the road up the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. This road is called the Lincoln Highway but is certainly not the one we drove two years ago from New York to San Francisco. I am not sure when this one got its name. After passing through North Shields, our first stop was Tumby Bay. Just off the highway is a silo mural created by Martin Ron from Argentina assisted by Matt Gorrick. There is a car park and path with picnic tables. Someone had helpfully written on the notice that the best view is from the end of the path.

Tumby Bay has a local art group and some street art has been created on various walls in the town by different people. There is also a 10km white sand beach which was almost empty when we arrived.

The most southerly mangrove stand is here with a boardwalk and there are other paths and a couple of museums. It was time to press on. The water main runs alongside the road for much of the route. We stopped for lunch at Arno Bay. The wide estuary here is mostly dry at this time of year except the creek amongst the mangroves.

There are also mudflats and areas covered with samphire. I heard a few birds, but fishing is more important here than wildlife. There are several jetties along the boardwalk and you are also allowed to kayak but not use motorised craft.

Further north is Cowell, a coastal town which was more 19th century buildings on the main street than most of the others on the peninsula. James wondered why they needed a pharmacy but as I had seen three mobility scooters in the short drive down the street, I suspect there is a large elderly population here. There is an agricultural museum with lots of old machinery outside and the Viterra grain silo every town here seems to have. The oldest and a large deposit of nephrite jade was found in nearby hills in 1965. The Jade Motel on the way back to the highway has souvenirs and jade jewellery for sale. After Cowell the land seemed drier and ranges of hills appeared west of the highway. Closer to Highway One is Iron Knob where the first iron ore in Australia was found in 1894. Current deposits in nearby mines supply the ore for the steelworks in Whyalla, our destination for that night. Whyalla is said to get 300 days of sunshine every year and the temperature climbed to 37 degrees before we arrived there. Prior to 1978 shipbuilding was a major industry but now it is steel production and mineral salt processing. The hotel we stayed in is owned by two former footballers and there was a big focus on drinking and betting. There were even betting slips on the restaurant tables. It was reminiscent of a hotel in Nevada we arrived at and could not find reception. Someone told us we had to go into the casino next door to check in.

Back on the road in the morning we had the water pipe again and the railway line alongside. Our first destination was Port Augusta which sits at the top of the Gulf with the Flinders Range behind. At the junction with the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs was the Standpipe Motel. I did wonder if it had any showers. The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden which is a short distance north of the town and has several trails among the trees and plants. We saw a few emus at a distance and a crested pigeon. The garden also has sculptures including this one by Warren Pickering.

It was very windy so I did not do much flower photography.

We had by now rejoined Highway One. We spotted a van parked at the side of the road with ‘men are like mascara: they run at the first sign of emotion’ written on the back. The road runs south with the sea on one side and the mountains on the left. At Port Pirie it turns inland. We saw communities named Bute and Lorne and at Lochiel, Nessie is on Lake Bumbunga, a salt lake.

Lunch was at Port Wakefield which has a memorial to Jack Brabham, a Formula One racing driver in the 1960s who won his first race there in 1955. The highway runs pretty far into Adelaide before any serious navigation is required so we arrived in good time. Over the last two days we have covered 422 miles bringing the trip total to 9,697 miles. The next day will be entirely on foot.

Around Australia: Cervantes to Bunbury


Cervantes was named after an American whaling ship ran aground in 1844 (several other ships have sunk or run aground here). Many of the streets are named after Spanish cities. Before we left we drove out to Thirsty Point. It is said to have acquired its name after fishermen sailing between Fremantle and Geraldton ran out of water at this point. There was a coastal surveillance look-out point here in the Second World War. Other than one fisherman, the beach was deserted. The islands offshore have sea lion populations, but we did not see any. Fishing is important along this coast evidenced by the large fish on the way in

and the fact that the only information board about local species at the point was on fish.

Further south is Namburg National Park which contains the Pinnacles Desert. You can drive around or there is a walking trail. We chose to walk and as well as the views from the lookout, also saw a flock of Galahs.



In the interpretive centre I learnt a little more about the quandong fruit photographed the previous day. It is related to sandalwood and takes nutrients from the roots of other plants as well as the soil. Emus love the fruit and the leaves were used by indigenous people to cure disease. The nut contains an oil that can be used as a moisturiser and early settlers used the skin to make jams and jellies. Nearer to Lancelin, we passed a sign warning drivers that ‘windblown sand may reduce visibility’ and shortly afterwards saw why: a mobile sand dune.

At Nambung National Park we had been told that our pass allowed access to other parks on the same day. As we passed Yanchep National Park, we decided to take a look and saw animals and birds. Many were having a snooze as it was the middle of the day.



Afterwards we continued to Perth where we were staying with friends and visiting relatives for a couple of days. We had some time in the city centre to explore Kings Park which has views over the city and the botanic garden. I discovered the names of some of the plants I had seen in Western Australia over the last few days and enjoyed some of the others. There is also a small indigenous art gallery which is also worth a visit.

We then walked back into town to visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia which has collections from the 19th century to the present day from Australian artists, artists from other countries who have worked in Australia, indigenous art and others. I particularly enjoyed an exhibition called Spaced 3: North by Southeast, which was the result of a three-year collaboration between Nordic and Australian visual artists. The only Nordic country not represented was Norway.

There is a secondhand bookshop in the city, Elizabeth’s. It has a blind date with books project underway at the moment. We found one book to buy.


After visiting relatives in Mandurah, we re-joined Highway One which is the Old Coast Road for a while before joining with Highway 2 to become the Forrest Highway to Bunbury. We had done 283 miles since leaving Cervantes and our trip total now 7,520. The forecast rain had begun as we arrived so evening walks along the beach did not happen.