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: 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.

Around Australia: to Kalbarri and the Coral Coast


On the way back to Highway One from Denham there were a lot of wildflowers, but it was far too windy for flower photography. The overnight wind had brought a lot of cloud in. We did spot this raptor with a roadkill wallaby who was not too bothered by us passing by.

After coffee at the Overlander Roadhouse we saw the turn-off for the Butchers’ Track which was the track the camels used to bring the wool into Hamelin. We were soon back in farmland but with cereal crops rather than cattle. Our lunch stop was at a rest area by the Murchison River near the Galena Bridge. The older, lower bridge is still used by the local road to the rest area and campsite and the highway passes over the newer one. The old bridge was submerged in the flood of 2007. On the river were ducks, coots and a darter with a lot of flies in the air.

At the Kalbarri junction the scenic drive to Northampton begins. At first the road is on the plateau at around 200m altitude and after a few miles, enters the Kalbarri National Park. It then descends to the shore at Kalbarri where we spent the night in a quiet motel.

Kalbarri sits about halfway on the Coral Coast where the Murchison River Gorge reaches the sea. Our day began with a walk along the beach and then the pelican feeding which takes place from 8.45 to 9.15am every day. It has been going on since 1974 and is now undertaken by volunteers. They ask for a donation to cover the cost of the fish and the surplus is given to local good causes. Before the volunteer arrived, pelicans had started to gather in anticipation. They are Australia’s largest water bird.

Gulls were also hanging around hoping to catch something, but they were going to be out of luck.

Nine pelicans in all were there as the breeding season is now over.

Afterwards, we drove up to the National Park. There are several trails and lookouts over the gorge. We chose to do the short walk to Window Rock, one of the most popular.

There is a skywalk under construction at another outlook with a café and wheelchair access. This should be complete in early 2019. On the way back to town the wind had settled so flower and plant photography was in order.


Back in town we had coffee and a browse in the Book Nook, the bookshop near the shopping arcade. They stock secondhand books, accept donations and will give you some credit to spend in the shop if your donation will sell. They also have internet access. We donated two books and bought one. The coastal road continues south past several outlooks. Eagle Gorge also has a 1km walk to a secluded beach and the start of an 8km coastal trail. Further on we come back into farmland and then towards Port Gregory, the road runs alongside Hutt Lagoon. This was named Pink Lake by explorer George Grey in 1839. The pink colour is due to carotenoid-producing algae and is best seen in the middle of the day when the sun is high. It was even reflected on the clouds when we sawit. There is a large commercial plant on the lagoon shore and a mine nearby so there is only one parking place unless you take the side road to Port Gregory.

Past the lake we saw our first sheep since starting out.

The coastal road ended in Northampton, a town established in 1864 which is proud of its heritage. We then continued on to Geraldton. Yesterday we covered 230 miles and today 237 so out trip total is now 7,079.

Around Australia: Discovering Broome


We were back on Highway One on the 1st of October, heading west. The termite mounds seemed bigger and rounder here and it struck me that there must be a PhD in termite mound structures and sizes in Northern Australia if some entomologist has not already done one. Baobab trees and purple flowers on the verge began to reappear and we had driven 136km before we encountered any roadworks. By the time we got to the roadhouse at Willare, I was in need of caffeine. It has a café, but this was closed and only instant coffee was available. The roadhouse is next to a bridge over the Fitzroy river which eventually ends at the sea in Derby. We continued on to Broome. As it was not time to check into our hotel we drove to Gantheaume Point.

There are dinosaur footprints on the beach here, which are visible at very low tides. This was not due to happen during our visit and the information board at the point asks people not to attempt it as clambering over slippery rocks at the base of the cliffs can be dangerous. Today several people were swimming from the point and the Indian Ocean was a wonderful blue. There is a lighthouse here and the structure is a good nesting and perching site for birds.


In the late afternoon we drove over to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. The beach was named after the Australia to Java telegraph cable which emerged there. Sunset viewing is a very popular activity in high season. There are bars you can sit in or picnic on the grass or as we did, sit on a bench. 4WD vehicles are allowed on a certain area of the beach. Whichever option you pick, get there early to park & pick a spot. Cable Beach is 22km long so quieter places are possible. There are three companies offering camel safaris at sunset, late afternoon or morning. The beachside restaurants had queues outside after the sun went down so we drove back to the town centre to dine.

The following morning we explored China Town. Broome grew on the pearling industry which began in the 1880s. Hence there are several stores selling Broome pearls and others from around the Pacific. I did some early Christmas shopping in one store that had a sale. The prices of some jewellery is well into four figures. Later we stopped at Magabala Books, a publisher and bookseller of indigenous books. Had i not got my baggage weight at the end of the trip to consider I could have bought several. It has a good selection of children’s books. Plans for the rest of the day were cooling off in the pool and walking to the lost isolated brewery in Australia, Matso’s for a cold beer. One thing of note about Broome is that it is very spread out. You think something is just a couple of blocks away and then discover the distance. You either need your own wheels (car or bike) or to use the bus network to get around.