After the Perfect Storm!

Invariably it takes time before the true damage and destruction that a storm has caused becomes obvious to us! With our 24 hour media coverage of news from around the world continually hitting our TV screens, yesterday’s, and the day before yesterday’s news, can quickly be forgotten.

At the end of November last year (26th-27th), ‘Storm Arwen’ swept across Scotland and parts of the UK with gusts reaching up to 100mph. It was headline news at the time, three people were reported killed, 9000 were left without power, roads were blocked and property damaged. However if you are like me you will probably have long forgotten all about it by now. However a few weeks ago we made our annual trip to the Trossachs for our drive around the ‘Three Lochs Forest Drive’ on the dirt road that passes loch Reoidhte, Drunkie and Achray, then that old news came alive again!

On approaching the gate to the forest drive, we were stopped by the park warden, who asked if we were regular visitors to the park, and when we replied in the affirmative, she went on to explain with some emotion, that areas of the forest had been devastated by Storm Arwen, so now we had been warned! Many of the fallen trees had since been removed, but nonetheless we were completely astounded by the extent of the damage!

Trunks of trees snapped like match-sticks.

It was a sad sight to behold, but thankfully many areas of the forest escaped unscathed, and were just as beautiful as ever.

The initial report suggested that up to 4,000 hectares of trees were destroyed, but that figure has now been doubled, which equates to about 16 million trees! It certainly changed the landscape, and the forests will take some time to rejuvenate themselves. I’ll leave you with one more photograph of one of our favourite picnic spots!

Our former favourite picnic spot!

Reflection: It has been said, that after disaster strikes there comes a time when we stop asking the ‘why’ question, and start asking the ‘what now’ question. And already it appears that foresters are thinking on how in the aftermath of the storm they can turn this situation around for the long term good of the landscape and wildlife. Tree diversity, dead trees left in place for insects and wildlife, fire gaps perhaps are some of the ideas. It takes time to work through these things, so the changes envisaged are unlikly to be seen in my lifetime, but they could in the end be for the better.

We are all aware of the many storms of a different kind that are sweeping across not just Scotland, but the world in these uncertain times. Ukraine, Tigray in Ethiopia being just representative of the many armed conflicts. Worldwide political storms, industrial storms, economic storms, energy storms, health service and the care sector storms ….. Watching TV and our news bulletins can be a very depressing exercise these days, and an increasing number of people are choosing not to bother, especially among the young, where TV is being abandoned and news is collected by means of social media.

One storm or crisis that the UK had to deal with recently was the sudden death of our much loved monarch and head of state Queen Elizabeth II. Yet it was a storm with a difference! There was much sadness expressed throughout the Kingdom, but so much love and respect was also shown by millions of citizens for this queen and her family, for she had reigned for 70 years! One housewife commented, ‘The Queen, she was lovely, everyone’s Granny’!’

One thing that came over loud and clear during the period of mourning and at the Church services was this woman’s Christian faith and devotion to God and her Saviour Jesus Christ, throughout her entire reign. Catherine Butcher’s book ‘Our Faithful Queen’ well illustrates this point. One episode in her life she records followed on from her 2011 Christmas address to the nations, when she said “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love”. Just a few short months later this picture showed that she was one who ‘practiced what she preached‘! This handshake between the Queen and ex IRA Commander Martin McGuinness played an important part in calming the storm that was tearing apart communities in Northern Ireland, and helped in the Irish peace process.

The Queen meets Martin McGuinness

So who do you and I need to forgive? not just in words but in some tangible action? It is such a life changing thing to do, not only for others, but for our own peace of mind and wellbeing. In the prayer Jesus taught us, these words are so significant ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’. If you have ever come to Jesus and asked for forgiveness for your sins, remember His forgiveness and peace are only possible because of His action, when he the sinless Son of God shed his blood for you. If you haven’t yet come, I would encourage you to do so. Then the storm that troubles your mind can pass, and who knows what God will do in our lives in whatever time we have ahead!

Wishing you every blessing as we enter the Autumn Season

Matthew

Colours Galore – Garden Joys and Surprises

Every Spring and early Summer I look forward with anticipation to see the outcome of all the things that have been planted in the garden and greenhouse. My earlier blog at the start of June showed photographs of Spring flowers and the early growth of vegetables in the greenhouse. So how did they all turn out? Well as always the results were mixed, but we keep persevering. Lately I have grown the large begonias, and they are lovely, but they unfortunately keep bowing their heads so they are hard to see and appreciate. Next year, all being well, I think I will give the dhalia’s a try. 🙂

Let’s start with summer flowers.

The fruit and vegetable side of the garden has proved quite productive, in spite of my earlier misgivings about my tomato plants. Four types of tomato were grown and they all produced a good crop. I also tried a new cucumber seed for smaller fruit and they were better than my expectation both in numbers and taste. Peppers were not so good as I had insufficient space in the greenhouse, so put them outside where they didn’t receive the care they deserved and were damaged by slugs and bugs! Those in the greenhouse did much better 🙂 We did get a bowl of gooseberries from two small bushes, which were stewed and sweetened and consumed with our morning cereal. Rhubarb was fertilised this year and gave us two crops for crumbles and pies.

Here are some of the results.

Other bushes and plants also brought some real colour and charm. This is the year of the hydrangeas I think, as they have been superb.

Look at me, dressed to impress!

Last year, this little Acer tree looked as if it was almost gone, but I decided to give it another chance and surprisingly it burst into life! It certainly needs repotted, but I am just awaiting the right time to do so! Everything and everybody needs another chance!

Finally, my willow tree at the bottom of the garden is not looking good this year. I saw the resident grey squirrel hanging upside down from one of its branches in early summer and I thought, is it chewing the tree bark? A neighbour commented that her apple tree was also looking poorly, so on checking on line I learned that squirrels eat the bark from trees and also use strips to build their dreys! So sure enough the bare patches on both tree barks seem like conclusive evidence! It’s the squirrel!

Reflection: Now we look forward to the Autumn colours, and the Spring flower planting, if all goes well. I’ll finish with the words of F E Pettingell 1899

Through the changing seasons, of the changing year, with its light and shadow with its hope and fear. Through each glad fulfilment, and each sad defeat, we have safely journeyed, and again we meet. Through this changing year, by His guiding providence we assemble here.

Well many of you I have not yet met in person, but thank you for reading / following my blog, and by God’s grace and mercy, and through your faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to Him, we shall meet one day!

Enjoy what remains of Summer – Matthew!

Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

Most of us are creatures of habit, so we go on from day to day and week to week going through the same routines, whether it be at home or in our place of work. Seldom do we stop to consider, is there a habit, a diet, a shopping practice, a workout routine, or something else that I need to change? Would a better way of doing things enable me to achieve my goals, assuming that we have set some! With soaring prices for energy and food and with recession coming on, it is perhaps a good time to ask that question!

In industry they might say we need a ‘paradigm shift in thinking’! During my former engineering days I remember being part of a committee looking in detail at machinery we manufactured and its function, to see if we could manufacture it more efficiently or replace it all together by changing the system for which it was designed. But any ideas we had pale into insignificance when compared to the countless examples of ‘people ‘thinking outside the box’ in the fields of science, healthcare, space exploration, art and engineering, and almosy every other field of expertise that you could mention!

One example of ‘thinking outside the box, unique to Scotland and indeed the world, is the ‘Falkirk Wheel’, which we recently visited with friends from the Argentine!

The Falkiirk Wheel that links the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal’ (which sits 35 Metres above) allows vessels to sail through the sky thanks to an amazing piece of engineering and art! The energy to turn the wheel is said to be the equivalent of that used to boil just eight kettles of water!

We visited in summer, so the wheel was busy as many boats were passing through the canal. It’s a great place for a day out as there are loads of things to do with shops, museum, restaurant and toilets etc. You can try Archery, Mini Golf, Boating for kids or even a Canal Boat Ride that will take you up to the Union canal and back! We also took the advice on the notice above, and visited the Kelpies to feed the horses!

Admission is free to the Falkirk Wheel site and also the Kelpies, but if you travel by car there is a parking charge of £4.00.

Reflections: Thinking ‘outside the box’ can be a challenging experience in every area of life, not just in the making of things! Puting your new thinking into practice can often be life changing, and have implications for relationships and careers, and change our goals and path through life. I have recently read Prof. Neil Thomas’ book, ‘Taking Leave of Darwin‘ – A Longtime Agnostic discovers the Case for Design. In his prologue he speaks of being struck by the thought, that if a group of tenured academics and other responsible scientists could no longer support the claims of Darwinism on which the worldview of much of the West rests, then he must investigate the subject for himself. His detailed investigation which he spells out in the book is fascinating, bringing him to a conclusion which the title of his book well summarises – ‘Taking leave of Darwin‘. It’s certainly worth a read, but how will Neil Thomas’ book go down with his fellow peers and academics?

Another well known writer and agnostic David Foster Wallace, somewhat ‘rocked the boat’ by his speech in the US to the graduating class of Kenyon College in 2005 when he said, ‘You get to choose what you worship. Because here’s something that’s weird but true: in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god … to worship .. is that pretty much anything else you choose to worship will eat you alive.‘ He goes on then to speak of money, your body and beauty and sexual allure …power and intellect … ‘They are the kind of worship you just gradually slip into day after day … without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.’ (Emphasis added) His message was received with a loud round of applause. David Foster Wallace did not disclose who or what he worshipped, tho’ one might guess. And one must wonder if he had slipped into a worship he was warning others to avoid? Very sadly just three years later this talented young man committed suicide at the age of 46. It does raise the question, what god are you and I worshipping?

I think for many the day comes when we start wondering if life is passing us by, and we still have not found our true role, or meaning in life, or faced up to the fact of our mortality. Is it time for me to think outside the box? The story of Antartic Explorer – Ernest Shackleton’s advert for crew members perhaps illustrates the point.

MEN WANTED for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success. Ernest Shackleton

Five thousand men are reputed to have responded even although the terms were far from attractive, and the possibility of achieving the goals of the expedition were in doubt, with your life itself being in question. People desperate to find meaning in life?

Personally as most of my readers will know, I am a worshipper of the great Triune `God of the Bible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You may think that sounds like something for the weak, the old and the unsophisticated, and YES you are right, for God calls everyone – rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old, healthy and sick, everyone to come and follow Him. The terms Jesus the Son of God laid down for His followers is set out in these words of his –  Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? The early disciples were in their day accused of turning the world upside down. God still calls such men and women today! Every morning I read a Christian Mission magazine and am constantly amazed at what God is doing through ordinary people all around the world – amazing!

In a day when many people are looking for meaning and authenticity, Jesus offers the forgiveness of all our sins, relief from a guilty conscience, a new life in all its fulness, guidance and direction by his Spirit and through his Word. We can know an inner joy and peace, and a personal relationship with him, which will ultimately take us home to heaven – No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. How is that possible you may ask? Because the Son of God loved each of us, and gave himself for us. At the cross the great exchange took place, your sin placed on Christ, and if you come and confess that sin and give your life to Him, His righteousness becomes ours, so that exchange becomes a reality in a new life.

In the search for meaning and purpose we as Christians have found and believe that this is only possible when we find our rest in God.

Thinking of stepping ‘outside the box’?

Best wishes – Matthew

                                                            

The Pass of Brander, St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle

On my last blog I was writing about our day trip from Oban to the Isle of Staffa and our visit to Fingal’s Cave, but we extended our holiday by choosing on our third day to visit three very interesting stopping off places on our drive back to Glasgow.

The first stop, was at the Pass of Brander where in August 1308 Sir James Douglas and King Robert the Bruce led a successful attack on the MacDougalls, It has been said, this was the final battle of Bruce’s campaign in the North, during what is called ‘the ‘Wars of Independence’. The visit reminded me of my primary school days when ‘the Black Douglas’ and ‘King Robert the Bruce’ were our folk heroes as children. Many mock battles were enacted in the school playground with imaginary swords at our play times, after being told of their many exploits during our history lessons!

Stop two, was at Saint Conan’s Kirk, which is beautifully situated on the edge of Loch Awe, and here too there is an interesting history to consider. The Kirk is not far from the Brander battlefield referred to above. In fact inside you will find an effigy tomb of King Robert the Bruce, and one of his bones is also said to be buried here. The original Church was built in 1886 by Walter Douglas Campbell, who was one of nine children. He trained as an architect, and when his mother found the journey to the local parish church too tiring, he decided to build this church for her. By 1907 he started his Church extension to ambitious plans he had drawn up. Unfortunately he did not live to see its completion, but the Church was dedicated anew in 1930. You can read the full story on-line. Highly recommended for a visit if you are touring in the area.

Our last stop, was to visit Kilchurn Castle. A Castle we have photographed on many occasions, but never found the time to visit, but this time we did! The Castle was built in the mid 15th Century and became the home of the powerful Campbell Clan of Glen Orchy, who extended it and made it their stronghold for 150 years. It contains the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland. Lots more info on line!

It was a rather cloudy day for our visit, but the surrounding hills and landscape, and its situation at the end of Loch Awe always gives this castle that special flavour of the dramatic! Our walk from the car park, which takes you under the railway bridge and on to the grazing land, also proved to be a bit dramatic as well! As we walked along we noticed there were some highland cattle grazing in the long grass, and to our surprise they seemed to take an interest in us, whilst others had been ignored! So it was slightly ‘off putting’ when first a large brown cow with large horns came straight towards us! I hurriedly pulled some grass and offered it as a peace gesture, but after a look and a sniff she turned away in disappointment. She was follwed by an even larger black cow, who also snubbed my peace gesture! Later we saw the farmer arriving with bags of cattle feed, so me thinks we were perhaps involved in ‘a case of mistaken identity’! 🙂

Soon after we made our way over the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’ and home via the the banks of Loch Lomond.

Reflection: It’s such a joy to get out of town for a few days and to enjoy the summer holidays, sunshine and fresh air. We are truly blessed here in the West of Scotland as so many places of quietness and beauty are within easy reach of the city. Our evening readings these days are in the Psalms, and thus one reflected our mood as we returned to Glasgow.

It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Ps. 92:1-5

All in such contrast to the gloom and sadness of our news bulletins, so of course we do need to come down from our ‘mountain top experiences’ just as Jesus did, to face the challenges of every day life. There is much need all around us. Lord help us to play our part!

Here is the Fingal’s Cave video if you missed it!

Matthew

Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa

At last, a long held dream came true for us this year as we made the trip to Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa!

It had long been talked about, and indeed planned for last year, but everything had to be cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. This little island just half a mile long and quarter of a mile wide lies off the west coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides near to the Isle of Mull. It is famous for its hexagonal rock columns, dramatic caves and cliffs and also by the many nesting ‘Puffin’ seabirds who colonise the cliff edges with their nesting burrows. Many famous people have visited the island over the years including Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth and composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was inspired to produce his ‘Hebrides Overture’as a result of his visit. Another large cave next to ‘Fingals’ is called ‘Mackinnon’s Cave’ said to be named after ‘Abbot Mackinnon’ of Iona. Well, this past week the McKinnon’s were back! 🙂

Ours was a day trip from Oban, sailing at 12.30pm by the Calmac ferry to Craignure on the Isle of Mull (45 minutes), where we joined a ‘Turus Mara’ mini bus group for travel across Mull to ‘Ulva ferry’ (40 minutes) before boarding the ‘Turus Mara’ boat that took us to Staffa. (40 mins)

The weather was perfect, which was a real blessing, and the boat trip to Staffa we found to be beautiful and exhilarating!

The view approaching Staffa can only be described as dramatic as you catch your first view of the sheer cliffs and rock columns. The massive size of the caves come into perspective when you spot people walking along the cliff edged shoreline path. Going ashore is not for the faint-hearted as you are immediately faced with a ladder type climb if you are going to spot the puffins, or a 10 minute walk if you are going to visit the cave! This walk takes you on a narrow path with a steep drop at places on the seaward side, and just a single handrail to assist. I was glad my wife opted to stay on board the boat to enjoy the views from the sea.

It seems each visiting group is allowed appoximately one hour ashore, so it wasn’t possible in the time allotted to wander across the top of the island to view the puffins and then visit the cave, unless you were young, fit and sure footed. But I did manage onto the top to catch the vista, before walking to the cave. However my daughter Jennifer was on Staffa with her husband recently and she kindly gave me licence to show two of her puffin shots, plus that handrail! The time passed so quickly and soon it was time to go!

Reflections: On our regular day trips around Scotland I always ask my wife ‘Where would you like to go today’? Invariably she says, ‘Oh please yourself, but somewhere near the sea’! Reminds me of the John Masefield poem we memorised as kids in primary school.

‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;”

Another great sea poem I love is found in Psalm 107:

Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper;the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

That one reminds us of the story in the Gospels of Jesus the Son of God calming the storm! Mark 4:35-41 So whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today, it’s good to ‘put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water, put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea’, as Elvis Presley used to sing.

I wish you calm sailings, but before things get rough, remember there is a hand held out to save! Matthew 11:28-30

Matthew

The Burrell Collection & Pollok Park – Glasgow – Scotland

The Burrell Collection Museum reopened in Glasgow on the 29 March 2022, having been closed for refurbishment since 23 October 2016. Admission is free and there is a very nice cafe and retaurant along two sides of the building, and also other ‘cafe’ like facilities for teas and coffees. The refubishment cost, is said to be around a cool £68,250,000.00, almost half of which was pledged by Glasgow City Council. So after waiting for the crowds to die down we decided to make our first visit at the end of May, and it proved to be a very interesting afternoon.

The Museum’s architecture, design and its location within the park I find very pleasing to the eye. This sense of beauty and design continues inside, and I particularly enjoy the gallery that runs full-length alongside the woodland at the rear of the building. The changing woodland scenery which is viewed through the glass windows that reach from roof to floor level, combine God’s artistry with that gifted to man.

The refurbishment has brought many changes, with new areas being opened up to the public, and even items in storage, some of which circulate in the viewing galleries, can be viewed if you book an appointment. Some of the new displays are spectacularly combined with the use of modern technology. These photographs show but a few of the thousands of items on display, and the history of this amazing collection can easily be researched on line. It will take a few visits to truly appreciate the wide range and variety of art on display.

Pollok Park is also home to Pollok House a National Trust for Scotland property, once the home of Sir John Stirling Maxwell and family. The house and garden are just a short walk from the ‘Burrell’, so if you are planning a day in Glasgow this park has everything you could wish for in terms of interest both indoors and out!

Pollok House and surroundings

Reflections: The field on which the Burrel museum was built has been a playground for me with my siblings (see below), and also for my children and grandchildren and great grand children throughout life. The ‘Children and Youth’ departments of our church have also used it for countless numbers of games of ‘football’ and ’rounders’ on many summer nights. The children’s smiling faces, shouts and hoots of laughter you will still hear if you close your eyes for a minute! 🙂 The Burrell Collection now attracts a much more diverse and perhaps ‘upmarket’ group of visitors, but it’s good the local young folks and families still have a place to picnic and play! In fact Glaswegians are spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which park to visit.

One thing I notice as I visit parks and gardens, is the number of folks often sitting on their own, seemingly just reflecting on life and its events. My own garden, and especially my seat in the greenhouse 🙂 I really enjoy for the quietness it provides. which gives opportunity for prayer and reflection in this noisy and increasingly chaotic world. As I write this I was reminded of the Elvis Presley and Jim Reeves song made known world-wide many years ago, (You can still hear them sing it on ‘You Tube’) but here it is sung by Michele Lane, who for me, sings it so beautifully.

I enjoyed listening to it again so hope you enjoy it too!

Pollok House Gardens

Have a great summer wherever you are

Matthew

Catch the Joy of Summer!

Yes, here in Glasgow situated in the world’s northern hemisphere the daylight hours are extending, and today we enjoyed sunshine from its 4.40am rising until its 9.50 pm setting! What a special gift is that! The garden is slowly coming into bloom and everything is looking beautiful!

The garden tonight at 8.30pm

It is amazing to watch the budding trees and Spring flowers give way to Summer bloom, and to see and hear the excitement of the birds as the they prepare their nests and get ready for the new chicks to arrive. We have blackbirds nesting in our hedge every year and their song in the evening is enough to cheer the saddest heart.

Springtime

Early Summer

The greenhouse is now catching up, with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and courgettes all coming on, and with three bags of potatoes planted and a bucket full of carrots. My two hanging baskets are now out, but the flowers for them were bought from the nursery. My tomatoes are causing me some concern as they look a bit ‘spindly’ but hopefully they will come on ok.

The greenhouse

Talking about potatoes, tonight we enjoyed some fresh buttered Ayrshire potatoes with beans, coleslaw and ‘corned beef’ for dinner. It reminded me of my mother’s love for Ayrshire potatoes when I was a small boy, and that wasn’t yesterday! 🙂

Tatties and corned beef!

And of course, this summer in the UK and Commonwealth we are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th Jubilee, and events are being held all over the country. This week at our church we had a service and afternoon tea for senior citizens and it was a special and joyous occasion. Most of the folks there remembered her coronation all these years ago! We recalled her faithfulness and servant heart through all the ups and downs of life, and remembered her faith in God, which in her own words has sustained her, and enabled her to fulfil the vows given at her coronation! Across the political divide I think it is true to say that the vast majority of citizens in the UK are delighted to honour this lady for her commitment, grace and loyalty sometimes amid adversity.

Wherever you are, and in whatever season I hope you are well. Here is a new song we are singing in church these days, it is beautifully sung and the words I find encouraging and inspiring too, for all of life’s circumstances.

Matthew

The Isle of Tiree – positioned on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean!

Leaving a tranquil Tiree

A late night phone call, Some adjustments to our diary, and 36 hours later we were on our way to visit friends on the most westerly island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides – TIREE! What a surprise, as we had been forced to cancel a planned holiday there a year or so ago due to the pandemic, but now we were on our way, the weather forecast was excellent and we were excited at the prospect!

The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the island leaves from Oban, which is a 2.5 – 3 hours drive from Glasgow, depending on the traffic. It is a lovely drive, and if you are planning a visit, allow yourselves more time for stops along the way.

Oban – Gateway to the Isles

The four hour ferry trip takes you through the sound between the Isle of Mull and Ardnamurchan on the Scottish mainland, and then into the Passage of Tiree. It is quite spectacular at any time, but particularly on a beautiful sunny day!

The sun was getting low in the sky as we made the last leg of our ferry journey to Tiree, and we were blessed to see some dolphins jumping alongside the ship as we travelled.

Tiree’s history is easily researched on line, but this fertile island is a joy to visit, and in the Springtime the lambs and calves are in the fields, flowers are starting to bloom and the birds are singing. The beaches are amongst the best to behold anywhere in the world, and they attract worldclass surfers, and also runners for special competitions and events, and many tourists! My great great grandfather John McKinnon was a boat builder in Balemartine, so this was amongst the places we first visited.

Too many photos to show, but here are some showing the variety and beauty of Tiree’ >

Time passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself, but we did manage a few last day activities, including a boat trip which you can see below. An evening walk on the beach at Balevullin, some star gazing, before getting to bed. Then an early rise to catch the ferry back to Oban. Farewell then to the quietness and serenity of Tiree.

Reflection: Living close to a motorway here in Glasgow, it was a pleasure to change the noise and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of Tiree. The sound of the sea, and of the birds and the joy of walking in a quiet and isolated beach was good for the soul. We never switched the television on once during our stay, and surprisingly the world seemed to carry on in it’s seemingly chaotic way without my daily watching of the news programmes. 🙂

I enjoyed popping into the Parish Church at Heylipol, its a beautiful building, and I thought of the countless number of people who have worshipped there down the centuries. It was also interesting to see that the texts above the pulpit are exactly the same as the texts we have above our pulpit in Glasgow – ‘God is Light‘ and ‘God is Love’. I wondered if some of the clansmen brought that idea to Glasgow during the migrations in the mid 19th century? Probably not, but the verses speak so powerfully of the God being worshipped. The God from whom nothing is hid, but a God who loves a broken humanity enough, to send us His Son as Saviour and Redeemer.

Oh, and here’s that boat trip, quite an excitment for a ‘land-lubber’ 🙂

If you like the blog you can subscribe to receive notifications of updates. Thanks if you have read thus far! Yes TIREE is definitely worth a visit!

God bless, Matthew

Heading North!

We had been enjoying some lovely Sprng weather, and with a birthday coming up, we decided to take a short break, and at the same time make a visit to some family and friends in the North! The weather in Scotland however is very changeable, so it was not too surprising to read just before we left home that the weather forecasters had issued a yellow ‘snow and ice’ warning for the area we were visiting! However on the morning we set out from Glasgow the weather was still holding, so we made the most of our first day with a good number of stops on our 200 mile journey to Inverness.

There is a lovely stopping off point immediately past the Inverglas / Loch Sloy power Station, which has been operational since the late 1940’s, so we stopped there for morning coffee.

It’s a lovely drive going towards Glen Coe, and being early in the year the road was relatively quiet.

Buachaille Etive Mor seems to stand guard at the entrance to the glen and attracts those with differing climbing skills. Just choose the correct route! It’s always a treat to visit Glen Coe and recall our adventures there in the past, climbing Buachaille Etive Mor, walking the famous ‘Aonach Eagach’ ridge and exploring the village. The last stop on route was at the Commando Monument at Spean Bridge, before reaching our destination in Inverness.

After a cold blustery day, the weather had cleared again, and we decided to make a first and long overdue visit to Urquhart Castle. It was a cold and sunny day, and when we arrived the place was relatively quiet. We so enjoyed our visit there, walking in the grounds and exploring the visitors centre, the museum, and of course the cafe. They were also showing a film in the cinema. The only thing we didn’t see was ‘the Loch Ness monster‘ but maybe it was too cold for it to be out! 🙂 A visit here is highly recommended if you are in the area.

We did get to meet our friends and family as we headed east along the Moray coast, but that’s another story, which I’ll keep perhaps for next time!

Loch Ness and the ruins of Urquhart Castle

Reflection: Urquhart Castle has a history going back to the mid 13th century, and was last inhabited by the ‘Grant Clan’ until around the mid 17th century. It has a long and noble history, and was fought over by clans and opposing armies before and during the wars of independence. The current ruin is but a shadow of the proud buildings and battlements that once stood here.

I guess many folks over the centuries have sought refuge in this once impressive castle, but alas the stronghold was eventually destroyed and it was interesting to see the type of machine used at that time to smash down the walls! A massive sling that hurled huge cannon balls over a distance of hundreds of yards. It reminded me how as a child my family, after hearing the wail of the sirens, sought refuge, not in a castle, but in an air raid shelter behind our block of flats in Glasgow. We were escaping the bombs falling from the sky during WWII ! Today in Ukraine there are reports of thousands of people fleeing to a theatre, and to a steel plant, and many tunnels to escape the horrors of war.

Well we are not in a war situation for now, but it got me thinking about where or to whom, do you and I run when things go horribly wrong, as they do for us all at times? Where do I hide in a relationship crisis, a grief crisis, an unemployment crisis, a health crisis, a pandemic, or the energy crisis, ….. and when it justs seems difficult to get out of bed in the morning’?

For me, I find my hope and shelter in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Solomon, reputedly the wisest man ever to have lived, apart from Christ Himself, said ‘The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.‘ Do you remember the hymn we once sang in Church?

Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand, the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land; a home within a wilderness, a rest upon the way, from the burning of the nootide heat, and the burden of the day’. We sang a version of that in Church recently as we approached the Easter Weekend.

Greetings and best wishes from Glasgow, Scotland.

Home and Away!

This week we have been enjoying the beautiful Spring weather, with an outing to Glendaruel, and some days in the garden!

GLENDARUEL HERE WE COME!

There was a cloudless blue sky, as we set off last Saturday on a day trip, but not knowing exactly where we were heading. A bit like a mystery tour really! Direction and destination were chosen as we drove along, Clyde Coast or the Lochs?, the beach or the hills? but in some ways our destination was dictated by the time available before dark, and traffic conditions. On reaching Loch Lomond-side we heard there was an accident ahead, so we turned left to Arrochar and the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’. Roadworks and congestion there, so now a left turn down ‘Hells Glen’, and at last the road was almost empty. Then on to Strachur, right for Colintraive until we came to the little village of Glendaruel.

You have to watch out for the sign as the village is now just off the main road. There are very few houses in the village, but there is an hotel, and a beautiful little church and churchyard on the banks of the river. And much to our suprise there is a canal longboat to be seen sitting on the hotel grounds.

Kilmodan Church in its present setting has a history going back to around 1610, but a church in the area is recorded as early as 1250-1299. The latest Church building was restored in 1983.

The ‘Ratho Princess’ looked a bit like a minature ‘Noah’s Ark’ miles from the sea, but it added more interest to our walk around the village. We also recalled memories of our first visit to Glendaruel, it was a Sunday School teachers outing on Easter Monday 1956! When we arrived back home from our day trip on Saturday, we found the photos to confirm that! From the above photos you will see that the lady hasn’t changed a bit!! It was a great day out, and we travelled home via the Dunoon / Gourock ferry, arriving just before dark. Well worth a visit.

THE GARDEN

The garden is looking well as everything bursts into life now that we are into Spring. So this week the grass was given its first cut and the edges strimmed, which helped to highlight the beauty of the flowers that have already appeared. Here are some of the flowers that I photographed as I looked around. Can you name them?

The greenhouse is well behind schedule this year due to a number of factors, but the plan is to get the seeds sown within the next couple of weeks, so watch this space as they say!

Reflection:

When I wakened the other morning to another cloudless blue sky and the birds singing in our hedge, the words of this song which we once sang at school and church came back to mind.

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies; Father unto You we raise this our sacrifice of praise. For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light; Father, unto YOU we raise this our sacrifice of praise

The news these days is grim on many fronts, but may your soul find rest in God alone! Psalm 62.5-8

May you enjoy the Springtime as you have opportunity!

Matthew

Let’s go down to Egypt!

The Hand on the tiller!

Egypt the land on the Nile with it’s most ancient recorded history, goes back for six millennium. In the world at large it is commonly known as the land of the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Pharaohs, and who has not heard of the famous boy King Tutankhamen! It’s also the land of Temples and Museums with ancient artefacts, the land of desert (96% of Egypt), and borders the beautiful Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the amazing Aswan High Dam, and so we could go on ….. !

Geographically the land devides into two main areas, The Northern Nile Delta and Southern Upper Egypt which follows the Nile from ancient Memphis all the way to the Aswan High dam and beyond!

During my working life we once had a flight stopover in Cairo, and took the opportunity to have a brief tour of the city and also a visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, which could only be described as spectacular! After retirement we followed a documentary series on TV about ancient Egypt, which inspired us to make another visit to this ancient nation. So in the month of March we joined a Christian Tour Group for a visit to Upper Egypt, by following the Nile from Luxor to Aswan.

Recently in my reading and conversation the subject of Egypt was brought again to the ‘fore of my thinking, so it was back to the archives for all these notes and photographs! Of necessity the decription of the journey will be brief, but every picture tells a story, so I’m sure you will catch the wonder of it.

After leaving Luxor in our ‘river boat’ we passed through the locks at Esna, and made our first stop at Edfu to visit the Temple to the god Horus. It was built sometime between 237 and 57 BC and is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. The ‘Hawks of Horus’ guard the gate, and the walls are covered with various reliefs depicting religious and mythological events.

Sailing on the Nile is a very relaxing way to spend a holiday, especially with good company and conversation, and with some excellent guides. We certainly caught a glimpse into Egypt’s ancient past as we explored some extraordinary sites all along the river bank.

Soon we moved on to Aswan where we enjoyed a trip to the market, a sail on a felucca, plus a visit to the dam and botanic garden, whilst staying in the Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel.

On the return journey to Luxor by coach we caught some great views of the Nile from a shore persective and of rural life, before visiting the famous temple of Luxor, (1400 BC) which is not dedicated to any god, but was perhaps the place many of the Pharoahs were crowned. Also Karnak, which goes back even further in time to 2000-1700 BC, during which period it has been estimated that approximateely 30 Pharaohs contriubuted to its building.

On our penultimate day we were at ‘the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatchepsut, the Colossi of Memnon and an Alabaster workshop.

A day to relax by the Nile before going home!

Reflection: Much has been written about ancient Egypt and its thirty one Dynasties spanning four millenium BC, and its millenia since, so a one week tour is barely scratching the surface. However as you look back you can see that Egypt in many ways typifies the rise and fall of empires and nations, sometimes for good and at other times for bad. Even in our own lifetime, we have witnessed the demise of the once mighty British Empire, the end of colonialism, the collapse of the mighty USSR, the destruction of the Third Reich and its vision of a thousand year reign, and Japanese Imperialism, to mention but a few. Now there are new kids on the block, all with visions of power and greatness, and many vying to be the new ‘top dog’. Recently Ken McCallum of MI5 is reported to have said that the UK is in a struggle to protect its way of life, as China and Russia are waging an all-encompassing contest for international supremacy! And while I write this, Russia is in the process of invading Ukraine. So the world’s power shifts between nations continues unabated, but it seems the heart of man is singularly unchanged, as they vie for position of ultimate power and authority, internationally, nationally and often we have seen it in our own working lives and in our hearts.

Our Christian Group were very much interested to learn where and when the Bible characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph fitted into all this history, and also to reflect on the fact that Jesus and his parents were in the early years of Jesus’ life refugees in this land. Matthew in his Gospel recalls the words of Hosea the phophet who approximately 750 years before Jesus’ birth said, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.‘ Another fascinating study is to compare the similarities between the life of Joseph and his stay in Egypt as recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and the life of Jesus, God’s beloved son.

Abraham came to Egypt because of famine early in the 2nd millennium and during Egypt’s 12th dynasty. (See Genisis 12) It was to this Abraham that God made a promise of land and nationhood, and that through his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. These promises of God we see fulfilled in our world today. Jesus of the seed of Abraham, came to our world to the sound of angels singing ‘Peace on earth, goodwill towards men‘, and died to the shouts of the mob ringing in His ears WE WILL NOT HAVE THIS MAN TO REIGN OVER US’! So there we go again.

God had different ideas, He raised Him from the dead, exalted Him to His right hand and appointed Him to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is in fact the God-man with His hand on the tiller. And the Bible says that there is a day of judgment coming, and guess what? the judge has already been appointed – “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17.30,31

It seems good to me to make peace with God now a priority while the offer is still on the table. That peace I’ve found through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5.1. It’s a peace open to all who come in repentence and faith.

I hope you enjoyed the trip and are prepared for that final one we all must take!

God bless – Matthew

You never know what’s around the corner!

Ever go for a walk in the countryside or in a new area, and say to yourself ‘I’ll just go a wee bit further and see what’s around the next corner’?  I’m sure we all have at times, and often it leads to the next corner and the next corner!

That of course is not so easy in our walk through life, and on reflection I am so glad that God has kept that hidden from us, for it means life’s pleasant surprises would lose something of their ‘wow’ and ‘joy’ factor, and conversely, we are prevented from worrying about those difficult chapters in life before their time, with which we all have to deal with at some point in life.

It was common at church when I was young for the leader of the service to say D.V. (‘Deo Volente’ – Latin, meaning God willing) after making the announcements for the following week, simply because none of us can be sure what a day holds, never mind another week, and of course Christians are looking for the return of Jesus Christ just as He promised, and ‘at such an hour as you think not’!

On 25 January every year here in Scotland we celebrate the poetic works of Robert Burns our National Bard, you’ll be familiar with his work – The song ‘Old Lang Syne’ and the poem ‘To a Mouse’ being amongst his most popular works. The latter of these two contains the line ‘‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft aglee!’! How true! And the unexpected did happen for us just at the end of December last year. My wife tripped on the stairs with two hands full of shopping and fell, breaking her humerus bone on her right arm. That certainly was unexpected and put all our New Year plans on hold, and sent ‘yours truly’ into the kitchen to become chief cook and bottle washer!

We did however manage our own form of a ‘Burns Supper’ with the traditional meal of ‘tatties, neeps and haggis’ (potatoes, turnip and haggis) at home. Not quite cooked as we would normally but as a ready made meal from ‘Sainsbury’s Supermarket’. Family and friends have rallied round and we have been blessed by the kindness of so many since the accident.

The Sainsbury’s Burn’s Supper with a few additions

Life at home in January 2022 😦

We have also managed a few short drives in the car, which has been great, and also a few wee walks on the beach or at the local park.

The new man in the kitchen has managed to introduce the growing of our own herbs (especially for the stir fry) and potted up some Spring flowers for his ‘better half’, as a surprise to bring a smile and some cheer. I’m glad to say she is slowly recovering. The greenhouse will just need to wait for a while this year, and all being well I can get started at the end of February.

REFLECTION:I As I consider this topic I find the words of this Christian song by Ira F Stanphil a great help:

I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said, and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Refrain: – Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.

Once again we have been impressed with the service received from our National Health Service for which we are most grateful. Especially for the team of doctors and nurses and their care, compassion and competence. Visiting hospital always shows you that there are countless numbers of people worse off than yourself.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Matthew

My photographic Review of 2021

Another year of travel restrictions due to Covid has resulted in us spending almost all of the year at home, so most of the photographs this year have been taken locally or on ‘day trips’ from Glasgow. However as we look back on 2021 it’s amazing to remember all the interesting places we visited, some for the very first time, and the joy and peace we had in doing that. So here’s a picture or two per month!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Reflection: This year started with some optimism as vaccines were being rolled out, and the slogan ‘we will beat this together’ sounded more plausible, but then along came the variants!

Thankfully the latest Omicron variant is reported to be less severe than those that have gone before, so we pray that this downward trend will continue in 2022. A visit to Glasgow city centre just before Christmas told its own story. Gone was the sound of laughter and the bustling Christmas market in George Square. No ‘big wheel’, ‘flying chairs’, ‘helter skelter’or ice rink, fun and joviality had given way to just a few families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless.

But hold on a minute, is ‘families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless‘ more in keeping with the Christmas story, than a ‘lets eat and drink and be merry‘ lifestyle, especially in the current circumstances? The British Prime Minister caused outrage recently when it was disclosed that last winter some government departments were partying while people were self isolating and others mourning the loss of family and friends to Covid 19.

This Christmas I was caused to stop and think again about the reason for Christmas, which this new carol, so beautfully sung, challenges us to do. Take a minute to listen!

I hope you enjoy the photographs, and like me are challenged by the new carol.

Hope to see you again in the New Year. Every blessing to you and yours.

Matthew

“The Queer Folk O’ the Shaws”

Pollokshaws Townhouse (1803) and the Memorial to James McIndoe the poet

Pollokshaws is a district on the southside of Glasgow (A Burgh in its own right until 1912) and was our home for 23 years, and is still the lifelong home of our church in Leckie Street. This blog will recall past and recent memories of life here, and the huge changes that have taken place throughout my lifetime. There is a poem on a plaque in the old part of the ‘Shaws, which always brings a smile to my face, but please don’t take the words too seriously! 🙂 The poem on the plaque reads:

The ‘Queer folk’ O’ the Shaws – “Wha’ ne’er untae the Shaws has been – Has surely missed a treat – For wonders there are to be seen – Which nothing else can beat. – The folks are green, it’s aft been said, – Of that you’ll find no trace; – There’s seasoned wood in every head – And brass in every face. – Look smart and keep your eyes about – Their tricks will make you grin; – The Barrhead bus will take you out -The folks will take you in. Thank you James McIndoe, that poem still makes me laugh!

Pollokshaws has a history going back to the 17th century, but ‘The ‘Queer Folk’ was the name first given to some Flemish weavers brought to the Shaws by the Maxwell family in the 1800’s, and over time became a ‘byeword’ for all those living in the area. (‘Queer’ in the poem had the meaning of ‘strange’ or ‘odd’) McIndoe the poet, it has been said liked making fun of folks, and it says something of Pollokshaws people that they chose to remember him by this ‘cheeky’ poem in the ‘town square’. Being able to ‘laugh at ourselves’ is surely a special virtue.

The changes that have taken place in the Pollokshaws landscape in my lifetime have been quite phenomenal! In the 40’s and 50’s it still had that close community, working class, yet small town / village atmosphere. It has to be said however, that the housing was basic, and in some parts quite deplorable and rightly described as a slum. But development was coming! (See on-line – ‘Pollokshaws – Wikipedia’ for some amazing resources)

In the 60’s Pollokshaws was designated as a redevelopment area, and in due time we were given the sum of £1.00 in exchange for our two apartment flat in Harriet Street, plus the keys to a brand new flat in the Shawholm Cresent tower block, with a rent payable to Glasgow Housing Department. Wow, were we pleased? YES we were! The up and downstairs apartment had underfloor central heating, two bedrooms, bathroom, a lounge with a verandah, a fitted kitchen, and our own lock-up garage. Pollok Park was just across the road, the neighbours were great, together we polished the communal corridor and as the proverbial saying goes ‘you could have eaten your dinner off the floor’ it was so clean.

We had many happy days at Shawholm Crescent, but life moves on, and as the family grew we too moved on. But now we look back and wonder why all those hopes and dreams that the new revitalised Pollokshaws brought, would within our lifetime come to ruin and decay? The many factories and businesses in the area also closed over that period of time.

But another revitalised Pollokshaws is arising from the ashes, so time will tell if it is more successful than the last redevelopment effort. I am surprised however that expensive new houses are being built, whilst it seems little effort is going into preserving and maintaining landmark buildings, monuments and the once attractive river bank.

Our Church at Greenview.

Greenview Church, was established by some men in the Shaws away back in 1873, as they were keen to introduce to people a simple form of Christian worship. They met to pray, study the Bible, have fellowship with one another as believers and hold communion. They were also keen to share the good news about Jesus with their fellow citizens in Pollokshaws. First they met in a rented hall off the Main Street, then built a wooden hall in Wodrow Street, (Wodrow Street ran from Cogan Street past what is now Pollokshaws Parish Church – The tree now standing in the ground near the Parish Church was in the grounds of the Hall) before moving to Greenbank Street and finally to Leckie Street, where they have been since 1933. The building there has been changed and extended on umpteen occasions.

The Church from its beginnings had a strong missionary interest, and Norman MacRae one of the founding fathers, went out in 1876 to Narsapur in the Godaveri Delta, India. Up until today a long line of men and women from Greenview Church have followed Jesus’ command to ‘go into all the world to preach the gospel’ both by word and deed. I remember as a youngster the Pollokshaws Burgh Hall being packed to the door for ‘Farewell Meetings’ followed by trips to the Central Station where we waved off our friends as they made their way to Tilbury Dock in London, before sailing to Africa and South America. Many country names come to mind – Northern Rhodesia, Argentina, Brazil, East Pakistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania and other nations in the Middle East. Alex Simpson of Pollokshaws died in Brazil, and an orphanage there is called after him. Men and women with a wide variety of skills from the Shaws have left our shores and used their gifts and skills to help folks around the world, and to build, plant and support the Church.

No space here to expand on all the activities of the Church over the years – suffice to say they have been exhaustive. Not including the main Sunday morning and evening services, there has been Bible studies and weekly prayer meetings, Summer ‘Tent’ Campaigns, Choirs singing at Churches around Scotland’s Central belt, Christian conferences, Sunday Schools (Pollokshaws and Thornliebank) with summer trips and children’s prizegivings, Childrens meetings galore, Christian Youth Centre during and after the war, with 2 week summer camps around Scotland and winter craft making and games nights, Youth Bible Classes and special weekends away, Womens tea meetings, Sewing classes, mens meetings, a football team, white water rafting, golf outings, and much more. Some Greenview pics from the ancient past, and from more recent times follow.

During the pandemic the church services were on-line with the help of Zoom, but that gave the opportuniy to upgrade the church building and its fittings. Now services are back in church, and whilst we practice social distancing and wear masks, it’s great having the live band for our singing, and to see friends old and new in person.

Life has changed dramatically in Pollokshaws in my lifetime, and our church too has had to deal with many changes. But thankfully God does not change and the good news of Jesus does not change. In fact the Bible says of Jesus, that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. An anchor to our souls in our increasingly chaotic world. Our community cafe has started again on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and many have already come to enjoy the friendly welcome and excellent food and coffee. Tot’s and Co. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are seeing lots of local mums making friends and finding support there, and our ‘Christians Against Poverty’ Centre is up and running, helping folks escape the debt trap. We also have a programme in partnership with ‘Hope for Glasgow’ that deals with those who have destroying addictions. Sunday School runs in parallel with our morning service at 11am, and there is a thriving Youth Group.

If you are coming to Glasgow we would love to see you, and of course if you stay in Pollokshaws there is always a welcome awaiting you!

We look forward to following the ongoing development of Pollokshaws and its Churches, so with this picture of the Burgh Hall, I wish all my fellow bloggers and my Pollokshaws friends at home and abroad a ‘Happy Christmas and God’s blessing in the New Year!’

Pollokshaws Burgh Hall

Matthew

The Trossachs and Argyleshire – and the sound of Silence!

The ‘Trossachs nature reserve’ in Scotland is an area east of Loch Lomond, famous for it’s lochs, rugged hills, forests and glens, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Scotland in Minature.’ It lies within the ‘Queen Elizabeth National Park’ and is a 30 mile, one hour drive from Glasgow. We normally like to visit in August when the heather is in full bloom, but this year it was an October’s day-trip. Aberfoyle is a little town within the Trossachs where there is a ‘Scottish Woollen Mill’ shop, and we often stop there to view their wide range of clothing and enjoy a coffee. Within a mile of Aberfoyle is the ‘James Marshall Lodge’ sitting on the hill at the entrance to the ‘Duke’s Pass’, and this offers magnificent views, easy and challenging walks, and there is a ‘Go Ape’ high wire adventure to be tackled if you are fit!

Half-way across The Duke’s Pass you can access a ‘Forest Drive’ by paying a few pounds, and moving onto a dirt road, which winds its way through the forest. It passes three lochs on the route – Loch Reoidhte, Drunkie and Achray.

Our favourite part of the drive is the approach to Loch Achray. Passing the old homestead, you can view Ben A’an across the loch, only 451 m high but a spectacular little hill to climb with a rugged top and a splendid view down Loch Katrine. Then on the near side of the loch you have a view of Ben Venue at 729 m, another easy but magnificient climb.

And just before the month of October ran out, we enjoyed a couple of nights break at the Park Hotel in Dunoon, Argyleshire. We left Glasgow in the rain, headed for Loch Lomond and reached Arrochar at the top of Loch Long just before lunch time. Then over the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass where we turned down ‘Hells Glen’ before following the road to Strachur. From there it’s an easy trip down to Dunoon on the banks of the Firth of Clyde, but we chose to divert through Ardentinny also on Loch Long, then around the Holy Loch and on to Dunoon just as the rain decided to stop!

Dunoon was once a favourite holiday destination for Scottish holiday makers prior to the arrival of ‘the package holiday’. But it is still a beautiful place with lots to see and do.

The following day we made a visit to Glen Masson for the first time, and also a trip back to Benmore Botanical gardens to see them in their autumn colours.