Sunday, 25 January 2015

Alloway, Ayrshire (Burns Country).


It is coincidental, unbelievable and yet poignant on this day (Burns night) that the next stage of my journey should be from the heart of Burns country. Despite images taken over several days from the previous (Irvine) post, you may re-call me telling you that the weather wasn't good and the forecast was worse for the afternoon.
I hadn't travelled far from the hotel to The Scottish Maritime museum on my first day and didn't intend to hang around looking in a shopping centre or getting wet, so the world (or rather Ayrshire) was my oyster. When I looked up into the sky, it was a no brainer to choose somewhere in the south of the region as there was glorious sunshine in that direction. From the few options available, Alloway and Ayr seemed the least expensive as an afternoon filler with plenty of variety. I had been to these places a few times before, usually on a North East Railtours day out from home and on one other occasion when I stayed in Ayr for a week many years ago.
Having not been here in digital imagery before, it was a great opportunity to experiment and display some of the most photographed scenes in South West Scotland that viewers will either recognise or want to see, hopefully with my take on it.

Alloway Post Office #1  GJC_016271
Alloway Post Office (image 1)
I'll start off with a photographers technical moment for those who like that sort of thing also because the only image I captured of Robert Burns was in one of the few shops in Alloway, the Post Office and village store window.
This is the scene across the road from the famous title image of Burns Cottage. I don't usually do a lot with extreme editing but for those that know me on here, I played about with this one in Photoshop and Aperture for a couple of reasons.

Alloway Post Office #2 GJC_016271_edited-1
Alloway Post Office (image 2)
Originally shot in 18mm (image 1) due to the obtrusive parked cars including my own in a 30 minute free car parking space, the first image had distortion removed with the perimeter lines much straighter and cleaner particularly noticeable in the roof and the steps.

Alloway Post Office #3  GJC_016271_edited-1 - Version 2
Alloway Post Office (image 3)
Some readers may remember from my Wetherby post that one of my things is to tidy up the image by removing the bin. Bins are good but not in a photo :-)

Alloway Post Office #4  GJC_016271_edited-1 - Version 4
Alloway Post Office (image 4)
I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to red subjects and the resultant colour popping, so I opted for the Postbox and sign. Then again one of the things that attracted me to the scene in the first place was the colour and flower basket display, so I added that back in. Photography or rather photo editing can be so confusing to the mind at times with the final image not the dramatic result I thought it would be, consequently I prefer the third one from these four.

Burns Cottage profile   GJC_016264
Burns Cottage profile, Alloway
Robbie (Robert or Rabbie) Burns was born in this cottage in 1759, two years after it was built by his father. The family lived here for another seven years before his Father sold the property to become a farmer.

Burns Thatch  GJC_016269
Thatch, Burns Cottage, Alloway
The restored two roomed thatched cottage is now part of the Burns museum collection and an integral part of the village of Alloway and possibly one of the most visited sites in south west Scotland. Back in the day after Burns had gone, an entrepreneur ran a public house from the premises, no doubt attracting additional tourist trade and subsequently with the building growing with importance, the Suffragettes attempted to set fire to it to promote their case. The English Poet John Keats visited the property in 1818 and waxed lyrical about the building concentrating more on it's romance and beauty rather than the hardship that was suffered within.

Tam O' Shanter  GJC_016265
Tam O' Shanter plant pot !!
Burns was a colourful and controversial character in his day, eventually became the National poet of Scotland inspiring those in art and politics to discover The Romantic movement, Liberalism and Socialism. His most famous song sung on New Years Eve is "Auld Lang Syne" while a sample of other poems include "To a Mouse", "Tam O Shanter" and "Address to a Haggis". The latter was an appreciation of the Scottish delicacy but with the passage of time, the celebration on 25th January to the life of Burns has almost become a religious ceremony !! Despite thinking that it is only Scottish people who celebrate the event, it seems that any Sassenach or colonial cousin who has a second Scottish cousin, a piece of tartan on their wall, likes a Scottish sports team or wants to see what this Haggis thing tastes like are all eligible to attend :-)

Auld Kirk sign  GJC_016277
Auld Kirk sign, Alloway
Moving a very short journey south in the car to the outskirts of Alloway, not only did I arrive at the capital of Burns Tourism but the capital of signs as well ! The signs that marked the different sites were impressive, although I didn't have enough time to wait for the pure blue skies as a backdrop.


GJC_016339
The Auld Kirk Alloway and William Burns grave.
By special request as a result of a comment from Cranberry Morning below, I inserted a late image of The Auld Kirk, quite a difficult thing to photograph as a result of the gravestones. There were a couple of reasons why I wasn't happy with this image and consequently left it out of the original post. As you can guess from the sign above, the end of the building is the most prominent and photogenic. Robert Burns father was buried here at the entrance of the grounds. The now roofless 16th century ruin is another setting for a poem mentioned below about Tam O'Shanter.

Brig O' Doon / River Doon   GJC_016330
Brig O' Doon, Alloway
The 15th century Brig O' Doon features in a verse to his drinking friend "Tam O Shanter" ...


Brig O' Doon sign  GJC_016283_edited-2
Brig O' Doon sign
....  who crossed the bridge to safety on horseback whilst being chased by a witch.

Brig O' Doon stones  GJC_016286
Brig O' Doon Stones
Folklore suggests that the witches were fearful of the cobbled pattern of stones and refused to cross the bridge.

Brig O' Doon GJC_016317
Brig O' Doon gardens
Brig O' Doon was immortalised in a the Broadway and West End musical called Brigadoon where a fictitious Scottish village appears every so often. No doubt a little confusing to those trying to grasp what the real Brig O' Doon or Burns poem is all about.

Brig O' Doon view   GJC_016284
Brig O' Doon View
I'll not go into personal preferences but this wasn't on my original list of things to see this week and it's strange that the weather forced me into capturing a view that only appears every so often to me !! Now that has you confused :-)

Burns Monument   GJC_016333_edited-1
Burns Monument
There was inspiration and a competition to design a build several monuments to Burns around Scotland following the construction of a Mausoleum at the Dumfries grave site in 1815. Gothic designer Thomas Hamilton won the competition and this monument was completed in 1828.

Burns Monument & garden  GJC_016296
Burns Monument and garden
I wonder if you would believe me if I said I was lying flat out on a stony path with the camera pointing upwards through a hole in the base of the fence. I could only see half the scene in the viewfinder ... the lengths people go to for framing composition :-)

Burns Monument sign  GJC_016336 - Version 2_edited-1
Burns monument sign
It was time to head back to the car for an evening meal in Ayr with some cloudscapes and an unusual favourite building (next post). I was wanting to combine the post and conclude with a more humorous sign in Ayr but best not to bore the reader, I know that my posts are far too long anyway !

Finally ...
As an amateur cyclist who has to dismount at Pelican and Zebra crossings, I waited for the traffic lights to change in order to witness this unusual and incredible road spectacle. This King of the road in Alloway people mover was off to collect the tourists from The Burns museum (didn't photograph it) and take them to the car park. I was left wondering are pedestrians forbidden to cross here for safety reasons.

Pedestrian Crossing !!  GJC_016348 - Version 2
Pedestrian Crossing, Alloway

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Irvine, North Ayrshire

Setting down for the night  GJC_016102

It's that time of year again when people think about where they're going for summer holidays or weekend breaks. I usually have a week off work in May for just me and the camera exploring unusual or unique places either new or nostalgic. You may remember my series from Oban that included planes, boats, bikes, seals and puffins. I was hoping to replicate some of this a bit further north in Mallaig but accommodation was impossible at such short notice, one guest house owner offered me a week later in the year which I accepted.

River Irvine sunset  GJC_016105
River Irvine sunset
Finding something interesting to do this week was difficult without having to repeatedly cover the same motorway stretch to Manchester and beyond to Wales for other reasons. The Nostalgic strings of my youth kept pulling at me with some Firth of Clyde boat trips. The plan in my head of how the week was going to shape up seemed quite easy in reality as there would be three boat trips, maybe a train trip if it was wet and a day tying up some other loose ends on the mainland. The worst thing about this week was trying to find central accommodation as the main hotel and guest house town (Ayr) was in the south, meaning I would have to travel north every day. In fact the accommodation was so difficult to find that I ended up using Booking.com and the chosen destination was Kidron House on the outskirts and in a suburb of Irvine. Just to highlight what kind of clientele stayed here, I had an interesting, awkward and yet funny conversation with one of the friendly indian waiters. He didn't understand why I was staying there as I wasn't on business, didn't have my golf clubs and I wasn't American ! I would be quite prepared to stay there again even if it was to break his stereotypical attitude. One thing he and his colleagues didn't like about me was that I was never in the hotel bar to tip them because as this post shows, I was always out at night, getting back late. Kidron House Hotel did me well though and here is the trip advisor link of the Hotel and the best place for local food for my budget was The_Ship_Inn. Unfortunately I was only in Irvine for two of the five evening meals and this occasion was later in the week.

Harbourside & Maritime museum cafe  GJC_016104
Harbourside and Scottish Maritime Museum cafe.
In what I thought was going to be an introductory filler post of a few photos of boats, an old street and some sunsets has turned into a major post as I've had to constantly add photographic material to support the text.

Irvine is 26 miles south west of Glasgow and probably developed as a result of the adjacent River Irvine that meanders near the entrance to the Firth of Clyde. The history seems to date back to 1140 when it received Burgh status and development later with coal mining and the subsequent export from the great river links. Given it's history, there was a strange move to give Irvine a New Town status but employment was dealt a great blow in the 1980's with the closure of the coal mines. A short time later the area saw growth in the the construction of industrial, coaching and commercial vehicles to utilise some of the redundant workforce, with Irvine sharing these opportunities until further closure in 1999. The UK's largest paper mill was opened nearby in 1989 by a Finnish company.

I sometimes surprise myself with the locations I post from but I do like a challenge of finding a set of images from a unheard of town. Irvine is usually a place that people, including myself, bypass on the A78 road and the Ayr to Glasgow railway line, although I did once call in to see its most famous attraction late in an afternoon back in 1992.

Maritime Gate  GJC_016157_edited-1 (1)
Scottish Maritime Museum gate
Unfortunately The Scottish Maritime Museum had already closed for the day.


Maritime museum gates  GJC_016159

On this current visit, the weather on my first day was miserable and this seemed like the best indoor option and introduction to all that shipping in The Firth of Clyde could offer me this week. Hoping to find some interest and colour !!


Scottish Maritime Museum  GJC_016228_edited-1
Scottish Maritime museum architecture

Katie   GJC_016225

 In addition to the main building, the museum also owns other exhibits in the vicinity nearby ...

Shipyard workers flat   GJC_016167_edited-1 (1)
The Shipyard worker's Flat,  Irvine

Harbourside skies  GJC_016129 (1)
M.V Kyles (rear) boat,  Irvine Harbourside



Harbourside sunset  GJC_016130
Irvine Harbourside Sunset
Both sites were accessed by means of a very good guided walking tour from the museum at no extra charge.

Dinghy Challenge  GJC_016219
Dinghy Challenge,  Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine
By far the best entertainment of the day was the Dinghy challenge. As you can see from an earlier image, the museum was a bit desolate on a cold rainy day in May so there were no prying eyes of children watching an adult have some fun !! With the exception of the green and red emergency buttons, there were only two controls of the yacht rigging for the sail on the left and the steering wheel.. The slalom course that appeared on the screen consisted of a harbour and a series of posts to manoeuvre around roughly in a circle and back into port. On my first go I just steered the wheel, realised that there was a time limit 2/3 the way through and subsequently ran out of time. I discovered the rigging wheel to the left and how it worked during my second experimental experience. On the third attempt I managed to beat the clock, but not before becoming exhausted in my efforts ... almost like the real thing without the wind and rain outside !!

Linthouse Vennel   GJC_016237_edited-1 (1)
Linthouse Vennel,  Irvine Harbour
The surrounding streets of the museum in the Harbourside area were a mixture of historic and photogenic residential housing.

Gottries houses  GJC_016248_edited-1
Gottries Road,  , Irvine

Gottries Road  GJC_016249_edited-1 (1)
Gottries Road,  Irvine

Gottries Architecture   GJC_016247_edited-2 (1)
Gottries Road, Irvine

Gottries Road lamp  GJC_016147_edited-1 (1)
Gottries Road, Irvine
Buildings no doubt with some maritime history although I'll have to leave you guessing with their former use or authenticity !!

The Big idea  GJC_016124
The Big Idea, Irvine
Despite the main attraction of Irvine being the Scottish Maritime Museum, the town tried to push the tourism boat out a little further with a Millennium Project called The Big Idea. Scottish inventors were celebrated attracting 120,000 people in the first year 2000. Unfortunately interest was not sustained and visitor numbers fell by less than half the following year before finally closing the door and walkway in 2003.
This most unusual and difficult to understand location was explained to me by a local man out for an evening walk with his dog. As the grass covered roofed building seemed partially hidden from public view, it seemed natural that it was left to sit for 11 years with no final decision on it's future. In a sense The Big Idea seemed like a good idea at the time but remained just a big idea, Shame.

Carter & his Horse  GJC_016854
Carter and his Horse by David Annand
Just across the road from The Ship Inn and Marina Inn on the Harbourside is the sculpture of Carter and his Horse representing the transporting of ships cargo. It was difficult to get a decent shot of this during the course of the week as it was raining on the first day and always dark when I arrived later at the scene following a day out.

Rivergate shopping Centre   GJC_016096
The Rivergate Shopping Centre, Irvine
It might seem unusual to insert an image of a modern shopping centre here but I saw this building as a key to keeping the town alive. Not that I'm suggesting it's through retail sales alone but somehow linking sections of the town together as a result of topography and transport routes.
My first late night exploration of the town involved  the thought process and a journey of discovery in how I could walk from the main street bus stop to the railway station for a potential car free day out. Irvine wasn't the easiest place to negotiate around by car thanks to a bus only main street and curving roads that easily lost my normally good sense of direction. Thankfully the shopping Mall although very long and eerie stayed open to act as a useful bridge to cross over a main road, river and then descend to ground level nearer the coast and the railway station.

Kings Arms Hotel  GJC_016099

Too often in Cities and Towns, the retail chain stores are attracted to move premises into a newly created shopping centre leaving the High Street to struggle on with second rate shops, businesses that can't relocate and those that suffer lack of investment. I'm not saying the above image has anything to do with that as they might be in the process of renovation, but hey, I couldn't resist as it makes a great comedy shot !

Trinity Mirror  GJC_016095_edited-1 (1)
Trinity Mirror
In my mind and having confirmed it with a bit of research, it seems that Trinity Church and Trinity Mirror are at the centre and fulcrum of the the town. After falling into a severe state of disrepair, the church was refurbished over a 42 week period from November 2012 for some community use to regenerate the town and link the main street with The Rivergate Shopping Centre. The foreground polished stainless steel monument grabbed my attention with reversed deep thinking words and phrases on the base relating to the geography, history and poetic thoughts of the River Irvine. The text can only be read using the vertical columned reflection and the £90,000 structure that is proportional sizing to the church steeple divides opinion of the local residents.

Hill Street  GJC_016087
Hill Street, Irvine
With a mixture of getting my bearings and looking for somewhere to eat later in the day, I stumbled on a couple of historical streets,

Glasgow Vennel  GJC_017051
Glasgow Vennel,  Irvine
the second of which was where the local Robert Burns the poet lodged for a year in 1781.

Despite staying here for a week, I was disappointed that I didn't get better lit or car free images of The Town House on the High Street.

Sunset above Arran  GJC_016121

After my trip to the west coast of Scotland the previous year to Oban I was hoping to re-create some magical sunsets this time across the Firth of Clyde to The Isle of Arran. Unfortunately it didn't quite work on this occasion but inserted it to give you a reason why I found accommodation near the coast. Used wide angle to give more foreground and cloud perspective on this occasion. I'll re-visit the sunset theme from a different evening location later in the series.

Irvine Bay sign  GJC_016850
Irvine Bay sign
Irvine Bay Regeneration company has a symbol that seems to represent drops or splashes of water, it certainly has potential as a great silhouette.

This way for Irvine Bay  GJC_016261

On the afternoon of my first day, the weather turned grey and rainy LOL, so I decided head south for the afternoon into some sunshine (next post)

... always best to escape being eaten by a crocodile crowd, poor boat !! ...

Crocodile Cloud  GJC_016134
Crocodile Cloud !!
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