Heron on Allan Water

Apparently the Saturday before Christmas has been named Panic Saturday by somebody or other usually called THEY or THEM. With that in mind I thought it was best to avoid any big towns or cities, so we drove along to Bridge of Allan for the day.

After having a mooch around the vintage charity shops there (didn’t buy anything) we took our usual walk along to the bridge. Here’s a view of the river, the bridge and a bit of the town we took a while ago.

Allan Water at Bridge of Allan

This is the view from the opposite side of the bridge.

Allan Water from Bridge

We wanted to see if the heron was around yesterday – and he was as you can see.

Heron at Bridge of Allan

He’s quite well camouflaged – or is it a she? A bit blurred in this one:-

Heron again

I recently heard someone saying that herons are supposed to be bad luck, which is weird because I’ve always feel that it’s a happy thing if I see a heron, and an elderly lady once pointed one out to me which was in the Waters of Leith and she said she always felt it was a good day when she saw one. What do you think, bad luck or good luck? Min you my mother always said peacocks were bad luck but I love their feathers so I ignore that and have a lot of the feathers in vases. I suppose I’m just not very superstitious about things like that.

Anyway, as you can see the Allanwater was looking very full and fast on Saturday, as you would expect, given the amount of rain we’ve had over the last month or so, and still it comes. Quite depressing really but I will begin to feel better about everything after the winter solstice – when the nights begin to get lighter again, slowly, slowly but surely.

Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot, East Lothian

Preston Mill

The week before we went to the Netherlands we visited Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot in East Lothian. They are Scottish National Trust properties. The mill is a really interesting place to look around, in fact I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much. The doocot is still in use as a dovecot and you can’t see inside it but we walked along to it from the mill, it was a gorgeous day for a stroll and there’s a nice river to look at. Apparently there are kingfishers there but we didn’t see any.
Preston Mill
The drying area of the mill is especially quirky, as you can see it resembles a witch’s hat, it looks as if it should be part of a film set, the house of a hobbit or something. You can read more about it here.

Preston Mill

In fact the guide told us that the place has been the location for some filming of Outlander, but I’ve never seen it. Culross in Fife is also used as a location. I’m going to have to start watching Outlander so that I can spot the locations.

Below is the doocot, the strangest one I’ve ever seen.

Phantassie Doocot
Although there is no flour milled nowadays they are running all the machinery so that you can see exactly how it all worked. I had no idea that mills were so complicated, the whole thing is very Heath Robinson-ish but it works.

The mill has a long history of being flooded and it was only after it was flooded badly in 1959 that the miller called it a day and decided to pass the mill on to the Scottish National Trust. Below is the water wheel which runs all the machinery.
Preston Mill
If you go to visit you should make time to take the walk around the nearby fields. We were lucky enough to see a heron flying off the river right in front of us, he flew into the adjacent field to eat the fish which he had just caught.


I took the last photo looking back towards the doocot. It all seems so long ago but it was only just over a month ago that we visited these places, it’s just that we’ve done so much in between then and now, and I have such a huge backlog of blogposts. This is a lovely part of East Lothian, although nothing as scenic as the west of course!

E Linton and doocot

Robert Louis Stevenson at Bridge of Allan

We really like Bridge of Allan, which is a very small town (or is it a large village?) in Stirlingshire, not far from Stirling. It has some lovely views and good hillwalking nearby and also the Stirling University Campus is there so it always seems to be a thriving community, with a nearby film theatre too.

In fact we looked at a couple of houses there but decided against moving there, mainly because the house which we sort of liked had a very wee garden but worse than that it almost backed on to the only women’s prison in the whole of Scotland. The house was about 100 yards away from a huge perimeter fence. I would just have found that outlook too depressing, especially as I’ve been told that most of the inmates are suffering from mental problems and are on suicide watch. I think the estate agent was doing that thing beloved of such people, namely changing the location to something more salubrious, the house should really have been marketed under the place name Cornton.

Anyway, it was when we were having a look around the town for the umpteenth time that I noticed this plaque on a wall just off the High Street.

RLS Bridge of Allan

It says that Robert Louis Stevenson and his family often stayed there for holidays. I don’t blame them, it must have been a nice change from smoky Edinburgh, which at that time was often called Auld Reekie. Apparently Charles Dickens was also a regular visitor.

I grew up in a town with two rivers in it, the Clyde and the Leven and for me a town has to have a good river and bridge to qualify as a ‘proper’ town. It usually means that it has been settled for donkey’s years, a place with a long history. Bridge of Allan fits that bill too, and as you can see from the photo below it also has a resident heron which is often to be seen close to the bridge. It actually moved this time but it wasn’t fishing, just sorting out its feathers.


If you want to see more images of Bridge of Allan, have a look here. To read more about the town’s history have a look here.

Edinburgh, The Water of Leith and Botanic Gardens

We had to drive my brother to Edinburgh airport on Saturday morning so we thought we might as well go and have another walk along by the Water of Leith and into Stockbridge.

So we parked the car at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and had a look round as usual before walking down to the footpath. As you can see they have a neon sign on the gallery building, to cheer us up I suppose.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art frontage close

Stockbridge is always dangerous for me because I can’t resist the book shops there, but more of that another day. Apart from being windy, which is the usual situation in Edinburgh, it was a nice blue sky day so we decided to continue the walk along the river in the direction of Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.


We hadn’t walked that far before because we usually drive there and I thought it might be a bit too long a walk but we managed it. By that time we were carrying our book purchases too, well I have to admit it MY book purchases because my husband didn’t buy any, so it was all fairly knackering.

We just had to sit down when we got to the botanics, they’ve finished the refurbishment at last, they seemed to have been at it forever, but it’s all spiffing now and must have cost a fortune when you consider the price of stone nowadays.

New Entrance building Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

It was VERY busy, but to be honest there wasn’t an awful lot to be seen plant-wise, which was a surprise to me because I think of the botanics as being fairly sheltered but my garden plants seem to be further on than theirs. Most of the trees are still fairly bare but we’ll be going back again to check it out again soon because I wanted to buy a small magnolia from the garden centre but the thought of carrying it the very long way back to the car put me right off because we were exhausted by that time.

I think it was about a 10 mile round walk, which is the longest one we’ve done this year. Anyway I took some reasonable photos, there’s nearly always at least one heron in the river, yesterday there were two, and also a few anglers. I haven’t a clue what they can catch in there, maybe brown trout. I bet the birds would have the most success though.

Heron 1