Saturday, 28 September 2019

Summer bathing places 2: three Scottish rivers

Given the extraordinary circumstances which delivered two separate bouts of hot sunny weather in Scotland, I managed to hit cold natural waters inland on three occasions: the Tweed where it's joined by Biggar Water,

the Tay at Newburgh

and the the Lemahamish Pool where the waters of the Forth between Gartmore and Aberfoyle become temporarily more tranquil.

The first two river plunges happened on visits to friends in Broughton (between Peebles and Biggar)

and Abernethy (near Perth)

after a short bout of Edinburgh Festival going. On the day before the plunge I walked part of the Buchan Way with old university friend Christopher, partner Ruth accompanied by dog Lily, and C's son (my godson) Alexander. Leaving behind a very lively hillrunning event, we headed up between the heather-clad hills - Wales is losing its heather, Scotland could be threatened by global warming too anon -

and down another valley before branching off the main route towards the reservoir at the Stobo Estate

where we stopped for a picnic lunch

before heading down to the water gardens. The next morning Alexander drove us over to Biggar to see his first home with girlfriend Kirsty, and we saw yellow-dyed prize sheep in a field, ready for the big show the following week,

before heading out to near Ruth's for the bathing place. She has a wonderful view over the broad valley of the Tweed between Peebles and Biggar

and it doesn't become any the less beautiful the closer you get to the water.

Ruth was first in, keenly watched by Lily and a quickly-made pal in the form of a passing pet.

Negotiating a muddy start, we were quickly in, accustomed ourselves to the cold and sat in the sun for a bit on the pebble bank opposite before swimming back. I was the last out, and Lily decided to come and join me for a second splashabout before beating me to the shore, as you can see from the photo up top.

Next to the idyllic home of Caroline and Alan near Abernethy, itself not far from a river - the Earn - along which the Fife Coast Path should continue to Perth, but an old farmer who now has dementia wouldn't allow it on his land. So we drove to St Andrew's alongside the Tay, which the Earn quickly joins, and stopped at Newburgh for a walk through the reedbeds - the largest in Europe, it's said, a fine reserve for many birds -

to a small beach used for launching boats. The current looked strong not far out, but I ventured it, found it all pleasant, and came back after a good few minutes.

We spent rather too long wandering round St Andrew's in the heat, looking for a good place to take Caroline to lunch to thank her for her hospitality. As we were about to cave in to an unpromising hotel restaurant, a chance venture down the dip towards the beach revealed The Seafood Ristorante, its big glass windows overlooking the bay. As we were late by lunch standards, a table wasn't a problem - and it was worth it: top marks for both starter and main course.

Lingering meant a brisk walk back to the car, where time was just up on the metre.

We were also eating well Chez Caroline each night, when it was warm enough to sit in the pavilion at the end of the pond. Alas, I never did see the hares which frequent the area behind it - one of the babies was killed by a buzzard after we left - but early morning and sunset walks around the garden rooms were such a joy.

The Lemahamish Pool of the Forth I only discovered on the last of my full days holding 13 sessions on Die Walküre over the weekend for the Wagner Society of Scotland. More on those anon, but in my two hours free each afternoon I never got as far as Abernethy. But I did manage to hit the cycle path, which turned out to be on the wrong side of the river to access bathing (here, the views both ways from the bridge). 

So I went to the HQ of the campsite on the other side, and they told me it was fine to walk through the site and then take a path past a small waterfall

to the very pleasant green and beach beyond. Wasn't sure that was it when I saw it,

but a couple out walking their dog assured me it was, that the water level was very low but still deep enough to swim - as their dog was doing. So in the break between the rains of that last day I took the coldest dip of the year to date. 

I wasn't submerged for long, but I did it. And then, after the few rays of sun, it started to rain again. The route from grand Gartmore House where we Wagnerites were all lodged was an especially lovely one - down the drive to the (privately owned) pool near the bottom of the hill, glorious in both the hot sunny weather of the first two days

and the onset of autumn that Sunday,

and along Butler's Path, one of the loveliest woodland walks I know. 

Last year was especially rich in fungi, because it had rained a lot and continued to do so while I was there, but at least this year the tree with mushrooms rather than bracket fungi springing from it looked good in the dappled shade. With a bit of help, I've been able to identify the species as porcelain fungus, Oudemansiella mucida.

The only loss that rainy Sunday was the chain of cobwebs which had looked so lovely in the sun on the Saturday.

I never did get as far as the hills, but at least I could see them. Next September I must take some extra days around Siegfried to explore the area.

More hermetically sealed than Gartmore House was the oasis of Tsinandali in the wine-growing Kakheti region of Georgia, where as the rivers in the valley were all dry my dip happened to be in an exquisite rooftop pool of the Radisson Blu Hotel, connected to the two concert halls - indoor and open - where the festival events I was attending took place. On those, and a wonderful monastery not far from the grounds, more anon here and on The Arts Desk.


Susan said...

You have some particularly gorgeous photos here, even more than usual, which is a high bar, indeed. Only loosely related (and perhaps not even that), your swimming sojourn reminded me of John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer.”

David said...

I guess I'll have to read it to find out why. But thank you, and of course the first two must be credited to others.

Deborah Josephine Roberts said...

Absolutely beautiful scenery and photographs, dear David. Thank you for taking us on your idyllic Scottish adventure. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to Scotland David, but your photos look very inspiring. Congratulations on your Die Walküre lectures, also!

Susan said...

The connection is pretty tenuous, at best. The story’s protagonist is a swimmer, and he does sample a lot of different swimming holes. Your experience, however, constitutes a lovely idyll (though you do brave some chilly waters), whereas Cheever’s story is a surreal take on suburban America.

David Damant said...

David, do be careful about jumping into cold water on hot days. A dear friend of mine suffered a heart attack as a result of doing that

David said...

Many thanks, Deborah Josephine Roberts. You have to see my alma mater Edinburgh - everyone must - and then all those mountains and lochs to the north...

Thank you, Sue, as I haven't read any Cheever, I must.

Sir David, I never jump.

Gabriella Asaro said...

I would love to visit these beautiful places. Thanks and congratulations for your interesting blog, David.

David said...

You absolutely must, Gabriella - though I must report that Scotland is currently experiencing a more usual deluge. Thank you.

Willym said...

As always your photos capture the natural beauty in a particular way that matches your descriptions. It looks like despite some rain you had glorious weather. I only wish I could have said the same for our sojourn in Norway - the tail end of Dorian gave us five days of rain. Sorry to have missed you and J in London.

David said...

You should have contacted J - he was expecting to see you. In Norway it tends to rain a lot - hugely so in Bergen, which I have never seen otherwise, though I remember one glorious afternoon in the Hardanger Fjord before the torrents arrived. Anyway, I hope you got some sense of that glorious country and people. Now in Zurich, and - it's raining. As it was in London when I left - got caught in a truly horrific thunderstorm on the way to the tube - and is, apparently, in Tallinn where I'm going...The summer ended that Sunday in Gartmore.