1 Sep 2015

the not-fringe

August in Edinburgh means the Fringe Festival, which is fine in moderation but can also dredge up some slightly harrowing things for people like me who have previously soaked up a lot of Fringe atmosphere at close range and now find that true contentment can only be achieved by mostly not being in town for this particular month. These are some of the places I've been and things I've seen this month. It's a no-show zone.

Devilla Forest
 Devilla Forest in Fife claims to be home to a number of red squirrels. I say 'claims' not because I doubt it, but because I didn't see any, so I can't confirm. What I did see were lots and lots of interesting fungi, which was almost as good.

The Pineapple

Weirdly blunt graffito in the porch of the folly

The Pineapple at Dunmore is both an impressive piece of masonry and an entirely purposeless structure that one might be inclined to call a waste of time if it weren't for the fact that it is shaped, delightfully, like a pineapple. You can also rent it out as a holiday let if you're drawn to the idea of sleeping in an enormous tropical fruit.


In the Western Cemetery at Arbroath on the east coast is an ornate and very under-appreciated building called the Mortuary Chapel. I think it looks like it could be The Addams Family's second home in Scotland.

The cliffs of Arbroath are red sandstone (as are most of the buildings in town) which is both very nice to look at and very soft and erodable, hence the interesting structures that line the coast.

This is the Needle's E'e (Needle's Eye) even though it doesn't resemble one in any way.



Balmedie beach, just north of Aberdeen. Every time my mum and I are on a beach together it rains.

New Slains Castle (as opposed to Old Slains Castle) should have been an easy daytrip. The main reason it turned out not to be easy for us was that we were mistakenly led to believe that cars could not drive up to the ruins (which turned out not to be true at all once we arrived there to find a blue Ford Focus parked up next to an enormous camper van). What we did was scramble over to it across the headland, trudging through barely-there paths in the long grass until we came to what can fairly be described as a gorge. To get across we descended into the valley, tore through some reeds that were taller than all of us, then navigated across the estuary. Boyfriend, being of the intrepid mould, bounded across some peaking stepping stones before encouraging me to follow. I made it halfway across before a slip forced me to make a dash for it that miraculously didn't end in anyone getting soaked or a head injury. My tiny wee mum had no choice but to take off her shoes and wade through the water, which judging by the shade of red her toes turned afterwards (passata red) was presumably pretty cold.

Slains Castle itself is nothing all that great. Perhaps at this point I've just seen the ruins of too many castles and now consider anything less than a medieval fortress pockmarked by Cromwellian artillery a waste of time. Slains only lost its roof in the 1930s and isn't all that old really, so it has the vaguely unpleasant atmosphere of the abandoned World War Two buildings on Cramond Island, full of graffiti and beer cans. Still, I'm sure it's seen some really great revelries.

We walked back via the neat gravel footpath that took us right into the village.

 The Aberlemno sculptured stones are some of the most beautiful things you'll see by the side of a road. They're decorated with Pictish carvings and are extremely lovely and interesting. There's also another huge cross slab in the church just a few yards down the way with all different kinds of animals around the cross and a battle scene on the reverse.


A rainbow over the city, as seen from the top of Dundee Law.

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