Tuesday 23 January 2018

Scotland By Rail - Dalry Ayrshire - station paintings now complete

Four months ago I was close to completion of my 4ftx4ft paintings for Dalry station in Ayrshire. Then baby came along and caused a quarter of a year pause.

Now at last I'm getting back into it and with just a little help (see bottom of this post) panel six of six is complete. Here are my original mock-ups (above) plus a few details from the finished works (below). More and better photos once the paintings have been installed.

This project was proposed and made possible by Dalry Station Garden Group (DSGG), funded by the ScotRail Cultural and Arts Fund. 

Dalry station is an inspiring example of how much positive change can be made by just a few dedicated individuals - all volunteers. DSGG has planted native berry-bearing woodland, meadowland for pollinators. They've created mini ponds and insect hotels and put up nest boxes. They've brought poetry and sculpture and now painting to the station. Well done DSGG!


Previous Dalry blog posts

Lynn Glen walk 

Hare unveiling & River Garnock walk 

Blair Estate walk 

Nearby RSPB Lochwinnoch 


How to get there

Trains to Dalry take half an hour from Glasgow Central. Mon-Sat there are 3 per hour from Glasgow - 2 going to Ayr, the other to Ardrossan Harbour. Hourly on Sundays.

Double check 'Ayrshire, Inverclyde & Stranraer Timetable' and 'Buy Tickets' on ScotRail website.

Many thanks to ScotRail for enabling my Scotland by Rail work.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Scotland By Rail - Visit Fife - A whale in the Forth (again)

the tale of the tail of the whale

**** NEWSFLASH - as I finish writing this post confirmed sightings of two whales have started coming through. Saturday 20th Jan, 12.30pm. ****

Visit Fife - The Forth Humpback

If you've been considering a trip to the Fife coast I say do it now. For the past two weeks we've had a humpback whale in the Forth, being sighted and photographed almost every day. I've been out looking six or seven times and have glimpsed it or more on four of those occasions. Some days only blows and back and dorsal fin are seen but I've twice seen huge splashes and tail, once three tail slaps in quick succession. Some people have seen full out-of-the-water breaches.

It seems likely that the humpback we've been watching this year is the same individual which spent several months in the Forth in early 2017. Possibly a young male who discovered fine fishing here and has decided to come back. Until someone gets a good tail photo with which those in the know can attempt identification we don't know for sure. 

Click here for sketches and oil paintings from the 2017 whale.

My most recent sighting was on Thursday this week when Jim Crumley and I were out searching. Six hours brought us five minutes of whale. Totally worth it. And a couple of cafes. Listen to Jim with Edi Stark, Karine Polwart and Alan Rowan on Radio Scotland's Winter Weekend programme broadcast on Friday 19th January. Jim talks about our whale in the first few minutes but I recommend the whole programme for Gavin Maxwell, live song, mountains by night. Read about the 2017 Forth whale, and the 1893 Tay whale, in Jim's The Nature of Winter (published Saraband Books 2017).

we didn't just look at whales. birds are good too.
bar-tailed godwits, ringed plover, one dunlin. Burntisland shore

bar-tailed godwits, ringed plover, one dunlin pretending to be a ringed plover, one oystercatcher. Burntisland shore
huge raft of shags, 250+


Come and see!

With wildlife there of course are no guarantees but come to Fife and spend time sea-scanning - maybe four or five hours or maybe only ten minutes - and your chances are at least half good. Look for big splashes or a dark hump far away or, usually easiest to spot, an unexpected puff of smoke - the blow. Or if you're super-lucky, a dirty great whale rocketing out of the waves. Then get the binoculars and watch more closely. I find removing the distraction of a bright sky by wearing a peaked hat makes scanning much easier. Please be responsible, don't go trying to fly your drone over the whale or getting too close in a boat.

no whale this time


Whale watch from where?

There are lots of places to try. If travelling by train I suggest:


Whale-watch at:
- car park of Carousel Coffee Shop, two minute walk from station. High up, panoramic view
- Pettycur Bay car park, fifteen ish minute walk from station. Sea level
Warm up at:
- Community Centre Coffee Shop - great homebaking, top empire biscuits, incredibly cheap prices
- Carousel Coffee Shop - panoramic sea view


Whale-watch at:
- Lammerlaws headland, ten ish minute walk from station, south of Beacon Leisure Centre
Warm up at:


Whale-watch at:
- Hawkcraig point - ten ish ish minute walk from station, at west end of Silversands Bay
Warm up at:
- Sands, a Place the Sea - cafe with sea view
- McTaggart's - cafe on Aberdour High Street, two minutes from station

People have also reported sightings from Cramond, Granton and elsewhere along the Lothian shore.

Forth Marine Mammal Project Facebook group is the place to go for up-to-the-minute sighting info


Please help save our sea life:

rig Rowan Gorilla VI (the three-legged one) sitting on the deck of heavy lift vessel Blue Marlin (the red one) 

Rowan Gorilla VI on Blue Marlin

spot the whale? me neither.

Inchmickery island. spot the whale? (you really can this time.)

East Lothian lights from Fife - Bass Rock and Fidra


Travelling by train

Thirty to forty minutes by train from Edinburgh Waverley, trains twice hourly during the day Mon to Sat, approx hourly Sunday and evenings. 

'The East Coast & Fife' timetable and 'Buy Tickets' options on ScotRail website.

Many thanks to ScotRail for continuing to support my ongoing Scotland by Rail work.