Sunday, February 03, 2013

Saturday Adventures Redux: Blackness Castle & Celtic Connections Wrap-up

Entry for 2 February 2013:

Saturday morning: 7+ mile run along the canal, as far as the Scottish Waterway Centre not far from Speirs Wharf.  A cold but beautiful, sunny morning, with a lot of runners out; I counted 28 along my course.

Blackness Castle.  After a late breakfast, we headed off to Blackness Castle, on the south side of the Firth of Forth near Linlithgow.  It’s named after the black “ness” or “nose”/peninsula.  Unlike most of the Scottish castles we’ve seen, it’s not a ruin and it’s not someone’s fancy house; this was a working castle, a military installation, built for its strategic location and fortified over the centuries with three separate towers, thick walls and cannon emplacements. 

It was not too bad for early February in Scotland: breezy and not warm, but sunny and bright, with clear views of the two Forth bridges to the east and recent snow frosting the Ochil Hills in the distance, across the Firth of Forth.  The central tower, used at various times as a prison and a military barracks, offers a commanding view up and down the Firth, great for photos.  The rear or “stern tower” faces the land, was also a royal residence in parallel to Linlithgow Palace in the 16th century and was the most heavily fortified.  The “stem” tower is the smallest and faces the water; it also served as a prison at one time.  Dour and austere as it is, there is a lot of castle here to ramble around in, including 19th century loading ramp that juts out into the Firth.  However, the most interesting feature is the rampart walk that runs along the top of the outer walls. 

Celtic Connections. That night, after we got back and had a quick dinner, we took the train to Charing Cross station and walked over the M8 to the Mitchell Library to see our last Celtic Connections concert of the 2013 season: A six-person all female group named The Shee, supported by Fiona Hunter (who also sings with Malinky) and her band.  I liked them both, especially Fiona’s repertoire and The Shee’s musicianship and energy. 

However, our favourite CC concert this year was by far the one we saw last Tuesday: Songs of Struggle, feature Arthur Johnstone and a bunch of mostly older leftist singers.  It was a great evening of powerful and melodic songs, with a lot of audience participation.  For me a high point was Rab Noakes singing Bob Dylan’s powerful song, “Dignity”.  Another high point was the Carlos Nuñez concert a week earlier.  Nuñez is a charming Galician piper with infectious energy and amazing chops.  That was another of our favourites this year. 

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