A trip to the Countryside. Pitlochry

Pitlochry
Nature in Pitlochry

Edinburgh is a great place for both city lovers and those of us who love being amongst nature. The area has plenty to offer nature lovers on the outskirts of the city but sometimes, it’s nice to see other places too and Scotland has plenty to give in that respect. Being nice and central, Edinburgh and surrounding areas make it easy for us to travel to the parts that may seem far away.

Along the banks of the River Tummel

One of those places in Pitlochry. A beautiful small town in Perthshire, surrounded by the most awesome green landscapes and lying on the River Tummel with a small population of approximately 3000 people.

Woodland walks just a stone’s throw from the town centre of Pitlochry.

Although Pitlochry seems small, there is a surprisingly active community there and endless things to keep you busy and interested. For example, in the winter you can visit The Enchanted Forest which promises us a dazzling sensory experience of sound and light in the midst of a beguiling forest setting.

Wonderful play parks for the kids to let off steam.

With dazzling visuals and innovative design set against an original music score explore the stunning autumn woodland setting of Faskally Wood near Pitlochry. Using the forest as a natural backdrop, you will experience a lighting show that is, quite simply, out of this world.
The Enchanted Forest is renowned to be Scotland’s premier sound and light experience.

pitlochry.org
The hydro electric dam where you can see salmon jump the salmon ladder and visit the wonderful visitors centre.

Pitlochry is geared up for visitors all year round with plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets, from luxury hotels to camping sites to small guest houses, there’s definitely something to suit you should you choose to stay for more than one day. That being said, if you travel there from anywhere in the central belt, you can easily spend a day and return to base by nightfall.

Some of the lovely goods available to purchase at the Festival Theatre’s gift shop.

Spending a day there is so enjoyable. The peaceful feeling of being somewhere with a slower pace of life, surrounded by nature and with such fresh air you can’t help but feel rejuvenated cannot be equalled for relaxation. You can go to all the spa days you like but nothing will be as therapeutic as being in a place of such natural beauty.

Nature’s bounty.

The sparkling water of the River Tummel flows from the hills and as you walk along the banks you will come to bridges that take you to the other side where the theatre sits with its gift shop and eatery and further along you can walk over the dam that provides the hydro electric power to the area. So you see, the River Tummel is not just a pretty face, it earns its keep by providing power and many, many exciting leisure activities such as white water rafting.

Unrivalled scenery.

As if this wasn’t enough, the town centre of Pitlochry is full of all kinds of shops, cafes and restaurants. You can eat anything from traditional Scottish fare to a takeaway kebab. Be you a meat eater or a vegetarian, a high class diner or looking for something more down to earth, Pitlochry has it ready for you.

The local wildlife?

Don’t take our word for it, though. Go yourself and find out. There are many ways to get to Pitlochry and whichever one you choose, we hope you have as great a day as we did. Car, bus or train. You choose.

The Helix, Falkirk

Relax at The Helix

The Helix, Falkirk.

Beautiful greenery in The Helix

The Helix Park in Falkirk is a fairly new park for the area. For many years the land on which it is now situated was a bit of a no-go area for humans unless you had good wellies on. The idea was born in 2003 to develop an eco park, link communities that had nothing but road networks  between them and this site, with its 350 hectares of land was the perfect place. Sitting on the border between Falkirk and Grangemouth with close proximity to both town centres, with easy access from the nearby motorway, it has proven to be a very popular place to spend the day with both locals and visitors flocking to it, especially on the nice sunny days in the summer.

Wetlands have been preserved and maintained for the wildlife to enjoy and build their habitats in.

Many organisations were involved in the planning and development of The Helix and in 2007, the project was  awarded twenty five million pounds in grant funding from The Big Lottery. Fast forward to 14th September 2013 and The Helix celebrated its opening day with many people in attendance. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and on any given day, you can see walkers, families at play, cyclists, skaters and all kinds of people enjoying the great outdoors there.

There are many beautiful walkways at The Helix and all are wheelchair user friendly.

The area has two car parks. A free car park near the play park area and a car park that takes a small fee nearer the back where The Kelpies are. There is also sometimes a chance to park your car at Falkirk stadium, from which you can then walk in a few minutes to one of the many entrances to the park.

Free car parking at The Helix

The Helix is essentially in two parts seamlessly lying together. The Helix North and The Helix South. The Helix North is the greener part with long path networks meandering through woodlands and along The River Carron and these paths give access to the area from surrounding communities such as Carron, Grangemouth and Langlees, Bainsford.

The Lake at The Helix. In summer you can enjoy pedalos and kayaking or just sit at the cafe and enjoy the peace and beauty

The Helix South has Over 12km (7.5 miles) of new and upgraded paths. These paths provide connections between Grangemouth, Beancross, Polmont, Lower Braes, Laurieston and Westquarter. They also improve links to the Falkirk Stadium and link to Helix Park, The Kelpies Hub and Helix North.

Some of the wonderful apparatus available to children at The Helix

If you have children The Helix is like a dream destination for them. A fantastic park and boating pond takes centre stage and the apparatus is all constructed with natural materials which encourage young adventurers to explore safely. They can run, climb, balance, spin, jump and all in a very natural environment. While they’re having the time of their life, there is a cafe where you can enjoy some simple foods and get a coffee. At the side of the cafe, there are free toilet facilities so you don’t need to worry about accidents. In the summer months there are also water activities such as kayaking and padalos. There really is something for everyone. Keep up to date with activities at The Helix by pressing the link.

One of the many visitors to The Helix

The Helix park is very accessible, if you’re coming from out-with the area, here’s how to get here. We Falkirk people hope to see you at The Helix soon.

The Meadows Festival, Edinburgh.

The Meadows Festival

The Meadows Festival is free to enter for everyone. (money is required if you wish to purchase from one of the many stalls or ride on the funfair.

The Meadows in Edinburgh is a popular, large green space in the City of Edinburgh that has parkland, children’s play parks, a running track and a cycling track, tennis courts and more. It is always brimming with life and all year round you can see locals and tourists alike enjoying all that it has to offer. However, once a year there is a very special occasion; The Meadows Festival, a free annual event run entirely by volunteers. To name but a few, the event hosts live music bands, dog shows, charity awareness stands, sports events, local food and service providers, bric-a-brac stalls and, not forgetting the fairground; a selection of fairground rides and attractions to suit young, old and everyone in between.

The Meadows Festival Fairground has rides and attractions for all ages.

The Meadows Festival, 2019

This year’s festival has been tremendous. The Scottish weather has been kind and the volunteers, stall holders and musicians have all provided Edinburgh with a wonderful, positive atmosphere in which to enjoy the best of what this area has to offer. This year is the 45th year of this festival and the programme has been so varied and interesting that you can’t help but notice the diversity of Edinburgh, from those campaigning and raising awareness for a free Palestine to those campaigning for an independent Scotland.

The ever important campaign for freedom and human rights for the Palestinian people comes to The Meadows Festival.

There were also food vendors representing the various regions of the globe, such as Slumdog, the Indian Street Food restaurant and those promoting a healthy, plant based lifestyle, such as The Sly Fox and their vegan menu. Then there was the more traditional burgers and other Scottish fare.

The Sly Fox serving their vegan menu.
Some of the vegan goodies in offer from The Sly Fox

We had a chance to chat with some of the people there who were campaigning or selling their products. A very friendly lady called Jean who was campaigning on behalf of Pensioners for Independence, wearing her Scottish Viking hat and giving information to those who wanted it about the great benefits of being an independent country. We had a very informative chat and we hope that her dream comes true.

Jean feels passionately that Scotland should be independent of the UK and campaigns at The Meadows Festival , meeting people with a friendly face, a nice chat and some facts about the campaign for Scottish Independence and her organisation, Pensioners for Independence.

We also spoke with Tony who was selling traditional sweets, such as soor plooms and cola cubes. We happily bought two packets at 2 pounds each and they sent me back to my childhood when we used to go to Peter Pender’s corner shop in Rumford and get a quarter of whatever he had available for a few pence. Of course, the cost is a bit different these days but well worth it. Tony has a shop in Portobello called Cake and Candy Tea Room and these lovely sweets and many like them can be purchased there.

Tony from Cake and Candy Tea Room in Portobello serves us with a happy face and a friendly chat

The ethos seemed to be very much on eco awareness raising. Stall holders have to sign a promise that they will endeavour to use eco friendly, bio degradable containers when selling food items, etc and we did notice that there were many stalls selling plants native to the local countryside and also giving information about horticulture and advising how to get the best out of your garden.

Some of the plants on offer from Solar Ripe, who also do Scottish Medicinal Herbs workshops. Contact on herbs@solarripe.eu

There were various charity stalls there too; Save Palestine, Sands, Cancer charities, etc. All raising awareness and collecting for a good cause. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin who was promoting his charity for single dads and dads with contact. Kevin’s charity was raising funds to help single and separated dads on a budget to take their kids on days out. He was telling me that he also volunteers at Bridgend Farmhouse and has even been nominated to receive an award for his voluntary work there. We wish him the best of luck and hope that he wins the award.

Kevin running his tombola stand to raise funds for Edinburgh Lone Fathers. A very worthy cause that seeks to fund great days out for kids and their dads.

There is so much more to the festival than can be written here, so please visit next year and experience this wonderful event for yourself.

Last but not least, please respect The Meadows. Pick up your rubbish and treat this lovely space with the respect it deserves.

The Meadows Festival Association was founded in 1974 and the members, who are all volunteers, meet fortnightly throughout the year and work towards organising this wonderful event that is there for all the community. Everyone is free to attend their AGM and if you wish to be involved as a volunteer, either on the day or to help with the organisation, you can make an enquiry via their website.

Callendar Park; a Jewel in the Crown of Scotland.

Callendar Park in Falkirk.

The swans of Callendar Park Loch.
Some of the many inhabitants of Callendar Park loch.

Having spent some of my formative years in the Falkirk area, Callendar Park has a special place in my heart. As a child, a trip to Callendar park was quite an event. A picnic would be prepared, we would make sure that the bag was packed with all the food and, if we had pocket money, we knew we would be able to buy an ice-cream cone from the kiosk that still stands there today. Back then, some 45 or so years ago, there was more for children in the park than there is today. I remember the play park there for its merry-go-round and just across from the kiosk, there were rectangular trampolines set into the ground. You could bounce to your heart’s content and the only thing you had to worry about was someone ‘stealing’ your trampoline while you nipped away for a minute.

Callendar House in the Winter Sunshine.
A February Afternoon at Callendar House

We used to have a go on the rowing boats and row around the beautiful, scenic lake there for 20 minutes or so then go and find a place on the grass to eat our much awaited picnic. Now there are swan pedalos instead of rowing boats and the trampolines are long gone, consigned to the memories of people like me.  However, time moves on and the park has stood the test of time. The play park has been modernised and, a sign of the health and safety times, it has a huge fence around it to prevent dogs from coming in where the children play and, of course, the equipment there is much different from 45 year ago. Although there are no trampolines,  in the summer months a bouncy castle is sometimes in situ and parents can pay for young children to have a bounce under supervision. The crazy golf is popular with families and there is also a 9 hole, 3 par golf course  for the enthusiasts who are not satisfied with 10 minutes on the crazy golf.

Fun at Callendar Park.
Having Fun at Callendar Park in the Winter.

The park is home to the beautiful  600 years old mansion, Callendar House which throughout the ages has hosted many famous people including Mary, Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell. Today it is a tourist attraction, like so many historical buildings but the difference is, it is free to enter and wander around its rooms and corridors which host exhibitions of various kinds and a lovely tea room that overlooks the gardens to the rear through huge sash windows. You can even have a taste of what it was like to be a scullery maid in the basement kitchen which retains its original features and kitchen utensils. If you’re lucky, the ‘cook’ in full period costume will allow you to taste a biscuit just like the ones they used to cook there long ago.

Pugs at Callendar Park
Pugs in the Park

The best thing about Callendar park, though, is its beauty. With lots of walking and bike paths, the natural beauty of the mature woodlands can be enjoyed for days at a time and if you’re coming by car there are many free car parking spaces in public areas.

Callendar Park High Flats
Callendar Park High Flats – the New in Harmony with the Old.

While you’re wandering through the grounds and woodlands of Callendar Estate, you will understand just how much this park and its surroundings means to the area. At most times of the day and into the evening,  you will see people walking, jogging, cycling and horse riding and you will mostly be greeted with a nod or a hello. Dogs are welcome too and they bring their own kind of social scene, with dog owners standing around and chatting about their furry loved one as their dogs play together.

Walking in Callendar Park
There are many walkways in Callendar Park, Falkirk. Enjoy them in Winter or summer.

There’s nothing like trees and nature to bring out the best in folk and in this era of technology and being stuck at a desk, a natural area that is free to all and easy to access, is just what the doctor ordered.

The Beautiful Trees of Callendar Park
The Beautiful Trees of Callendar Park in Winter

Don’t make a trip to Falkirk and Central Scotland area without keeping a day free to spend at Callendar Park. There’s always something going on.

Callendar House, back gardens.
A beautiful place to spend the day.

Callendar Park looks forward to welcoming you. How to get to Callendar Park.