Summer in the City
Seasons to be cheerful
It’s summer. Well, as close as it gets to summer in Scotland. Sunshine is carefully rationed so when it does make an appearance you’d better be prepared to make the most of those breaks in the cloud. Here we present some of the best ideas for enjoying sum
With over half an acre of hedgy twists and turns, the thoroughly disorientating maze at Traquair House in Innerleithen is the ideal destination for anyone who wants to spend their summer pretending to be Jennifer Connolly in Labryinth. Watch out for the Bog of Eternal Stench, though, and just say ‘no’ to any creepy glam rock icons in tights you might encounter. www.traquair.co.uk
Successfully light up a barbecue
Throughout the barbecuing process the golden rules are to be prepared and patient. Take some charcoal and build a pyramid in the grate of the barbecue, apply a little lighter fluid (half a cup per 2lbs should do it) and allow it to soak in for a minute or two. Take a nice long cook’s match and light the coals. If using firelighters place one in a gap at the base and centre of the coals, light, and using tongs carefully build a tower of coals channelling the flame upwards. Leave well alone for a good 30 minutes until the coals are glowing red with grey ash powdering the surface, gently spread them a little and hold your hand above to check there’s some fine cooking heat. Don’t apply lighter fluid to hot coals. Get some juicy meat on the grill to really get it going and look for that slap on the back from your dad. Now you’re barbecuing.
Take a boat ride down the Clyde
Glasgow River Festival returns on 14 and 15 July. Take a short boat trip to Braehead and visit the Scottish Maritime Museum. Or take a more adventurous approach and try your hand at dinghy sailing. For a more relaxing day on the river, go for a full day sail down the Clyde and back on the Paddle Steamer Waverly. www.glasgowriverfestival.co.uk
Pack the perfect picnic
The ideal picnic involves sweet red fruit of a bite-sized nature, white bread sandwiches cut tenderly into delicate, crust-free triangles, and cupcakes and scones on a multi-tiered cake stand. Oh, and it should really be washed down with something bubbly (ginger beer, actual beer or a good sparkling wine). But if you don’t want the bother of doing it yourself, make the most of the array of fine purveyors of sunny time nosh. In Glasgow’s West End, Heart Buchanan will fill your picnic box (actually, it’s a cardboard box, not unlike the cat’s vet vehicle) with whatever mixture of its food you fancy - seared squid salad, Lebanese aubergine dip, lobster, chicken breasts and so on - and will charge you according to weight. The menu is at www.heartbuchanan.co.uk. Garlic also does a pretty divine looking hamper - and lets you choose the contents. Delizique and the Hyndland Peckhams also sell empty baskets and will fill it with delights decided in advance. If you’re in the Dennistoun area, head for Tapa Coffee & Bakehouse.
One of the most brilliant alfresco innovations on the Edinburgh picnic scene comes from Voujon, a Bangladeshi restaurant on the Southside. Over the summer you can take away or have delivered a four-tiered tiffin box, just like the traditional ones used on the Indian sub-continent. The £17.95 set menu (veggie, chicken or lamb) is £17.95 and includes a starter, a main course, rice, naan and a Cobra beer. There’s a £10 deposit for the tiffin box, which keeps food warm for up to two hours, and the vegetarian options are particularly good. Victor Hugo, which sells a range of picnic baskets, and can fill them up with bespoke packages, as do Natural Oasis. If you want to really impress someone, Harvey Nichols will put whatever you fancy into a basket. Prices start at £20 for champagne and sarnies. Or if you have money to burn, they are doing a promotion with Moët & Chandon which involves you being served a luxury picnic by what it calls a ‘model butler’ for three hours. All this for just £1500. You’ll probably be as happy with something from Greggs.
Two wheels not just good but fast, healthy and environmentally sound. Renting a bike has plenty of other benefits according to Peter Butterworth of bike tours and rentals firm Cycle Scotland. You’ll get the right size and model for your needs, he says, you can join an organised group or be given a recommended route and even hire a fleet of bikes, ideal if you have friends staying. Peter advises taking the road up Arthur’s Seat seat and then walking to the summit, or heading along the Innocent Cycle Path to Craigmillar Castle. ‘It’s beautiful and, I think, an undervisited attraction,’ he says. www.cyclescotland.co.uk
Dress for success
Women’s summer fashion has gone completely crazy this year. Pick something bright and go with it. Try to avoid leggings, if at all possible.
The long and the short of it For some reason, although there are denim daisy dukes to be had all over the high street, the sizing is totally out. You could be in possession of the slenderest thighs known to womankind and you’d still find yourself squeezing into something three sizes bigger than your usual. Save yourself some money and self-esteem and take scissors to an old pair of jeans.
Folk explosion This appliqué-d, smocked, embroidered frock here is folk. Not boho. It’s nothing like boho at all. Boho was over years ago.
What happens at T in the Park stays at T in the Park Wellies, tiny shorts and neon cagouls, wellies and floaty dresses, wellies over skinny jeans. All excellent looks for hanging around outside the Slam tent or stepping delicately over puddles of vomit. However, striding about in your boots in the city will make you look like a minor royal lost on the way to a drag hunt. See also: glow-sticks as necklaces, wearing your festival wristband for more than a week after you get home.
Make life a beach
With over 60% of the UK’s total coastline in Scotland, we’re almost spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. St Andrews is one of the country’s best and is a favourite for surfers. The seaside resort of Ayr is a geologist’s paradise as well as being popular for scuba diving. The windswept coast at Fife’s Cambo Sands is the perfect place for a quiet stroll or a picnic. While the lesser-known Sea Cliffs beach, just a few miles south of North Berwick, offers magical vistas to re-enact the final scenes in Goonies. What could be better?
Learn how to throw a frisbee
Without spin, a Frisbee throw is nothing. The easiest is the ‘backhand’: place your thumb over and your fingers under the disc and pull your arm across your body. The disc should come with a mix of arm and wrist, in a smooth movement that you may find easier if you start slowly, rather than trying to ping it to the back of beyond. If you’re not getting enough spin, try kinking your wrist inward, then snapping it out. If you throw the disc at an angle, it will head towards the direction its lowest edge is pointing, allowing you to curl it around obstacles and - hopefully - right into the expectant arms of the receiver. For side-arm throws and other fancy stuff, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_throws
Oran Mor’s old church grounds have afforded a larger outdoor area than most (Great Western Road). Greener but still more of a beer hill than a garden is Brel’s little out-back (Ashton Lane); perfectly pleasant during a stretch of fine weather. Also worth a mention are Babbity Bowster (Blackfriars Street) and the dog-friendly McPhabbs (Sandyford Place). A favourite must be Cottiers (Hyndland Street), another church with distracting ambience for that rare, stolen moment, a pint in the sun.
In Edinburgh, The Pond (Bath Road, Leith) is a brilliantly quirky bar, with a lit-up goldfish pond and patio floor made of wine corks. They’ll supply the barbecue essentials - gas, plates, cutlery - all you need to bring is the food. In contrast, the Sheep Heid Inn (The Causeway, Duddingston) is a handy stop-off after sunbathing on Arthur’s Seat, with parasols, a barbecue serving venison burgers and a skittle alley for outdoor bowling. The Pear Tree on West Nicolson Street now has live bands on an outdoor stage. Human Be-In around the corner are an afternoon suntrap. The Outhouse on Broughton Street Lane combines DJs with hotdogs and beers and their fortnightly Sunday barbecues help barflies recover from the night before.
Take a walk by the canals
There are over 130 miles of inland waterways in Scotland offering coast to coast water passage. Follow the canal towpath from Edinburgh to the Falkirk Wheel. Or take the five-mile walk along the Union Canal into Edinburgh. Starting from the Scott Russell aqueduct, passing the Redhall, Slateford, Prince Charlie and Railway aqueducts to arrive at Edinburgh Quay where you can re-fuel at Cargo Bar. www.waterscape.com
Compile a summer mix tape
Andrew Tully from Avalanche Records shares his wisdom:
‘Like Fight Club - but without the unnecessary carnage - there are summer mix tape rules.
1 It has to be a beat up old BASF C90 cassette, with chewing gum or blu-tac jammed in the top to facilitate recording. MP3s are only for those who think music begins and ends with Muse’s latest chundering opus.
2 The cover should feature some iconic 60s star torn from a magazine - Bardot for the boys, Connery for the girls.
3 Relive Proustian summers gone by with songs from your holidays. ‘Who Loves the Sun’ by the Velvets reminds me of two blistering weeks in Seahouses, Northumberland in the 80’s. Euro popstrel Spagna’s ‘Call Me’ is a more sordid kettle of fish.
4 For those lazy, hazy afternoons, sample Ulrich Schnauss’ latest blissed out shoegazing electronica, Goodbye.
5 It’s Scotland, it’s summer - you’ll need the Mary Chain’s ‘Happy When It Rains’.’
Spot some wildlife
Scotland is one of the world’s top ten and Europe’s number one eco-destination. The Falls of Clyde Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve in New Lanark has been rated as a four-star wildlife attraction by VisitScotland for their unique wildlife walks. Kicking off at 8pm through July, August and September, you can spot some badgers, Pipistrell and Daubenton bats, owls, woodcock and roe deer on a two-hour walk through the reserve. all for £2. Booking is essential as space is limited. 01555 665262.
Visit the Lido exhibition at the Lighthouse
The 1930s were the heyday for lidos and outdoor swimming pools, when Brits braved the cold and went for an alfresco dip. This photography exhibition looks at the remaining, often neglected lidos still open in Scotland. The Lighthouse, Glasgow, until 15 Aug.
Wear shorts (with dignity)
This season’s two hot looks (literally) are Emo Kid (black, big fringe, skinny jeans) and Nu-Rave (neon EVERYTHING). Both are incompatible with the smallest bit of warmth - you’ll just get sweaty, and Pete Doherty is not the most attractive of icons to model yourself on. Here’s our foolproof guide to updating your look.
Notes on the wearing of shorts You’re going to haul out the same cropped camo trousers you’ve had since the late 90s, with the weird adjustable dangly bits. We’re at peace with that, we really are, although there are some really nice tailored shorts on the high street just now - sure we can’t tempt you? Okay, but we’ve got one tiny request. Please don’t wear them with trainers. It might feel practical, but you will always, always end up looking like Stumpy the Boy Scout.
Headwear You there in the golfing visor. Everyone is laughing at you and your partner secretly feels that they don’t really respect you any more. Also, note that there’s a difference between a cloth Communist-era worker’s cap (good) and a baseball cap (bad).
Learn how to make a Pimms
When James Pimm invented a gin-based drink to aid digestion in 1823, he could never have imagined that it would eventually be transformed into the essential taste of summer. James Sutherland of Oddfellows Bar in Edinburgh has been perfecting his Pimms recipes in anticipation of lazy summer afternoons. Fill a pitcher full of ice. Add fresh sliced cucumber, strawberries, lemon, mint and 50ml of fresh lemon juice. Add 75ml of Pimms and 75ml of gin and top with lemonade. To take Pimms to the next level, try James’ own Pimms by Royal Approval. Add 50ml of fresh lemon juice to the ice and fruit then add 75ml of Pimms no1, 50ml of tanqueray no10 and 25ml chambord. Top up with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and stir very gently.
Walk the walk
The simple pleasures are the best, and walking is a cheap and easy way of seeing the countryside, even living in a city. Walking Scotland’s website has a wide selection of routes ranked from moderate to hill and mountain walks, and these include the two and a half hour walk through Blackford and the Braid Hills which passes the Braid Hills Hotel and the Hermitage of Braid’s Visitor Centre. There are routes of varying length through the Pentland Hills, with one of the longer journeys lasting six hours and starting and finishing at the Flotterstone Ranger Centre. The walk covers some of the area’s highest hills (Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip) and a bus runs from Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place to the Flotterstone Inn. Over in the west, there is a two hour route along the Clyde to Glasgow Green and back to Central Station, or a gentle 40 minute stroll around Mugdock Country Park to the north of Glasgow. The path goes past the duck pond and the ruins of Craigend Castle. walking.visitscotland.com/walks
Be taken for a ride
Scotland’s scenery is stunning when admired at any speed, whether it’s on horseback or something a little faster. Pony trekking is said to burn 40 calories every ten minutes during a gentle hack, and there are other advantages, says Lynsey McAlonie of Tower Farm Riding Stables, (0131 664 3375). These include learning a new sport and the therapeutic benefits of spending time with animals. The stables have access to a traffic-free route which winds through the Braid Hills, groups are never larger than eight, and first timers are advised to come along for an introductory lesson, with individual sessions available. Trusty steeds of the mechanical variety provide independence to explore the countryside at your leisure, whether it’s a basic vehicle or one of the fleet from Caledonian Classic car rental who rents out everything from Beetles and MGs to E-Type Jaguars. Owner Alex Stewart says: ‘These are cars that people remember from when they were kids and it’s a chance to have a bit of fun while you’re driving.’ www.caledonianclassics.co.uk
Dine alfresco in Edinburgh
A little scenery makes a great accompaniment to any meal, and the unmistakable sight of Edinburgh Castle and across the Firth of Forth to Fife can be admired from several culinary spots. Oloroso on Castle Street, The Tower in the Museum of Scotland and the Forth Floor Restaurant in Harvey Nichols all make the most of their vantage points, and the same landmarks can be admired to equally striking effect from the tranquil comfort of the Terrace Café in the Royal Botanic Garden. Petit Paris brings la tradition Française to the Grassmarket, an area also overlooked by the garden terrace at Maxie’s Bistro at the top of the Royal Mile. Leith provides the ever-popular attractions of people watching at Vittoria on Leith Walk, or the winning combination of picnic tables, barbecue, wall-mounted flatscreen TV, and heaters at The Courtyard.
Rock out at Hey You Get Off My Pavement
The east end record shop and vegetarian café Mono is hosting a one-day extravaganza of barbecue treats, courtyard bars and live performances from The Aliens, Errors, Yo Majesty and Part Chimp on Sun 5 August. It was a sell-out last year, so they’ve bumped the capacity up to 1000. www.myspace.com/heyyougetoffmypavement
Go cycling in Milport
Something of a Clyde coast institution, a daytrip to Millport is the perfect summer excursion. A leisurely 10-mile pedal around the coast offers breathtaking scenery while the challenging inner route rewards the adventurous with spectacular panoramas over the firth. Mapes of Millport does cycle and tandem hire starting from £2 per hour or £4.60 for the whole day. 01475 530 444
Eat in the street
The Bavarian-themed West Brewing Company, on the edge of Glasgow Green, opens up a beer garden in the summer months with a view of the People’s Palace and Doulton Fountain, and in the centre of town, Di Maggio’s brings a large serving of continental charm to Royal Exchange Square when the sun shines. There are ample opportunities for waterside dining, and in the West End, picnic tables on the banks of the River Kelvin at the Big Blue provide a deservedly popular suntrap. If you’d prefer a canalside seat, then head to Lock 27 in Anniesland that has more than a dozen tables outside. Finally, the City Café at Finnieston capitalises on its rejuvenated Clydeside location, with floor to ceiling windows and summertime marquees with an aquatic backdrop.
Indulge in some capital green
Edinburgh also has a healthy supply of parks - the Meadows are great for ‘activity picnics’ (some boys just won’t sit still, will they?), Holyrood Park is fab for watching kite geeks, and Inverleith Park is a Mecca for lovely pooches - but there are also plenty of less obvious places. If you jump on the Number 4 bus and get off at the last stop - Hillend. You can walk to the Midlothian Snowsports Centre (stay with me, folks), which is open all year. For £2, you can go up their 400m ski lift, which takes you up to a Pentlands hillside spot with views that’ll turn you all literary.
A fairly taxing walk from there will repay you with lochs, fresh air and picnic space galore. Within the city, there are myriad special places too. All along the Water of Leith you’ll find amazing spots to tuck into your hamper. The Dean Gallery has a wide and pretty perfect lawn that’s also worth a few hours. And even along the Canongate there are little hidden gardens just waiting to be discovered.
Hit the (picnic) spot
Everything tastes better outside - even if it contains the odd insect. Glasgow, not known as the ‘dear green place’ for nothing, has loads of gorgeous parks for your alfresco pleasure. Southsiders love Queen’s Park as a spot for lazy, hazy outdoor noshing, and those who want to combine their picnicking with a walk in an urban spot that feels pretty darn rural head for Pollok Park, which has loads of areas with longish grass for a private, gentle snooze. At the back of The Botanics you’ll find a sheltered wee area, down in a natural valley created by the river. It’s perfect for sunny, but windy, days, and a marvellous place to take a new love. If a good view is a priority, get yourself up to the main Glasgow University area (where the flags are). There’s a perfect lawn from which you eat your sarnies and marvel at the city from afar.
Soothe your sunburn
‘Every year people come in looking for ways to cool down after getting too much sun,’ says Dee Atkinson, an expert in complementary medicine and director of Napier’s Herbal Dispensaries. ‘It’s as if the prospect of a little sun goes to our heads. We forget pale Scottish skin burns more easily than toast. Aloe vera is the most valuable remedy. Aloe is available mixed into creams and lotions and the pure gel can be applied neat to the affected area. I make up a lotion with aloe in a chamomile base which is especially good for children’s skin.’