Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

How about talking Rothesay UP rather than DOWN?

Over the years, and I mean in decades, not just single years, one would have to be bordering on delusional or blind not to have seen how Rothesay has become neglected, BUT saying that alone would selectively ignore the simple fact that ALL the towns which enjoyed prosperity as Clyde resorts over the years suffered the same downturn in their fortunes once the cheap package holiday took hold around the 1970s, and Brits deserted their local holiday venues.

It was simply cheaper to jet off abroad than holiday at home. And truth be told that wasn’t really the fault of the Clyde (and other) resort towns, but a consequence of a massive new package holiday industry backed by smart operators and the money to invest in it and make it pay for them. Sell cheap, sell lots, collect a small margin, but collect lots of it.

But there’s been a quiet revolution on the Clyde, and even before I had to give up regular visits to many of the former resort towns, they were being slowly turned around at the start of the millennium, and the process has been continuous.

Too slow for some, I still get the sense of a derogatory tone when some writers just chant the same mantra of doom and gloom as has been heard since the 1970s, but that is unfair.

Change really has to be slow to be effective. Think of the stupid fad diets pushed by ‘celebrities’ – their purpose is to make celebrities rich by having stupid people eat their ‘magic food’. Rapid change in a place is the same. Both leave the buyer unsatisfied, are ineffective, and their only effect is to empty pockets.

Rothesay has seen such a long-term initiative: The Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI)

This 5 year plan concluded in 2016, with numerous sites and buildings throughout the town benefiting.

I’m lucky enough to access to pics of the changes made in the town, but it was tough to pick just a couple to provide a representative ‘Before and After’ example.

In the end, I went for the facade behind the car park on Guildford Square, NOT because of the infilling of the long standing gap site there (that was easy), but for the view either side, where the existing buildings have been retained and restored:

Guildford Square in 2013

Guildford Square in 2013


Guildford Square in 2015

Guildford Square in 2015

Don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not saying it’s perfect – I’m the type that would have dearly loved to see the chequered original of ‘Maison Gina’ restored rather than swept away (I even miss the gap, it was an old friend), but… I’m also a realist.

See this gallery for a look at many of those projects while underway:

Zak’s Gallery: Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative

It’s not my place or intent to ‘Name and Shame’, but it can be disappointing/depressing to read some commenters derogatory remarks about how slow this project was (in their opinions) and some even criticised the 5% contribution asked of those who wanted the THI to assist with their property.

Still others may be found who still sneer and call ‘failure’ as they point at the building which may still be referred to as ‘eyesores’, as if the THI was supposed to fix ALL the town’s structural problems.

They won’t be happy…

In fact, they’ll probably be hopping mad, as a new initiative aims to target “prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.”

Rothesay is to share in a £6.2 million fund which will help to upgrade the seafront.

The Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding which has been announced, will see £500,000 of funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for essential repairs and improvements to buildings on Rothesay’s seafront.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: “We’ve seen how successful this approach can be in previous schemes across the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results for Rothesay.”

The aim of Rothesay CARS will be to repair prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.


CARS specifically targets conservation areas with disadvantages that make it difficult to attract investment in sustainable regeneration.

The scheme assists these areas through channelling funding towards opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth and help support projects that develop an area’s sense of place.

The scheme is open to Local and National Park Authorities, community groups and other third sector organisations delivering multi-funded projects.

Funding can be utilised for a number of purposes, from priority repairs and small grants to homeowners and retailers, to providing traditional craft training opportunities.

Via ‘The Buteman’: Rothesay seafront to get £500k boost

I really don’t care about the naysayers any more, and just ignore them in passing now, and enjoy the various improvements made to the town and its facilities. They can go wallow in the pit of their own self-imposed misery – the rest of us will move on.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

George Square has become a little greener

It’s nice to think of the insane schemes that were proposed for George Square in recent years, and have become nothing more than memories. A reminder that a delusional city council can be held to account when it oversteps its authority and the people stamp their feet.

I’m not even going to dig up the articles, suffice to say we still don’t have any unwanted ‘water features’, or venues only suitable for warm and dry resorts, as opposed to Scotland’s ‘glorious’ climate!

We’re even seeing the back of the ‘Red Tarmac’ (or whatever it was) and the return of grass to the square.

Surprisingly sensibly restored flush to the ground, so (I’m guessing) it can be boarded over to allow events to be held there.

Last time I was there, I think it was still a building site and the work was in progress with the now grassy areas blocked off by fencing, but now all the works seem to be clear, and the grass is ‘open for business’.

I caught this quiet evening view while passing through recently.

While you can’t tell in this small crop, the original has one spooky feature spotted when I was processing the image – the fellow to the left of the bench is staring STRAIGHT into my camera, with a very piercing grumpy or disapproving look. He’s holding a camera too – I wonder if I somehow unwittingly ruined his shot?


George Square grassed

George Square regrassed

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | 1 Comment

PH Components becomes Dunlop’s Auto Shop

Expanding the empire from its (kind of) recent move to larger premises in Shettleston, I spotted my local car shop had taken over the derelict PH Components shop between Cambuslang and Rutherglen a while ago, and is due to open this year.

Funny how the colours of the sign came up so much more vividly in the first floodlit shot, possibly thanks to the many new LED floodlights they have.

It was quite a surprise to see this shining in the night, as the original black fronted shop had lain empty for some time after that business closed.

Rutherglen Dunlop's Auto Store

Rutherglen Dunlop’s Auto Store

The later daylight pic is much more drab and dull – and also odd, as it looks as if someone has broken all the floodlights from their mountings since I was last there, and every single one is hanging from its wires in front of the sign. Yet they were all tidily mounted in the first pic.

Rutherglen Dunlop's Auto Store

Rutherglen Dunlop’s Auto Store

Sad to say, the offer of “Any part For Any Car” (apart from being an excuse to call for public flogging of the sign-maker for dreadful use of capitalisation AND lack of apostrophe in the name – an error carried over from their Shettleston signs) has to be taken with care. Since I was passing the door on the way home one day (a few years ago), and had just had the privilege of having had one of Scotland’s finest ‘dumb deer’ try to end its life by piling itself into the SIDE of my car, I needed a new headlight, so thought I’d rather give Dunlop’s the money than the dealer. While they tried for two days, they eventually had to admit defeat, and tell me they couldn’t get Proton parts.

Things got worse after that.

As per Murphy’s Law, the deer had trashed the GOOD side of my car, meaning I had lost a perfectly good headlight unit.

Just after that, a new MOT tester started working in my local station. Since he clearly wanted to make a name for himself, he decided that the crack in the OTHER headlight unit (which had not been a problem for the past 5 or more MOTs) was a fail point, and I had to go buy a new one for THAT side too. No argument. No discussion.

I hate deer.

Did I mention that before? I hate them, I really do.

January 8, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Buildings around George Square due for revamp

George Square 2015

George Square 2015

I misread the title of an article related to George Square recently, and thought that some magic had been invoked to get £70 million allocated for revamp – after all, it’s only been about 3 years since some people had a fit over a mere £15 million being spent on a facelift. Well, to be more accurate, the problem was really caused by some fool who thought it would be a good idea to completely redesign the landmark. Fortunately, the resultant outcry of public opinion (the crazy plan had been made without any proper public consultation) meant the council had to drop it, and settle for tidying up the existing layout.

While the square has seen some radical changes to its layout, that plan was “a step too far” as it would have completely repurposed the area.

New George Square design unveiled ahead of vote by Glasgow City Council

George Square facelift approved

But this was not the Square, and instead referred to some of the building around it.

And that’s no bad thing. While it’s a while since I looked at them, and most are looking good, one or two are a little tired, and I barely notice them as they are not even in use. Anything that can be done to save them from dereliction or abandonment has to be a good idea.

The business is gone now, but I do remember getting a surprise when despatched to look at a faulty printing machine some years ago, and found myself descending into the bowels of one of those buildings. When it closed a few years ago, I think it featured in the news, as it was quite an operation to remove all the machinery.


Planning proposals have been submitted for a £70m refurbishment of historic buildings at Glasgow’s George Square which have lain empty for decades.

The buildings sit at the north east corner of the square, between George Street and Martha Street.

Developer Chris Stewart Group wants to create apartments, a hotel and student accommodation, offices, and a pedestrian lane with cafes and bars.

It is now seeking planning permission from Glasgow City Council.

Mr Stewart’s firm wants to create a “George Street Complex” which would see two listed buildings renovated for five-star serviced apartments and commercial offices as well as the construction of a new hotel and student accommodation.

The plan includes a pedestrian lane with restaurants, bars and cafes and a central plaza.

It is thought that the development could eventually support about 320 jobs in the city centre.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick is backing the scheme.

“These development plans offer an opportunity to regenerate a prominent city centre site, part of which has been left derelict for more than 80 years,” he said.

“From a series of run-down buildings and an empty patch of land, the plans will create an area that thrives with people and businesses.

Via BBC News:

George Square site in Glasgow earmarked for £70m revamp

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | 1 Comment

Where does the time go? Kelvingrove galleries already up for revamp

It’s funny how time can pass you by and you hardly notice it.

I went to the 2006 opening (or re-opening of Kelvingrove) after its massive refurbishment – and due to various changes in circumstances around since then, never made it back.

Probably the main factor is that I’d have to use public transport, and that a pig of trip from where I live, and would take ages and involve a lot of walking. Walking’s not a problem, but having to spend the time wasted doing it in streets, and maybe getting soaked through… just puts me off the idea.

So it was a bit of shock to see how long I’d put this adventure off, when I saw that the Life Gallery, which displays Sir Roger the elephant, and the museum’s Spitfire, will close to allow the Spitfire to be lowered and checked over, while the opportunity is taken to remodel the gallery.

I’ll have to try to plan a route there that makes better use of the day.

In the ‘old’ days I used to be able to pop into the transport museum and Kelvingrove with no effort, so I think I need to do something the same, only based around the nearest train station.

Until then, I’ll make do with the People’s Palace, at least I can walk there in a couple of hours, and there’s interesting stuff to see and photograph on the way.

I’ve got the same pic as seen below, showing the Spitfire and gallery back them – but can’t lay hands on mine (quickly, at least) so thank goodness for this one being available for re-use. I would say I might even be in this one, but can’t be – when I was there, the people were packed in like sardines!

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Final phase of New Lanark restoration set to begin

I find it almost amazing to read that work described a restoration of the FINAL building to be restored at New Lanark has been funded, and is about to begin.

I was still at school when I learned of New Lanark, which was one the places the school took my class during a week away when we were treated to a break, a sort of ‘retreat’, where we stayed at various places of interest, and we spent a day there.

I was so impressed, my project documenting the village and the mill history even won a prize.

Then, the entire village was a derelict ruin, bar the few houses that were still occupied. We could not even visit the factory buildings or school, such was their truly dangerous condition – not that there would have been anybody to show us around.

I did not return until I was an adult, and over the years was able to watch the place grow as money was found to fund the work, and bring people back to live in the restored homes.

The only I dislike intensely about the progress made down there is the appearance of an expensive luxury hotel, fitted onto one of the old factory building – but, on the other hand, I do acknowledge that its presence is probably one of the factors that maintains the village and keeps it view, so I have to tolerate it. And it’s buried away at the far end of the site, so I don’t have to see it – much.

The only thing I really miss is the little car museum that once lived there (and moved to the Argyll Car Factory in Alexandria, but closed not long after). I never made it through the door before it moved, as I saw most of the exhibits out of doors, as I usually visited on special days where they were brought out for an airing. I didn’t make the same mistake while it was in Alexandria I’m out of touch now, but it closed around 2009, and may not have re-opened.)

Work on £1.5m New Lanark restoration set to begin – The Scotsman

I got lucky (since I had no camera back in those days), and tripped over a pic of New Lanark as seen in 1980, which shows the condition of the buildings then:

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Approval of outline designs for Rothesay Pavilion

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was worried about the future of Rothesay’s iconic Art Deco pavilion, that doesn’t mean I don’t still harbour some concerns.

Although I don’t see the building as being at any particular risk, in the sense that we will see it become abandoned, derelict, and lose its roof, I do worry slightly about the time everything takes to progress from stage to stage, and how the funding is slow to be secured (that’s not to misread as any criticism of those securing it).

However, things do keep moving forward, and the latest news of approval for designs for the building which will go forward to form the basis of a business plan, and planning and funding applications, is good to hear.

And comes with a projected date of mid 2017 for the renovated building to open its doors.

I’ll be watching that date, and hoping it doesn’t slip.

The plans include upgrading of the main hall and facilities, with a goods lift to the lower floor.

Creation of new space for performances, and extensions on the roof for office space and other use.

A new café with improved facilities., including a lift to all floors.

The building to be refurbished inside and out.

More details:

Rothesay Pavilion design scheme approved – The Buteman.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Glum Helensburgh esplanade lighting story

Sad to say, I misunderstood the meaning of the headline on the following story on first sighting:

Lighting to be installed on Helensburgh seafront | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

Recalling the old days of the Clyde coastal resorts, I erroneously interpreted this as a reference to decorative illuminations of some sort, and not merely street lighting.

And it got worse as I read on, with:

one Helensburgh resident and business owner is concerned the seafront is ‘unsafe’ due to the lack of handrails, permanent barriers, and adequate lighting.

He said with summer on the way, tourists who don’t know the area may be in danger of taking a wrong step and tumbling into the sea at night.

He told the Advertiser: “If someone’s walking along near the edge and trips they might just drop into the sea and that could be the end of them – especially is there is a storm or if it’s high tide.”

I don’t know the statistics, but I have been a regular visitor, and can’t recall stories of visitors spontaneously falling into the sea, and if it’s stormy, then wandering along the edge is acting irresponsibly. Describing the seafront as ‘unsafe’ seems rather extreme and possibly politically motivated, as there are many Scottish seafronts with considerably less lighting or barriers etc than Helensburgh, and we don’t appear to have any significant problems as a result.

It will be interesting to see the result of the work mentioned in this story, as one of the nice things about spending a late evening on the esplanade at Helensburgh is the relative darkness and quiet, both things we miss if we live in or near the city. I hope that sitting on the pier (in the car park) enjoying a locally procured fish supper and watching the light on the opposite shore come on as dusk falls will not become little more than a memory.

I’m also somewhat amazed that no-one attempted to blame this resident’s outburst on some mythical and non-existent Health and Safety requirement. Maybe the Advertiser has been fingered for promoting such nonsense in the past, and doesn’t want to be held up as an example of that particular type of headline-making nonsense.

On the other hand, the article does go on to describe works which are being carried out to improve the appearance of the area, and remove potential tripping hazards, repair road/footpath surfaces, and install various items of street furniture – and that’s all good to hear.

The pic below is from April 2014, so the work mentioned in the report is not just a promise, but actually taking place:

Pity they’re not installing some good old-fashioned illuminations (as well).

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Local loses the plot while Bute’s MSP pleads for sanity in Rothesay’s crazy window saga

Cat window break

I seem to have found another apparently simple tale that is going to become a long-running saga should it fail to be resolved soon.

I mentioned the already extended tale of woe developing around a simple window upgrade to a Rothesay hotel, which had become complicated due to the inflexibility of those involved due to the listed nature of the building, meaning the owner was being refused permission to replace the old and rotten wooden single glazed windows with more efficient modern double glazing.

This week’s Buteman reports a letter written by one of the island’s residents who is against the hotel owner’s attempt to use the modern windows (which is fair enough) but who has also clearly lost at least some of her marbles, and describes the owner as a ‘thug’:

In a letter published in the new edition of The Buteman, Margaret Booth Homewood also questions the support given to Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, by the island’s politicians.

Mrs Booth Homewood states in her letter: “I stand resolutely on the conservation side of this argument and am delighted to learn that the people involved are being brought to task for what amounts to blatant architectural vandalism.

“I do have all sympathy and encouragement for anyone wishing to mend an ailing building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

“I am therefore left to ponder an obvious point that seems to have been overlooked: why our elected representatives are openly supporting illegal, thuggish, and frankly arrogant behaviour by a member of the public!”

Via Rothesay hotel owners accused of ‘architectural vandalism’ – The Buteman

Meanwhile, as if to attempt to inject a note of sanity and calm into the matter, Bute’s MSP has pointed out that many building surrounding the hotel have been refurbished with the windows at the root of this issue, without the problems being suffered by the hotel’s owners:

Bute’s MSP has hit out at the “exceptionally heavy handed treatment” of the owners of a Rothesay hotel over the replacement of windows in their property.

Michael Russell contacted Argyll and Bute Council’s chief executive Sally Loudon after Harry and Hazel Greene were served with a court order stopping the installation of UPVC windows in the Bute House Hotel.

Via MSP backs Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

Mrs Margaret Booth Homewood clearly needs to get out more, and have a look at Rothesay if she considers the replacement of rotten wooden single glazed windows to be ” blatant architectural vandalism“.

Maybe have a walk around the front and look at the near derelict and empty hotels that are literally falling apart – and have been dropping their bits on the footpath and almost killing pedestrians.

Or look at the modernisation carried out on the shops across the road from the slip road to the ferry. I still get sore eyes looking at them even though it is many years since they were refurbished and made look very ‘architecturally vandalised’ compared to their surroundings.

And I remember wandering along Montague Street many years ago, trying to find the ‘old style’ shops with arcade style entrances, where you could walk between two sets of windows filled with goods before you reached the door into the shop. All gone and replaced with modern shop fronts where all you have is a window and door facing onto the street.

And let’s not forget the derelict and abandoned shops and houses that have been gouged out of the streets and lay as wrecks for years, with windows boarded up and roofs falling into the buildings.

Much more “architectural vandalism” has been done all along the streets of Rothesay in the past few decades, much more noticeable and much more damaging than the replacement of windows that look little different from the original, and use different materials.

Time for a reality check, to remember why the windows are being fitted, and consider this is a working building, not a museum.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bute’s window insanity appears set to escalate to the courts

Cat window break

I recently decided it was time to highlight the crazy case of the hotelier who was at odds with Argyle & Bute Council over the requirement that the listed status of the hotel building meant that modern double glazed window units could not legitimately be used to replace the decayed and rotten single glazed wooden original, and that these could effectively only be renewed on a like-for-like basis: Window madness on the Isle of Bute.

In the past few days, it seems that the hoteliers started to replace the rotten windows with modern units, in defiance of regulation – and the result was a letter,  warning that jail could be the result for defying the planning rules that apply to the property:

The owners of a Rothesay hotel have been told by planning officers that they could be sent to prison if they continue to defy planning rules on the replacement of windows in their property.

Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, decided to press ahead with the installation of double-glazed uPVC windows with turn-and-tilt frames in the property – despite having two planning applications refused by Argyll and Bute Council, and an appeal against refusal dismissed by the Scottish Government.

Work began on replacing the windows on the morning of Wednesday, March 19 – and within an hour the Greenes had received a visit from two of the authority’s planning officers.

The letter stated that:

* if the Greenes or their contractors proceed with the unauthorised operations, the council expects the matter to be reported to the procurator fiscal recommending prosecution, and that if prosecuted and found guilty of an offence the Greenes would receive a criminal record and may be imprisoned or fined;

Via: Jail threat for Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

The hotel owners have

The owners of a Rothesay hotel are pressing ahead with the installation of UPVC windows in their property – despite being warned that they could face prison if they continue to defy planning rules.

Harry and Hazel Greene employed local contractors to install the windows at the Bute House Hotel on Thursday, following their delivery the previous day by a company which then pulled out of the job after being warned the police could be called in.

Via: Rothesay windows row hotelier: I’ve come too far to stop now – The Buteman

The work was caught as it started, by Zak (our brilliant eyes on Bute) – spot the arm in the middle of the window:

We can only wait and see what happens next, and how this matter escalates now that we seem to have a potential offence against which action can be taken.

A day later, The Buteman noted that a court order had been served on the hotel owners, effectively halting all work, and giving them 21 days to lodge an intention to defend the order.

The work to replace the windows – in defiance of the rejection of two planning applications by the council, and the dismissal of an appeal to the Scottish Government against refusal – began on Wednesday, and continued on Thursday despite the issuing of a letter by the council asking the Greenes to cease the unauthorised operations and the serving of a Temporary Stop Notice by an enforcement officer from the authority on Thursday.

Mr Greene told The Buteman on Saturday: “This will stop the work. Serving the order at nearly half past six on a Friday night shows they seriously mean business, because I could have completed the work over the weekend.”

Court order stops work on Rothesay windows row hotel – The Buteman

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | Leave a comment

30 years of the Burrell

It’s rather hard for me to grasp the concept of the Burrell Collection having been in place for 30 years. I won’t even try and guesstimate how long I think it’s been around, but if I had been asked, I would have been well short of the real answer (until I had looked up the relevant date.)

It’s on the ‘wrong’ side’ of Glasgow for me. Although I’ve looked at the public transport option, it seems to involve so many changes that I never considered it realistic as I’d have been knackered (all hot and bothered and thoroughly fed by the time I got there – and still had the return trip to look forward to) by the time I got there.

While I could not even try to count the number of times I’ve fallen through the doors of Kelvingrove, I’m afraid my visits to the Burrell would probably need the fingers of only one hand, and not all of them.

I confess that the charge for the car park put me off, as the collection itself has not admission charge. And the problem was not the amount charged, but that there seemed to be nothing in return. On the few occasions I did visit, the car park was unstaffed (ticket machines took my money), and the high point of each visit was seeing the police attend as the locals seemed to see the cars as their own ‘Smash & Carry’ takeaways, which must have ruined the day for those who were targeted to have their windows smashed. At least I knew well enough to empty mine, and leave nothing on show, not even the car radio (removable).

I haven’t been there for some years now, so don’t know if the car park is still the same.

But the car park is not the collection, and that is still something to celebrate.

The Burrell is said to attract in excess of 200,000 visitors per annum. A good number, but I can’t think a more accessible location would see more feet through the door – but on the other hand, the building and its location were given specific conditions as part of Burrell’s bequest of his collection to the Glasgow, so I can only make that a personal observation and thought.

The building (which was A listed not too long ago) is due to close for some 4 years come 2016, in order to allow refurbishment to take place. The new works will ultimately allow an increase in the number of items which can be displayed.

it is hoped that items from the collection will be allowed to go on a World Tour while the building is closed, however there is some controversy associated with this proposal. Understandably, at the time of the original bequest, one of the conditions laid down by Burrell was that items would not be loaned, as he feared they would be damaged in transit. Clearly, transport has come a long way since then, and such items are now routinely moved without harm, so permission is being sought at Parliamentary level in order to modify the terms. The hope being that by circulating items from the collection, it will become better known throughout the World, leading to even more visitors to the collection proper.

They certainly have the space (and more after the refurb) as the building had appeared almost deserted on the occasions I did visit.

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

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