Scotland and North of England Tour Diary April 2012
Since we were doing a longer tour rather than gigs scattered here and there with spaces in between, we thought it might be a nice idea to write a kind of tour diary. Unfortunately we only thought of this once we got home so apologies if we have anyone’s name wrong or if we’ve missed anyone out – our memories are useless!
We started out in Biddulph, Staffordshire. It was our 23rd birthday, so after a morning of unwrapping presents at home we set off in some typical rainy April weather armed with an elaborately decorated cake and a car so full we could barely move. We got to the pub in good time (quite a big place with geese outside) so after a leisurely sound check, a delicious meal from Eric, the organiser, and some time to read and knit in the B&B around the corner, we were nicely relaxed ready for the gig. We had a good sized crowd who even sang us happy birthday – thanks Biddulph!
The next day we crossed the border into Scotland to play at the Denholm Folk Club. The weather was clearer and so we had a pleasant drive through some beautiful scenery. When we got to the Auld Cross Keys, the venue for that night, we were particularly pleased to find that our first Scottish gig of the tour had a tartan carpet. We stayed with Mac and Sharon and their wonderfully exuberant flat coat retriever that night, and even got a taste of Macs 30 year old Balvenie Whisky. We were enjoying Scotland very much already!
We left the next morning to get back down to Cumbria for a gig in Cockermouth. We arrived early and so had a good look round the town and its antique shops where we narrowly avoided buying another banjo. The venue, the Kirkgate Centre, was a lovely small-medium sized theatre and we had another good turnout. The B&B we stayed in had some photos from the big floods they had in Cockermouth in 2009. We were amazed at how high the water had got and also how good the town looks now 3 years on.
On the 21st we set out again back up to Scotland. We were due to play at the Craigmore Bowling Club on the Isle of Bute the next day and the people who were putting us up for that night had kindly offered to have us stay the night before too. After getting the ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay we were met by Paul the promoter, who took us to where we were staying. We were welcomed into a beautiful big house overlooking the sea by Debbie and Elaine, where they and a group of people run a vegan cheese and jewellery business. We spent the evening eating pizza (featuring the aforementioned vegan cheese – it tasted like real cheese!), talking about dobro slides and picks with Paul, and trying out Stuart’s (one of the others who lived there) lovely handmade violins.
The morning of the 22nd they directed us to Ettrick Bay where we spent a lovely sunny morning skimming stones. Afterwards we drove around the island, went for a very brief stroll to look at some highland cows, and also saw a sheep chasing an oyster catcher through field. In the afternoon we went on the local radio station where we gave a brief interview, played a couple of songs, made a fuss of the presenters dog, and got fed tunnocks tea cakes. The gig at the bowling club was great fun. We had another good crowd and were supported by Paul, Debbie and Elaine’s band Rise (not forgetting the fourth member Gerry).
Charlotte in action
After saying our goodbyes on Bute, we got the ferry back to the mainland and started the drive up to Dingwall (just North of Inverness) for the first of two gigs put on by Rob Ellen. We took the scenic route up the A82 which sent us past Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness and many other beautiful places.
The view from the car window
The Teaposy was a lovely venue full of lots of quirky ornaments, pretty tea cups and a community knitting scarf – it suited us well! Our favourite thing though, had to be the ceramic horse with a bizarre but very endearing expression. We took a photo with it, although Charlotte’s face is possibly stranger than the horse’s! We were chatting to Lewis who worked there about his brother Matheu Watson who is a brilliant Scottish folk musician. He gave us a CD which to us seemed very appropriate and lovely music for driving through the highlands again up to Ullapool the next day.
We got to Ullapool mid-morning so had a plenty of time to look around. It’s a pretty little town with some stunning views of both sea and mountains. We were staying and playing at the Argyll Hotel (more tartan carpets!) which had a lovely cosy fire and served wonderful seafood, had a large whisky menu and more surprisingly, proper cider. The show went well and was greatly improved for us by the presence of dogs Todd and Dash. One lady in the audience, on hearing us mention our greyhound/whippet/dogs in general obsession, left just before the end to bring her whippet to show us. Unfortunately it was raining so it refused to leave the house – typical whippet! While we were in Ullapool we recorded an interview and session for Rob Ellen’s Medicine Show which went out on the local radio as well as on UKCountryRadio.com.
On the 25th we had a night off. We spent part of the day looking around the Glen Ord whisky distillery which was very interesting and we sampled (and bought) some of their wonderful whisky. Before we left the house on Wednesday I had quickly booked us somewhere to stay on late rooms just aiming for whatever was cheapest and roughly midway between Ullapool and Crail. We couldn’t believe our luck when we turned up at Ballindarroch Country House, a beautiful old hunting lodge on the shore of Loch Ness. After a brief tour of the communal rooms downstairs – living room with a fire going and hand painted 30’s wall paper, pool room with more hand painted wall paper, grand dining room again with original wallpaper, and well equipped kitchen (it was self-catering) – we were shown to a lovely bedroom with a big bay window overlooking the garden and woods beyond and also a rather grand bathroom down the corridor.The owner of the house then gave us some directions for a lovely walk down through open woodland to Loch Ness, and look what we saw! No photoshop, honest…
The next day we were in Crail, a pretty little fishing village in Fife. It was a miserable wet day when we arrived and not the best kind of weather for looking round, but we did find some lovely local pottery and both fell in love with some little jugs! We had also called in for a quick tour of the Dalwhinnie distillery on the way there where they gave everyone a free whisky glass and some chocolate!
The show was in the lovely old town hall and plenty of people braved the rain to come and watch. Thanks to Tony and Isabel from the club for putting us up for the night. The following morning was sunny so we were able to see Crail in a better light, it was beautiful and we were glad we had the chance to go there.
On the 27th we had a gig at the Carlisle Folk and Blues Club, our second time there. We were staying with our friend Danny Hart (a fellow bluegrass player) who was compering that night as well as playing support as half of Hadrian’s Union with Stew Simpson, and so we couldn’t resist getting him up for a few songs at the end to sing and play some fiddle, guitar and mandolin. Danny plays everything!
The final night of the tour was at the Milton Rooms in Malton, North Yorkshire. It was a sold out show so a great end to the tour. We were given a feast of lovely cheeses, bread, and fruit in the biggest ‘dressing room’ we’d ever seen. The 8 sofas didn’t even come close to filling it! At the end of the night we drove back to our grandparents in Knaresborough for a much needed rest after a very enjoyable tour.
The enormous dressing room.
Thanks so much to everyone who came to see us, put on a gig, fed us, gave us a bed to sleep in etc.
See you all next time!
Charlotte and Laura