Girly road trip: Scotland’s tropics, epic pics

Last summer I stopped by the set of Indiana Jones and went to the southernmost point of Scotland. And, yes, changed my dress along the way for the sake of variety.

Glasgow city centre had been remade as New York in 1969(?), so I plumped for my short, retro minidress. It was about 7am on a Sunday morning, and I managed to sweet-talk the bemused and baffled security people into letting me slip past the gates for a couple of minutes to get some shots in – I didn’t chance my luck by walking onto the main set, but I think I did well enough.

This is the face of someone who got up way too early.

I think the guards took it well – I mean, they’re paid a pittance, and they’re not expecting a crossdresser turning up first thing on a Sunday to prance about in heels around their workplace. As for the film, I’m kinda shrugface about seeing it; I’m pretty much done with seeing my childhood heroes return to TV or cinemas looking and acting all old, sad, and tired.

Ailsa Craig: Imagine the screeching of car tyres, me hopping out, a quick photo being taken, then leaping back into the car and driving off with squealing tyres and a roaring engine.

We stopped off for an impromptu shot of the island of Ailsa Craig just off the Ayshire coast before arriving at Logan Botanical Garden on the Mull of Galloway. I gather it’s in some sort of microclimate, and on a good summer’s day resembles the Isles of Scilly rather than Scotland…

This is the front gate…
Hello there!
Wonderwall?

My dress was rather short. I’d try to pull the hem down a bit, but there’s not actually any more hem to pull down. So I have to walk and pose carefully, lest I flash my knickers at unsuspecting passers-by. Reader, I flashed my knickers at unsuspecting passers-by. And because this was a botanic garden in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday, the others were all pensioners: goggle-eyed old men and their disapproving wives ushering them away from the brazen hussy in the slutty dress (“This way, Gerald! It’s more civilised over here!”)

Left: this is what I look like when I’m chasing Jeff Goldblum in a jeep. Right: FILTH, sheer filth, and I’d do it again.

The gardens featured a few novelties, like a tyrannosaurus made out of growing tree branches, and large phallic-shaped flowers that were begging for suggestive photos. I have to say, photos aside, that it was the perfect day to visit and I’d go there again – it’s got all the tropical appeal of a foreign holiday, yet it’s all within a morning’s drive from Edinburgh…

Got wood?
Sploosh
I see London, I see France…

Just a little bit further south (and one change of dress later) is the Mull of Galloway lighthouse, the southernmost tip of the Scottish mainland. It’s characterised by steep cliffs and a touristy cafe which might have steep prices, but I can’t honestly tell you (for these trips we bring picnic lunches…).

I’ve got this thing about great heights and steep drops: it’s not vertigo, it’s more a sense that I love the view but a fucked-up little voice in my head keeps saying “jump… just jump.. do it… wheee! end it…. splat.. go on… jump…” and I find myself staying well away from the edge.

My other worry was gusts of wind threatening to make my dress lift up and make me Marilyn Monroe in front of everyone else.

Just the tip: the Mull of Galloway

Otherwise, it’s not a place you’re likely to spend a huge amount of time. We headed back up to Castle Kennedy, a ruin with fabulous gardens. Fabulous gardens you say? Time to strike some fabulous poses and ignore the families on their day out from Glasgow…

Wrecked

There’s a lot to explore in the estate: colourful walled gardens, a lake, art features, bridges and walking paths all over the place. We could stroll about at a gentle pace. It wasn’t hugely busy, and it made for a relaxing end to the day out. (The journey home was enlivened by a prick in a sports car being chased by the police along the M74 and pulled over – seeing that kind of quick karma was the cherry on the cake of a great day out!)

Adding a bit of colour
Fucking roasting
Wish you were here?

Girly road trip: what’s in for you at Inverewe

I like to get around a bit. Travelling, I mean. So one challenge I occasionally give myself is to see how far I can travel in a day in girly mode before a combination of tiredness and beard growth ruins the effect.

I fucking love an exciting road trip.

Last year I figured we could get to Inverewe garden, which is way up in the remote north-west of Scotland, and stop off at any scenic points of interest along the way. To get this done in a single day, we had to leave at sparrowfart, aka “silly o’clock”, aka “what the hell time do you call this?” We had a picnic breakfast halfway up the A9 between Edinburgh and Inverness. You don’t do a trip like this for the glamour…

Gorge-ous.

Our first scenic stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge, where I found out two things:

  • it was impossible to get a photo that showed both me and the sheer depth of the gorge in the same shot; and
  • other people were dressed in sturdy hiking boots and waterproof gear – I was the only one who’s chosen to wear a cardigan and fabulous dress (which nicely hid my struggle with lockdown flab).
An Teallach is a mountain whose name makes English-speakers sound like they’re talking with their mouth full.

The only other scenic stop was an impromptu pause at the roadside to get a view of proper highland wilderness. I figured this trip was likely to be a one-and-only-chance to get photos at these places, so I became more vigilant for epic views.

Yes, I always check the weather before risking a long road trip…

Inverewe garden takes advantage of a microclimate just off the Gulf Stream, so it has a whole load of tropical plants growing there. We’d been there a few years earlier when the ‘North Coast 500‘ had just been established, and we could now see hints that over the pandemic some parts of the garden’s upkeep must’ve been less of a priority (we explored the whole lot). That’s not to say it was overgrown or ruined – far from it! – simply that a few bits simply weren’t as pristine as they used to be.

Yes, this is the north-west coast of Scotland. No, I can’t believe it either.

Naturally, I can’t do photos without acting like a daft arse, so here you go:

Aw man that’s some good shit right there, BRING THE POLLEN! BRING THE HAYFEVER!!!
I’m all about boobs and plants, yo.
Apparently it is easy being green after all

It took hours to get there, so with the knowledge that it’d take hours to get back home we had to head back after lunchtime and take advantage of whatever scenic views we could get on the way. We’d also been incredibly fortunate with the weather. Not bad for the first girly road trip since before Covid-19!

Gairloch: I’m sure there are gayer lochs, but I don’t know where they are.
Loch Bad an Sgalaig is another challenge for people who don’t speak Gaelic… (Google Translate says it means “patch the scalp” which leaves me none the wiser)
Loch Maree: I don’t think I was supposed to be here.

Our last stop was at Loch Maree where I’d spotted a pier at a scenic viewpoint on the online maps. When we got there we found the short driveway down to the lochside was barred by a locked gate. Yet another car was parked there and a family swimming in the loch.

We went down to take photos, and the family group all got out of the water, flustered, and in a hurry to leave. I suspect they – like us – were chancing it, and we were all tresspassing.

What the hell. I got the photo I was after. But in a moment of stupidity I left my sunglasses on the pier. They’re probably still there for all I know.

So much for “take only photos, leave only memories”!

Getting over the ups and downs

How did I get halfway through the year already??? And what happened to all those blog posts I had planned?

I can answer the second question straight away: they’re on their way. As for the first part… I guess I just got distracted by life in general. I don’t post about my life in non-Twist mode (not relevant to the blog, at least as I intend it), but sometimes the non-Twist stuff needs to be attended before I can go off on more adventures.

For one thing, I’ve got a garden now, and I’ve been learning about Zen And The Fine Art Of Murdering Plants the hard way. So that’s a happy distraction.

Digging trenches for the battle of Hoth.

I’ve also been spending a good chunk of the year losing my lockdown flab (again).

I was sick of being out of breath, tired, and feeling like a sack of potatoes. So I renewed my acquaintance with the swimming pool and have been jumping into the granny lane at 5.30am twice a week. I’ve also been having regular pre-breakfast walkabouts before the city wakes up – kind of like Batman on patrol, minus the whole beating-up-clowns-at-night thing, and swapping the cape for running shoes. (So, nothing at all like Batman.)

I have been getting in touch with my inner self. I make sure to mop up afterwards. And the neighbours asked me to stop doing this outside because the noises I make agitate their pets.

I’ve reached the point where I’m Twist-shaped once more (and probably fitter than I was fifteen years ago; now there’s a statement that screams “mid-life crisis”). I have no idea what adventures I want to go on this year, so I’ll just take things as they come.

Looking forward to a new dawn! …which will likely be blowing a gale, so keep your hair on.

Meanwhile, I have plenty to share from last year, and I’ve finally selected which pictures to use (sometimes I have something to say, and choose how to illustrate it afterwards; other times I have a bunch of photos and then work out what stories they tell…).

Stay tuned!

Magnificent bumps. On the landscape, I mean.
You still haven’t seen the back of me yet.

Girly road trip: Dumbarton rocks?

A couple of years back I went on a day trip with one of my friends to Dumbarton, on the grounds that I hadn’t been there before and I also wanted to get some photos from around the west of Scotland for a change.

I have mastered the single entendre.

I wear my history nerdishness lightly, but I’ve long been interested in Dumbarton Rock, which was the last northern stronghold of the ancient Britons to fall to the Vikings in the eighth century (welcome to my blog; come for the crossdressing, stay for the history!).

It was a good day for it, and we could see for miles all around from Glasgow to Holy Loch and Benmore. It’s easy to see why there’s always been one castle or another here over the centuries (the name comes from Gaelic ‘Dùn Breatann‘, or ‘Fort of the Britons’). It had a garrison of soldiers until World War 2, but now most of it’s a mishmash of fortifications, old storage buildings, and ruins.

Inspired by the Greek myth of Andromeda. And bondage.

Aside from cannons serving purely decorative purposes, there are still mysterious remnants, like large metal rings embedded in the rockface. were they used for ropes to haul ammo and food around? Or flags? Or to anchor things in place? (I found my own uses.)

Flagging a bit in the high winds…

The top of the rock was exposed to high winds blowing off the Atlantic, so I’m glad I had a hair band clasping my wig to my head. Fortunately my friend was a photographer and worked out how to get the best shots…

The only spot on Dumbarton Rock without wind…

We had a short picnic in the sun on one of the battlements and pottered about the surviving buildings. The place works well for a short blast of fresh air and exercise!

Getting carried away?

At this pandemic-y moment in 2022 (in Scotland at least), most of my friends are still wary about travelling and mingling too much, but when things improve, you’d better believe I’ll be posting more travels around the country!
(Edited to add: HOLY SHIT THIS IS MY BLOG’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY POST!)

Dumbarton rocks!

Strange new worlds 3: get tae f…alkirk

Usually my photoshoot trips go without a hitch and I don’t have much to say about them other than where I went and what the scenery was like. The fun ones are when things go wrong somehow, just to add a bit of adventure to the proceedings. Bonus fun comes from being dressed up in a way that can’t be ignored.

I went back to the engineering marvel that is the Falkirk Wheel and the towering sculptures of The Kelpies for some night photos – when they’re lit up, they look like something that’s landed from the planet Zog, so I figured they’d be ideal for another outing in my retro spacesuit.

It turns out they don’t really light this sucker up any more, except for very special occasions. (I’m not special enough.)

It’s been a very long time since the Falkirk Wheel opened, and the whole thing about lighting it up at night doesn’t happen much these days. We didn’t have a tripod with us, so long-exposure photos where I tried to freeze my pose weren’t an option – and using the flash is a great way to bugger up the lighting conditions. I figured if I was going to Photoshop in a space helmet, I may as well go batshit with special effects to hide the washed-out face and crisp shadows.

Yeah, maybe went a bit overboard in Photoshop here…

It took a fair bit of trial and error, and we went exploring on the other side of the upper canal (my torch lit up a fence that I was all set to climb over until I saw a gigantic NOPE of large spiders scuttling about. Instead, we went to the canal tunnel and took some shots avoiding the graffiti on the walls. Anything for a location that looked faintly science-fictiony!

Pretending to be awestruck by a fluorescent light… I should’ve put in some holograms or laser beams or something.

On the way in, the road to the car park was open and accessible. What I hadn’t foreseen was a large, long gate that was now padlocked shut, preventing anyone else from walking about after dark. It now prevented us from leaving. As Admiral Ackbar once put it, “IT’S A TRAP!”

Well… shit.

Fortunately there was a number to call the canal control room in case something had gone wrong. I figured that a transvestite in a silver space suit unable to escape the canal car park counted as something going wrong, and eventually got to speak to a harassed guy with a ton of alarms blaring in the background.

I explained I hadn’t seen the gate and didn’t know it would be locked at 8pm – could someone possibly help, maybe, if it isn’t too much trouble, sorry to interrupt your evening (etc).

“Aye, I can send a manny tae let ye oot, but we’re huvin’ a wee spot ae bother,” said the guy at the other end, “Can ye gie us half an hour?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Aye, right enough.”

This is my excited face when I stare at a locked gate for thirty minutes.

The thing about cross-dressing in public is that you have to make yourself immune to feelings of embarrassment. A canal engineer in a high-vis jacket taking time out from his siren-filled office emergency to free the numpties who didn’t drive off when they were supposed to would make most people feel foolish.

Not me.

Not at all.

This is one of two horse-head sculptures that tower over the nearby motorway. It always looks this epic, from any angle.

Consequently we got to the Kelpies car park with not much more than half an hour left until it shut too. There was another car park but I didn’t fancy the long walk; so we had to do a rapid run around the sculptures taking photos, and I had to make quick decisions about what angles might work, and the kind of shots I was after. (Sometimes I can plan it out in advance, sometimes I have to adapt.)

Kelpie statue or borg architecture?

Things were made a lot easier by the epic lighting and the slow phasing of the lights through the spectrum. The only downside was the couple of dozen people still wandering about.

The whole deal about ignoring what other people think of you comes in quite handy when they’re all wrapped up in their warm winter coats and boots, and I’m prancing around in lycra and go-go boots. Maybe they feared my beauty; maybe I scared them off; or maybe they just wanted to get back to their cars and leave before the gate was shut and locked. Who knows?

Epic lighting all caught in camera…

So it was a slightly more eventful evening than I’d planned, but I got the shots I wanted. I just needed to find a spot with some epic lighting and an interesting background and strike a pose for a bit.

Any fool could do that. Surprisingly few fools do!