Peg’s Cycle

When the notion takes me, I like to cycle along the waterfront to the neighbouring wee towns and do a spot of beachcombing. There are two reasons for this really:

1 The view is pretty special, but more importantly…

2 It’s a bit like treasure hunting!

First though, there is a ritual. Get the bike out, get a bucket, make sure phone is charged, find headphones (usually a nightmare), get on Spotify, then deep breath and off we go.

I admit, I cycle a bit like an old lady, which I find hilarious as I also ride a motorbike, but there’s something so lovely and relaxing about sitting up proud, sun on my face, no leathers, no helmet, just free in the wind. I don’t have a fancy bike, but don’t get me wrong, its ace! It was gifted to me from one of the senior ladies in my gardening group. It has a furry seat and a wire basket on the back. I LOVE IT.

Off I go along part of the John Muir Path, out along past Cockenzie Harbour. I love to sit there and watch the sun set, then along behind the old power station. I usually stop along the way and take hundreds of photos, probably of the same things but I’m always looking with eyes of wonder and it is like I’m seeing it for the first time every time!

When I pick my spot, I climb down off my bike, take off my shoes and let my feet take me exploring. Barefoot, sun on my skin, eyes down, music playing (sometime I sing out loud), it’s heavenly. Sometimes I turn off my music and keep my headphones in, as this way no one bothers me, and I listen to the sea.

Penny Forbes is an East Lothian based artist and gardener. You can find her work on Instagram at @pegeggleg

Anail a Ghaidheil, air a mhullach.

The Gael’s breathing Space is on the summit

Our land offers the chance to connect with our ancient past. 

Not just imagine it, actually find it.

My obsession with ancient Scottish history has been with me for as long as I can remember.  As a child travelling up to Inverness visiting family, my brother and I would spend hours, staring out from the back seat windows at the glens, lochs and forests as they slowly moved into view.  The magnitude of the Highlands sparked our imaginations.  We talked about clan warriors and chieftains of the hills as if they were still alive and re-enacted battles they might have fought at nearly every rest stop.

As I got older I read as much as I could about the Caledonians and the Picts but it became frustrating because most of the information available perpetuated the pro-imperialistic, pro-Roman myth that these ancient people, our ancestors, were nothing but barbarians. 

It’s a myth that’s being challenged, as more and more archaeological evidence is discovered and traces of their ancient civilised culture is unearthed. 

For example, we now know the Picts had waterwheels and kilns for drying grains to make beer and recently, evidence of book production has been found, during excavation of a Pictish monastery at Portmahomack. 

We are closest to our ancestors when we’re in green spaces.  Climbing mountains, exploring the forests, swimming in the sea, battling through rain or fending off midges.  The land was a huge part of their lives and they have left their mark upon it and within it for us to find.

Prior to the battle of Mons Graupius Tacitus quoted one Caledonian, Calgacus (meaning swordsman) as saying to his army, “on then into battle and as you go, think of your ancestors and your descendants.”

Each member of the Highland army before going into battle would say “Is mise mac Oengus, mac Ronan, mac Iain…” meaning, “I am son of Angus, son of Ronan, son of Iain…” and some could recite up to 20 generations.

So enjoy the wild spaces and treasure them. 

For your ancestors and your descendants.

Eileen Budd is an illustrator and writer, currently writing and illustrating an ancient Scottish saga.  You can find her on Instagram: @eileenbudd.

Pictures show the Tap o Noth Hillfort, Aberdeenshire, view from above.

A pony cap found in Torrs Loch in the 19th century, dates to around 250 BC. Illustration by the author Eileen Budd.

Excavations at the Hillfort, led by the University of Aberdeen. As recently as last week it was found to be inhabited by around 4,000 people, which is akin to being a big city, something unheard of in Scotland until the 12th century.