Wedding piper’s April road trip

Vu Bathgate

If there’s one thing I’m deeply thankful for, it’s that as a wedding piper, I get to travel to all the corners of Scotland and visit places I’ve never been to before. Of course, some places I return to, but many of the venues I’ve played at in 2015 have been new visits.

This always amazes me, because despite living in what is a relatively small country, I’ve seen very little of what is effectively my front doorstep. Thankfully, my bagpipe playing has given me a great excuse to go road-tripping!

Wedding piper at the Vu, Bathgate

On Friday 17 April, I returned to the central belt town of Bathgate to perform at Gary and Natalie’s wedding at the beautiful venue of The Vu/Waterlily. Having performed there last October, I was surprised to see that the weather was the same in April as it had been in October!

 

Sitting atop a hill overlooking Bathgate and beyond to Glasgow, this stunning venue is located at the Ballencrieff Reservoir and affords stunning views over Scotland’s central belt. On a clear day you can see for miles around, and Friday was no different.

Despite a bit of a strong breeze that has pervaded Scotland for the last few weeks, it was otherwise a lovely day with a very warm sun beaming down on us all.

Natalie arrived in one of the lovely old white cars that form a part of The Vu’s fleet of wedding cars, and headed across to the Waterlily, which proudly sits in the middle of the reservoir and features massive floor-to-ceiling windows that spectacularly captures the hilltop view.

The ceremony was brisk, with a very funny officiator from the Humanist Society delivering a heartwarming and humorous ceremony.

My favourite joke of his was something along the lines of “He and his wife have taken very important steps to ensure a long-lasting successful marriage. They set aside two nights a week where they go to a very romantic restaurant. He goes there on Tuesdays and she goes there on Thursdays”.

Soon after the ceremony I was back outside playing, and I decided to climb up the hill a bit so I was a little further out the way of the photographer and the guests so they could all hear each other. It was from this vantage point that I got to take some stunning photos of the view.

Vu Bathgate

It wasn’t long before I was playing Gary and Natalie to their top table for their obligatory toast, and I was done for the day. Expecting the wedding to take a lot longer, I was a little surprised when I got finished mid-afternoon. After passing the second afternoon ceremony’s piper, I was on my way back home.

Find out what I can do on your big day > 

The Queensferry Crossing

As it was such a nice day and my journey involved crossing the Firth of Forth, I decided to exploit the opportunity to indulge my inner nerd and go and visit the Queensferry Crossing building site, or more particularly, the south side, which affords a closer access point.

Were it not for my poor skills in the ways of maths and physics, I suspect my true calling in life may have been civil engineering. I have a fascination with massive engineering projects and anything that runs on rails, so it could have been an option were it not for my scientific shortcomings!

I’ve watched the growth of the new bridge for the last couple of years with passionate interest. I’m probably not the safest driver when I cross the current Forth Road Bridge as a result, as my attention is usually diverted towards the building site in the river.

Queensferry Crossing

Passing the bridge every couple of weeks, I’m always amazed to see how quickly the towers rise out of the water and how much work is done on the approach viaducts on either end. That said, despite having a rough idea of how big the project is, it’s not until you get up close to it that you fully appreciate the scale of the project.

I really can’t wait to see this bridge completed next year.

Wedding piper in Bonchester Bridge

On Saturday 18 April, I toddled down to the Borders to perform my wedding piper duties at an early evening ceremony in a gorgeous little hamlet called Bonchester Bridge. It’s around 10 miles outside of Jedburgh, and the weather on Saturday was just exquisite. Bright sunshine filled the little valley that Bonchester Bridge sits in, and really framed the whole occasion perfectly.

Hobkirk Parish Church

The ceremony took place in Hobkirk Parish church, about a quarter of a mile outside of Bonchester Bridge itself. The church building is quite old in its own right, but there’s been a religious centre there for 900 years. According to the minister, Duncan, the road outside the church has seen Bonnie Prince Charlie himself march his armies on in the 18th century. Fascinating.

Incidentally, Duncan, the minister, had a phenomenal singing voice and really did lead the way during the hymn singing during the service!

Hobkirk Parish Church

The church yard is filled with ancient gravestones, and a quiet and serene atmosphere surrounds the entire area, with the odd dog barking in the distance and the sound of distant car tyres rumbling on tarmac. Perfect for the deafening sound of the bagpipes to destroy the peace and quiet and echo through the valley!

Hobkirk Parish Church

Hobkirk Parish ChurchThis was one of the rare occasions that I’ve actually played my pipes inside a church. After piping Karla down the aisle to “Loch Lomond”, I also played “Caledonia” during the signing of the register and piped Karla and Stefan out to “Mari’s Wedding”, back into the glorious sunshine that filled the doorway and added a spectacular glow to the proceedings.

The journey back up the road was amazing. The Borders and south Lothian are a very picturesque part of the world, with quite a lot of hills, despite being “the lowlands” of Scotland.

The drive passes through forest, over rivers and streams, along hillsides and eventually climbs to the top of a hill which affords a fantastic unspoilt view over the Lothian coastline and across the Forth into Fife. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of my view, and I definitely wasn’t driving at the time…

Until a little later,

Rich

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