Best Scottish Oddity

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WEIRD but wonderful Scotland

ALLOA GLASS CONE, Kelliebank Industrial Estate, off the A907: Alloa was for a long time famous for breweries and glassworks. The breweries have gone, but the huge glassworks still sprawl between town and river. And almost lost in the conglomeration of towers, overhead conveyors, gantries and so on, is one of the oddest shapes of any man-made construction – a glass cone, the only one left in Scotland (there were once three here).

This simple, red brick construction was built in the early 19th century, its octagonally arched base 18m high. As it is difficult to enter the works, it can be viewed from the roadside.

The glassworks were founded in 1750 by the daughter of the Earl of Mar (who was in exile as a leading Jacobite) with craftsmen brought from Bohemia. For many years it was the factory of United Glass and is now US-owned – by OI, surely the shortest trade name going. More than likely, the bottle for your favourite malt was made here.

EARTHQUAKE HOUSE, off the A85, nr Comrie: The small town of Comrie lies on the Highland boundary fault, a spot once prone to earthquakes.

In the 1830s, local seismologists recorded 7,300 tremors, "sometimes accompanied by a loud report and sulphurous smells". Notable quakes were in 1839 (a score of shocks in 24 hours), 1875 and the most recent of note in 1965.

Fissures could appear, but remarkably little damage to property occurred. A road in Perth, 32km to the east, once cracked and caused subsidence.

The small, square stone Earthquake House was set up in 1874 by the (deep breath) British Association's Committee for the Investigation of Scottish and Irish Earthquakes, but, with the-then falling off in the number of quakes, was eventually abandoned.

In 1988, the building was restored and equipped with modern instruments by the British Geological Survey. You can peer in through a glass panel doorway (footsteps on entry could actually cause a recordable tremor) and a model of the original Mallet seismometer can be seen. The first historical reference to earthquakes here was in 1597.

GOT NO BALLS, Buchanan House, Port Dundas Road, Glasgow: In front of the building built as British Rail's Scottish HQ, lies a striking sculpture called Locomotion. The naked, sprinting figure inside the hula-hoops, we are told, represents the "power and virility" of railway travel. There is a double irony perhaps, both on the man's virility and the present state of our railways: the figure has been given no genitals.

TIBET IN SCOTLAND, 2km north of Eskdalemuir, Dumfries & Galloway: Europe's biggest Buddhist Temple is found in Scotland, in Eskdalemuir.

The Samye Ling community was established here in 1967, when two monks who had fled the Chinese invasion of Tibet settled in Johnstone House. In 1984, the Dalai Lama made a much-publicised visit, which boosted the appeal to the public to "lay a brick" for the new temple for 1. MP David Steel performed the opening ceremony, attended by representatives of many other faiths – on the auspicious 8/8/88.

Things have grown steadily since then, with a colourful array of temples, prayer flags and statues – even alongside the B709. There is a tearoom and a visitor centre where people can learn of Tibet's religious, cultural and artistic heritage – or seek a time of retreat (a monk may well greet visitors in a Glaswegian or Geordie accent).

Life here is not easy – work and prayers start at 5:45am and the day ends at 10pm. Much of their vegetarian food is home-grown and they have a dairy herd that provides milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

TUSKS IN DUNDEE, below Lochee Road: These are scrimshaw writ large and in concrete rather than walrus tusk or ivory. Scrimshaw was the name given to whalebone artefacts with drawings or carvings made by sailors to pass weary hours at sea in the days of sail.

The sailors often had a strong connection with whaling and exploration in high latitudes. This is the connection with Dundee – a whaling port – making this odd looking trio imaginatively apposite.

The Dundee Tusks have, etched on their surfaces, just about everything to do with the city's history, love and personalities – from a Pictish beast through Mary Slessor to Oor Wullie (and today's graffiti).

They lie just below the busy Lochee Road as it starts to twist up and round the slopes of the Law.

Just after Dudhope Park is a soaring, two-tone high-rise tower called Dudhope Court that dominates the area.

The Tusks lie across the road, tucked down in a corner.