Home Scotland 2

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Our 2 week touring holiday in Scotland was researched and arranged by me, with considerable reference to the internet, where we found and booked our accommodation. We decided to concentrate on the South West, the Highlands and a couple of islands after considerable hours spent poring over maps and route planners! We planned to visit several friends during the trip, all of whom had been suffering from appalling weather - and recklessly promised to bring them some sunshine from here in the South. We were able to keep our promise and were blessed with wonderful weather. Our trip covered 1800 miles, about 1100 of them in Scotland, the remainder spent getting there and back. I hope you enjoy reading about it - the diary is split over 3 pages. Please click on the photos to see larger versions. You'll find links to the places we visited scattered throughout the pages.

Saturday 17th August 2002s1a.jpg (50371 bytes)

s1.jpg (44719 bytes)We left home just before 9am as we had a long drive ahead, from Wiltshire to Cumbria. The journey is best not discussed - anything that includes the M6 is bound to be a little fraught! We were to spend our first night at the home of our friends, Andy & Jane, who moved from Wiltshire to Cumbria fairly recently. They live in the middle of nowhere (but their directions were good) in a converted barn which they're extending. It's a lovely spot, overlooking the Cumbrian hills. Since we'd brought sunshine with us, we were able to have a barbecue which was delicious, and we sat outside for much of the evening. Once the midges had driven us indoors (we wondered if this was to be a taste of what was to come in Scotland), we had a musical quiz which kept us up far too late, trying to identify songs and artists. 

Sunday 18th

The weather was awful when we awoke and there were no views to be had. We compensated by eating a delicious breakfast cooked by Jane and left them at 10am. Our drive took us up into Scotland, past Gretna Green and along the A75 in the south of Dumfries and Galloway. The weather was bad so we didn't do any exploring en-route, and stopped just once for coffee. We s2.jpg (44127 bytes) arrived at our destination, Portpatrick, on the west cost of the South Rhins peninsula after 3 hours driving, and found our hotel, The Waterfront,  right on the harbour. As soon as we arrived, the weather perked s2a.jpg (49914 bytes) up and improved throughout the afternoon. The hotel was very well decorated and furnished and although our room was very small, it was comfortable and we had a seaview. After a cup of tea, I phoned my friend Loki who was staying in the area. We hadn't met before 'in real life ' - we met on-line several years ago and he's one of the original members of my internet reading group, Bookworms. We arranged to meet him and his wife at our hotel, which we did a little later. It was great to meet up and we all got on very well. We had a couple of drinks and arranged to meet again the following afternoon and evening. Martyn and I dined in our hotel and had an excellent meal - I ate scallops, salmon and cranach, a typical Scottish dessert of oats, cream and raspberries.

Monday 19th

We awoke to beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Our breakfast was very slow - we think ths4.jpg (57443 bytes)e chef and waitress  both arrived rather late. We almost gave up waiting but it arrived at last; an apology would have been appreciated but was not forthcoming. At last we set off for the Botanic Gardens at Logan. The climate in this part of the world is comparatively mild and many sup-tropical plants can be grown there. I have never seen such beautiful gardens and we spent several wonderful hours there. We took dozens of photos and hope that those included here will give you an idea of how lovely it is. Adjacent to the botanic garden is Logan House Garden, which can only be accessed via the botanic garden. It's a privately owned property, the gardens of which have only recently been open to the public. We had an enjoyable and peaceful walk around there - we were the only visitors. 

s5.jpg (36896 bytes)Our next stop was Port Logan, a very pretty bay that is used as a s6.jpg (48472 bytes)backdrop for the TV series '2000 Acres of Sky' - as is Portpatrick. Then we moved on to the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point in Scotland. I'd bought detailed maps of the areas in which we were staying and so we were able to explore some tiny roads without worrying about getting lost. The drive was wonderful, incredibly pretty - and the Mull is stunning. We treated ourselves to an ice-cream (not recommended, it wasn't very nice) and admired the views. Be warned, the fence is electric .......

s7.jpg (45587 bytes)We explored the coastal path and the visitor centre which was interesting. We loved it there, it's so unspoilt, it's hard to imagine a more perfect place on such a lovely day. I guess I might not be so impressed with it in the wind and rain though. After our walk we drove back via the roads we hadn't taken on the drive down, and then paid Loki and his family a visit at the house which they were renting. It's in a delightful spot and we spent a couple of hours there before returning to our hotel. We were surprised to find that our room hadn't been made up - following so soon after the breakfast fiasco, we were beginning to wonder if they knew what they were doing. We informed them on our way out to dinner - still no apology, just some excuse and an assurance it would be done before we returned. 

Our dinner venue was Campbell's Restaurant and the Lokis were waiting for us. We had a lovely evening - great food (for me, avocado & crab followed by a seafood medley - no room for dessert), great wine, great company, great sunset. After dinner we had another drink sitting outside our hotel. It had been the perfect ending to a perfect day. We said goodbye to the Lokis, hoping we'll be able to get together again some time. 

Tuesday 20th

We had a light breakfast (no problems with the service this time) and then checked out before 9.30. Our next port of call was the Isle of Arran, via the ferry at Ardrossan. It was a pleasant journey, mainly following the coast, and again s8a.jpg (48332 bytes) the weather was kind to us. The journey took a couple of hours to travel about 80 miles so we arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time. Whilst queuing, we heard a toot from the lane next to us - it was Russell, with whom we would be staying. I worked with Russell in London and hadn't seen him for 19 years! We hadn't kept in touch but a few years ago found we were both members of the same internet newsgroup and so had got back in touch. He and his wife Elspeth gave up the 'rat race' and moved to Arran s8.jpg (44558 bytes) some 8 years ago and are running a general store/post office/B&N in Kildonan on the southern part of the island. Russell hadn't changed a bit - he was kind enough to say the same of me. Then I recalled that the last time we met I was 7 months pregnant so maybe it wasn't quite such a compliment! The crossing was 1 hour and was very calm. On arriving in Arran, we followed Russell (who had been on a trip to replenish his stores) around the island, dropping off goods for his fellow shopkeepers, and he took us to a couple of great viewpoints. The island's about 20 miles long and 8/10 miles across and is often described as 'Scotland in miniature'. The northern part is mountainous and bleak and the southern part is lushly wooded with a much milder climate. 

s9.jpg (54832 bytes)I knew they lived close to the sea but I hadn't realised just how close until we arrived at the Kildonan Stores. They're literally just a stone's-throw away. What a wonderful place to live. We met Elspeth, had a cuppa and then Martyn and I left them to their work and set off to explore the beach in the hope of seeing some seals. The beach was lovely - not a swimming beach but great for exploring, with its rocks and pools. After 10 minutes we came to the seals, who were resting on the rocks in the sea. A great time for my film to run out - and I'd forgotten to bring a new one with me. And Martyn didn't have his telephoto lens with him, so the photos here aren't as clear as we'd have liked. The seals were well camouflaged but  moved every now and again. We got much closer by walking out into the sea on the rocks. It was wonderful, lovely sunshine but not too hot. We could see Ailsa Craig, homs10.jpg (46533 bytes)e to thousands of seabirds, and Pladda, a private island just off the coast. We walked on for a while until we reached a pretty waterfall, relaxed for a while, then returned to the shop. Once it was closing time, we sat in the garden drinking wine, looking out over the sea, before going out to dinner at Pirate's Cove in Corrie, run by friends of Russell and Elspeth. We had another lovely meal - this time I ate mushrooms in a cheesey sauce and rib-eye steak. Then back to Kildonan for a good night's sleep.

Wednesday 21st

s11.jpg (49624 bytes)Russell took us out on his boat in the morning as the weather was still good. Wes12.jpg (49631 bytes) had a fantastic time and were invited onto Pladda as we went by. It's owned by a menswear designer and his knitwear-designer wife, who live there during the summer with their young son. The lighthouse on the island isn't theirs and is controlled from Edinburgh (as is the one on the Mull of Galloway). The island is actually s13.jpg (42828 bytes) quite bleak - not as romantic as it looks from the shore - and really is a retreat from the 21st century. The family share the island with many seabirds. We felt very privileged to be able to see it so close. We then went off to have a look at the Black Cave, one of those reputed to have been used by Robert the Bruce. Then I thought I saw a coups14.jpg (52828 bytes)le of seals - but they were in fact a basking shark, about 30ft long! It later transpired that there had been few sightings of them in the area this year so we were indeed very fortunate.

On arriving back, we had to leave our friends working while we drove around the rest of the island. We had lunch at a pub in Lamlash, from where we could see Holy Island. We had to fight off wasps but it was far too sunny to eat indoors. Then we moved on to Brodick Castle, a National Trust for Scotland property. As members of the National Trust, we were able to visit NTS properties free of charge, so we took full advantage of this during our holiday. The entrance hall walls are covered in stags' heads - no wonder we haven't seen any stags on the roads yet! After a tour of this lovely castle, we decided to go on one of the marked walks. It wasn't very easy going and the stile we soon came across was quite a challenge for someone as vertically-challenged as me.  We felt quite breathless and on looking back saw why. We had climbed very high bus15.jpg (51362 bytes)t then had to turn back as the ground was very muddy and my sandals weren't made for mud. Cutting the walk short meant we had time for a drink and to investigate the beautiful gardens. Once we'd had enough of the castle, we drove around the rest of the island, briefly stopping at Lochranza, the tiny port from which we were to depart the following day. We checked the ferry times and timed our journey back - it wasn't far but was quite a roller-coaster in places and wasn't very fast. Very picturesque, however.

Russell cooked dinner for the 4 of us so we enjoyed a bottle of wine in the garden beforehand. We ate Greek salad and sausage tagliatelle, very nice too, washed down with wine. Russell's parents live very close by and had invited us for cheese and biscuits at their place, so we spent a pleasant hour there eating excellent local cheese and drinking more wine..... Another lovely evening.

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